Westfield North Lakes car park shade structure installed by Versatile Structures

8 steps to creating the perfect car park shade sail

 Jamie Howard      In

custom shade sail can be the perfect low-maintenance and cost-effective solution for UVR, hail protection and reliable shading for your car park. Perhaps you have seen one at a childcare centre, playground, sports club, or council park, these are just some of the other places shade structures are used. Commercial and domestic car parks can benefit from high-quality shade sails as these products help transform the property and increase its value. You just need to ensure you’re creating the best product. Here’s an eight-step guide to help you with that.

  1. Know the types of shade sails

When embarking on the process of selecting a custom shade sail for your car park, it is essential to begin by familiarizing yourself with the different types of shade sails that a manufacturer can provide. This exploration will help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs and requirements.

By reviewing all the options available from a manufacturer, you gain confidence in their expertise and track record in installing multiple shade structures. It allows you to assess their experience and competence in delivering high-quality products. Seeing the variety of shade sails they offer demonstrates their versatility and ability to cater to different customer preferences and specifications.

Furthermore, exploring the various options helps expand your understanding and knowledge of what is available in the market. It prevents you from settling for the first option presented to you without considering alternatives. By exposing yourself to multiple styles, colours, and fabric types, you can envision a wider range of possibilities and make a more informed choice.

Understanding the different types of shade sails, such as waterproof, awnings, and polycarbonate roofing, allows you to assess their respective features and benefits. Waterproof shade sails, for example, provide protection not only from the sun but also from rain, making them suitable for areas where weather conditions can be unpredictable. Awnings offer versatile shading solutions that can be retractable or fixed, providing flexibility in adjusting the amount of shade required. Polycarbonate roofing provides durability and resistance to hail, making it a suitable choice for areas prone to severe weather conditions.

By knowing the types of shade sails available, you can align your specific needs with the right product. Whether you prioritize weather resistance, versatility, or durability, exploring the options offered by a manufacturer helps you make an informed decision that suits your car park’s requirements. It ensures that you are not limited to a single choice but have a comprehensive understanding of the available options, enabling you to select the shade sail that best meets your needs in terms of functionality, aesthetics, and performance.

  1. Consult the manufacturer

After exploring the types of shade sails available and expanding your knowledge on the subject, the next step is to consult with a reputable manufacturer of custom shade sails. This step is closely linked to the previous one, as you begin to search for an experienced and trustworthy company that can cater to your specific requirements.

To start the consultation process, it is advisable to invite a couple of companies to visit your car park site. This serves multiple purposes, one of which is evaluating the manufacturers themselves. By having them come to your location, you can assess their professionalism, expertise, and attention to detail. It allows you to gauge their level of commitment and whether they are capable of delivering the desired shade structure.

During the site visit, the manufacturer will typically bring along a draftsman or design team to inspect your site thoroughly. This inspection is crucial for considering the 3D geometry, overall shape, and location of the shade sail. By understanding the unique characteristics of your car park, such as its layout, dimensions, and surroundings, the manufacturer can tailor the design to best suit your needs.

Additionally, the installation team from the manufacturer will take accurate measurements for the posts that will support the shade sail. Proper measurements are crucial for ensuring a precise fit and optimal functionality of the shade structure. By having the installation team present during the site visit, you can ensure that the measurements are taken accurately, considering any specific requirements or constraints.

The consultation with the manufacturer provides an opportunity to discuss your specific needs and preferences in detail. You can share your goals, budget, and any particular concerns or requirements you may have. The manufacturer’s expertise and experience can then be utilized to provide valuable suggestions and recommendations based on their knowledge of shade sail design and installation.

Ultimately, consulting with a manufacturer allows for a collaborative approach to designing and implementing the custom shade sail for your car park. Through open communication and exchange of ideas, you can ensure that the shade structure meets your expectations in terms of aesthetics, functionality, and durability. The manufacturer’s insights, combined with their ability to evaluate your site, play a crucial role in developing a tailored solution that maximizes the benefits of the shade sail for your specific car park environment.

  1. Consider the sun shadow

A good manufacturer and installer will determine the direction of sunlight on your property when designing the perfect car park shade sail. That way, you can ensure the best position and maximum benefit.

Ultimately a car park shade structure is less about the sun and more about what the structure represents to your patrons and staff. Does the shade structure make the customer feel safe to leave their car in the sun or hail for 3 or 4 hours while they are shopping? Is the customer covered while they are walking to and from their car. The only thing worse than walking around for hours caring shopping bags is running through the rain with shopping bags trying to get it into the car.

Car park shade structures are part of the brand extension of your business and show your patrons how much you care about them. Something else to consider is telling your customers that you care about the environment and that your property runs on renewable energy. The massive amount of space you have to allocate to a car park can have a duel purpose now by using solar panels as your shade structure.

  1. Create a proper hypar

When creating a well-designed shade sail for your car park, it is important to start with a proper hypar or four-corner shape. The hypar, short for hyperbolic paraboloid, is a geometric shape that ensures reliable tension in the fabric, preventing it from flapping excessively in windy conditions. This shape is known for its structural stability and ability to withstand varying weather conditions.

