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How Does a Pergola Provide Shade? Keep Your Backyard Cool During Hot Summer Days

January 9, 2023 / Written by: Carlos Gonzales

January 9, 2023
Written by: Carlos Gonzales

The summer sun can be gorgeous. It chases away the winter blues and brings everything to life. The summer sun can also be uncomfortably—and dangerously—hot. Fortunately, there are several ways you can add shade to your garden, and a beautiful landscape design is what you need.

Pergolas are a real lifesaver on hot days, but there are ways you can keep your backyard cool without a permanent addition.

How Does a Pergola Provide Shade?

A pergola is a structure with four vertical posts and slats or beams overhead. It's often free-standing, although some people build it against an external wall. The roof slats provide a measure of shade and sun protection while allowing air to whisper in and out the open walls and roof. 

The slats on their own don't always provide the full sun protection you may want, but there are many materials you can use to increase sun protection and privacy outdoors.

Pergola Shade Materials Used in Landscape Design

There are natural materials and different clothes available to cover your pergola.


You can train vines to grow up the posts and across the roof, perhaps weaving in and out of the slats for a more robust canopy. The idea is to use flowering vines so you can enjoy their vibrant color and fragrance.

The variety of vines includes honeysuckle, climbing rose, and wisteria. Grape vines are interesting, but they will make a mess as they ripen and fall off the vine.

Remember that you will have to take care of the vines just as you would other plants, which means watering and pruning them as required. Mist systems water the vines and keep you cool when you're relaxing in the delicious shade.


You're spoilt for choice when it comes to the shade of the fabric. There are curtains, which you can drape between posts for a private space. Tie-backs will keep them open and out of the way when you want to admire your landscaped garden. Release them when the temperature gets too hot, the sunlight too bright, or you want privacy.

Shade sails can be easily customized to fit over the top of the pergola, and you can use sails between posts. Shade sails aren't usually permanent. They're designed to be shifted to where they'll do the best. 

In theory, you could use shade cloth over the top and only get one or two sails to place between the posts. The downside is that you will have to physically move them, but if you place them in areas that get the worst of the summer heat, you could always leave them there. 

Canvas is a hard-wearing fabric that you can use on the pergola's roof. It's not necessarily the coolest material, but it will keep you dry in the rain, and it's unlikely to blow away or be torn by strong winds. You can choose canvas drop cloths, which can be rolled up out of the way.


Lattice works well if you need shade and privacy but still want to admire the view. They're customizable, so you can have them made in unique patterns and sizes. You can provide supplementary cover using the other materials. 

For example, you can train vines to grow through the gaps, so you have a fresh-looking wall with flowers that keeps you nice and cool.

There are a few points you need to consider before picking your material. For instance, are you going to add lighting? What type of light and where will you put it? Do you want to use fans? Ceiling fans, deck fans, solar-powered fans, little fans that clamp to the table?

How much effort are you prepared to put in? Do you want to maintain climbing vines? How are you going to clean the curtains? Will you mend tears before they get worse?

Your chosen material needs to accommodate your wishes and support your extra features. 

Tips to Keep Your Backyard Cool

There are several simple methods to make your garden a cool sanctuary in the heat of summer.

Create shade: 

  • Patio umbrellas - You don't need a patio, just a stand.
  • Trees - Quick-growing or grown ones.
  • Shade sail - Easy to set up and take down.

Use water: 

  • Swimming pools - Inground, above-ground, kiddies inflatable pools.
  • Ponds - Elaborately landscaped, homemade.
  • Water features - Statement piece, table fountains, waterfall wall.


  • Outdoor ceiling fans - Damp or wet-rated for all weather.
  • Umbrella fans
  • Deck fans

Misting Systems:

  • Thin hoses with little sprinkler holes 

Outdoor Shower:

  • Ensure proper drainage.

Slip and Slide:

  • For kids and adults.

Professional Landscape Designers are Experts at Keeping You Cool

It's easy to implement some of these basic cooling techniques yourself. You can also install a pergola as a DIY project. But if you want a pergola with a professional shine, you should talk to landscape design experts like Western Hills Masonry, whose services include outdoor structures.

Our team will optimize your landscape design by incorporating cooling features that will make your backyard a cool place for respite from the heat. To book an appointment, contact us at 714-519-5009 at West Hills Masonry today!

Carlos Gonzales
He is the co-owner and project consultant of West Hills Masonry – a industry leading hardscape and landscape contractor providing the finest in custom outdoor-scapes in Orange County, CA. Carlos and his team at West Hills Masonry have over 50 years of combine experience. Carlos is very keen on understanding client perspective and integrate their vision with professional recommendation for proper finished installation.

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At West Hills Masonry, we believe in creating outdoor spaces that reflect your unique style and enhance your lifestyle. Let's collaborate to transform your outdoor dreams into reality. Reach out to us today!
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