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How far can shade sails span?

A question we often get from customers who are looking for a cost-effective way to cover a large outdoor space is how far can shade sails span? Or how big can shade sails be?

The quick answer is: the widest clear span for shade sails is approximately 20 metres. 

This means that with one shade sail, you can have around 350 to 400 square metres of shade. If your area is bigger than this, you will either need to have multiple shade sails installed or choose a different type of structure which can span further than 20m.

Typical uses for a span this big would be a council swimming pool, a sports court, or a multipurpose space at a school.

What changes as shade sails span further?

Once shade mesh spans further than the typical 10-12 metres, changes need to be made to the structure to cope with the added loads that come with these large spans.

  • Post/steel sizes get larger.
  • Fittings change from the standard chain and dee-shackle to a cable hem and clamp plates which is a more heavy-duty solution.
  • The height difference between posts needs to increase to maintain the hypar twist

What factors impact how far they can span?

  • Length of steelwork: raw steel is usually bought in 12m lengths, which limits how high a structure can be. Any higher than 12m would need a custom designed post which can be done but will add significant cost to the project.
  • Strength of the shade mesh being used: you can comfortably get a 20m span with a high-quality shade mesh.

Should I go with a large span, or split my project into multiple smaller sails? 

The top two things you need to consider are the function of your space and your budget.

Firstly, the most cost-effective span is around 10-12m length/width. Once the span is more than that (at around 13-14 metres) we swap to cable hems and plates, and the price jumps up to cater for the added cost of these fittings. At these larger spans, steel also increases in size and therefore in price. So, for the most cost-effective layout, you would ideally install multiple sails of around 12-15m spans.

However, you will need to consider the function of your structure. Can you split it into smaller sails, or do you require it to be one clear span? For example, if you are covering a swimming pool you really can’t have posts in the middle! 

Keep in mind that even though the price jumps up for larger spans, compared to other large clear span structures, shade sails are still often the most cost-effective way of covering a big area.

Looking for a custom shade solution for your space? Get in contact with one of our consultants and we’ll be happy to help.