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How Much Do Shade Sails Cost?

Looking for a guide on the price of a new shade sail in Australia? 

As experienced professionals in the shade sails industry manufacturing and installation services, we have put together a comprehensive guide to pricing and the main factors that influence it.

You won’t find a more detailed deep dive into industry pricing influences than this one, so read on to learn everything you need to know from us at Greenline. 

Shade sail installation cost breakdown

The cost of buying and installing a shade sail varies based on multiple factors, such as the size and preferred material.

Our shade sail installations range between $200 per square meter for larger sails and $1500 per square meter for smaller ones.

A look into the commercial shade sail industry pricing reveals that, on average, you’re looking at $800 per square meter; however, of course, this is mainly dependent on the quality of materials, contractors and size of the structure. 

Residential vs. Commercial Shade Sail Costs

Generally, residential shade sails are cheaper to buy and install than commercial ones. 

The pricing disparity between residential and commercial shade sails stems from several key differences. Residential shade sails typically lack site-specific engineering, feature lightweight or no poles, and often only necessitate council permits if they exceed 3m in height or 25 square metres in size. 

They also commonly use lighter-grade fabrics of lower quality. These factors result in mass-produced residential sails being notably more affordable per meter than their commercial counterparts, requiring more specific engineering, sturdier materials, and adherence to permit regulations.

Factors specific to your job

Limited site access

  • It will cost more to install a structure in a hard-to-access area.
  • This is due to the need for specific types of machinery that will fit into the area or the use of a crane to lift the steel into the region.

Tricky site surfaces

  • Softfall or a synthetic surface over concrete/asphalt is more likely to be damaged, so you should take greater care. They also cost more to repair around footing locations if damaged during construction.
  • Artificial turf is also prone to easily getting damaged, but it is usually relatively easy to repair around footing locations.

Underground Services

An underground services location is needed before you start a project. If we find gas or electricity, there are a couple of options for working around them:

  • You can choose to move the post location or the whole structure location
  • Another option is potholing – digging until services are found, then exploring around them to ensure nothing is damaged.
  • The most expensive option is a hydro-vac. This uses high-pressurised water to break up the dirt in the footing, which is then removed by vacuum. This minimises the risk of harming services but is a lot more expensive than usual drilling.

Soil + Footing Type

  • Clay is the most common soil type and is easy to work with for shade sails. For these footings, the standard, very efficient pier footing is used. 
  • If the soil contains rock, you may need either a rock boring or a less cost-efficient footing like a pad footing. These footings cost more as they require more digging, more equipment, and more concrete. 
  • Sand footings are more challenging to work with and either need a pad footing (less expensive) or a grout-injected pier footing (more expensive).

Geographic Location

  • Projects that are in remote locations or located outside of your shade sail manufacturer/installer’s standard servicing area will typically cost more
  • This will differ depending on which contractor you use. You can see our standard servicing area here.
  • Your project will cost more due to adding transport costs and paying for installers’ travel.
  • Difficulty finding excavation/access equipment. One scissor lift may be available in the area, or you may need to hire it from the nearest city.

Sail Design

  • Large-span sails can increase the price of your new shade sail.
  • Once you reach over a 15m span, heavier-duty fittings are required, adding to the shade sail cost.
  • The structure height can also impact the cost – generally, the higher the structure, the higher the wind load it attracts, making things more expensive.

Engineering Considerations

Wind regions, shielding, terrain and blockage all affect steel sizing and, thus, costs. 

The following is based on our estimator’s experience. 

  • Wind regions – there are different wind regions across Australia. Engineering considerations will vary with the wind region. 
  • Shielding – when an engineer looks at where the shade sail is located, they will take note of other buildings in the space – these can create a shielding effect. Shielding reduces wind loads on the structure.
  • Open terrain – areas near open terrains like ovals will have more wind exposure. If it is a built-up area, it is likely to be more shielded from the wind.
  • Design life – the longer the structure is designed to last, the greater the wind speeds can endure, translating into larger steelwork.

Factors External To a Job

Steel prices

  • Steel makes up a large percentage of the price of your structure.
  • Many global factors impact steel pricing, so a price rise impacts the whole supply chain and raises your shade sail cost.

Labour Costs

  • Labour depends on the availability of installers and other trades, which fluctuate independently of your project.

Clear Site Access

  • Choosing a location for your shade sail that is easily accessible by machinery will minimise extra hire costs.
  • The minimum access needed for installing typical shade sails is approximately the same as that required to drive a car into the area.

Easy to work with surface

  • You can damage artificial surfaces easily. They’re also more expensive to repair.
  • Concrete and asphalt are unlikely to be damaged, and natural surfaces are simple and cheap to fix.

Correct Design/Engineering

  • Shade sails that are designed for a shorter life or adapted from standardised designs may cost less upfront and usually end up with higher maintenance costs
  • Although more expensive up front, having a custom structure with a design life of 25 years + will minimise maintenance, saving you money in the long term.

