Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Patio Shading 101

With spring just around the corner, many home owners are preparing their back yard and patio areas for the warmer spring and summer months to come. If you want a patio space that is both functional and comfortable when the temperature rises, it is important to provide your patio space with some form of shading. If you are looking to add more coverage without committing to full-on construction, there are a number of economical, attractive and effective methods for adding shade to your patio space. The hard part is deciding which one will work best for your particular needs. Below is a quick list of pros and cons for each option to help you decide which shading option is right for you.

Patio Umbrellas


  • Easy to set up. All you need is a stand and a garden patio umbrella and you are set.

  • Portable. You can move the umbrella easily to wherever it is needed.

  • Affordable. Basic patio umbrellas start as low as $50 a piece – you will also need a stand. Expect to pay a bit more for patio umbrella and patio table combo and commercial-grade umbrella sets are considerably more.

  • Highly customizable. Patio Umbrellas are available is a wide variety of fabrics, from neutral pallets to bright patterns and colorful stripes. Likewise, they come in a number of different styles, such as standard, cantilever and offset, depending on what works best for your space.

  • Fun Accessories. You can enhance your space with umbrellas lights, and even outdoor patio heaters that attach to the umbrella’s pole.

  • Cons

  • Coverage. An umbrella will provide a limited amount of shade that may not be suitable for larger gatherings.

  • You get what you pay for. This is less of a con and more of just a rule of thumb when selecting patio products. While you can get a basic umbrella and stand for less than $100, very large, high quality umbrella systems will cost hundreds to thousands dollars. As with so many things in life, you get what you pay for.

  • Requires some maintenance. Umbrellas should be closed - or better yet - stored when problem weather is anticipated. It is important to invest in a patio umbrella cover to protect the fabric from fading and stains.

  • Shade Sails


  • Scalable Coverage. Shade sails come in a variety sizes and generally provide a much larger scale of shade than traditional umbrellas.

  • Affordable. Shade sails are a very cost effective alternative to building a porch cover, portico or pergola.

  • No Base. Shade sails are suspended so you do not have to make room for a bulky support base.

  • Highly customizable. Shade sails come in a wide variety of colors and sizes, and in triangle or rectangular shapes. There are even custom options for a truly perfect fit for your space.

  • Requires minimal maintenance. The best shades sails are incredibly rugged and withstand harsh weather. If you expect heavy snowfall or hurricane winds, they need to be taken down, but otherwise, they are able to withstand most of what Mother Nature can dish out.

  • Awesome quality. If you buy from a major brand like Coolaroo or Sunbrella, you can expect the shade sail to last for many years, even more than a decade in many cases!

  • Cons

  • Requires installation. Patio shade sails require bolting in order to hold cables in place. This can be done by a competent adult, but will require some education and tools. Thankfully, you can also speak to a shade sail expert at PatioProductsUSA for some easy installation tips and advice. It is easier to bolt these sails than one might initially think.

  • Portable. Once installed, shade sails are best left in place, but – if absolutely necessary - can be moved with some effort.

  • Freestanding Awnings


  • Easy to use. Freestanding awnings do not require bolting. Just set them up and adjust the awning’s angle. Totally hassle-free operation.

  • Scalable Coverage. These devices are similar to an offset umbrella, but a bit larger and longer. They come in a wide variety sizes including some that are up to 16 feet across! New modular freestanding awnings are particularly customizable.

  • Portable. You can move freestanding awnings to wherever you need them, making them versatile and convenient. (heavier units will require two or more adults to move.)

  • Requires minimal maintenance. A good quality awning will last for years (often backed by a multi-year warranty) and will only require storing during heavy snowfall or hurricane winds.

  • Awesome quality. If you buy from a major brand like FIM, you can expect the awning to last for 5+ years.

  • Cons

  • You get what you pay for. A good quality freestanding awning will cost several thousand dollars. It should be approached as a long-term investment.

  • Clunky base. Most freestanding awnings are supported by a long, heavy base, which can take up space, making these devices best for large patios, poolside or similar open spaces.

  • Sun Shade Cloth


  • Versatile. This lightweight material can be used as a patio privacy screen or roof, depending on the space’s requirements.

  • Effective. Good quality shade cloth will block 70+ percent of the sun's harmful rays as well as moisture. It allows cool breezes through and will lower temperatures

  • Scalable Coverage. The material can be cut to fit any space, large or small.

