How to erect shade sails

Written by lisa magloff
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How to erect shade sails
A shade sail looks like a sail used on a boat, but provides shade for your yard. (sail boat image by Kelly Miller from

Installing a shade sail in your garden is a beautiful and ecologically friendly way to provide shade over a large or small area. Sails are available in all sizes and you can find them ready-made, or have one made to suit the size of your garden. Depending on the shape of your garden, you may want to install several small sails, which are more flexible and may cost less than one large sail. Small sails also have the advantage of being able to be supported by timber posts, while larger sails may need steel posts.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Ladder
  • Crowbar
  • Shade sail
  • Rapid-set concrete
  • Water
  • 3 turnbuckles
  • 3 eye bolts
  • Drill and bits to match eye bolts
  • 3 treated pine posts rated for in-ground use
  • Post hole shovel

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  1. 1

    Choose the area that needs protecting. Consider whether you want a large or small sail. Consider also the best place to insert anchor posts, the position of the sun at different times of day and what parts of your yard you would like to shade. Measure up the area you want the sail to cover. Draw a diagram of this area, with measurements, for the sail maker.

  2. 2

    Take your measurements and drawing to a sail maker or canvas manufacturer to make the sail. Ask the sail maker to supply you with the turnbuckles and attach them to the sail.

  3. 3

    Unfold the sail and lay it on the ground in the area it will be erected. Wind the turnbuckles out as far as they will go. Mark the ends of the turnbuckles on the ground. Subtract 100mm (3.94 inches) from the point at the end of the turnbuckle, to allow the posts to lean at a 10-degree angle and give tension, and make another mark. This is where your posts will go.

  1. 1

    Dig three post holes about 900mm (3 feet) deep. Allow room for the height of your sail and room for the concrete footing. To raise your sail 2,500mm (8.2 feet) off the ground, you will need posts about 3,600mm (11.8 feet) long.

  2. 2

    Place the posts in the holes. Fill the holes half-full of water. Pour rapid-set concrete into each hole. Mix the cement and water with the crowbar to make a slurry. Position each post in the hole by leaning it over at about a 10-degree angle. Let the concrete cure for at least four or five hours, and preferably overnight.

  3. 3

    Drill holes in each post. Fasten the eye bolts to the posts. Hook up the corners and tighten the turnbuckles until the sail is at the desired tautness.

Tips and warnings

  • If you live in an area with high wind, or you have sandy or unstable soil, your sail may need extra support.

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