Made in the Shade

By: Staff

Like a switch, the winds of winter subside, the snowdrifts melt and Coloradans get what they wish for mere months ago: bright, cloud-free skies and sun without end. But all too soon, that Colorado sun goes from soothing to scorching, and your back patio is no longer an oasis. Never fear. We have shade and cooling options for your patio at every price point and skill level. Take a look at these locally sourced options to keep you cool.


Cost: Plan $20-30/sq. ft. for DIY and more when you engage a contractor.

Requirements: Skill with a saw or a qualified contractor.

How: DIY or hire a contractor

A permanent structure solution usually involves contractors. That’s okay, the last you thing you need is a leaning tower of Pisa sheltering the grill. But, if you’re a handy person and can swing a hammer, Nate Gesick at Cedar Supply Lumber in Fort Collins says they can help. Bring in plans and they’ll assist with the materials list: cedar, hardware and stain. Gesick says most folks forget the permitting, which is required by the county for anything attached to a dwelling. In just a few days (or weeks), you can boast about building it when guests visit. Upkeep is minimal; you’ll need a fresh coat of stain every 3-5 years.
Market Umbrella

Cost: Starting at $99 and up, depending on features.

Requirements: A solid base to keep your investment from blowing away.

How: Buy at local retailers, such as Christy Sports or Outpost Sunsport

Hello flexibility! Based on where the porch is located, the direction of the sun and season, barometric pressure and your astrological sign, this may be the simplest solution. It’s really all about the angles. Even though it’s a pain to move around and reposition, Christy Sports manager Zach Stevens recommends a weighted bottom for stability, at least 75 pounds for freestanding umbrellas and 50 pounds if inside a table. Invest in an angled option, which is more accommodating as the sun travels. Consider one with small LED lights underneath for evening cocktails. Fabrics come in many colors and are fade resistant, which adds up to longevity. Some advice? Take down during summer storms.
Sail Shades

Cost: Sails are generally inexpensive, costing upwards of $40, depending on size. Anchor points, however, may pose the greater cost if you have to construct your own.

Requirements: Math skills, and some tall anchor points to keep your sails in place.

How: Buy on Amazon

Not sure how to keep the top of your head from sizzling? Sails are a perfect inexpensive solution. Amazingly weatherproof and incredibly versatile, they come in an abundance of sizes and can be placed in a variety of hard-to-fit spots. Simply use two cedar posts, a bag of ready-made cement and voila—anchor points are ready. Drill two more anchor points (either into the house, deck or existing pergola) and attach with carabiners. Use the included adjustable hardware to keep the sail taut, because nobody likes a sad sail. They come in variety of hues, and will add color to match your design aesthetic. Recommend taking down sails during hail storms or high winds.
Misting Fan

Cost: Starting at $99

Requirements: Electrical hookup

How: Buy at local hardware stores, such as Ace Hardware

Unfortunately, an expensive overhead edifice may not always fit the budget. But there are always options. For a low-cost luxurious spa-like experience, try an exterior misting fan. It will swirl the hot breezes in a pleasing manner AND keep bugs off the food. Installation couldn’t be easier. Simply pop this mobile oasis on the deck, plug it in and immediately feel manufactured dew misting on your forehead. A lovely adjustable spray cools guests to a state of blissful contentment.

Cost: A 6-foot locust tree costs around $159.

Requirements: Motivation to dig

How: Buy at local nursery

Okay, trees are an investment in both dollars and time. But they’re a gorgeous solution that adds to the beauty of your yard. It will take years before they reach maturity, but don’t let that hold you back. Plus, there’s that 30-year mortgage, so you’re not going anywhere soon. Ross Morrison of Environmental Designs in Loveland recommends locust trees, “specifically Imperial, Skyline or Shade master varieties.” Morrison says. “They have amazing, large canopies that are truly beautiful.” Trees also provide needed color to the backyard palette. Many trees can’t handle Colorado’s landscape, climate or elevation but the locust trees thrive, according to Morrison. They grow quickly, as much as 1-2 feet a year and mature at 40 feet. Make sure to plant according to instructions—the size and depth of holes are critical. Also, don’t forget to water throughout the winter, which most homeowners skip. If your heart’s set on another tree variety, just make sure to ask your local nursery about hardiness in Zone 5.

Cost: Starting at $4,500, based on size and features.

Requirements: Professional installation

How: Inquire at Peterson Canvas & Awning and similar retailers

Here’s another permanent solution if you don’t mind drilling holes into the side of the house. Retractable awnings are fabulous. With the touch of a button, this motorized mechanism springs to life and behold—magic shade whenever you wish. Tim Carroll, owner of Peterson Canvas & Awning, says they can be incredibly energy-saving. The awning fabric is a weather-tough Sunbrella acrylic canvas with a warranty of 10 years, but can last much longer depending on exposure. They are custom-made up to 40 feet wide, so no worries about optimizing limited space. Options like drop shades and wind sensors make the outdoors experience even more extravagant. Just beware of old patio furniture…it’ll look downright shabby in comparison. You’ll need to upgrade those.