  • Awesome quality. Most quality outdoor fabrics from respected brands like Coolaroo will last for 10 years or more, often backed by a long-term warranty.

  • Affordable. One of the most cost-effective shading solutions on the market.

  • Cons

  • Installation. Shade cloth is very versatile and can be used in a myriad of applications, but you will ultimately have to determine how it will be used and install it. When you do install, be mindful of how you will clean the cloth. If you install it as a roof to a patio structure, will tree debris collect on the cloth? How will you clear that debris away? It is important to address these issues prior to installation.
  • Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    How to Protect Outdoor Furniture

    When you invest in quality patio furniture, it makes sense to protect that investment so that it can be enjoyed for many seasons. Dirt and residues can “set” on frames, wood may crack, metals corrode or become pitted, and fabrics can fade and lose vibrancy. It is important to keep patio furniture clean and protected in order to avoid these pitfalls.

    Keeping patio furniture clean is an important but occasionally overlooked aspect of protecting your pieces. When you keep furniture free of debris and protect it from the elements, you ensure that patio furniture will remain beautiful and functional for many years to come. Before you wash the frame, remove cushions and upholstery prior to wiping the frames down. (How you clean cushions and upholstery will depend on the fabric. Good quality outdoor furniture will come with explicit instructions – just be sure to allow cushions and fabric to completely dry before using and/or storing in order to prevent mildew.)

    Wash furniture approximately once a season. Most outdoor furniture frames are easily cleaned with a sponge and mild soap. In some cases, you can simply spray down pieces with your hose, but every so often it is important to give it a thorough wipe down, scrubbing on especially dirty areas. You can allow the furniture to either air dry or gently dry by hand if you are expecting to use the furniture later that day.

    If you own wood furniture, it is highly recommended that you regularly treat it with a sealant. Only apply sealant to dry, clean furniture, paying special attention to areas with crevices or cracks. Only apply sealant whilst in an open, ventilated area. There are a number of sealants available, including oil base, oil-modified urethane, water based urethane, and oil/wax-based varieties. Choose a sealant that delivers beauty and durability, but is also easy to apply. A sealant should repel water, shield furniture from sun and the elements (which will help prevent cracking), and keep furniture beautiful for a long period of time.

    If you own metal furniture, you should avoid oil-based treatments and opt for silicone lubricants for hinges and wheels. Use a water resistant metal primer on raw exposed metal (i.e. no finish.) Be sure to check all nuts, bolts and screws. Tighten lose ones and substitute any missing pieces with rustproof replacements. With metal pieces, your biggest foe will be rust. Treat rust prone areas with a paste wax. If it’s too late and rust has formed, rub that area briskly with a steel wool pad to strip off flaking bits and the rust coloration. You can soak the wool in paint thinner if the rust proves especially troublesome. Once smooth, wash the area down with mild soap and rinse. Once completely dry, apply paste wax to the area and buff. Car wax will work well.

    Wicker furniture is fairly weather resistant but it can be more vulnerable to the sun, which may make it brittle. In addition to cleaning wicker furniture with a mild soap once each season, make sure it is situated in a shaded area. Refinish wicker with lemon oil every few years to help keep fibers healthy. If you notice any mildew, treat the area with a light chlorine bleach mix (approximately ¾ cup bleach per one quart water.)

    Plastic and resin furniture is amazingly durable and requires less attention. Simply use an all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner or even dish soap to clean, then rinse thoroughly and dry.

    When you aren’t enjoying your patio furniture, cover them with a fitted, waterproof outdoor patio furniture cover. These covers come in every shape and size, from large patio umbrella covers to BB Grill Covers. Look for rugged fabrics that that are crack resistant, that feature interlocking seams for additional strength and durability. Look for convenient features like drawstrings and snaps that will help keep covers snug even in extreme wind. The covers should feature vents that are engineered to allow for evaporation, but do not allow water to slip in. Garden furniture covers should also be easy to fold up and store, because you will be taking them off and on frequently. Lastly, look for a warranty. Most high quality covers will be guaranteed for several years.

    If you anticipate a long snow season, it is best to store furniture for the winter in a basement, garage, shed or similar space. Prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures and moisture can really take a toll on furniture, so avoid it if you can.