How to install a shade sail?

Important Factors to consider when installing a Shade Sail

Before you commence installation it is very important that you consider the most suitable location for your shade sail(s) taking into account the factors below. We’ve also included a 10min video that takes you through how to install your shade sail.


Consider the following factors before installing your shade sail:

  • Strength of existing structures intended as fixing points
  • Ability to install suitable fixing points such as posts
  • Location of barbecues, electrical/ telephone cables, water pipes
  • Sun direction and wind speed and direction
  • Size of the shade sail
  • Your local councils relevant building regulations

Getting your Measurements correct

Once you have established the most suitable location for you shade sail, getting the measurements correct is crucial. Measure the area you wish your shade sail to cover from fixing point to fixing point to determine the size of shade you will require. The shade sail needs to be smaller than the overall measured area to allow for material stretch, fixing accessories (d-shackles, snap hooks) and turnbuckles for tensioning. If you purchase a shade sail which is exactly the same size as the area you wish to cover, you will be unable to tension the shade correctly, which will lead to sagging, flapping and water pooling. As a rough guide allow 30cm to 40cm from each corner point
depending on the fixing and tensioning accessories you are using.

If you have pre-existing fixing points which are suitably strong enough to support the shade sail, but are very high or a distance from the area you wish to cover, steel wire rope or chain is available to assist in adding length to your fixing points. If this is the case, calculate how far you will extend the fixing points out to, including turnbuckles for tensioning and then take your measurements for your shade sail from here.

Shade sails can be erected in many ways and it is important to ensure they are at differing heights for your fixing points as you do not want you shade sail to lay flat. A twist in your shade sail can be more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, will reduce sagging in the middle, can be tightened more effectively and will allow water to run off more efficiently and avoid pooling.

We have a wide range of prefabricated shade sails available in rectangle, square, triangle and right angle. Several smaller shade sails may look better than a larger sail and elevated at different heights the shade sails can be very visually appealing. We have a wide range of colours and sizes to mix and match. Take into account the height and direction of the sun, as you want to provide the maximum shade for your area. This will help you figure out where the high and low points should be placed.

We are unable to make custom shade sails. Once you have measured out the area you wish to cover please visit our website for our full range of shapes, sizes and colours. Please consult our accessories guide below for further information on measurements of fixing and tensioning accessories to assist you further.

Planning for your Shade Sail Installation

Shade Sail MeasurementMany people ask why shade sails are curved around the edges and also why their shade sail is not ‘true’ to measurement across the centre point – here we will briefly explain why.

All shade sails are manufactured with curved edges so that tensioning can be applied evenly across the entire surface of the shade sail. If the shade sail was a square piece of fabric with no curved edges, there would be no way to apply even tension across the entire surface of the fabric.

On a rectangle or square shade sail the curved edges are less imposing than on a triangular shade sail. Yes, you will lose overall coverage but without the curved edges the shade sail will not tension correctly. Typically a shade sail is made with a curved edge of between 5-8%. For example, if you had a shade sail with a length of 5 metres you would lose 250mm of coverage at the deepest point in the curve.

IMPORTANT Measurements are not taken from the centre curvature points. Measurements are taken from buckle to buckle in a straight line around the shade sail. Please take into consideration the curvature when ordering as you will lose a little in the middle section of the shade sail.

Accessories information

Turnbuckles for Shade Sails


Turnbuckles are used for adjusting the tension or to give extra length when installing your shade sail. You can hook this turnbuckle straight into your shade sail and then into your fixing point. It is always best to use your turnbuckle at its greatest length so you have room to adjust the tensioning as required. Shop Now


Pad Eye

Especially designed to be anchored to brick walls for a secure fixing point over individual bricks. Sizes available 8mm, 10mm.
Larger sizes can spread your weight bearing load over a wider area. Shop Now

D Shackle

D Shackle

D Shackles are used to attach or extend in shade sail application. Sizes available 6mm, 8mm. Shop Now

Snap Hook

Snap Hooks

Snap Hooks are used to extend or attach in shade sail installation. Size available 8mm. Shop Now

Fixing Points

Shade Sail steel postOnce you have identified the location for your shade sail, it is important to determine the most suitable fixing points for the corners and how you want to install your shade sail. Shade sails can be erected in many ways and you can create a great look when elevations change from corner to corner. Your shade sail needs to be anchored to stable and sturdy fixing points. You may have pre-existing fixing points or are looking at installing posts, either way, before installation you will need to check your fixing points are structurally sound and are strong enough to withstand the weight of the shade sail and take into account instances of high winds and poor weather. Your shade sail will be under considerable tension and fixing points need to be strong.

If you are using an existing fascia, it is recommended to use a fascia support which will reinforce the overhangs of rafters or trusses and provide a stronger connection between the two and improve the overall strength. We have a range of fascia supports to assist.

If you have not installed your fixing points we recommend that you purchase your shade sail first to avoid any mistakes before the fixing points are installed. Having fixing points at differing heights is recommended, as this will help in tensioning your shade sail, reduce
sagging, flapping and help with water runoff as well as looking great!

To assist you, we have a wide range of accessories available for structural strengthening, tensioning and extending lengths of fixing points. Check out our accessories guide and website for more details. If you are unsure of your requirements please consult a handy man or qualified builder.

