According to shade sail installers One Shade, most people refer to outdoor shade sails as just that, making no distinction between shades and sails. But in fact, in the industry the two are different. So if you are in business and considering adding some form of shade for your customers, it’s important to know what this difference is, otherwise you may end up purchasing something you don’t really want.


While shade sails are technically sails that give shade, they differ in that they are a permanent structures that will not be taken down. As such, the fabric and the posts need to be much stronger. Shades are usually what you see in public parks and in use commercially. They are both larger and higher than residential sails put up for shade.

Because they are larger, as mentioned, the whole structure must be stronger. This means the fabric must be of top quality and it is always weatherproof although it doesn’t always shelter people from driving rain that blows in under it.

It is a higher structure that must be supported by strong steel posts. These posts have a much deeper foundation to give them the strength needed for the job they do. They have to be supported by concrete, not filled in with packed dirt, as that is not strong enough. So the whole structure is more costly to erect and install than residential sails are.


While sails are for residential use, they are often referred to as shade sails.  As you can see there is quite a bit of difference between sails and shades. Sails are not necessarily made from waterproof material, since they are mostly not needed for shelter from rain. However, if you wanted a car port made from this type of structure, having weatherproof material would be an added benefit.

Sails are not installed as high as shades and are usually not meant to cover as large an area. Often, one or two anchor points can be a building such as the house or a shed – or sometimes, a tree. If posts are used, they don’t have to be as high or as deep into the ground, since they are not going to support such a great weight or tension. All this means that the cost of a residential sail will be much less than that of a commercial shade.

However, posts do still need to be strong so they can support the weight and tension of their smaller sail.  If you are installing your own sail, it’s important to realise this and erect the structure accordingly for safety and durability.

Similar elements

Where they are similar is in the need for careful estimation of the size and angle so they give shade where it is needed. You should also choose top quality fabric and a shape that offers the most shade, such as a square.