Made to Measure Canopies: 7 Must-Know Considerations in 2023

Made to Measure Canopies: 7 Must-Know Considerations in 2023

backyard shade canopies

If you are looking for a shading solution for your commercial or residential area, you have probably wondered whether it’s better to invest in made to measure canopies or store-bought alternatives. Is it worth spending money on bespoke canopies, and what are the benefits that they offer?

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about made to measure canopies, their advantages, and where you can buy them in the UK.

1. What are made to measure canopies?

Made to measure canopies, commonly known as custom or bespoke, are tensile canopy structures that provide shading for outdoor areas. On top of offering solid protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays, they also add an aesthetic touch to any playground, patio or swimming pool. 

While store-bought options sound like a cheaper alternative, bespoke canopies are actually a very cost-effective solution because they offer higher quality, longer durability, and are able to withstand harsh weather conditions.

2. What are the pros and cons of bespoke vs store-bought canopies?

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both shading alternatives:

Made to measure canopies


– Customisation – they provide you with full control over the design, materials, size, and colour of your canopy.

– Unique – your canopy will be one-of-a-kind and specifically designed to meet your needs and the look of your outdoor space.

– Qualitymade to measure canopies are often made with higher quality materials and workmanship, resulting in a more durable and long-lasting product.

– Value – a bespoke canopy can add value to your property and increase its appeal and functionality, which is particularly important for businesses that put a lot of focus on driving people to their outdoor area (for example, a restaurant with a patio).


– Cost – bespoke canopies are generally more expensive than store-bought options due to the customisation, durability, and quality of materials used.

– Time – the process of designing and constructing a bespoke canopy can take longer than purchasing a pre-made one. Luckily, if you need one faster, you can use our innovative Free Form technology for simple and effective design and manufacturing.

Store bought canopies


– Affordability – as opposed to made to measure canopies, store-bought canopies are often less expensive than bespoke canopies because they are mass-produced.

– Convenience – they are readily available for purchase and can be delivered quickly, which can be convenient if you are organising an event that’s coming soon.


– Limited customisation -store-bought canopies are only available in a limited range of sizes, colours, and designs, which may not match your specific needs or style preferences.

– Quality -store-bought canopies are generally not made with the same high-quality materials and craftsmanship as bespoke canopies, which can lead to a shorter lifespan and more frequent maintenance. Long term, they can become less cost-effective than bespoke options.

– Uniformity – store-bought canopies are mass-produced and do not provide the unique look and feel of a custom canopy. 

3. What are the different types of canopies and shade sails?

When looking for a shading solution for your outdoor area, there are 3 main types of canopies and shade sails that you can choose from: conic, hypar and flat.

Flat shade sails

They are the simplest and most common type of shade sail. They are flat and rectangular in shape, and can be installed in a variety of configurations. 

Flat shade sails are best suited for areas with low wind exposure, as they are not designed to withstand high winds or heavy rain.

Conic shade sails

These shade sails have a curved, conical shape that allows them to provide more shade than flat ones. Conic sails are ideal for areas with moderate wind exposure, as their shape helps to reduce wind resistance and increase stability.

Hypar shade sails

Hypar shade sails are the most complex and visually striking of the three types. They have a unique, twisted shape that creates a hyperbolic paraboloid surface. 

This shape allows for maximum shade coverage and improved wind resistance, making them suitable for areas with high wind exposure.

The best type of tensile structure will depend on the size and shape of your outdoor area, the geographical location (some locations have harsher weather conditions, and require something more resistant to winds), as well as your personal preferences.

For this reason, if you are looking to purchase made to measure outdoor canopies in the UK, it’s better to consult a professional who will guide you towards the best type of shade sail for you.

made to measure canopies - waterproof canopies

4. How long do made to measure canopies last?

Another thing you’ll need to know before you buy a tensile canopy is how long they can last. As you have already guessed, store-bought shading solutions aren’t nearly as durable as bespoke canopies, because they are usually made from low-quality materials.

On average, a well-maintained store-bought shade sail canopy should last between 3-10 years, but in reality, you often have to change them every 5 years, especially if they are not well-maintained. 

Bespoke canopies, however, can last up to 15 years depending on the manufacturer, choice of fabric, and the materials. This means that you won’t have to replace them that often, and with proper maintenance, you will be able to enjoy them for much longer – making them more cost-effective as well.

5. Should you choose a waterproof or a breathable fabric?

Whether you are looking at made to measure canopies, or store-bought options, another factor that you will have to keep in mind when buying a shading solution for your outdoor area is the choice of fabric. And we are not talking only about materials and colours.

Generally, manufacturers like SD Sails offer the choice between breathable and waterproof fabrics. What you decide to choose will depend on your preference, but it also depends on the weather conditions that are most frequently found in your area.

Let’s take a look at the main differences:

Breathable shade sail fabrics

Breathable fabrics, also known as shade cloth, are made of a lightweight, open-weave material that allows air to pass through. 

This design makes it ideal for areas that experience high winds or where ventilation is important. Breathable fabric is also great for providing shade without trapping heat underneath, making it a popular choice for outdoor seating areas or playgrounds.

Waterproof shade sail fabrics

Waterproof fabrics, on the other hand, are made of a heavier, tightly-woven material that does not allow water to pass through. 

This design makes it ideal for areas that experience heavy rain or snowfall. This type of fabric is also great for creating a covered outdoor living space or protecting outdoor equipment and furniture from the elements.

Both types of fabrics offer great protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays, but there are some subtle differences. Due to the heavier material used for waterproof shade sail fabrics, they block the UV rays entirely, while breathable ones offer protection of up to 98%.

6. How much wind can a shade sail handle?

Another factor to keep in mind when looking for made to measure canopies is how much wind they can handle. That’s important so you can choose the ideal shading solution, no matter how windy your geographical area is.

The main factors that affect the wind resistance of a shade sail are the size and shape of the sail, the type of fabric used, and the installation method. Generally, smaller shade sails and those with a curved, conical, or hypar shape tend to be more resistant to wind than larger, flat sails. 

In addition, the fabric used for shade sails should also be carefully selected based on its strength and durability. Companies like SD Sails offer a wide range of premium fabrics, including options designed for maximum durability during strong winds. 

Another factor that impacts how much wind a shade sail can handle is the proper installation. Using heavy-duty fixing points and proper tensioning of the sail are essential to ensure that it can withstand high wind and harsh weather.

7. Where can I find made to measure canopies in the UK?

If you are looking to buy made to measure canopies in the UK, look no further than SD Sails. 

With over 30 years of experience, we are the leading shade sail and tensile canopy manufacturer in the Kingdom, offering a wide variety of fabrics and hardware to design the perfect shading solution for your outdoor area.

You can also get a premium solution with our proprietary Free Form technology, created by SD Sails to take the complexity out of tensile fabric structures and custom canopies. This allows you to order beautiful made to measure canopies, and get quotes instantly.

Are you ready to get started? Contact us!


How do you measure canopy size?

To measure the size of a canopy, you will need to take several measurements depending on the shape and style of the canopy, including the length and the width, the height of the canopy, as well as the distance between mounting points.

What material is used for tensile canopies?

Tensile canopies are typically made from high-strength fabrics that can withstand tension and compressive forces. Some common materials used for tensile canopies include PVC-coated polyester, PTFE-coated fiberglass, and ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) foil. 

These materials are chosen for their durability, weather resistance, and ability to span large distances without the need for additional support structures.