Elegant Solutions for Patios

You might wonder why you’d want to put a roof over your outdoor space when it seems to defeat the entire purpose of being outside. Then you try to use it at 2 p.m. on a summer afternoon and realize some type of cover is warranted. 


Probably the most common backyard shelter today, they are simple but versatile. A series of evenly spaced wood or vinyl beams supported by posts, the pergola is generally built to provide more shade than protection from rain or snow, allowing people to enjoy plenty of sunshine and see the stars at night. They’re gorgeous garden centerpieces when covered with climbing and flowering vines. They can be covered with a tarp or the beams spaced more tightly to provide more protection — a pergola with a “closed” roof is also called a pavilion.


These are like pergolas, but the roof is composed of smaller wood or vinyl slats that can be rotated to allow the sun in or keep it out, plus protect the furniture from precipitation. These slats can be either manually operated or motorized for convenience. 


A stylish solution, these most commonly are found as rectangular sun sails stretched across a pergola or other roof frames, as well as triangle shades that can be either be stretched overhead or at an angle. Look for covers treated to block UV rays; darker colors tend to offer more protection. Many are not waterproof and allow at least some rain through; these need to be installed at an angle to avoid pooling and sagging in the middle. They are generally built to withstand wind up to 85 mph, but snow loads can cause stretching, tearing and other damage, so if your home is in a colder climate you should probably take them down for the winter. 


If your patio is adjacent to your home it may well already have a roof, but many people want to enhance and enlarge the space they have. A roof similar to what’s on the rest of the house requires more support but also provides more options. For example, a large, comfy fireplace can double as one of the support beams.


Technology has advanced way beyond the early manual versions that used a bar to prop an awning against the wall of a house. Now, you can buy a pergola fitted with a series of sun sails that can be rolled to the back of the structure, operated either by remote control or sensors. Others use metal slats that can be rolled back and forth on a track and are more compact when fully retracted. Retractable single-panel shade sails are relatively new to the market and make these a much more flexible option in climates where they need to be stowed away for part of the year.

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