Hot Topics: Making the Shade

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Original Post: Need Shade or Roof Ideas for My Sunny Deck

Dmarth10 Member


I built a deck last year and did not incorporate any type of roof or pergola for shade. My deck is approximately 18 feet deep and 20 feet wide. I have been looking at EVERYTHING that makes shade. I can't figure out what I want though.

I've looked at shade sails but don't want to stretch them to the railing because they would be too low to walk under. I don't want posts added to the railing because I feel like it would strain my railing over time and also would look like a poorly planned afterthought of a roof.

Next, there are only about three inches between the top of my door and the soffit. Not much room for the door to swing open and have a shade sail right above that.

Umbrellas don't cover enough for my liking. And I have to keep moving it to stay in the shade.

I don't see room for a retractable awning because I have a vent pipe on my roof close to the edge.

Can anyone picture any shade cover idea that would look attractive and also be possible without re-engineering my deck or anything?

I've been brainstorming for a year and can't figure this out.

Thanks for your time.


a back deck with an umbrella

back door from deck

deck with umbrella and grill

deck with umbrella and birdfeeder

deck with umbrella from back yard

Marq1 Member

Patio Sails. I want to put one on the upper section of my deck/patio just haven't gotten to it yet.

triangular shade sails

Bud9051 Member

I would go with one or more shade sails. They are very flexible in design and can be attached from the roof surface out to added (very secure) posts and not affect the deck railing.

IMO, the sails would look far better than a roll-out awning, or even a roof, and they can cover the entire desired area.


Pilot Dane Group Moderator

I too am a big fan of shade sails. With my patio I went a bit upscale/commercial with the installation, taking extra care creating bomb proof anchorages for the sails. I use Tenshon sails and they have held up well for many years.

Dmarth10 Thread Starter

I have been considering building a roof. I want to know about snow loads.

I didn't plan any footings for roof when I build the deck. I wanted to attach a corrugated roof right on top of the decking. Do you think that will make my deck fail if there is a heavy snow? I am thinking that if there is a roof there will be the same amount of snow weight on the deck overall but the only added weight would be the weight of the roof itself.

Would the points of contact on the decking be too highly concentrated and cause failure like that?

In other words, all of the snow that is on the roof would normally have the weight spread out evenly over the decking, but now it will be divided by the number of legs and concentrated under each leg. I believe my deck is built plenty strong for snow as of right now without a roof.

PJmax Group Moderator

Since you haven't put where you live in your bio..... you'd need to post it here.

Dmarth10 Thread Starter

Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. Is that for snow loads?

Pilot Dane Group Moderator

What size and type of footings does your deck have? Hint, I'm looking for specifics.

If you did not construct footers capable of supporting a roof load, I would forget installing a rigid roof. Quite often people build decks with inadequate footers, but if permits were taken and code followed, then you might be in better shape.

There really is no part of a standard deck that can support a roof load. If you're installing roof support columns, they should be directly on top of your deck columns or, more ideally, the columns/posts should extend all the way from ground to roof without interruption. Posts can be added on top of existing posts if properly fastened and braced. But it all starts at the foundation/footer.

Dmarth10 Thread Starter

OK drum-roll please...

This is what I have finally come up with. It is a free-standing roof with buried post footings. I like how it is coming along so far. The only problem, which is a big problem, is that the whole thing is very wobbly since it is so top-heavy.

I have not put any of the furring strips on top of the rafters yet. This is going to be a galvanized corrugated roof.

I remember when I built my deck, the whole thing was very wobbly until I put my deck boards on. But this free-standing roof is so wobbly I'm afraid that is not going to change much when I put the furring strips on.

I know knee bracing is recommended on taller decks. The only problem is I can put knee bracing from post to beam on one direction but there is nothing to attach my knee brace to when going from post to rafter. Do you think this will get more solid when I get the roof fully on? I am putting the furring strips at two feet on center.

shade deck under construction

deck frame under construction

deck frame construction in the sun

back deck under construction

Pilot Dane Group Moderator

Do you have footings for your posts or are they just stuck in the ground?

Adding the roof won't help with stiffness. The only stiffness you'll have is in the posts themselves, depending on how they are anchored and how they are connected together. Heavy steel brackets at the joints can help a lot, but you'll still have flexing in the posts. You can also install diagonal bracing, but that will interfere with using the deck.

