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How much do shade sails cost?

Looking everywhere online for a shade sail price? It isn’t easy to find. But look no further. This article is a deep dive into the what’s and why’s behind shade sail pricing.

The quick but very unhelpful answer is: it depends. The following article lists the factors that will put your project price up and the factors that keep prices down, as well as why some contractors are cheaper, and some are more expensive.

Factors that push the cost of shade sails up can be broken down into two categories: job specific factors and external factors.

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 needing specific types of machinery that will fit into the area, or using a crane to lift the steel into the area.

Tricky site surfaces

  • Softfall or a synthetic surface over concrete/asphalt. These are more likely to be damaged (than plain concrete or asphalt) so more care must be taken. They also cost more to repair around footing locations if they are damaged in the construction process.
  • Artificial turf is also prone to easily getting damaged, but it is usually quite easy to repair around footing locations.

Underground Services

  • A full underground services location is needed before a project is started. If gas/electricity etc are found there are a couple of options for working around this:
    • You can choose to move the post location or the whole structure location
    • Another option is pot holing – digging the first 500mm-1 metre, until services are found then digging around them to ensure nothing is damaged.
    • The last, and most expensive, option is hydro vac. This uses high pressurized water to break up the dirt in the footing, which is then removed by vacuum. This minimises the risk of harming services, but 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 harder 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/installers standard servicing area will typically cost more. Now obviously this will differ depending on which contractor you use. You can see our standard servicing area here (link to where we service article) 
  • Your project will cost more due to having added transport costs (few, if any, transport companies going out there on a regular basis), having to pay for travel for installers (may have to travel a day or more to get there and back, they still get paid for that) and difficulty finding excavation/access equipment (excavation is not usually an issue, but access equipment can be. There may be one scissor lift available in the area, or it may need to be hired from the nearest city. 

Sail Design

  • Large span sails can increase the price of your project. Once you get over a 15m span, heavier duty fittings are required, which adds to cost.
  • Your structure height can also impact the cost – generally the higher the structure, the higher the wind load it attracts, which can get more expensive.

Engineering Considerations

Wind regions, shielding, terrain and blockage all affect steel sizing, and thus costs. The following is based on the experience of our estimator. 

  • Wind regions – Most of Australia is region A (anywhere from A0 – A5). Once you get above 30degrees on the coast (about halfway between Sydney & Brisbane) a 200km strip in from the coast becomes region B. Even further north there are region C strips, plus some small areas over in WA that are region D. Region A has the lowest winds and Region B is slightly higher. Region C & D really ramp up wind speeds, therefore they have the most impact on steel sizing.
  • Shielding/blocked under – 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 or blocked under effect. Shielding reduces wind loads on the structure, and blocked under increases wind loads. Put simply, they often work to cancel each other out. 
  • Open terrain – ie. next to an oval – is where wind can gather speed. If it is in a built-up area, there is likely to be more shielded.
  • Design life – the longer the structure is designed to last for, the greater the storms/wind speeds it will need to endure, which translates into larger steelwork. 


Factors External To a Job

Steel prices

  • Steel makes up a large percentage of the price of your structure. As a commodity, steel pricing is impacted by many global factors so if a price rise happens, it automatically impacts the whole supply chain. 

Labour Costs

  • Labour depends on availability of installers and other trades, so these will fluctuate independent to your project. Labour for tasks like fabrication and transport has been increasing recently.

There are also a variety of factors which can ensure your project costs are kept to a minimum. Keeping these things in mind as you plan your shade is a good way to keep your project on-budget, without sacrificing on the quality of your shade structure.

Clear Site Access

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

Easy to work with surface

  • As mentioned earlier, artificial surfaces can be easily damaged and are sometimes expensive to repair. To keep costs to a minimum, choose an area with either a durable surface like concrete or asphalt, or more natural surface like bark, grass, or bare dirt. Concrete and asphalt are unlikely to be damaged, while natural surfaces are simple and cheap to repair.

Correct Design/Engineering

  • Structures that are designed for a shorter life or adapted from standardised designs may cost less up front usually end up with higher maintenance/lifecycle costs. Although it won’t save money upfront, 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 both the steel finish, and the fabric type for your structure. The most cost-effective steel finish is hot dip galvanising. This is a raw/grey look, and is also one of the most durable, well wearing finishes. Other common, but more expensive options, are powder coat and 2pac paint.
  • Shade fabrics also come in a range of prices, but we recommend ensuring that you get at least 95% UV block to make sure your shade does what it’s supposed to do! Check with your manufacturer/installer for your shade spec. To ensure you are getting a suitable commercial fabric check that the weight is above 300gsm. Anything below that is too weak to span a reasonable distance.

Multiple Structures

  • Something else to consider is that installing multiple structures at the same time (and location) is very cost effective. This is because subsequent structures don’t incur rehire fees for equipment, or more travel time for labourers.


