Sunday, July 31, 2016

On the Deck: Shade Cloth to Keep it Cool

I know people say that life slows down in Summer, but I think it's the opposite for us.  The last couple months have been a total blur.  Maybe it only slows down for people with school-age kids and teachers?  I hope some of you out there are enjoying some peace and rest!  Anyway, I intended to have this up on the blog much sooner, but better late than never, right?

Continuing on in the deck series...

One of the things that I debated when we designed our deck was whether or not to put a roof on the lower half.  I liked the idea of being able to use it in all types of weather, and not having to worry as much about what I put out there.  If we move, I think have a front porch will be high on my list!  A full roof was going to add a lot of complications and cost, so we decided on a pergola.  I researched some options for putting a "roof" on a pergola, like corrugated metal or plastic (which would look ugly from the upper deck), or metal/vinyl shades like this one (which would cost about $1000 for a deck our size), or shade cloth.   You may have noticed my choice in other pictures, but here's what i went with:

The good part about me putting this post off for so long is that i can give a better answer regarding how the shade cloth has worked out so far.  We've had a hot few weeks, and while our deck does not get the blazing afternoon sun anyway, this deck does stay about 10 degrees cooler than the upper deck and surrounding area.  Also, it's hard to photograph the full effect, but it does feel like another room in our house and has enabled us to comfortably host more than 3 people at a time (I'm looking at you, tiny living room).  We have loved it.

Exhibit A: Band practice on the deck, aka that time Amy did her outdoor chores while being entertained by a live band.  No big deal. ;)

Now for the details on how this came together.  The best material I could find for shade cloth was sail cloth (like, boat sail), but I have this slight tendency to change my mind, and was really nervous about buying enough sail cloth to cover my deck, only to find that i didn't like how it looked.  I love that my deck is approx 25'x12', but all that square footage adds up when you try to cover it!  So, to enable me to try this idea out before investing in the pricey, long term version, I went cheap (for now) and made these out of canvas drop cloth.  

I found drop cloths at my local hardware store (these, I think) that were 4' x 15'.  I bought 5, which allowed me to piece together three strips long enough to run the length of the deck.  Where I needed to add length, I used my sewing machine on a heavy stitch with heavy duty thread to attach two pieces of drop cloth together.  

I'll get to how I hung them, but I did make one change that I'd like to tell you about.  At first I kept the cloths the full 4' wide, thinking that it would give me the space I wanted between the cloths.  I hung the first two and this is what it looked like:

You can see in the top picture that I didn't cut them to length right away because I wasn't sure how droopy I would want them to be, and so I didn't know what length would be just right.  Anyway, the point of showing you this was that 4' only gave me enough space to hang two cloths (or add a weird skinny one at the end), and it didn't quite look right to me.  So, I decided to cut each one down into 3' wide strips and add a third one.  Back to the sewing machine!

Anyway, after getting the drop cloths sewed to the right size, I installed three grommet holes in each end of each cloth with this grommet kit (you can see one installed on the cloth in the picture):

I then put hooks on the top of the pergola to hold each end of the cloth, like this:

From there, I wove each cloth in between the pergola rafters, going over every third rafter, and picking a different one for each cloth.  Take a look at the pictures if you are having trouble following that.  

Now, for some reason, I thought that I could just tack these cloths down at each end and not have to do anything in the middle.  After about two minutes of them being up there, I realized that this wasn't the case.  They flapped around and would not keep an even spacing between each rafter.  So, while this ruined my hopes of these being easy to take off in the winter (to avoid snow laying on them), my solution seems to have worked well:

I simply bought some upholstery tacks and hammered two in each end on the top of the pergola rafter.  One tack would probably work, but I like the look of two.  That being said, if I make my "permanent" sail cloth ones down the road, I may use the upholstery tacks on the ends rather than grommets, since it won't really be the time saver I hoped for.  Or, I could install grommets and hooks in the middle, but I didn't think it would look as nice.  

I installed my cloths the first weekend in April (with only the pergola stained...).  As I mentioned, I am hoping to take these down for the winter months to help keep the cloth a little nicer.  Well, go figure, the very next week we had hurricane-force winds and a snow storm.  My poor shade cloths!!  Here they are, broken in after only a week (from above). 

That said, you might be asking yourself, so how did they hold up?  Was canvas a waste of time?  Here's what I've found so far: 

My seams have not been as durable as i would have liked.  I only folded the cloth over once because I was worried that my machine couldn't make it through 3 layers of canvas, but because the seam wasn't rolled under, they have frayed a little bit.  I was worried at first that the weather would quickly beat the life out of them, but the fraying seems to have stopped.

Here's a picture of them today, about 4 months later:

They are still looking pretty good!  You may be able to tell that when it rains, pollen/dirt have kind of collected in the low spots, like here:

But it's not super noticeable, and I think i could get up on a ladder and clean them if i had the time.  Oh, and since I mentioned it, here's what they look like from the top deck today:

Overall, I have loved my shade cloths.  They add a visual softness to the deck which is really nice where everything else is the same shade of wood.  They give nice shade and make our deck usable on the hot days.  They move around just a little bit in the breeze and it just looks cool!

I had set up our deck at one point before the shade cloth was installed, so for fun, here's a (kind of) before and after pic:

It's been a great addition to our deck, and I'll keep you posted if/when I make a switch to the "permanent" version!

Hope you like it!

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