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   SHADE & SUN  Retractable Screens
2011 - Volume 1 Issue 1
Casas Bonitas
Article: Bob Skolnick
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There is no doubt that shade is important in our high desert climate. When creating shaded sections in your outdoor living area, you have a variety of choices on the way it is created. Most often the shaded area is a covered patio attached to the house. On the homes built today it is common that a covered patio is an integral part of new home design and an extension of today’s family lifestyle. Twenty plus years ago, the new home was turned over to the owner and a covered patio area was the homeowners responsibility. The good news is you have the flexibility of locating your new covered patio, pergola or gazebo anywhere in the outdoor living area plan.

    Photo Captions

1.) A retractable shade awning makes the enjoyment of your patio a lot more comfortable during the warm weather months.

2.) A solid roof structure makes this outdoor cooking and seating area a year round option for these homeowners.

3.) This all-natural wood shade cover is embellished by carved wood posts. This is an affordable and attractive solution for patio shade.

4.) This poolside pergola makes summer dining fun, especially when you have a built-in pizza oven.

5.) Solar Shade panels serve double duty and add to the energy efficiency of your home.

6.) These custom lanterns were made by the homeowner and are an ingenious way to bring both lighting and design appeal to a lighting plan.

7.) This short garden light can be used to light a walkway or highlight a flowerbed.

8.) Ground level lights shooting upward on desert vegetation can create an appealing campfire glow.


C & D Southwest Lumber

Chavez Landscaping

Designer’s Mart

Las Cruces Awning Company

Nash Patio &
Garden Center

El Paso, TX

Oasis Landscape

Rawson Builders Supply

Spirals by Design

Westside Lighting Gallery

In designing the shade structure there are two overriding considerations. The first is to engineer the structure to withstand the high winds and monsoon rains we experience during certain times of the year. The second is to ensure the materials selected will withstand, over time, the exposure to extreme heat and blowing sand. Also, the shade surface needs to reflect the heat, not capture and amplify the solar heat turning your covered patio into the hottest area in your outdoor living space. You may need to consider set backs and obtain a building permit, depending on your area of residence. It is also important to factor into the covered patio design the plan for electricity for fans, lighting, and possibly an under-counter refrigerator or ice maker and water for the outdoor cooking area sink and icemaker and perhaps even for overhead misters. Natural gas would be needed if there were an outdoor kitchen and gas garden torches. Drainage connected to your sewer will be needed if there is to be a sink in the outdoor kitchen line up.

Most often a concrete base supported with some rebar is poured. Patios are best slightly elevated to ensure yard drainage, due to irrigation or rains, moves away from the patio surface. You can work with a standard concrete finish, select a stamped concrete pattern and color, cover the concrete base with Saltillo tile or use some of the new synthetic wood products. Another surface option is colored brick pavers. There is also an engineered long-life wood plank decking material.

Wood Patio Covers - Gazebos and Pergolas

Whatever the top surface of your shade area, the posts that hold it are an important part of your plan. They need to be anchored securely as a big part of your engineered plan. The materials you select for the posts and roof trusses are important both structurally and aesthetically. You need to make sure you select patio posts that will have a long life and are treated to withstand outdoor weather exposure. Woods selected for timbers and vigas can be turned, they can receive a carved design or they can simply remain rough timbers. They all need to be stained and treated with a wood preservative. Do not place a varnish on your posts. The varnish will dry, crack and peel and you will have a big annual maintenance project. Steel box beams are another option and they can be painted to many colors and have a very long life against the elements. You can also build boxed posts with lumber and finish the post surfaces with stacked stone, brick or river rock.

The top-of-structure shade cover options are canvas materials, metal, wood, metal roof tiles or solar shade panels Canvas materials are very aesthetically pleasing as a shade cover. They have a natural feel and fit well into a southwest desert environment. Canvas also allows for light to come through while still maintaining a 90 percent sun block heat barrier. Canvas can also be designed to be retractable giving you options of shade at times that you select. Often, canvas can be placed over a steel or wood ramada and can be seasonally applied and removed. Artistically designed shade sails are becoming more popular and offer not only shade, but also a unique design appeal with irregular shapes and multiple colors.

Wood roofs can be designed as flat open beams to allow for airflow and sunlight. This is a more affordable option but leaves whatever is underneath exposed to rain and sun. Solid wood patio covers need to be designed for water run off and also have a reflective material surface to repel the intense summer heat. A pitched roof design can give an A-frame appearance.

In the last few years, solar patio covers have joined the list of options and provide water and wind protection, allow for light transfer and collect energy to reduce your dependence of electricity from the grid. These systems are obviously more expensive than the other options, but over the life of the house, more than pay for themselves, ultimately bringing back a positive energy savings.

Another option for a covered area is a pre-constructed vinyl pergola kit. These kits are made of solid treated pine with a vinyl coating. This combination provides for an extremely durable and stable material. Assembly and installation is easy following the manufacturers instructions. The kits are readily available from several regional building supply companies. These pergolas are intended to be anchored to a concrete or wooden deck.

Gazebos, although similar to a pergola, are a little more complete structure, often they are totally constructed of wood with an elevated deck, railing and a solid peaked roof. This is an excellent option for a second sitting area deeper into your landscape plan.

Solar and Accent Lighting

Lighting is an area that needs to be given priority in your outdoor living area use plan. Outdoor lighting creates an extended room of your home to be available in the evenings and also a visual tapestry from inside your home looking out. Your evening lighting plan can visually make or break the appeal of your landscaping and outdoor kitchen. The goal is to assimilate a moon lit night with area highlighting. New lighting products with LED or solar capabilities have become very available in the last few years.

We recommend you develop a lighting plan giving the following considerations. Light your hardscape areas first. Elevated areas and the steps leading to them must have lighting on the steps. Key features like fountains, statues and iron sculptures need to be featured either with soft uplighting or soft spots directed downward. Next, focus on mature trees, which offer an excellent opportunity to use soft to medium uplighting. Follow with focus on planter areas that will show well at night and add color to your nighttime landscape. Water features, small Koi ponds allow for strong lighting that can blend into adjacent areas. Twinkle or pin lights can be used to light the ceiling of your pergola, gazebo or covered patio. They are also effective with smaller trees not yet mature.

With these areas lit, you can determine the transitional light from the hardscape, trees and softscape lighted area that indirectly throw light over walkways. You can then fill in with solar powered lights in the darker areas along walkways. Safety and security is a goal for your overall lighting plans. You can also incorporate motion detectors in dark areas around the house such as side gates and areas near utility panels and pool and spa filtration systems.

While you are planning the electrical cable runs, also think about sound. Do you want music in the garden at the gazebo or pergola? If so, the cabling and speakers should be placed at the same time you run your lights. Sunbrite televisions are designed for outdoor exposure and add to fireplace areas or outdoor kitchen seating areas. ///
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