Dmarth10 Thread Starter

Yes I do have footings, they are at least 17 inch diameter. I have a feeling the metal braces you are talking about are going to be pretty expensive. I think my best bet is to try to make some knee braces and put them in the best spots possible to not interfere with moving around the deck.

The toughest one for me to figure out is the one near the door, because the door opens so close to the inside corner. Also is it okay to brace from the post to a rafter? Or should I mount a board between two rafters or more and put a brace from the post to the multi-rafter board?

Also do I have to use 4x4 for the bracing or can 2x4 work? Or does it depend on the span? And is there a good way to determine the length of a brace or is bigger just better?

Pilot Dane Group Moderator

Steel braces are relatively inexpensive, as they are often just plate steel or angle brackets. Just much heavier duty than what home centers stock. I've even had them made at my local welding shop.

Dmarth10 Thread Starter

Is this kind of what you're talking about?

I just cannot figure out how to brace the corner near the entry door. The door seems like it is going to be in the way unless I have a super steep brace that starts lower on the leg and doesn't go far on the beam. Any suggestions for that corner? Also, when I brace the post to the rafter, is there a good way to do that? The post to the beam is simple, but the other direction is complicated for me.

Pilot Dane Group Moderator

Near the door you can use a heavy "T" bracket similar to what you linked. It will help with side to side (parallel to house) motion. Bracing to the rafters/joists can help in the other direction (motion towards/away from house). Then getting your roof securely screwed down will help a good deal with twisting.

Airmark Member

Your beams look too small for the total roof snow load. I'm guessing they should be at least twice as heavy. I just paid an architect $1,300 to draw up plans for my covered patio which is 22 x 16. It's a free-standing hip roof set in piers 18 inch diameter by 36 inch deep for four posts. The joinery hardware between your post and beams is worrisome, too weak for weight and high winds. You need specialty hardware for that connection. Probably cost more than $50 for each.

Dmarth10 Member

Thanks Dane. I'll look into getting a heavy metal brace for that. I'm gonna have to shim it out because my beam is slimmer than the posts. I'm about to start the metal roofing. I didn't read the directions before I did this. Just read them now. Recommends 16 oc purlin spacing. I just have purlins spaced at 2 feet. Think it'll hold a Pennsylvania snow? We get plenty. I don't plan on walking on it ever.

2john02458 Member

Do you really want or need a roof? As you can see the structure (pergola) provides plenty of shade by itself. You could also grow some ivy, wisteria or grapes on it.

Heavier connections as others have described and some solid blocking between rafters will stiffen the structure. Blocking will also help with shading when/if the sun is shining directly down/into the structure parallel to the rafters.

No roof=no snow load=less wind resistance, etc.

Dmarth10 Thread Starter

I 100% definitely want a rainproof roof. I don't want a shade sail or anything like that. I really, really, really like the idea of a tin roof. That being said, I am interested in beefing up my connection between post and beam. The confusing part is that there are slight gaps on each side of the beam because it's not quite as wide as the post. So I would have to shim it with something. But I definitely don't want to take out the old connections, because it is already leveled and shimmed and mounted. I just want to add some connectors.

The way I'm thinking about this roof is it's basically just a very tall deck. I built my 18 x 20 deck couple years ago and snow loads have never been an issue. The only major difference between the roof and the deck is the height of the posts. I'm pretty confident that after I decide how I want to do my knee braces, that will strengthen and prevent much of the wobble. I'm going to go finish my tin roof and start deciding how I want to do those braces.

Again, I appreciate all these tips and pointers.

Dmarth10 Member

All the roof panels are on now and I have put on some knee braces for stability. The bracing has definitely helped a bunch, making it much less wobbly than it was before. But it still does have a little bit of a shake if you do shake the structure.

I'm okay with that though because I'm not going to be walking on top of the roof, so no need to be solid as a rock. I will definitely put up some pictures of where it is at currently. The only problem is there are some drops of water that splash between the two roofs and onto the deck. Not much, but enough to be annoying. Now I need to find some kind of splash guard to install along the back edge so it drips back onto the roof and into the gutter.