Block the sun, not the view, with exterior patio shades

Outdoor Shades

If you want to maximize your time and enjoyment on the patio or deck this summer, consider installing exterior shades. Made for outdoor living environments, exterior shades use woven solar screens to block UV light, glare and reduce heat gain while not blocking the view. It’s like sunglasses for your patio!

Made from fabric and components designed to withstand the elements, exterior shade systems offer a variety of options designed to meet your specific functional needs.


While solar fabrics are beautiful and can enhance any outdoor living environment, they are also functional. Typically made from Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coated polyester or fiberglass yarn, solar shade fabrics are uniquely designed to control light while maintaining visibility.

Two fabric attributes to consider when choosing a solar fabric are (1) openness factor and (2) fabric color. Openness refers to the tightness or density of the fabric’s weave and its ability to block light. Typical openness factors are 1%, 3%, 5% and 10%. Low openness factor means a tighter weave, less visibility with a higher degree of light control.  A higher percent openness means a looser weave, better visibility but less light control. For patios with direct sun exposure, you may consider a lower openness factor to block more of the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Unlike most other window treatments where color is primarily an aesthetic consideration, with solar shades fabric color is an important function consideration. Primarily, you will want to decide whether a dark or light fabric is appropriate for your situation.

Darker color fabrics are great for visibility and glare reduction. Glare occurs when an overwhelming amount of light enters the eye making it difficult see. Since darker fabrics absorb more light, they dramatically control glare and – like wearing sunglasses – enhance visibility.

Lighter fabrics offer less visibility and glare control but reduce thermal heat gain during the day by reflecting light. This is important if your goal is temperature control.

Functional Options

How you keep your shades secured as well as how you raise and lower your shades are important functional considerations. The most basic shades are manually operated using a corded-clutch system and don’t use any type of guide for stability. With basic shades, it’s typical to use a bungee cord to manually secure the shade to a deck.

An upgrade I typically recommend are ether cable guides or track guides. Both of these features help increase stability dramatically by limiting the movement of the shade. However, all shades will need to be raised in strong winds.

Motorization is available on most exterior solar shades that use a cable or track guides. Raising and lowering shades with the press of a button is ideal for hard to reach areas.

If your goal is to protect against sun glare and insect bites, check out the insect solar screen from Insolroll Window Shade Systems. One of Made in the Shade Wichita’s partners, Insolroll is a leading manufacturer of interior and exterior roller shades for residential and commercial. The Insolroll insect screen is a uniquely innovative design that uses a zipper inside a track guide to create a snug seal and keep out bugs. This is an example of a system that includes an automatic motorization upgrade.

If you’re interested in learning more about exterior solar shades, contact Made in the Shade Wichita at (316) 272-2173 for your free in-home consultation.

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