Examples of pre-existing fixing points:

• Pergola
• Fence post
• Fascia or rafter
• Structurally sound brick walls

Timber or Steel Posts?

Square or round galvanised steel posts, 100 x 100mm diameter, with a minimum thickness of 4mm are advised for larger sails, due to their strength. Your local hardware store or steel fabricator should be able to provide these for you.

Timber posts are generally only recommended for smaller sized shade sails. Use round or square treated timber posts with a minimum diameter of 125mm and consult your local hardware store for the appropriate class of timber to use for your region.

Installing your posts

Prior to installation, check with local authorities for any relevant building regulations which may exist and check the local utility companies for any underground services prior to digging holes for the support posts.

Set your sail out on the ground in the position where it will eventually be installed and if using turnbuckles, wind the turnbuckles out to their full extension. Mark out on the ground the ends of the turnbuckles or other tensioning device you are using. This is the position of your posts.

It is recommended to set your posts on a slight angle, approximately 2°- 5° away from the shade sail, this way when you set your tension the posts have room to flex in slightly without looking as though your posts are slanting inwards.

Footings range in size according to the height of the posts. In general however, it’s recommended that posts are embedded in footings which are 900mm to 1800mm deep and 300mm to 500mm in diameter with one third of the total length of the posts embedded in the ground, with the remaining two thirds above the ground.

Take into account where your fixing points (eyebolts) will be on your posts, and ensure these are approximately 40mm from the top of the posts.

IMPORTANTcheck the area you are digging is free of cables and pipes

Dig footings with the centre of the footing measured as the approximate location point of the sail.

Soft Ground – If installing your posts into soft ground, first line the footings with 100mm of concrete and allow to set. Alternatively place a concrete paver in the footings. Add a gravel bed of around 100mm, position the post in the footing remembering to allow for the 2°- 5° of lean and fill footings with the required amount of concrete.

Firm Ground – If installing your posts into firmer ground, line the footings with a gravel bed around your posts, allow for the 2°-5° lean away from the centre of the shade sails position and fill the footings with the required amount of concrete.


It is recommended to use concrete with a minimum of 20Mpa. This may vary depending on conditions, so please consult your hardware store for more information. Always mix concrete to manufacturers specifications. Pour the concrete into the footings on top of the gravel bed and pack down well. The top of your concrete surface should be sloping away from the posts to assist with water drainage.

Concrete should be left for 48 hours to set properly and bracing may be necessary depending on the height and weight of your posts. As you position each pole check your posts are not leaning too far and if you have your fixing points (eyebolts) on the posts, ensure they are positioned toward its diagonal opposite. Allow adequate time for your concrete to set before installing your shade sail. If you live in unprotected areas of high wind or you have sandy soil, your sail may need extra support. Before erecting the sail, you may wish to seek advice from a structural engineer.

Attaching Your Shade Sail

Shade Sail FittingsAttach your fully extended turnbuckle(s) to your fixing points, working from the highest attachment points to the lowest. Next, attach your turnbuckles onto the stainless steel buckles of your shade sail. The last attachment point can be the tightest and it can help to have assistance to hook the edge of the shade sail to the hook of the turnbuckle.

Strapping or rope can help to bring the edge of the sail to the hook of the turnbuckle, giving you more pulling power. Please note – It is not essential, but is recommended, to use turnbuckles on each corner to attach your shade sail as you can tension more effectively with them.

However you may find other attachment accessories more appropriate for your application. You can find a full list of accessories available in our store.

HANDY TIP: Before you begin it is a great idea, if using turnbuckles to have these fully extended and the threads lubricated to avoid thread galling. This occurs when under tension the steel heats up and the turnbuckle can seize, rendering them useless. It is also recommended, when using turnbuckles with a hook eye, to attach the eye end directly to your fixing point and use the hook to attach to the shade sail. As if any failures occur, the hook end will straighten first and the shade will fall to the ground without causing any potential damage as the turnbuckle will still be attached to your fixing point and not flapping about with the shade sail.


Once all sides are attached to the fixing points you can start to tension the sail slowly from each point. Slowly screw in your turnbuckles, moving from corner to corner, tensioning a little at a time. Tensioning is complete when your shade sail is firm and tight across the entire surface. Whether installing a small or large sail, it is usually going to be tight to fit for the first time. That is why it is important to work your way around slowly and do not over tension. Tensioning should only be done by hand. After a period of around 7 days you may find your shade sail has settled and a little more tensioning is required. This is normal.

Check all your fittings are properly tightened and secure. Work your way around and check all turnbuckles are hooked in correctly and nuts locked off, pins on d-shackles are tightened and nuts on eyebolts are also tight. It is recommended that you check your attachment points on a regular basis.

In areas prone to cyclones, it can be quite common to use thin strong nylon cord to secure the fixing points to the shade sail. This is laced through the eyebolt and shade sail ring a few times which allows the corner of the sail to get closer to the fixing point. However the main reason for this technique to be employed in cyclone prone areas is the speed and ease at which you can get the shade sail down when a storm is coming. You can simply cut the lacing and release the sail. If you plan to use lacing in place of a turnbuckle, ensure the nylon cord is UV stabilised.

IMPORTANT – Over tensioning and under tensioning can cause damage to your shade sail. Failures in the stitching, webbing and fabric are common if tensioning is not correct.