There’s no contest – Mother Nature holds the trademark on the best backyard cooling system ever invented –a mature shade tree. But many of us on the Front Range, especially in new developments and out on the plains, may not have a backyard so well-endowed. So, what are some ways keep friends and family cool during the dog days of summer? The good news is that you’ve got options, from the simplest to the most elaborate, for enjoying your DeckTec deck on even the sunniest, hottest days.
These ubiquitous summer fixtures are either over-the-table, or cantilevered –typically 8 to 11 feet in diameter with weighted bases. They can be positioned where you need them, and with bases weighing hundreds of pounds, moving them can be cumbersome but they can be easily retracted, rotated and tilted.
Trellises or Pergolas
These freestanding, latticed arches covered in climbing or trailing plants are typically seen in gardens and work best there. They can certainly add charm and privacy to a section of the backyard, but they offer limited shade and lack the durability and flexibility needed for a true outdoor living environment.
Hexagonal, freestanding structures with solid roofs that provide some shade but coverage is limited. Equally important, they may detract from the aesthetics of your DeckTec investment.
These sheets of canvas or other materials provide overhead, on-demand shade, offering the flexibility of full or partial motorized retraction when not needed. (Manual crank and gear retraction is available for smaller awnings.) In addition to cooling the deck, awnings can provide indoor shade as well. They offer the most substantial sun relief short of a roof addition, but coverage area is limited – about 13 feet in length tends to be the limit.
These drop-down shades come in solid canvas as well as see-through solar screen versions, with the canvas obviously providing considerably more cooling, but at the cost of your Colorado view. Solar screen is a durable PCV coated fabric available in varying degrees of heat blockage. Shades make a great addition to awnings or a roof addition.
Ceiling fans can be mounted on a roof addition and are relatively inexpensive. They can be operated by remote control and require no wiring into the house. And of course large box fans can be mounted to the wall, available in retro styles.
For water lovers, these devices supply a steady stream of cooling mist, and are available as portable, individual units, or semi-permanent systems that mount overhead. Surprisingly affordable at less than $20 for the personal units, they might be worth a try if only for those super-hot days. (Of course, if you’re looking for something more elaborate, be sure to check out the Patio Palm mister on clearance at $1,500, down from $3,000, at Fruehauf’s in Boulder.)
While all of these approaches can help, if you want the job done right you’ll need one or both of the following:
Mother Nature does it best! Strategically located mature shade trees will cool your deck like nothing else. However, if you’re just planting trees now, this is going to take some time.
While you’re waiting for those shade trees to grow up, consider a roof addition, or an “outdoor living room.” It will add a sense of spaciousness and increase the value of your home while providing protection for your deck and furnishings. With an outdoor living room, you have greater control over the elements, not just sun and heat but also showers and thunderstorms. If you really want to make the most of your time outdoors, a roof addition is the way to go.