MADE IN THE SHADE
In a typical year, our Los Angeles area gets new fewer than 284 sunny days. That’s pretty cool. But the sun itself has a tendency to heat things up. It heats up LA to temperatures above 90 degrees on one in three days in August. The sun’s rays, moreover, are pretty harsh in some respects. Modern science has taught us that those deep California tans we love are actually a kind of injury to the skin. The sun’s ultraviolet rays also cause finishes and fabrics to fade and accelerate the aging of many other materials. All of which brings us to the matter of shade coverings for decks.
THE SUN AND YOU
Setting aside for the moment the obvious benefit of daytime use of a deck without the sun pounding down on you. Besides a few types of cold-blooded lizards, plants are the only living things that truly benefit from extended exposure to direct sunlight. Fact is, a deck’s sun shade can be working for you even when you’re not there. If your deck is attached to your house or is very near it, it can heat up the house when the sun shines down on it. The deck warms up. It then passes heat to the house as radiant energy or by direct conduction. If you’ve got air conditioning running at the same time, it’s a definite conflict of interest. The deck itself, depending on the materials and finish, may suffer to one degree or another from direct sunlight.
SHADE COVERINGS FOR DECKS
On the other hand, it’s a deck, not a room. The whole point of it is that it’s outdoors, not indoors. If it has a fixed, opaque, solid roof over it, we don’t even call it a deck. We call that a porch.
What, then, are the features of a deck sunshade? As noted, it isn’t a roof. The idea is to moderate the sunlight, not block it completely. Hence, fixed, solid overhead screens are usually slatted. The gaps let light and air through while mitigating the harsher effects. Wood lattices are a popular solution. Likewise, materials such as bamboo or reeds, which by their nature are see-through.
When an opaque, total sunblock is called for, let it be retractable. Canvas awnings are the classic of this type. These, of course, have the added benefit of keeping the rain off the deck and its occupants. It does rain here sometimes, you know. The retractability feature is a nod to the fact that intolerable sunlight and rain are not constants in Los Angeles deck life. They’re occasional.
GET MADE IN THE SHADE
Naturally, shade coverings for decks should be attractive as well as useful. They should work with the house and yard in terms of style and scale. They shouldn’t block great views. The design and materials options are endless, but experienced LA deck builders know them all. Summer’s here. Some of you deck dwellers are sweating it out. The cool ones, though, have it made in the shade.