Shade Sail Posts | The Definitive Guide

In this guide, we will cover how to work out where your posts should be placed, how to choose the correct materials, and how to properly install an appropriate post to ensure maximum tension for your shade sail. Posts are a permanent feature and imperative for the life span and aesthetic of your shade structure so ensuring they are properly selected and installed is essential. If you’re purchasing a shade sail from Shade Sails Canada, if inadequately chosen and/or installed, your posts would be the weak point in your structure and would fail before your sail does, trying to correct a poorly installed post is much more of a pain than installing it in the first place!

Shade Sails Post Placement

The flexibility of your post-placement will depend on which product you are purchasing; a standard-sized shade sail or a custom-sized shade sail. Custom sized shade sails are much more flexible allowing for a wider range of post configurations as you are not limited to triangles or rectangles as with standard sized shade sails. Regardless of which product you are purchasing you should first assess the area you would like to shade. Establish whether you can or would like to attach to an existing structure (this can reduce the cost and time of installing your shade sail) and establish where it might be feasible to dig a hole for your post. Bry's Tips: It is much easier to work with a Custom Shade Sail as you can place your posts wherever you desire and we cut your sail to fit. With Standard Sails, you must place the posts where the sail depicts.

Standard Sized Shade Sails

When purchasing a standard sized shade sail, the easiest way to work out where your posts will need to be positioned is to wait until your shade sail has arrived and then lay it out on the ground: this allows you to move it around and consider existing structures. If any of your attachment points need to be in a very specific place, for example, the corner of a building or where you have limited space for a post, it is easier to fix your rig to this attachment point first and then rotate the sail around this point to work out where the rest of your attachment points/posts will need to be placed. If you can attach to an existing structure mark this with X, otherwise mark the ground with a peg, this is where your post will be positioned. Do this for all corners of the sail. Bry's Tips: Working with standard sizes can be a little tricky. You do not have to have the sail attached directly at the post; you can run a length of cable from the sail to the post if this works better for your space. If in doubt, please call us, we are here to help.

Custom Sized Shade Sails

When purchasing custom sized shade sails, posts must always be installed first. We offer a full guide on measuring for a custom shade sailOnce you have followed step one, return to this tutorial, install your posts and then continue with steps 2-6 in the measurement guide before ordering your shade sail. Bry's Tips: Custom Sails ensure the highest levels of tension, vital for the life of your shade sail. They are much easier to work with; you supply us the measurements and we cut the sail to fit specifically to tension to your attachment points, this ensures a perfect fit and tension. If you would like some guidance on shapes, heights etc... please call us, we are the experts and are here to help.

How to choose the right material and size for your posts

Generally, your posts will be made of either wood, which you can purchase from your local lumber yard or steel which can be purchased from a steel fabricator. Both materials have their advantages and disadvantages and the correct solution will depend entirely on your preferences and the specifications of your project. Please pay particular attention to the minimum recommended widths for each material type, in order to ensure your shade sail stays properly tensioned throughout the life of its installation, posts must be strong and able to withstand the force generated by tensioning the sail. Bry's Tips: Steel will most always be the superior material for Shade Sail posts: stronger, longer-lasting and less flex. It is also usually the more expensive option.

Wooden Posts

In some settings, timber posts can be seen as the more aesthetic option—although a powder-coated steel post can look just as nice—and wood is almost always cheaper and lighter than steel. We typically suggest nothing less than 6" x 6" wood, ideally, pressure-treated. If pressure treating is not available, you should treat the buried portion of your post to minimize rot. Bry's Tip: Wood is susceptible to rot so treating your posts is optimal; treated posts will last much longer than non treated.

Steel Posts

Steel posts are definitely the superior choice to support your shade sails. They require little maintenance, are stronger and will last much longer than wood, basically a lifetime. Powder coating can also be used to increase the aesthetic and can look quite nice when paired with common colours in your garden. Although steel is stronger than wood, we still recommend a minimum 5.5″ outside diameter steel post with a 1/4″ wall. One other consideration with steel posts is their weight, whereas a wooden post can be carried by 1-2 people, steel posts may require additional equipment to install such as a crane. Consult with your local steel fabricator as to the weight, treatment and installation options before purchasing your steel. Bry's Tip: Check with us on the size of the steel you should consider for your sail size. We can help with the oaring to consider as well. We are here to help.

