How to install a shade sail

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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How to install a shade sail
Shade sail over an ocean-view deck. (Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

A shade sail is a large piece of heavy-duty outdoor fabric that is stretched and mounted to three or more points. The fabric provides shade and some light weather protection in outdoor sunny locations. Typically the shade sail is triangular in shape with one mounting point higher than the other two. Other shapes can be designed based on the needs of the space being covered and the preference of the homeowner. Most quality sails are custom made for the individual homeowner, and hardware is sold for mounting the sail at the specific location. Usually the sail is ordered after the attachment points have been identified or built so that the sail will be a perfect fit.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Stainless steel turnbuckle
  • D shackle
  • Stainless steel eyebolt (optional)
  • Stainless steel rafter bolt with eye nut (optional)
  • 2 hole pad eye with lag bolts (optional)
  • Stainless 3-hole plate (optional)
  • Stainless diamond-shaped pad eye (optional)
  • Stainless corner bracket (optional)
  • Stainless long bracket (optional)
  • Stainless chain
  • Bolt cutters
  • Dacron low stretch rope (optional)

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  1. 1

    Locate attachment points on secure locations as sails are subject to strong wind forces and can be ripped off inadequate structures. Typically most homeowners situate two attachment points on the back wall of their house and a third point on a large post installed specifically for that purpose. If you install a post, a third of the height of the post should be buried and cemented below grade. The post should tip slightly away from the house. Drill a hole in the top 10 inches of the post and install a stainless steel eye bolt with the eye facing the other attachment points.

  2. 2

    Attach fasteners to the back of the house. The corner of the house is very strong, and a corner bracket can be installed with lag bolts. The rafter tails of a house are also strong, and a rafter bolt with eye nut can be installed at the rafter. Diamond-shaped pad eyes and long brackets can mount to the support beams above windows and doors, or to joists or studs. The eyes of these brackets should face outward; often the sail manufacturer will recommend a horizontal or vertical orientation for the eye.

  3. 3

    Attach a turnbuckle to the eye with a D-shackle. Unscrew the turnbuckle to its widest point as this will give you room to tighten it later. Use a D-shackle to attach the other end of the turnbuckle to the loop on the sail. A D-shackle is a U-shaped fastener with a threaded pin going through the ends of the U. It creates an easy and strong connection.

  4. 4

    Add chain link between the attachment point and the turnbuckle if the sail is too small for the attachment points. Use bolt cutters to cut the chain and D-shackles to connect the chain to the turnbuckles.

  5. 5

    Tie a Dacron low-stretch rope to connect a distant attachment point to the sail. Knot the rope securely in the eye and through the sail connector. Stretch the sail taut before tying off the rope. This works well for connection points mounted to distant trees or outbuildings. Keep the rope well above head height for safety and secure the ends so that children cannot untie the sail.

  6. 6

    Tighten the turnbuckles by twisting them and screwing them shorter. The sail should be very tight so that the wind cannot cause it to flap or rub on any structures.

Tips and warnings

  • Check the sail regularly during the season for tightness. Check the attachment points for loosening nuts or other problems. Repair any problems immediately for the safety of persons near or under the sail.

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