The simplicity of the hypar design allows for efficient tensioning of the shade sail, ensuring a taut and aesthetically pleasing appearance. The tension in the fabric helps to maintain its shape and structural integrity, minimizing the risk of sagging or flapping in strong winds. By avoiding excessive movement, the shade sail remains functional and visually appealing, providing reliable shading and protection for your car park.

While the hypar shape is often the preferred choice for car park shade sails, it’s important to note that custom shades can be designed in any three-dimensional shape to suit your specific needs and preferences. Whether you opt for a single-post sail or a combination of multiple posts, the key is to ensure that the tensioning system is properly designed and implemented.

On the other hand, it is generally advisable to avoid three-sided sails that tend to be flat and more prone to flapping. Such designs may result in excess fabric movement, which not only compromises the stability and effectiveness of the shade sail but can also detract from the overall aesthetic appeal. By opting for a hypar or four-corner shape, you can achieve a more robust and visually pleasing result.

By starting with a proper hypar design, you set the foundation for a shade sail that offers reliable protection and durability. The shape of the shade sail plays a crucial role in maintaining its structural integrity and minimizing the risk of damage due to wind forces. A well-designed shade sail enhances the overall appearance of your car park, providing a functional and aesthetically pleasing shading solution for both vehicles and pedestrians alike.

  1. Pick the right fabric

When selecting the fabric for your custom shade sail, it is crucial to pick the right material that aligns with your specific requirements and preferences. One popular option is the Preconstraint 782 S2 range by Serge Ferrai, which offers excellent dimensional stability and UV resistance. However, it’s essential to note that there is a wide variety of fabrics available, each with its own unique characteristics and advantages.

One of the primary considerations when choosing a fabric is the degree of UV protection it provides. UV rays from the sun can cause damage to the shade sail fabric over time, leading to fading and deterioration. Therefore, selecting a fabric with adequate UV resistance ensures long-lasting performance and helps protect both your car park and its occupants from harmful UV radiation.

Waterproofing is another essential feature to consider, especially if your car park is exposed to rain or other moisture. Fabrics with waterproof properties ensure that the shade sail effectively shields vehicles and pedestrians from rain, keeping them dry and protected. PVC is an example of a heavy-duty fabric known for its superior waterproofing capabilities and UV protection. It is a durable and popular choice for areas prone to wet weather conditions.

Fire repellency is another factor to consider, particularly for safety purposes. Choosing a fabric with fire-resistant properties provides an added layer of protection and peace of mind, reducing the risk of fire hazards in your car park.

Strength is another important characteristic to assess when selecting a fabric. A strong and durable material ensures that the shade sail can withstand various environmental conditions, including high winds. For car parks situated in high-wind areas, considering a monofilament fabric with round HDPE (high-density polyethylene) yarn is recommended. This type of fabric offers increased resistance to wind forces, reducing the risk of damage or excessive movement.

Color options also play a role in the fabric selection process. Different shades and colors can impact the overall aesthetic appeal of the shade sail and its surroundings. Consider your car park’s design, branding, and desired visual impact when choosing the color of the fabric.

Ultimately, selecting the right fabric for your shade sail involves a careful assessment of its UV resistance, waterproofing capabilities, fire repellency, strength, and color options. By considering these factors, you can ensure that the fabric chosen meets your specific needs and provides reliable and long-lasting shading for your car park.

Here are a list of 5 top rated shade cloths

  1. Colours

You need to pick colours for the shade fabric and the post or the powder-coating for the frame. There are plenty of options, but you may want to consider these things:

  • Lighter fabrics can show more dirt than darker colours
  • A darker custom shade sailmay reduce the light underneath the shade

Other than the above two options to consider also think about your brand colours for your business, whether or not you want to print a logo and how the colours may impact the mood of your clients coming into your store. Here are a couple of brochures to look at showing different colour options.

  1. Know the council rules

If you’re installing custom shade sails in Brisbane less than 3m high and 20 square metres in size and your shade structure doesn’t extend beyond your property, it may not need council approval. However, car park shade structures generally exceed these dimensions so you want to work with a manufacturer and installer works with or has an engineer on the team that can manage the design as well as all the council approval process.

  1. Hardware quality

Car park shade structures are generally responsible for protecting the 2nd most expensive thing your business or property encounters. The most expensive thing you are liable for is someone’s life and then the next most expensive thing you can be liable for is a car.

As with all the precautions your property or business takes with securing or looking after a human a car park shade structure needs to take precautions to look after both a human as well as a car. You want to feel confident that the shade structure won’t collapse on either a human or vehicle, the structure won’t catch fire and performs the intended functions of protection people and cars from UV, hail and rain. Here is an article that will help you identify if your selected supplier is using high quality shade structure hardware.


  • Versatile Structures Headshots

    Jamie Howard - Director

    Co-founder and Director Jamie has been hands-on in the shade and steel industry since leaving school. With over 15 years’ experience in shade, membrane and steel projects, Jamie is excited about the design opportunities shade structures offer in the commercial and industrial sectors. Jamie’s extensive design skills give him a competitive edge in situations with technical design complexity. He has won two personal industry awards for his designs, alongside many company-won awards.