Handy Shade Sail Attachment Guide

Whether contractors set up your shade sail or you’ll be doing it on your own, there are a few things that you ought to learn about shade sail installation.

First off, if you are hiring professional shade installers they might ask you to make certain decisions regarding the type of attachment you wish to use.

Secondly, years down the road, chances are you will be making adjustments and doing maintenance on your own so you need to be familiar with how the hardware and corresponding mechanisms work.

Hardware 101

So what hardware will you need in installing your shade sail? Here’s a checklist of the basics:

  • 4″ galvanized steel pipe as support posts (these should be two different lengths)
  • 6″ eye bolts (one for each attachment point)
  • 1/4 turn buckles (at least two)
  • 1/4 D-shackle (for the corner/s where you won’t use the turn buckle)

The basics listed above are the commonly used hardware components for attaching shade sails. However, some people use alternative materialsto change the look. Below are alternative suggestions for hardware components:

  • 3/16″ chain
  • 6″ eye bolts (one for each attachment point)
  • 1/8″ wire cable
  • low-stretch Dacron rope

Wire cables and chains are best used when you need easy rough adjustment. That means you want it tight, but not too tight. On the other hand, you could use turnbuckles or the Dacron rope for maximum tension (very tight).

Be careful not to over-tension your shade sail as this will cause undue stress on stitching and seams.

Laying out the goods

Once you have obtained the building permit required (Whether you need one or not depends on your location.) and have decided where to put up your shade sail, the next important step is laying the shade sail and the hardware.

This step will allow you to visualise where your support posts will stand. Here’s a simple how-to:

  1. Place the shade sail on the ground, position the hardware (D-shackle/turnbuckle/chain/ wire cable/rope) on the end of each corner.
  2. Mark the spot where the posts will be erected.

Posts Positioning

In positioning the posts, remember that your goal is to create a three-dimensional shade sail. A three-dimensional shade sail looks better, smoother, moves less, and sags less. To achieve this, the posts should not be at the same height.

There are two positions you can follow:

  • The High Point – only one post is higher. This works best with triangular shade sails.
  • The Hyperbolic Parabola – In square shade sails, diagonal posts should be the same height.

Setting up the posts

Now that you know where the posts should go, it’s time to put them up. If you will be installing the poles on soil, it is advisable that you take a soil test to see if it is firm enough to support the weight of the structure.

  1. Dig a hole that is 40cm x 40cm in diameter and 80cm deep.
  2. At the bottom of your posts, add an anchoring system: simply drill a couple of self-drilling screws on opposing sides of the posts. This is to ensure the posts do not move around the concrete.
  3. Before planting the posts, pour in a thin layer of concrete into the hole first. This will create a barrier between the soil and the post.
  4. Position the post down into the hole.
  5. Slowly pour the remaining concrete and fill the hole up to the last 5cm.
  6. At this point, you can allow the post to lean to a 10-degree angle. This is for deflection which is necessary in if you want to block sunlight from an angle and if you don’t want water to penetrate the shade sail during very light rain.
  7. When the posts are stable, you can place back whatever soil or grass you took from the ground into the remaining 5cm in the hole.

Attachment points

With the posts in place, it’s time to drill in the eye bolts. Measure the desired height and drill hole on the posts with a drill bit. If one corner of the shade sail will be attached to a building, then you must add 4-hole pad eye bolted in with lag bolts. Secure the eye bolts.

Attachment options

There are several ways to attach the shade sail to the attachment points. The most common is using a combination of turn buckles and D-shackles. If the shade sail is square, two diagonal corners should use turnbuckles and the other two, D-shackles. For triangular shade sails, two corners should have turnbuckles, and one with a D-shackle.

A D-shackle connection looks like this:

The D shackle is looped into the shade’s D-ring and the into the eye bolt on the support post and locked in.

Turn-buckle connection:

Some turnbuckles can be secured into the eye bolt with a screw, while some just end with a hook. If you are using one with a hook, remember to position the hook face down. Turn buckles are used for tensioning. They are adjustable and can provide a very tight pull.

Stainless steel chain and shackles can also be used in attaching the shade sail to the posts. However, they are not highly recommended and you must follow specific allowances in length. If you choose to use chains, remember that the chain must not exceed 24 centimetres, except on one corner wherein you can allow up to 30 centimetres. If you go over this limit, the sail shade will move too much in the wind, result to high shock loads and damage the fabric. Also, chain and shackle connections are more difficult to adjust when it’s time to make your shade sail more taut.

A stainless steel chain and shackle connection:

D-shackles are attached at either end of the chain and connected to the D-ring of the sail shade and eye bolt on the post.

For a more modern look, some people opt to use a wire cable. It looks cleaner and more streamlined. However, similar to the chain and shackle connection, you must observe the proper length allowances. They are also not easy to adjust.

A wire cable connection:

Again, D-shackles are installed on either end which are then hooped into the D-rings and the eye bolts.

This last connection we’ll be showing you looks a bit more rugged than the previous four however, it can provide a tight pull and like the turn-buckle connection, is adjustable. The rope connection:

For this, you cannot use just any rope. It should be a low-stretch Dracon rope.

A few final words:

  • In attaching the final corner of the sail shade, you will need a tensioning tool to help you pull the fabric to the post.
  • As the last step, the shade sail should be pre-tensioned to 100 lbs or to the manufacturer’s specifications. Check their website for further information.
  • Use a high-quality Shade Sail. Even if you get all the installation techniques right, it is still important to get a shade sail that will provide great protection against the heat. Gazebos Australia has a selection of quality shade sails that can block up to 90% of UV rays.
  • Check the edges of your shade sail. The best shade sails have double-stitched webbings on the edges. This ensures that they won’t rip even as they experience shock loads. Both Abshade and Coolaroo shade sails have reinforced edges.

Please note that this information is of a general nature. The information, facts, and opinions provided on the website should not be used as a replacement for the advice from a structural engineer, accredited architect or professional shade installer. The information on this webpage has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Photo courtesy from Flickr by morticide