What Are Flat Shade Sails? 5 Key Things You Need to Know

What Are Flat Shade Sails? 5 Key Things You Need to Know

flat shade sails

What are flat shade sails, and what are some of their biggest advantages? Continue reading to learn more.

Due to their versatility, cost-effectiveness, and aesthetic appeal, shade sails have become a popular shading solution for commercial and residential outdoor areas. 

They can be installed in a wide range of locations, personalised to fit the specific look of the buildings around them, and are characterised by their ability to provide effective protection from the sun.

However, when searching for the best shade sails for your outdoor space, it is important to keep in mind that there are multiple types of shade sails that you can choose from, depending on their characteristics and your personal preference.

Most types can be categorised into three main ones:

Hypar shade sails

Conic shade sails

– Flat shade sails

In our last article, we deep-dived into hypar shade sails, and some of the main benefits that they provide for protecting and transforming an outdoor area into the perfect place for spending more time outside.

In this article, we will focus on flat shade sails – what are they, what makes them different from other types of shading solutions, and what are their main advantages. So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it:

1. What are flat shade sails?

Flat shade sails refer to shade sails that are tensioned and installed in a way that creates a smooth, planar surface without any curvature or folds, which allows for even coverage across the area that they are shading.

As opposed to hypar and conic shade sails, which are characterised by their curved or conical shapes, flat shade sails have a rectangular or square shape and aim to create a taut, completely flat surface when properly tensioned.

Proper tensioning is essential when it comes to achieving a flat surface. The shade sail fabric is pulled tightly across its supporting structure (such as poles or anchor points), to eliminate any slack or drooping.

It’s important to note that even with proper tensioning, small ripples or slight curves may still be present in the fabric, as this can be inherent to the nature of the material used. However, the goal is to minimise any excessive sagging or irregularities, resulting in a visually pleasing and functional flat surface.

what are flat shade sails

2. What are the benefits of flat shade sails?

Flat shade sails are the most popular types of shade sails, and there are many reasons why: they are flexible and versatile, offer effective sun protection, increase the aesthetic appearance of the outdoor area, and promote natural ventilation and airflow.

2.1. Sun protection 

They effectively block a significant amount of the sun’s harmful UV rays, providing protection from the much damaging radiation not only for people, but even for outdoor furniture. 

The shaded area reduces the risk of sunburn and heat-related discomfort, helping individuals maximise the use of their outdoor space.

Depending on the fabrics and materials from which they are made, flat shade sails can block up to 99% of the sun’s UV rays.

2.2. Comfort and convenience

Commonly used to cover large areas, flat shade sails are a great solution for providing a more comfortable and cooler environment for people who are looking to spend more time outdoors, especially during the hot summer months.  

They effectively block direct sunlight, reducing the temperature beneath them, and thus making the outdoor area more pleasant and less risky to be in.

2.3. Aesthetic value

This type of shade sails are often associated with modern and minimalist design aesthetics, and they can also be personalised by shape, form, colour and fabric. This makes them the perfect shading solution for adding a stylish touch to any residential or commercial area.

This not only increases the aesthetic value of the outdoor space, but can also add strength to the corporate branding for businesses that serve a lot of clients outdoors.

2.4. Cost-effectiveness

Building permanent structures such as pergolas or roofed constructions can be a lengthy and costly process that is not always the most efficient shading solution. 

However, they can be surprisingly cost-effective – they require less material and construction work, and are much easier to install. They are also associated with relatively low maintenance costs, making them perfect for long-term use.

2.5. Versatility

Flat shade sails are also extremely versatile, allowing for limitless custom tensile canopy design that you can perfectly adjust to the shape, size and specifics of your outdoor space. 

Since they are not permanent, fixed structures, they can be easily adjusted or repositioned if needed, allowing for adaptability to changing weather conditions or specific requirements.

3. What are the different types of flat shade sails?

So, when answering the question “what are flat shade sails?”, it’s also important to keep in mind that there are different types and shapes that you can find:

– Triangle – this type of shade sails feature three sides, and it can be installed individually or in combination with other triangles to create a more sophisticated design. They are commonly used in smaller areas, or as accents within a larger installation.

– Trapezoid  – trapezoid flat shade sails have four sides, with one pair of parallel sides and one pair of non-parallel ones. This allows for more creative configurations for shading, especially when combining different trapezoids.

– Hexagon – hexagonal flat shade sails have six sides and can be used to cover bigger areas while maintaining a visually interesting shape. They can be installed on their own, or combined with other shapes to create more complex and interesting designs.

– Octagon – octagonal flat shade sails have eight sides and provide a symmetrical and visually appealing shading option. They are versatile and can be used in various outdoor settings.

– Single – the simplest configuration of shade sails, featuring a single flat shade sail that is stretched tautly across the supporting structure. It provides shade and sun protection over a specific area with a flat, rectangular or square shape.

– Multiple – another possible configuration of shade sails, in which multiple flat ones are installed adjacent to each other, often overlapping or interconnecting to cover a large area. This arrangement allows more flexibility for shaded spaces

On another hand, you can also opt for ordering a custom flat shade sail, designed and fabricated to suit your unique preferences or the irregular shape of your outdoor space. These custom shapes may include curves, irregular polygons, or even free-form designs.

If you are looking for a free-form canopy design in the UK, look no further than SD Sails, a leading expert in high-quality shade sails and tensile canopy structures with more than 30 years of experience. 

Our unique Free Form technology is designed to take the complexity out of tensile fabric structures, allowing you to order a totally bespoke canopy quickly and easily using our online system.

4. How long do shade sails last?

When researching for flat shade sails as your preferred shading solution, another thing that you are probably asking yourself is: how long do they last? This is important so you can estimate the cost-effectiveness and longevity of your investment as opposed to permanent structures.

Flat shade sails can last anywhere from 5 to 15 years, with an average lifespan of 8 years. Generally, they last longer if they are installed and maintained properly, are made of high-quality fabrics, and are properly taken care of during harsh weather conditions.

Frequency of usage is another factor that impacts the longevity of your flat shade sail. More intense usage leads to faster wear and tear, so make sure to store them in a dry area if you don’t intend to use them all-year round, and inspect them frequently for any damage.

5. Do I need permission for the installation of flat shade sails in the UK?

In most cases, you will not need permission for the installation of a flat shade sail in the UK. Shade sails fall under the category of “permitted development”, which means that they can be installed without the need for planning permissions.

However, keep in mind that the need for permissions will depend on multiple factors, including the size of the sail, the specific location of your outdoor area, as well as the installation method. 

For example, if your shade sail exceeds a certain size, or your property is a listed building or located in a conservation area, you may face certain restrictions.. 

So, it’s always recommended to check with the local relevant authorities to ensure compliance with any regulations or restrictions in your area.


What materials are used to make flat shade sails?

Flat shade sails are most commonly made from UV-stabilised high-density polyethylene (HDPE) fabric, which is designed to withstand outdoor conditions. When ordering your shade sail, it is important to invest in high-quality fabrics to ensure the longevity and durability of your product.

Are flat shade sails customisable in terms of colour, size, and shape?

Yes, flat shade sails can be customisable when it comes to colour, size, shape, as well as fabric and hardware. You can get a custom shading solution designed and manufactured for you by an experienced manufacturer, such as SD Sails in the UK. 

Can I install flat shade sails myself?

While the installation process for a shade sail is relatively simple and easy, it is always recommended to have it installed by a professional. Improper installation and tensioning may reduce the longevity and performance of your shade sail as they won’t have the necessary structural integrity to withstand outdoor conditions.