Why are some contractors more expensive?

Quality Fabrics and Stitching

  • There are contractors that will opt for the cheapest fabrics and stitching, while others will choose high quality fabrics and stitching that add to the cost of your project. Obviously, the plus side of this is the length of time your structure will last. 
  • PTFE (Teflon) stitching doesn’t break down under UV, and has a 15 year warranty. A combination of quality fabric and quality stitching should have no problem lasting you a minimum of 15 years.


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

Custom Structures

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

Licensing and accreditations

  • Another hidden cost of contractors can be their relevant licencing. A higher quality contractor may have a more comprehensive insurance policy for example. 
  • At a bare minimum your contractor needs to have a builders licence and working at height training. More expensive contractors are likely to have quality accreditation (like ISO9001), as well as Working with Children checks for working on school sites.


Why Some Competitors are Cheaper

Stitching Quality

  • While most shade sail manufacturers will use fabric of a reasonable quality and UV rating, they will often cut costs by 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

  • A cheaply designed shade sail may be made with a single ‘2D’ shaped piece of fabric that is stretched to fit your structure. Whilst this is the most cost-effective option, it will lead to sagging and flapping in the wind. ‘Patterning’ refers to cutting the individual panels that make up your sail into the correct shape so that when your shade sail is lying on the ground (prior to being installed) it isn’t actually flat, it is partially twisted. When it is tensioned in place, it forms the correct shape with the correct tension in all the right spots. A properly patterned shade sail will evenly spread the tension through the entire shade mesh, instead of 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 which 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 completely seal the post off. A lower cost option that is frequently used is ‘tap on caps’. These sit on top like a hat, and are hit on with a hammer. However, this allows for 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 where it contacts whereas a bolt through lug will only use the strength of the steel that is in immediate contact with the bolt. Bolts can also shear completely out of the side of the post, whereas a welded lug is going to stay connected to the post regardless of the pressure that it’s put under, as the engineer will have specified the correct lug size for the loads that the shade sail will apply.

Commercial vs Residential

The first really big difference in shade sail pricing is between Commercial grade structures, and Residential grade structures. The main factors that keep residential/consumer sails so much lower in price are:

  • No site-specific engineering
  • Lightweight poles (or no poles included at all)
  • Often no requirements for DA’s/council permits – generally structures that are under 3m high and less than 25sqm don’t require a these, whereas commercial structures need to be bigger than this so they require these permits.
  • Lighter grade/lower quality fabrics

These factors mean residential sails are often mass produced and sold significantly cheaper per metre than commercial sails

Shade Cloth vs PVC Fabric

The second really big difference in shade sail pricing is whether your structure is made from Shade Cloth or PVC Fabric. Shade cloth is the most commonly used fabric and protects you from the sun, whereas PVC Fabric is waterproof as well.

Waterproof fabrics typically weigh anywhere from double to triple a shade-only fabric, and therefore transfer greater loads onto their supporting frames/steelwork. This typically results in a corresponding price jump between the fabrics, not only from the fabric cost but also 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 would recommend taking the time to check they are a quality manufacturer/installer of shade structures. Check common things like:

  • Up to date insurance policies 
  • Licences – as mentioned above at a bare minimum your contractor needs to have a builders licence and working at height training. Other things to consider are quality accreditation (like ISO9001), as well as Working with Children checks for working on school sites or at child care centres.
  • Proof of experience – this can usually be found on their website, but they should be able to send you recent project images/testimonials etc if they don’t display these on their website.

Industry Pricing

When researching this article, the only published price range for shade sails that I found was from the VSBA, as part of the Shade Sails Fund. This states that “at the top of the range for materials (and installation) costs will be approximately $800 per square metre. At this cost, you will have a 30 square metre structure. At the bottom of the range for materials (and installation) costs will be approximately $200 per square metre. At this cost, you will have a 100-150 square metre structure.”

This is a very broad range, but one which we have found to be accurate at the time of its writing (approx. Sept.21) when considering the whole spectrum of the commercial shade industry. 

Greenline’s Pricing

Greenline sits at the higher end of this range. The square metre price for our shade sails depends a lot on the overall size of your structure. 

Smaller sizes of around 25-30 square metres would cost you close to $900-1100 per square metre.

A larger area of around 100-110 square metres would be approximately $300-350 per square metre. 

A very large space around 200-210 square metres (this would be a project with multiple sails) would cost around $220-230 per square metre.

If you are considering PVC sails, some approximate pricing is as follows:

Smaller sizes of around 25-35 square metres would be between $1200-1500 per square metre.

A larger area of 100-110 square metres would be approximately $400-450 per square metre.

As discussed in this article, these prices can vary widely depending on a range of factors, both specific to your job, and also industry factors like steel price rises.

We trust this article helps you to budget for fabric sails for your next project. If you would like to receive an estimate directly from us, or a formal quote, please contact us.