When I first bought the house, the deck that was there had fallen down so the house had a sliding glass door that opened onto an 8 foot drop - just one of the many reasons I was able to buy it for a bargain price!
Anyhow, my best friend's brother is a contractor and since he owed her a favor, she transferred said favor to me and he designed and built me a deck for free... all I had to pay for was the materials. At the time I was uber-broke so I opted for plain pine lumber, promising myself I'd refinish it each summer...
Suffice it to say that a few years ago I had to have the decking re-done using a composite material called Trex. I have to say, it's pretty amazing stuff. Made from upcycled sawdust and plastic bags it still looks as beautiful as it did when it was installed in 2008 with not a shred of effort on my part. But I digress...
So, the deck faces west, which is great in the wintertime because I can open the curtains on the sliding glass door and the afternoon sun warms the house wonderfully. I can even enjoy some nice sunshine on the occasional warm winter day:
|Not sure if you can see the snow in the background, |
but this photo was taken in January
However, what is a blessing in the winter quickly becomes a curse as the temperatures start to rise.
It's actually not as bad as it used to be since the trees have matured a bit and provide at least some shade, but still, when the afternoon sun shines in the sliding glass door my little house really starts to cook, and even keeping the blinds shut only helps a tiny bit.
I looked into buying an actual retracting awning for the deck, but holy moly! Those things are NOT cheap. But then one day my neighbors had a backyard party and they put up something called a sun sail. It looked something like this, though their installation was not nearly so fancy schmancy.
When my neighbor told me that it cost only $35, the gears in my brain started to churn... Perhaps I could rig one to the side of the house and use it as a make-shift awing of sorts... something like this:
So I found one online for $40 that was the right size and hooked it to the eves using eye screws and carabiners, which worked fabulously:
Now all I had to do was figure out what to attach the two outside corners to. And here's where the difficulty began. You see... unlike the house in the picture, my deck is not at ground level, and the idea of installing 25-30 foot poles to attach it to seemed... well... it seemed like more of a project than I was really up for.
So my first attempt was to use ropes and tie the corners to tree branches. This was... um... well... let's say it was a bit of an adventure. I'm not great with ladders and heights to begin with, and in order to get the thing even close to high enough, I had to climb WAAAAY up in the trees.
The entire time I was on the ladder I was murmuring to myself "Please, God, just let me live through this." Now, I'm not actually a Christian... more of an "armchair Buddhist" so I don't technically believe in a sentient God... but that didn't stop me from praying on that particular occasion!
Anyhow, I finally got through with the worst one, and climbed down only to discover that I'd somehow managed to string the rope through the rungs of the ladder and had to climb up there to do the whole thing over again. ARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!!
Alas, I don't have any photos to commemorate that moment, but suffice it to say, my best efforts still left a bit to be desired:
So I decided that I needed something to shore it up with, and the next summer I took some old 2x4's that I had in the garage, painted them to match the deck, and attached a fence railing to the top to make something to help hold the sucker up.
But... when the time came to climb back up into the trees to attach the ends... well... let's just say that the memory of the ladder experience inspired me to come up with plan B!
Can you see the second set of pole-holders about a foot down from the ones holding the fence pole? My original intent was to install 2 bars and loop the thing under and around, using ropes to attach the far corners back under the eves where the carabiners are. But as I was installing it, I had a stroke of genius, and decided that all I really had to do was tie the corners down to the bottom of the deck like this:
It doesn't have the nice finished look that I originally imagined, but it certainly does a better job of blocking the hot afternoon sun, and it was much, MUCH easier to put up!
This year, I made one final improvement, and attached a second set of eye screws to the 2x4's so I could use carabines to attach the corners instead of ropes:
And voila! Here it is... my beautiful improvised deck awning:
OK... so it's not gonna win any awards for home and garden design, but it makes an enormous difference in the comfort level of the house, and I'm sure it's more than paid for itself in reduced cooling costs - the total cost of all the materials was much less than $100.
Even in the worst of the afternoon sun, it provides enough shade to keep the sun from shining in the sliding glass door, and it just makes the deck feel more private and enjoyable:
So there you have it! So... has anybody else out there ever used a sun sail? I'd love to hear how you attached yours...