Do I Need a Building Permit Approval for Shade Sail Installation?

A Shade Sail is a wonderful replacement for pergolas, verandahs, and even umbrellas. Made with UV-treated material, it serves as an effective defense against the harsh sun.

They are also maintenance-free as the material used resists the development of mould and mildew. Installing a Shade Sail is an affordable way to add or expand comfortable space around your home.

But what do you need in order to install them? Do rules and regulations differ from location to location in Australia?

Regulations and fines vary from place to place around Australia. How Shade Sails are categorised also differs. Sometimes they are a category of their own and sometimes they are placed within Minor Structures.

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Permeable Material

Let us start with a non-negotiable point. In any locality in Australia that you go, one regulation stays the same: your Shade Sail should be made with permeable material if you want to skip the process of getting a permit.

If it is anything but, then you will be required to obtain a permit or in some cases, whatever you are building will be considered as another type of structure and will be subject to another set of regulations. Check with your local Council if you are unsure.

Size Matters

Most councils, like the city of Salisbury in South Australia, typically do not require a building permit for Shade Sails. However, they must meet a set of criteria. At the top of this list is that the Shade Sail should not exceed 20 square metres. A good example of such a Shade Sail is the Coolaroo Charocoal Extreme Rectangle; it covers only 18 square meters and is most suitable for residential use.

Other local Australian governments are even more strict, allowing permit-free installation only for Shade Sails that are 10 square metres or smaller like the Coolaroo Charcoal Extreme Triangle.

In the Shire of Roeburne Western Australia on the other hand, a permit is necessary for all Shade Sails and there is a restriction on the size that you can install – they will allow only up to 10% of the area of the property.

So, check with your local Council to ensure you are following their size restrictions on shade sale installation.

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Height Issues

Same with the matter in size, some councils allow Shade Sails to be erected without a permit as long as it is under 3 metres, while others require a permit regardless of the height. That being said, some localities like Cockburn are quite strict, setting the limit for permit-free installation of Shade Sails at a height of 2.4 metres.


You will definitely have to shell out some cash if a building permit is needed. To give you a ballpark figure, Canning council charges 0.19 – 0.32% of estimated value of building work but not less than $90 for the Building Fee plus a fixed Building Services Levy of $45 for work valued below $45,000 or 0.09% of the building value work if it exceeds that amount.

The Shire of Roebourne councils charges about the same amount.

Here’s the thing, even if you don’t need a building permit in other locations, there will be other things you have to spend your money on. What are they specifically? The Structural Engineer’s design, the floor plan, the full site plan – all of which will require the service of practicing Structural Engineer.

All other applications and approvals submitted prior to obtaining the building permit have costs too. If you are beginning to think that installing a Shade Sail is expensive, it is still more affordable than constructing a more permanent structure like a verandah or pergola (which requires a different type of permit, plans, and approvals).

Paying Bills For Building Permits. Photos by 401(K) 2012 and FuFu Wolf

If You Are Uncertain…

Each council has different regulations from another, one will be lenient while another will be stricter. This guide is only meant to give you an idea how much or how little work and money is involved in the process. If you still find yourself a bit lost then it’s best to call the City Council yourself and get a detailed checklist of what you will need, just like this one from the town of Gawler in South Australia.

It would also be wise to get a licensed contractor or builder to provide you with initial advice; professionals are experienced and oftentimes, they are familiar with regulations in your local area. If you are lucky enough, they will take care of the application as well.

On the other hand, if you are already dead-set on getting a cool Sail Shade to spruce up your outdoor space, here are a few other things you should know:


How far from your house or building can it be installed? How near can your Shade Sail be to the main roads and streets?

The rules surrounding where the Sail Shade can be installed are not too difficult to remember. The primary objective of the restriction is to prevent the device from becoming a nuisance.

Here are a few:

  • The Shade Sail, including the posts that they are attached to must be within your property’s boundaries.
  • The Shade Sail must be positioned to avoid water run-off to surrounding properties.
  • The Shade Sail must not be closer than 1.5 metres to the primary street boundary; a minimum of 1 metre from the side and/or rear streets.

Again, check with your local council to get firm guidance.

A Good Sail Shade

Of course it is imperative to get a good-quality Sail Shade. As a matter of fact, it is crucial since City Councils check the quality of the Sail Shade to be used.

Not only do they look at the material used but they also consider the design. In approving development plans, councils ensure that the Shade Sail to be used won’t clash with existing structures within the area – this is most especially true if the city is home to a plethora of historical buildings.

Coolaroo Shade Sails are well-designed shades made with durable, commercial-grade knitted fibre. They come in various shapes, sizes, and colours as well. This makes them easy to incorporate into spaces and they will undoubtedly pass any councils’ scrutiny.

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Precautionary Measures

Even if you do hire someone to install your Shade Sail for you, it would be proactive if you perform or cross check the following precautionary measures:

  • Check if the Engineer or personnel are indeed, qualified and licensed.
  • Ensure that all designs and plans are approved by responsible local bodies.
  • Obtain a soil check to be sure that your foundation is stable.
  • Have someone inspect the area and progress during the construction.