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Backyard design with angled shade structure and natural stone steps.

Battle of the Shades: Lattice, Solid or Cantilevered

With the summer season in full effect, it seems like the only thing we can manage to think about these days is staying cool.  Doing that effectively under our Sonoran Desert sun can be difficult. To help, our thoughts naturally turn toward shade structures. While there are many different ways to shade a space, here we focus on three main structural types worth considering:


Latticed shade structures, or pergolas as they are commonly called, are a great and cost-effective way to bring shade to certain parts of your yard.


  • Inexpensive – they can be constructed out of basic pressure treated lumber and coated with high quality outdoor paint.
  • Great for plants – a lattice cover is an excellent armature for climbing plants to create a living shade structure.
  • Eye catching – pergolas often serve as the focal point of a yard and can bring attention to other features that you find important to the general backyard ambience.
  • Lets in light – even with a pergola covered entirely in plants, small amounts of light will be allowed to filter through the tangled growth to reach anyone sitting underneath with warm and bright rays of natural light. 


  • Fixed in place – pergolas can not easily be moved once they are fixed in place which means you have to be very careful about where you install one. 
  • Large – pergolas are typically rather large in size and will not work in small yards where it will overwhelm other features.


There are a number of solid shade structure types on the market today from solid shade sails to large opaque umbrellas. 


  • Multi-element protection – solid shade structures provide protection from more than just the sun and can often effectively be employed against the rain and the wind.
  • Easy to install – most solid shade structures are relatively easy to install and upkeep. No living plant ceilings to be maintained or detailed lattices to be constructed.


  • Lack creativity – solid shade structures can come across as boring or lacking in identity.
  • Too much shade – depending on where the solid shade structure is located or what time of year it is being used, it can often provide too much shade and can either diminish the ability of plants around it to thrive, or can create little cold zones during the less scorching months where the lack of sun rays can be uncomfortable. 


Cantilever shade structures are typically held up by one post and a canopy that extends over it and are sometimes movable by design.


  • Less footprint – unlike a pergola a cantilever shade structure is only held up by one post vs. four and can possibly provide the same amount of shade while taking up a smaller amount of on-the-ground surface area.
  • Longer life – in the case of adjustable cantilever shade structures, being able to take down the canopy portion makes for a product that can last longer due to being stored away from the elements while not in use.


  • Complex construction – because cantilever shade structures need to be built to account for the canopy to fasten securely to one post, their design and construction can be a bit more complicated than that of other shade structures.
  • Maintenance – in the case of cantilever shade structures with moveable or adjustable canopies, the mechanisms used to extend or retract often requires a level of maintenance that no other shade structure would.

After lining up the three side-by-side, there is no clear winner. When it comes to creating shade, any idea is often a good one and between the three, there is a massive creative range for you to play with and come up with something unique to your backyard.

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