Adding a modern outdoor structure, such as a pergola, cabana, or retractable awning, can enhance your backyard’s atmosphere. In addition to adding style, they provide shade and encourage you to make use of your yard.

Continue below to learn more about some of the top backyard shade solutions to decide which one is best for you.

Types of Outdoor Shade Structures

These are the most popular outdoor shade structures to help improve the quality of comfort in your yard. 


A pergola is a freestanding structure with an open roof made of beams and rafters, typically mounted on posts or columns to form a grid pattern. This openness allows sunlight to shine through, while also providing shade. Pergolas are ideal for your garden or patio where you want airy, diffused sunlight without harsh glares. They allow a breeze while supporting climbing vines or trailing plants.

Image Credit: Canva

With their visually lightweight appearance, pergolas bring an airier atmosphere to backyards compared to solid roof coverings. That makes them versatile for diverse backyard aesthetics and uses.


My personal favorite is a cabana — a freestanding structure with three enclosed sides and one open side. Adding this shaded sanctuary to my property has turned it into my own backyard oasis.

The walls may be permanent or flexible coverings like shades or curtains. With solid sides, cabanas give more protected shade than pergolas. Their tropical flair makes them ideal for resort-style recreation backyards.

Image Credit: Canva

Cabanas offer privacy and shelter in your backyard. Furnish one with seating, tables, a wet bar, or a fridge to enhance use. They also offer storage for pool items like towels, toys, and floaties. 

Retractable Awning

A retractable awning consists of a fabric covering stretched over a frame. A manual or electric mechanism rolls out the awning, which you can retract when not needed. There are also automated awnings that deploy and retract the covering based on conditions.

Image Credit: Canva

This shade structure is versatile. You can install it onto your home, attach it to a deck or patio cover, or use freestanding. This allows shade positioning when and where needed.

Installation Process

Installing a backyard shade structure is a project that requires proper planning and preparation to ensure best results. The installation process involves site evaluation, permits, foundation work, assembly, and finishing. Here is an overview:

First, the installer will take measurements and assess your space for obstructions like wires and low limbs. They map sunlight exposure throughout the day to plan ideal placement.

Most areas require building permits for permanent structures to meet safety codes. The installer will obtain the necessary permits on your behalf.

Pergolas and cabanas need foundations like concrete footings to prevent shifting and sinking. Proper foundations support the structure.

The installer will assemble the unit on-site, erecting pergola columns and securing beams. Cabana roofs and walls go up prior to attachment.

Final details like plants or furnishings complete the project and make the structure ready to use.

Design Considerations

When planning your shade structure, consider size, materials, style, placement, and accessories:

First, the structure must be large enough to shade your intended area. Measure your space and scale the pergola, cabana, or awning up, allowing extra clearance. Factor sun direction — east-west exposures may need wider shades.

Materials determine durability and weather resistance. Natural wood beams provide a breezy feel. Resilient metals like aluminum withstand the elements. Tightly woven acrylic fabrics offer UV protection.

Consider maintenance needs based on material. Woods need regular sealing and staining, while aluminum and vinyl require little upkeep.

Match style to your home’s architecture and backyard vision. Pergolas offer airy elegance with columns, arched beams, and latticework. Tropical cabanas deliver a resort feel with bamboo, grass roofs, or curtains. Awnings can be discreet or make a statement with bright colors and shapes.

For optimal use, position the shade where you will gather below. Pergolas suit patios, cabanas suit pools, and awnings suit flexible areas like tables. Consider sunlight to utilize shade. Avoid trees, wires, and obstructions that hamper operation.

Optional accessories enhance usefulness. Pergolas can add fans, louvers, and screens. Cabanas benefit from lighting, curtains, and heaters. Awnings allow sensors, lighting, and screens.

Cost to Install Backyard Shade

  • Pergola: $1,000–$15,000
  • Cabana: $3,000–$15,000
  • Awning: $1,000–$6,000

Prices vary based on type, size, materials and accessories. For example, a small DIY pergola may cost $1,000, while a large custom pergola could cost $10,000 or more.

Professional installation ensures proper engineering and construction but increases cost. Financing can spread payments over time.

So, Is Adding a Shade Structure Worth It?

If you want to fully utilize and enjoy your backyard, then adding a shaded structure is worth it. 

Beyond providing physical comfort by blocking sun and rain, shade structures enhance aesthetics to complement landscaping and architecture. The right shade structure transforms your garden or patio into an inviting space for relaxation and entertainment.

With options like pergolas, cabanas, and awnings, you’re bound to find one that suits your needs. With proper care, a shade structure can be a lasting asset that improves your property value.

FAQs About Adding Backyard Shade Structures

How much sun will filter through a pergola?

Pergolas provide about 50% shade coverage with bright, diffused sunlight. Vines and plants overhead increase shade. Optional louvers give adjustable light control.

What are the best materials for durable shade structures?

Look for decay and weather-resistant woods, aluminum, vinyl, and composites that won’t rot, rust, or crack over time.

How large of a shade structure is needed?

Consider the shaded footprint needed and scale up the structure size, allowing extra clearance. Factor in sunlight angles based on the direction faced.

Should I do a DIY install or hire a professional?

For complex projects, professional installation ensures proper engineering, materials, and construction for safety, durability, and integrity. DIY kits suit smaller, simpler projects.

How much maintenance is required?

Minimal maintenance materials like vinyl, aluminum, and composites need little upkeep. Wood structures require preventive sealing/staining every 1-2 years. Canvas and awnings need proper winter storage.

Editorial Contributors
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Coty Perry

Expert Writer & Reviewer

Coty Perry is a lawn and garden writer for Today’s Homeowner. He focuses on providing homeowners with actionable tips that relate to the “Average Joe” who is looking to achieve a healthier and greener lawn. When he isn’t writing he can almost always be found coaching youth football or on some trail in Pennsylvania in search of the next greatest fishing hole.

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Andrew Foligno

Andrew Foligno is an editor for Today’s Homeowner, with over 6 years of experience working in digital marketing. He started his career as a content writer at an agency, covering industries such as HVAC, plumbing, painting, lawn care, and more. Soon, he was promoted to an editor position where he oversaw a team of writers before moving on to other facets of digital marketing. When he isn’t working, Andrew enjoys going to the gym to be active, as well as going to the movies to unwind.

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