Covering Your Outdoor Living Space

1. Pergola with a fixed roof

These are pergolas that have a roof constructed with a roof that will not be removed, and that cannot retract. Covering materials include:

  • Corrugated aluminium
  • Polycarb
  • Perspex
  • Glass
  • Canvass
  • Shade netting.
Covering Your Outdoor Living Space
Fixed Roof Pergola

Some covering materials can get really hot and make the micro-climate under the pergola to become uncomfortable on hot sunny days. Aluminium or steel is especially prone to becoming very hot. Transparent materials such as Polycarb or glass will create a hot-house effect, which could be very nice in winter, but may render the area unusable during summer.

You should also consider what effect the covering material will have on those rooms that are adjacent to the outdoor space, Will these rooms become colder as a result windows being fully shaded? Perhaps these rooms will lose a lot of light, making them dark, requiring more use of synthetic lighting?

Aluminium, Polycarb, Perspex and glass will be stronger than shade netting or canvass. However, recent developments in the outdoor fabrics industry has made some excellent canvass products available. These canvasses are now manufactured to be tremendously tough, easy to clean, stain resistant and fade resistant.

2. Pergola with a retractable roof

A retractable roof allows you to either open or close the roof, depending on your specific needs. If you are concerned that rooms adjacent to the structure will be too dark, or cold in winter as a result of a being permanently shaded, this is a good solution to consider. In winter you can open the roof to allow the sun in, and in summer you can close the roof to provide cooling shade.

Covering Your Outdoor Living Space
Retractable Pergola

A retractable roof combined with vertical side closures will allow you to enjoy the winter sun, but cut out the snap of the cold winter breeze. The same can be said for using your outdoor space at night, when you can open the roof but keep the sides down, creating a more cosy, windless environment, while enjoying the cloudless, starlit skies above.

If you wish to know more about Pergolas with Retractable roofs, we will gladly send you a very detailed brochure, explaining all the pro’s and con’s of these structures as well as details on the different types of retractable pergolas available. Just drop us a line and we will gladly forward it to you free of charge.

3. Bioclimatic Pergolas

The first louver awning was actually developed in South Africa in 1989, and was immediately very popular locally. It was really only a matter of time before similar structures started appearing in Europe.

Covering Your Outdoor Living Space

The difference was that, whereas the further development of the concept remained fairly static locally, the Europeans really developed and refined the concept to where it is today, starting with motorization and automation, to improving water resistance capabilities, as well as structural integrity (mainly to withstand heavy snow conditions). Today’s European structures are a far cry from the original design, having not only become very sophisticated, functional structures, but bioclimatics now also make a very clear architectural statement.

Bioclimatic pergolas are so named because they will allow cool air in, while allowing hot air to escape through the opened louvers. On the downside, the blades of some models can only open to an angle 90° and will therefore block the sun out, even when fully open. It is better to consider Bioclimatic structures of which the blades can rotate more (up to 135°) so you can set the blades to allow more sun into the area below the pergola.

A very detailed brochure on Bioclimatic structures is available on request, and will provide you with much more valuable information on Bioclimatic pergolas.

4. Shade Sails

Covering Your Outdoor Living Space
Covering Your Outdoor Living Space

Correctly-designed shade sails (or sail awnings) can have a very striking aesthetic effect on your outdoor space. You only have to look at a few images of these to understand what we mean. Sails are available in many configurations, but the most popular are triangle-shaped sails. Often a combination of triangular sail awnings can be very effective in creating a stunning effect.

New developments in the manufacturing of outdoor textiles have really revolutionised the industry. Stronger, but lighter fabrics are now available, making it easy to cover large areas effectively. In addition, there is an array of wonderful colours, from gentle pastels to bright gay primary colours are available, and great strides have been made to make these fade resistant, as well as UV resistant.

On the down side, you have to consider that shade sails do not usually deal well with heavy winds. This is because, well, they act too much like sails! In strong winds they place tremendous strain on attachment points and the anchoring sub-structure. For this reason, it is often necessary to reinforce anchor poles with steel cables.

There are some European manufacturers that produce very nice retractable sail awnings using nautical technology. The sail rolls up onto a central mast or beam and can be either manually operated (usually by means of crank-handles) or can be fully automated motor-driven and remote controlled. However, it is important to also fit anemometers (to measure wind speed) to these sails. When the anemometer reaches a certain sped, the sail closes automatically to prevent damage.

Sail awnings can provide effective protection against rain, but are usually recommended mainly for sun. Some sails tend to leak on the stitching band may require special treatment to ensure that they are watertight.

Sail awnings can also be quite noisy in windy conditions, which can be irritating. If the sails are often exposed to wind, it will also affect the lifespan of the actual sail. If you live in a fairly windy area, consider carefully whether this is really the best option for your outdoor space.

5. Retractable Awning

The awnings is used quite indiscriminately (even in the industry) to describe just about every possible type of shade structure there is, which can be quite confusing. We prefer to rather use the term only for structures which are wall-mounted, extending outward from the wall, providing protection against the sun and in many cases also rain.

Covering Your Outdoor Living Space

An alternative word, which is even preferred in some countries, is the word canopy. Both awning and canopy suggests limited size, especially with regards to how far it projects away from the wall. Pergolas and awnings are therefore not really the same. But lets not get too caught up and confused with terminology.

Awnings, just like pergolas can use different materials as cover, including aluminium, glass, Polycarb and canvass, and can also be either fixed or retractable. Retractable versions include fold-arm-, drop-arm- and pram awnings. Keep in mind that fold-arm awnings can be quite sensitive to the wind and heavier rains, especially awnings with longer projections. For this reason, there are very few fold-arm awning-models with a maximum projection exceeding 3.5 metres.

This mainly because the fold-arms of the awning does not have any support at the front, and with the canvass acting in the same way as a sail, the arms are placed under quite serious positive or negative pressure. They can however look quite beautiful, and are often designed to retract all the way back to the wall, hidden inside a cassette, which makes them pretty unobtrusive when retracted. They are usually also less expensive than pergolas or retractable sail awnings.