Outdoor rooms can have ceilings, too

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“Outdoor room” doesn’t have to mean “out in the open.” There are many options for covering your patio space.

Summer officially ended this week, but you still can catch some rays. While you’re admiring a beautiful sunset and reminiscing on a hot season well spent, lend some thought to the coming summer’s heat. The time to plan improvements to next summer’s Hardscape is now. Big projects like pergolas or gazebos take weeks if not months to plan and install. Think of “shade design” today while the sun’s intense heat is still around.

Temperatures hit record highs in the northeastern US this summer and next year is looking to be as hot. Shade design is becoming a regular concern in HardScapes. If you are lucky enough to have a big old shade tree, build some benches around the trunk (easily done with wall blocks made for that purpose) and call it a day. But if you’re looking for shade in other areas of your patio or pool, there are a few different options.

A permanent structure like a pergola, roof, or gazebo will likely last the longest and provide the most shelter from the weather (nothing’s better than sitting on a covered porch listening to the rain). Pergolas provide support to lovely climbing vines and other natural cover. Gazebos are additional rooms in themselves with a multitude of uses. These options tend to be larger, more expensive projects.

A semi-permanent option like a retractable awning is a more affordable option for those families whose members can’t agree on shade or sun, or for areas that are exposed to extreme sun for part of the day. Retractable awnings can be attached to the existing framework of the house or garage. A rolling system with handles or ropes extends or retracts the awning. They are perfect for smaller spaces that do double duty. The sun worshippers can put the awning away, the shade-seekers can roll it out.

Sailcloth tarps are another sleek way to fashion a roof over your outdoor room. The four corners of the fabric are pulled tight and clipped to sturdy structures. The result looks more like an art installation than a backyard roof. Make sure to angle the cloth for rain flow if you plan to leave it up.

Umbrellas aren’t stuck in that hole in the picnic table anymore. Cantilever umbrellas are on the deck, in the yard and hover over the pool. We’ve even seen umbrellas installed directly in the pool. Umbrellas can get high-end pricey, but they still remain the most flexible and affordable shade cover for your backyard. They can be moved to where you need them and angled against the moving sun. They may need to be replaced more often but nothing beats them for a quick and easy solution.

Relax and enjoy these last few nights of warm weather. And plan for next year.