Cool It! 5 Shade Ideas For Your Pool and Patio

Ah, there’s nothing like slipping into the refreshing water of a swimming pool on a hot summer day. At least, that’s the idea. Unfortunately, without proper shade, even your own backyard pool might not offer much relief on those sweltering afternoons when the sun is beating down and the temperature is soaring.

Feet-frying pool decks and simple heat discomfort are enough to make a pool less inviting than it should be. But then there’s also the issue of UV exposure. After all, sun screen only goes so far, especially when you (or your kids) are constantly popping in and out of the water.

The good news is, there are plenty of options for shading your pool and patio. The better news is, many of the options are affordable and even DIY-friendly. Here are some of best pool shade ideas to help keep you protected from the sun while in and out of the water.

1. Shade Trees

Trees are great for providing shade (as well as privacy) to a pool area. The main downside is that it can take years for shade trees to grow to their full size. Also, there are a few common problems that come from planting trees too close to the pool, such as:

  • Too much shade over the pool when the tree reaches its full size
  • Bird poop, leaves, nuts, etc. landing in the pool
  • Water-seeking tree roots damaging the pool structure
Backyard pool with a huge shade tree looming over it
Shade trees take time to grow and require careful planning.

Before planting shade trees, make sure you understand how much they’re going to spread out, and then be conservative with your spacing. Even if you’re planning to plant the trees yourself, it’s a good idea to consult with a landscaping expert and your pool builder (if appropriate) to make sure you’re not doing something that will cause problems down the road.

2. Umbrellas

There’s a reason why umbrellas are a common sight in pool areas and on backyard patios. They offer a straightforward, inexpensive, and flexible solution to the problem of too much sun.

An in-pool umbrella on the baja shelf of an inground swimming pool
An in-pool umbrella is perfect for shading a Baja shelf/tanning ledge.

Trusty old freestanding umbrellas are the most popular choice, offering shade wherever you need it. Offset umbrellas can be positioned poolside to throw shade over the water on those blazing hot days. Taking it one step further, in-pool umbrellas are anchored in the pool itself.

Umbrellas are available in a wide variety of colors and styles. You can have umbrella sleeves built directly into your pool area, or use freestanding bases. If you’re a DIY type, you can even make your own attractive umbrella stand using an online tutorial.

3. Shade Sails

If you want a stylish (yet affordable) option for shading your pool area, then you might want to consider shade sails. Shade sails attach to polls anchored in your yard or patio, stretching across areas that need protection from the sun. They come in a variety of colors, and with their sharp angles, add a striking touch to any pool area.

View of colorful shade sails from below, with a clear blue sky above.
Shade sails can add color and style to a poolscape while protecting you from the sun’s UV rays.

Shade sails typically don’t provide full shade, which could be a positive or a negative depending on your needs. These days, they’re manufactured with UV inhibitors, so you get more protection from the sun than you might expect. You can also overlap them for greater coverage and protection.

A downside of shade sails is that they’re vulnerable to wind (they are, after all, sails). If you’re planning shade sails, consider a setup that allows you to quickly detach them when a storm is coming.

4. Cantilevers, Pergolas, Etc.

One failproof way to add shade to an outdoor space is to build a roof over it. Outdoor structures come in many different forms, giving you plenty of options for covering your pool or patio. Depending on how elaborate you want to get (and how much you have to spend), you could consider anything from a simple canopy or awning, to a freestanding screen room.

Luxury pool partially shaded by a pergola
Pergolas and other shade structures can provide partial or full shade, depending on what you’re looking for.

A great advantage of structures like these is that they can provide as much or as little shade as you want. If you want full shade, make the roof solid and opaque. If you want partial shade, choose lattice or a material that allows some light to shine through. Better yet, consider a retractable roof or shades for maximum flexibility.

5. Smart Pool Placement

Obviously, if you already have a backyard pool, then this ship has sailed. But for those who are still planning a pool, the location you choose is the ultimate way to control how much shade your pool area gets.

To place your pool for optimum shade, simply take note of where the sun lands during the times of day that you anticipate using the pool. Just keep in mind that the sun’s angle changes at different times of year. Another thing that could throw off your planning is a pool fence, new landscaping, or anything else you plan to add along with your pool installation.

Part of your planning could include the previous pool shade ideas. For example, if you have mature trees, you might want to take advantage of them to shade one side of your pool deck. Or you may want to plan your pool close to the house so you can easily extend an awning from your roofline.

Who knows – you may even decide to build onto your house to create space for an indoor pool. But that’s a whole other story.