Post Heights, Length & Variance

Regardless of whether you decide on wood or steel, another very important consideration is the height of your posts and the variance in height between your attachment points (including attaching to an existing structure). Please see our FAQ on Post Height Variance for a full breakdown of why this is important and examples but in the context of this guide, please know that varying the height of your attachment points is very important and should be considered before purchasing your materials. We will cover footings in much more detail later on in this guide but please note that the length of your posts will need to be a minimum 33% longer than the height of the attachment point; for example, if your post is 10 feet tall, you will need a 13.5 feet post to ensure sufficient footing. Bry's Tips: Steel will deflect less than wood. If you are going high above the ground, make sure you have larger timber to avoid too much flex or deflection of the post. If your posts deflect inwards too much, your sail will not tension as it should. If in doubt, please call us.

How to install your posts in preparation for you shade sail

The footings of your posts are another essential element to ensuring the proper and continued tensioning of your shade sail. There should be no movement in your posts whatsoever, this is attained by ensuring the correct depth, width and materials used. As a general rule, your footing should be a minimum 33% the height of your attachment point. For example, if the height from the ground to where you are installing the eye on your post is 10 feet, your footing should be a minimum 3.5 ft. Bry's Tips: In most places in Canada, you must consider frost. The frost line can be up to 4 ft, therefore, we generally suggest holes are a minimum 4 ft deep and a minimum 2 ft in diameter (round or square).

Preparing the area for your shade sail post

There are many scenarios in which you could be installing a post, in the middle of your garden, close to an existing building etc… It is always important to be sure what you are digging into. Before digging, check where any service lines may be (gas, power, drainage) so as not to damage any of these or injure yourself during installation. This is another reason why it’s important to install your posts before ordering your custom shade sail, having to move your post even slightly after submitting your measurements will result in a poorly flown shade sail and will void the warranty. Also to note, the recommended depth of your footing starts from solid earth, this does not include any turf, bark, sand or any other soft surface. Carefully remove any soft surface before starting to dig, this can be replaced after installation and will, if done correctly, fully hide the concrete footing leading to a more visually appealing structure. Bry's Tips: Dial before you dig! Call us if you have any questions.

Digging and preparing your footing

Most residential post footings do not require any specialist equipment and most holes can be dug with a regular shovel or an auger. Your post hole does not have to be an exact dimension, however, as suggested, an approximately 2' x 4' hole is suggested. You will fill this with concrete in the next step. Bry's Tip: Mix your concrete a little dryer so you don't have to brace your posts... if your concrete is not too "soupy" and is drier, the concrete will hold your post where you want it until it sets up.

Setting your post and pouring your concrete

There is one final decision you will need to make before setting your post and pouring your concrete: the angle of the post. You can either set your post completely vertical (plumb) or have it at a slight angle, this is mainly done for adding aesthetic quality to your structure. If you have followed the guidelines for post width and footing depth, there should be no need to offset your posts at an angle to add additional strength. Before setting your post and pouring your concrete, fill the first 6 inches of your hole with gravel, this is done to facilitate drainage and is particularly important if using wooden posts. Lower your post into the hole and leave there until your concrete is ready. A tutorial on mixing your concrete is beyond the scope of this tutorial, we recommend enquiring with your local hardware store as to the best mix for your setup and how long you will need to leave that mix to set. That said, we do recommend mixing your concrete dryer than normal so you don't have to brace your posts, Fill the hole about halfway with concrete and then roughly plumb your post. Continue to fill the concrete just up to where your finished surface will be (unless your concrete is the finished surface, in which case, fill it level). Once your concrete has set, carefully replace any soft surface to hide the concrete footing, ensuring the most sightly installation of your post.

Check Us Out on YouTube

Our YouTube channel includes detailed installation guides, frequently asked questions, product overviews and lots more. We are always open to content ideas so please let us know if there is a topic you would like us to cover.

Check Us Out on YouTube

Our YouTube channel includes detailed installation guides, frequently asked questions, product overviews and lots more. We are always open to content ideas so please let us know if there is a topic you would like us to cover.

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