Australian Zoo commercial shade structure by Versatile Structures

Before you buy: things to know about commercial shade structures

 Jamie Howard      In

The right commercial shade structure can transform your business premises by enlarging the usable space for you and your customers while providing adequate protection from rain and the sun’s high UV factors, as we are so well known for in Australian and especially in Brisbane. So, before investing in a new commercial shade structure for your business, here are some key thoughts to consider.

The difference between commercial and residential shade structures

As with most products, you will find the same holds true for shade structures. Not all shade structures are created equal. Installing a residential shade structure for your business is reasonable if you are on a tight budget.

However, it can only work in your benefit to first read the below, so you are fully informed before deciding.

Residential shade structures are often made to lower standards and tolerances as they do not have to cover as big an area and do not have to factor in batty customers running a chin-up competition on your shade structure. Shade structures purchased from Bunnings and the likes are best used in someone’s back garden. A case in point is that Versatile Structures have been contracted on a few occasions by Bunnings to install shade structures for them.

For most commercial businesses servicing customers, a custom made commercial shade structure will be the best option. Irrespective of whether you are looking for awnings, umbrellas, car park shade structures, or canopies, commercial designs are made to withstand high winds, rain, direct sunlight, and even chemical interactions (particularly important for pools and resorts).

Foundations are key

Quality shade structure foundation by Versatile Structures

Before investing in a shade structure, think about where it will be installed. What kind of soil is present or if there is already a substrate in place like tar, tiles, wooden deck, or concrete? Each substrate has different requirements to be considered for the foundation as well as the size of the structure. Larger structures have more wind lift and need to support more weight. All these elements need to be assessed by an engineer. The last thing you want is a shade structure collapsing on someone causing an injury.

Most residential shade structures are designed in a way that allows the customer to change the position of the shade structure so that it is easy to move the structure around to cater for changing needs as the season changes throughout the year.

Commercial structures require engineered footings or dedicated mounting points. The structures are designed to be kept in place for the long term, becoming a permanent fixture for your commercial property.

Know the Building Codes

Depending on where your business is located, you may have to meet specific building code requirements before installing a permanent or removable shade structure. Failing to meet these requirements could result in extensive fines and an order to remove your shade solution. The structure will need to be compliant with things like fire safety standards, designated building laws, work health and safety laws as well as competitions and consumer laws. For example, a code covered entity must not breach the cartel and anti-competitive provisions of the CCA.

Receiving a fine or an order to remove the shade structure is not just costly for the business, it also takes time out of your day to deal with a problem that is not making your business money. It is worth researching the local building codes for your area and the rules governing structures. A good shade structure supplier and installer like Versatile Structures will do this for you.

Choose the right shade supplier

Waterworld’s octopus shade structure installed by Versatile Structures

There are numerous shade structure options available including overseas suppliers specifically from China. You can find good deals on shade fabrics when buying internationally but you will need to know exactly what you are looking for or know of reputable suppliers. However, for total peace of mind work with a local supplier and installer that will give you some recourse if anything goes wrong. You should be able to get at least a fifteen years warranty on your shade structure.

International suppliers may not meet the specific engineering requirements for your shade structure and may not honour the guarantee or warranty terms of the product purchased.

If there are any issues, it could take months to resolve them with the international supplier specifically if they require the product to be sent back. The language barrier may not seem to be an issue when you are purchasing however when you are trying to resolve a problem or working to get a refund it becomes incredibly significant.

Working with a domestic supplier will give you certain consumer protections as well as convenience. Installation times will be more reasonable, and warranties will be honoured. You will also deal with a sales department that understands your local weather, specific engineering requirements, and safety issues.

Dealing with a local commercial shade manufacturer or an authorized distributor, is your best option.

Factor lead times into your decision

Lead times can vary depending on the type of shade structure you are ordering, its size, as well as any customization options that you have chosen. In many cases, awning canopies and standalone shade structures can be manufactured and delivered within three weeks. Installation can vary depending on weather, availability of cranes as well as whether the structure is constructed off site. Good shade structure installer will have a project manager that will constantly update you with the progress of your project.

Consider branding for your shade canopies and awnings

Car park shade structure with branding installed by Versatile Structures

Shade structures provide protection from the sun, rain, and wind, and help reducing energy costs for cooling and ventilation. One thing that some business owners often do not consider is their branding potential. If you want your company to stand out in your local area why not have your logo or selling proposition included on your shade structure?

This way branding your shade structure is a terrific way to gain an advantage. For street-facing awnings, you could include your company name, logo, or even the nature of your business by including signwriting for product brands or categories. Text and graphics are printed using UV stable materials so that your shade structure will keep looking impressive for many years.

Maintenance requirements

Well installed shade structures don’t usually require extensive maintenance, but there are some basic maintenance tips you can follow to extend the life of your shade structure.

Even though there may not be much maintenance to do, it is important to choose a shade solution that can be repaired or maintained so that you can get the best return on your investment. For example, if you sell a building, you want the new owner to be able to update the shade structure with their logo or brand colours.

Our custom commercial umbrellas feature moving parts can be opened and repaired over the lifetime of ownership. Permanent shade structures like awnings and commercial shade canopies require little maintenance outside of cleaning, which can be achieved with a pressure washer on a moderate setting.


There are numerous factors that will impact your decision for a commercial shade structure besides your budget. We recommend getting a cost estimate for your project, which should quickly give you an idea about whether a supplier understands your needs.


  • 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.