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top ten faq with actshade

Shade Sails continue to be a mysterious building alternative for both residential and commercial applications. Most people have limited knowledge of their use and how to design them effectively, and thus have lots of questions about them.


Over the past 22 years of us making shade sails for the Australian and overseas market, we have been asked a lot of questions. There are no stupid questions when it comes to shade sails as they are a relatively new building product. I started my fabric journey under the eye of such a sail maker and his dad. We certainly made some pretty cool stuff over the years and most of it worked out pretty well.


ACTshade have compiled a summary of the Top 10 Questions Regarding Shade Sails and done our best to answer them below.


1. Are shade sails waterproof?

No they are not. A shade sail provides shade and is made of a knitted mesh that holes in it. A waterproof shade sail is made of a solid fabric that does not have holes in it. A shade sail can divert rain in a certain direction depending on its design- shape and use of fall. There is a waterproof shade cloth material on the market but we have never got it to work for any length of time and this is not considered to be an option. So there are two types of shade cloths you can get. You either chose a shade sail made of shade cloth that provides shade, or you chose a waterproof shade sail that is made of 100% waterproof material and is designed to direct water where you want it to go.


2. How much do shade sails cost?

How long is a piece of string? Shade sails are a wise investment so whatever they cost it is good value and certainly provide a better bang for your buck when compared to a fixed roof structure. The saying of ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true here. There is a reason the shade sails in the big stores are cheap when compared to a custom made sail designed by an experienced and ideally a licensed installer (us!). If you get a quote you should expect it is itemised so you can compare quotes and see what things cost what. The steel posts, digging the hole and the concrete generally cost more than the sail cloth. Commercial grade shade sails offer superior protection in terms of UVR block and strength. On average, an ACTshade residential shade sails cost around $5000 with two posts. More posts, more holes, more concrete therefore cost more. No posts is the most cost effective shade sail solution.


3. What materials are shade sails made of ?

Shade sail cloth is generally one of two types, knitted and woven cloth. All types and brands have their pros and cons like anything in life. Most commercial grade shade sail cloths have UV stabilisers and polymers that are designed to repel any form of deterioration from exposure to the elements. Over the many years I have seen great advances in the construction of shade cloth, meaning they will last a long time. Ask your chosen supplier why they use a certain brand or a particular product and how it best suits your unique situation.


4. Where can you put a shade sail?

You can put a shade sail anywhere. Where there is a will there is a way. Also see question 2. Generally speaking a shade sail can be used to shade and protect pretty much any space. Like anything you do these days, you need permission to install the shade sail- either you need to be the owner and/or have authority to alter the space. Most councils and jurisdictions in Australia require minimum standards to be meet- so check your local areas rules. The main thing with the location a shade sail can go is to ensure that it is structurally sound- it wont break or break what it is attached to.


5. Do shade sails reduce heat?

Yes- by providing shade. If you sit under a big old gum tree on a hot day it will be cooler than if you were sitting out in the direct sunlight. Just watch pretty much any terrestrial mammal. I am no scientist but in my vast experience I have noted that a well designed shade cloth also creates a microclimate around it. The shade prevents the heating up of nearby surfaces, such as pavers, a deck or the windows and walls of your house. This not only provides a nice place for humans and their pets to exist, but also means you do not have to use so much energy (electricity) to keep your house cool. See diagram supplied by Rainbow Shade below-



6. How long do shade sails last?

Installed correctly a shade sail will last between 20-25 years. There are shade sails that have been installed for over 30 years that are still providing a reasonable level of shade as they where designed to do. That is pretty good value when compared to other building solutions. Limiting factors contributing to the longevity of a shade sail are in my opinion these in this order: design, location, choice of materials and construction technique. The shade cloth material will last this long, the stitching used to hold cloths together may not. Nowadays the thread used to stitch shade cloth together is designed and guaranteed for 10+ years. Make sure your chosen supplier guarantees your sail for the life of the cloth. You want to know that if the sail or the thread used does deteriorate due to the exposure to the elements, it will be repaired free of charge.


7. How do you measure a shade sail?

Basically you measure a shade sail between the connection points. ACTshade use remote quoting and gain rough measurements from high resolution scaled aerial photographs of your house. This way we can provide a rapid draft quote to you so you know very early on in your shade journey what is possible and what investment it will require to achieve your goals. Once we agree to move forward with your shade sail we use a laser to measure between the locations that the sail will be fixed to. We use this to create a 3D model of your sail in its location to scale. This allows us to maximise the coverage required, avoid trees and roof lines etc so as to maximise the longevity of your shade sail. This 3D model is put through our software, calculations are made to allow for stretch, shape and the height differences, then we use this to make your sail by hand in our workshop.


8. What can you attach a shade sail to?

Anything that is strong enough to take the forces that the sail will place on it. If your not sure how much load (force) will be placed on the thing or area your sail is attached to, then the is probably not suitable. We do not recommend you attached a sail to a tree- mainly because trees are living things not designed to have a shade sail pull on them. An engineer goes to university for years to work out what stresses and force a shade sail places on posts etc, so leave it up to an expert to work out what a sail can be attached to.

ACTshade has 20 million dollars in insurance to cover pretty much anything that can go wrong if your sail causes any damage or when Mother Nature decides it doesn’t want a shade sail where we put it. Make sure you see a current insurance policy from your chosen shade sail supplier to avoid any unexpected expenses.


9. How long until my shade sail is ready?

Your chosen supplier should let you know the timeframe before you give them the go ahead. Honestly, if a business can not tell you how long it will be until your sail is installed then they can not be very organised. If they can’t organise themselves and their sub contractors, then what chance do you have of getting a positive outcome. If they don’t know how long it takes to do what they do, then they can’t be very good at it.

ACTshade have a streamline process that takes 4-6 weeks to move through. We often have a waiting list of clients so your job might not start to today, but it will happen in the next 4 weeks. The only exceptions would be situations outside the control of the industry such as Covid lockdowns, or a more complex structure that requires high level engineering analysis, custom made posts and brackets or when approvals are required for the installation process or the sail itself (such as in a public space).


10. Why would I choose a shade sail over a solid roof structure?

A shade sail is a cost effective solution to provide a relaxing space in which to enjoy time outdoors or cool your indoor living areas. It is more easily adapted to the every changing environment and your particular situation. A shade sail looks better when designed well. A shade sail is by its very nature a softer feel as it is made using fabric. Fabric provides a softer surface for sound to bounce off and be adsorbed by so a shade sail is quieter. Rain falling on a shade sail is quieter than a hard roof. A well design shade sail floats above you so you do not feel the weight that you would if you had solid building elements over you. Plus, with a shade sail, you have the option to take down the sail in the cooler months - just ask your provider. A shade sail is more conducive to a positive human experience.


We hope this answered some of the questions you might of had about shade sails. If we didn't cover something you wanted to know, jump on our website and ask away!

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