Structure Materials

  • You have a few options when choosing the steel finish and the fabric type for your shade sail structure. 
  • The most cost-effective steel finish is hot dip galvanising. This is a raw look and one of the most durable, well-wearing finishes. 
  • Shade sail fabrics also come at various prices, but we recommend ensuring you get at least 95% UV block to ensure your shade sail does what it’s supposed to! 
  • Check with your manufacturer/installer for your shade spec. To ensure a suitable commercial fabric, check that the weight is above 300gsm – anything below that is too weak to span a reasonable distance.

Multiple Structures

  • Installing multiple shade sails simultaneously (and location) is very cost-effective.
  • This is because subsequent structures and additional features don’t incur rehire fees for equipment or more travel time for labourers.

Why are some contractors more expensive?

Quality Fabrics and Stitching

  • Some contractors will opt for the cheapest fabrics and stitching, while others will choose high-quality fabrics and stitching that add to the cost of your shade sails
  • PTFE (Teflon) stitching doesn’t break down under UV and has a 15-year warranty, making for a quality shade sail material.
  • A combination of quality fabric and stitching should have no problem lasting at least 15 years.

Engineering

  • Some contractors will use generic engineering regardless of where the structures are being built
  • Other contractors carry out site-specific engineering for each project. This adds to the overall cost of the shade sails but ensures that your structure is made with the exact wind region and any other factors taken into account.

Custom Structures

  • More expensive contractors usually build custom structures designed precisely for your area rather than using standardised designs.
  • This increases the price in the design phase but ensures a higher quality outcome tailored to your needs.

Licensing and accreditations

  • Another hidden cost of contractors can be their relevant licencing.
  • At a bare minimum, your contractor needs to have a builder licence and work at height training.
  • More expensive contractors are likely to have quality accreditation (such as ISO9001) and Working with Children checks for working on school sites.

Why Some Competitors Are Cheaper

Stitching Quality

  • While most shade sail manufacturers will use reasonably quality fabric and UV ratings, they often cut project costs using cheaper thread.
  • A cheap thread like polyester or HDPE will be prone to UV breakdown over time and will effectively ‘unstitch’ itself. PTFE stitching is more expensive but will not break down under UV exposure.

Flat-Shaped Sails

  • You may make a cheaply designed shade sail with a single 2D-shaped fabric stretched to fit your structure. Whilst this is the most cost-effective option, it will lead to sagging.
  • ‘Patterning’ refers to cutting the panels that make up the sail into the correct shape so it isn’t flat but partially twisted. 
  • A properly patterned shade sail will evenly spread the tension through the entire shade mesh rather than concentrating it in the corners where it is prone to damage and wear and tear.

Types of Weldments and Attachments

Shade sail posts have two added factors that can make or break the quality of structure: the caps on the tops of the posts and the ‘lugs’ or attachment points for the sail:

  • In a high-quality structure, the caps are welded on to seal the post off completely. A lower cost option that is frequently used is ‘tap on caps’. This design allows water to seep inside the posts and become a rust hazard.
  • Lugs are also an integral part of the structure. A welded lug will use the strength of the entire piece of steel, whereas a bolt-through lug will only use the stability of the steel in immediate contact with the bolt. 

Shade Cloth vs PVC Fabric

  • Shade cloth is the most commonly used fabric and protects from the sun, whereas PVC Fabric fully protects from UV and is waterproof.
  • Waterproof fabrics typically weigh anywhere from double to triple a shade-only fabric and transfer greater loads onto their supporting frames.
  • This typically results in a corresponding price jump between the PVC sails and the shade cloth, from the fabric cost and the additional steelwork required to hold the fabric in tension.

Other things to look for in a contractor 

Before signing up with a contractor, we recommend checking they are a quality manufacturer/installer of shade structures. Check everyday things like:

  • Up-to-date insurance policies 
  • Proper licences 
  • Proof of experience 

Looking for a Custom Shade Sail?

If you are searching for a high-quality custom shade sail, look no further than Greenline.

With our extraordinary attention to detail, every one of our projects is explicitly tailored to the client and the structure’s location so that the best shade sail solutions are delivered every single time.

Contact us today to get a quote on one of our custom shade sails and transform your chosen outdoor space to a spectacular level you would never have thought possible.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are sail shades expensive?

While residential DIY installation shade sails of lower quality can be relatively cheap, a professional-grade commercial shade sail will usually come at a more significant expense.

If you’re willing to drop up to a few thousand dollars to transform the outside look and usability of the shaded area at your organisation, the price tag is certainly worth it. 

Are shade sails worth it?

Absolutely. Not only do shade sails provide invaluable protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays for those who use your outdoor spaces, but they also allow you to put them to use throughout the year. Shade sails elevate the safety, look and usability of outdoor areas.