Canterbury school pool shade structure erected by Versatile Structures

Top five shade sail fabrics and how to get the perfect cover

Shade cloths, shade fabrics, and also referred to as shade sails, are not just about transforming a sunny spot into a shaded area, they are also great for providing shade over pools (like the Canterbury School pool featured above), car parks and can even be motorized like these awnings.   

Regrettably not all shade cloths are created equal. When it comes to commercial grade shade fabrics, check that good quality raw materials were used as this will prevent stretching, tearing and how well the fabric endures Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast’s harsh weather conditions, while the quality of the knit design regulates the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) block capacity.  

Follow our tips to ensure you get the perfect quality cover you are after:

Shade cloth planning

How to choose a shade sail

Shopping around for a shade sail

Cost of shade cloth

Top 5 shade sails fabrics

Shade cloth planning

The sun moves as the day progresses and follows a different path as the seasons change, which means the area you are wanting to shade also fluctuates.

To ensure effective coverage, the shade cloth needs to be made of quality materials that are designed for Australian weather conditions, cast shade in the right place at the right time, while the shade structure also needs to be the right size to protect from direct and indirect UVR.

An effective way to start planning is thinking why you need the area to be shaded. Are you wanting to protect your customers from a downpour (learn more about waterproof options)? Or are you needing to protect valuables like a car or caravan? Or are you just needing to increase the serviceable area for a bar or coffee spot?

It is also worth considering the time of day you’ll use the space and how that might vary during the year, as a cool spot in summer may be too cold in winter so a motorized awning may be the solution so you can decided on when you want coverage or not. Other questions to consider is whether you want all-day shade, or just coverage from the searing afternoon sun and are there reflective surfaces nearby such as concrete paving or light-coloured walls that could reflect UVR into the shaded area you are trying to create?

How to choose a shade sail

There are two types of shade cloths: knitted and woven. For optimum UVR protection, shade structures should also have as high a UVR block as possible – at least 94%.  The Cancer Council suggests choosing fabric that is dark, closely woven and heavy, as it blocks or absorbs more UV radiation.

Most shade cloths sold for commercial or domestic use are knitted fabric and available in several grades from light weight to extra heavy.

Domestic-grade shade cloths are generally sold at hardware stores and offer between 50% and 99% UVR protection, while

Commercial-grade fabrics offer superior protection in terms of UVR block and strength and are used for larger areas.

Shopping around for a shade sail

The shade cloth installation industry in Australia is unregulated which means the provider may have little knowledge about the best method of design and installation to ensure proper protection and longevity of the shade structure.

It is important to keep this in mind when having a shade structure custom designed, as lower quality fabrics deteriorates faster over time and are more susceptible to stretching which reduces the UVR protection, while incorrect install methods and poor tensioning will result in the sail being slack and compromising the structure during stormy conditions.

When getting quotes for a shade sail structure, check the credentials of the shade installer and quality of the shade sail by asking these key questions:

Does the company include a structural engineer’s report for the site and structure?

Will they do a shade audit to assess where and when shade is needed on the site?

What warranty applies?

Do they provide ongoing services such as safety checks, maintenance, and cleaning?

What are the specifications of the cloth used? What is the durability of the cloth?

Has it been independently tested to confirm the UV radiation protection level?

It is also a good idea to check with your local council whether you need a permit to put up a shade sail.

Cost of shade cloth

Typically, we either buy an item or we invest our money. A shade structure must be viewed as an investment in your property and a real asset in transforming your outdoor area into a source of pride, functionality, and enjoyment. So, ask yourself if the shade solution you are after is merely an item you buy or a return on your investment? When value is greater than price and the return on investment can be justified, price is not an issue. Also, the cost of having a shade structure will vary owing to materials, size, and complexity of the job.

Here are our five preferred shade fabrics

Monotec 370

Monotech 370 shade sail fabric is a maintenance free shade cloth

Developed as a maintenance free shade cloth that withstands Australia’s harsh climate.

  • Strongest shade fabric
  • Maintenance free – the round monofilament yarns are resistant to dirt and debris build up
  • Long lasting – the strength of round monofilament yarn, combined with the close lock-stitch construction makes it difficult to penetrate the fabric with damaging objects
  • Fire retardant certified
  • 95% UV effectiveness
  • 16 colours
  • 15-year Warranty

Rainbow eXtreme 32

Rainbow eXtreme 32 is a strong heavy-duty shade cloth designed for large commercial spans

A strong heavy-duty shade cloth designed for large commercial spans.

  • Heavy-duty shade fabric
  • High tear resistance
  • Ideal for large structure spans
  • Fire rated fabric – AS-1530.3
  • 95.8% UVR effectiveness
  • 14 colours
  • 15-year warranty

Rainbow Z16

Rainbow Shade Z16 shade cloth is a quality and durable shade cloth that offer the ultimate UVR protection

A quality and durable shade cloth that offer the ultimate UVR protection

  • Popular solution for Schools and Childcare centres
  • Fire rated fabric AS-1530.3
  • 99% UVR protection
  • 24 colours
  • 10-year limited warranty

Dual Shade 350

Dual Shade 350 is a revolutionary new architectural shade fabric using a patented knit pattern designed
  • A revolutionary new architectural shade fabric using a patented knit pattern designed
  • Dual colour: a single colour on one side and complementary colour on the opposite side
  • Designed and engineered in Australia
  • Fire rated fabric – AS-1530.3
  • 93.6% UV effectiveness
  • 12 colour combinations
  • 10-year warranty


Extrablock is a heavy-duty knitted HDPE shade cloth and one of the world's best FR rated shade cloths

Extrablock is a heavy-duty knitted HDPE shade cloth and one of the world’s best FR rated shade cloths.

  • Superb flame retardant characteristics – AS-1530.2
  • 97.6% UV effectiveness
  • 15 Colours
  • 12-year warranty


  • 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.