Whether you’re looking for a permanent outdoor shade structure for your patio, something retractable to put over your deck, or a more temporary solution for your yard, you’re sure to find something you like in this list of DIY backyard shade ideas.
It can be almost impossible to enjoy the summer weather outdoors if your backyard has the sun beating down on it.
I know from first-hand experience!
My house was a new, builder-grade home when I bought it.
And my yard was just a flat piece of dirt with not an ounce of shade to be found anywhere.
So I have added a number of shade structures over the years to make my yard bearable in the summer.
And that’s where this list of backyard shade ideas come from. (Some that I have done. And some that I’m still thinking about adding.)
1 | Build a gazebo
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Gazebos are a beautiful and permanent way to provide some shade for your patio or deck.
I have always wanted one. So when I was building the deck in my backyard, I decided to include it in the design.
I built an open air gazebo that doesn’t have a closed-in roof.
Partly because it’s less expensive and less work to do this rather than adding a roof.
And partly because I found an awesome hanging basket that I wanted to hang from the middle. And the plants would need some light. (Unfortunately, I bought it at HomeGoods a few years ago, and I have never seen it again since).
If you want to build something similar, you can find the instructions for my gazebo in this book* (from Amazon). It also has tutorials for other structures that can provide sun protection for your outdoor living space.
If you want a shade structure with a proper roof, DIY gazebo kits (like this one)* are a good way to go.
The metal ones cost about the same as it would to build a wood one from scratch.
And you just have to follow the directions to put it together.
2 | Construct a pergola
Pergolas are another permanent outdoor shade structure that have wood beams across the top that help to break up the sun
I built one of these over my grill area, and it’s the most popular spot in my backyard when I have parties.
Building a pergola is relatively easy since they don’t usually have too many awkward angles to cut. (The instructions for building a standard pergola are also in the book* I mentioned above).
But if you want to cut down on your shade structure construction time, there are always DIY pergola kits* you can buy.
3 | Add a pergola cover
If you already have a pergola, and just want to block some more sunlight, try one of these pergola covers*.
This canopy comes in a few different colors and many different sizes, so it can fit over most types of pergola.
And it doesn’t require serious home improvement skills to install.
Get more ideas for pergola shade covers.
4 | Hang outdoor curtains
Adding outdoor curtains to the sides of a porch, gazebo or pergola provides you with the option of creating shade wherever and whenever you need it.
You can draw them closed during the hottest parts of the day or leave them open when you want a bit more sunlight.
And they provide privacy while also enhancing the aesthetic of your outdoor space.
5 | Make a DIY outdoor shade canopy
For a more modern shade structure that can cover a deck, patio or backyard, try this outdoor shade canopy.
It’s a fairly easy DIY project that involves building large square arches and then stretching canvas sheets over the top.
Jamie Durie (from HGTV) used it in one of his backyard makeovers and I love what a statement it makes in the yard..
If you don’t want to build anything, these retractable fabric shade covers may be just what you need.
Add some grommets to strips of outdoor fabric and hang them up with wires.
I have even seen people make these out of drop cloths which would make it a fairly cheap patio cover.
6 | Hang sun shade sails
Sun shade sails* are a fairly inexpensive way to provide patio shade.
I have never tried them because I wasn’t sure how much shade one triangle sail would provide.
But then I saw some pictures from shadesails.com and realized you don’t have to use just one.
Now they make a lot more sense to me. And they look pretty cool, too!
If you want a more relaxed feel, try hanging them more loosely.
This instantly creates a tropical, breezy look for your outdoor space.
7 | Create a DIY patio cover
This creative backyard shade option is another DIY patio cover idea from Jamie Durie at HGTV.
He made frames out of thin wood and stretched fabric across them.
Then hung the frames on wires using eye hooks.
That way you can slide them back and forth to provide the shade where you want it. Brilliant!
8 | Put up patio umbrellas
Putting up umbrellas is an easy way to add shade to your deck or patio that can be moved around and taken down whenever you want.
Which means they’re also perfect if you need a more temporary shade solution (like I do when I’m hosting outdoor parties).
And similar to shade sails, I don’t believe in using just one.
If you want to provide enough shade to be useful, I think you need at least 3 umbrellas (and possibly more depending on the size of your deck or patio).
Patio umbrellas also have some extra benefits that you don’t necessarily get with the other options:
- You can mix and match the colors to add interest.
- Some umbrellas have lights* installed in them, making them useful at night as well as during the day. The plug-in kind are great because you know they will always turn on.
- Or you can get solar powered umbrellas*. Which are convenient because you don’t need an electrical outlet nearby. But they will need to get quite a bit of sun for the lights to come on at night.
For free-standing umbrellas that will not fall over, I use these concrete umbrella stands on wheels*. (You can see them in picture above).
They are very heavy and not all that pretty, but I have never had an umbrella blow over since I started using them.
And you can place them exactly where you need them.
9 | Install a retractable awning
For a more permanent option that provides coverage close to the house, awnings work well.
They attach to your home and stick out a few feet, which can shade seating areas nearby.
I don’t have experience with these at my home, but I stayed at the Beverley Hills Hilton for a conference a couple of years ago and fell in love with the black and white striped awnings outside their pool rooms.
If I had a place for them, I would install one of these retractable awnings* over the deck at the back of my house.
That way you can block the sun when you want to, but still let light in the windows when you’re not outside.
10 | Plant Trees
The next option on my list is to plant shade trees. This is kind of an obvious one and it isn’t a quick fix.
But of all the patio shade ideas I have tried, the trees I planted in my yard have made the biggest difference.
They not only provide shade for a large portion of the yard, but they also reduce the temperature by a few degrees.
This deck at the back doesn’t need any kind of man-made shade cover because of the natural canopy over top.
And it’s one of the most comfortable spots in the yard all day long.
If you need some help figuring out what to plant, my list of backyard trees for small yards is a good place to start.
11 | Grow vines
This last of my DIY backyard shade ideas is one you may or may not want to do. But I included it just in case.
To provide even more shade, I originally trained some Wisteria to grow over the top of my pergola.
It grows fast enough to cover it quickly, looks really pretty when it’s blooming and provides a lot of shade.
However, it was always dropping leaves and twigs, which created more work to clean up.
And then when I was trimming it back one year, I found an old snake skin hidden in the branches.
To be clear, we have lots of snakes in the area and generally I don’t mind them since they keep the mice population down.
But the idea of one slithering around above my head was a little too much.
So I took the Wisteria down.
However, if you don’t mind a little extra clean up (and don’t have the snake issue), vines are a great way to add shade to your outdoor space.
And of course, you can plant something other than Wisteria.
Just make sure it grows tall and thick enough to provide the shade you want. Ivy would make a good choice. Most Clematis varieties would not.
Other shade structure ideas you might like
- DIY Pergola cover ideas
- Pergola lighting ideas
- How to put a roof on a flat pergola
- Backyard privacy ideas
Have comments or questions about our DIY backyard shade ideas? Tell us in the section below.
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This post was originally published on July 26, 2018 but was updated with new content on May 22, 2023.