I was always intrigued by the Trivial Pursuit question, “Where are the most expensive seats found at the Plaza Mexico, the world’s largest bull fighting ring?”
You may have guessed the best seats in the house would be located near the cantina, providing guests with much-needed hydration. Or, in close proximity to the washroom facilities, VIP lounge, or sombrero and sunglasses sales booths. With the best seats usually placing guests closer to the action, you may have also guessed the most privileged seating to be ringside, where the splattering of blood and mud across your face and clothing would warmly embrace you as part of the spectacle.
Regardless of all those possibilities, the answer was “in the shade.”
So, in mid-afternoon, full-sun, 110 F Mexico heat, where do those sports enthusiasts with a few extra pesos want to be? Not in a hospital suffering from heat stroke.
Which, brings us to today’s topic of avoiding dehydration, wrinkly skin, and any number of serious medical conditions, by enjoying a sunny day from the safe confines of a shaded porch or backyard deck.
Now, Cornwall and area’s sun may not have near the impact of a Mexican sun, but even in our climate, sunburn and the resulting skin damage can result after only 15 minutes of full sun exposure.
So, with many a backyard deck to be constructed this summer, strategizing on how you plan on enjoying the warm weather, while avoiding the sun, will be best brainstormed while your deck concept is still on paper.
The best-case scenario would have your deck plan include some type of permanent roof structure.
Table umbrellas and self-standing umbrella structures are good between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., when the angle of the sun’s rays are practically streaming from directly overhead.
Otherwise, and as the sun shifts from its high-noon position, umbrellas tend to shade everything except the people seated underneath them. Now, you could simply move the seating to where the shade is, or risk lower-back strain, and a few extra scratches on your new composite decking, by tugging the 50- to 70-pound umbrella base into a new position every 30 minutes— but that would hardly be practical.
Retractable awnings? A good option on a smaller scale, but because the unit attaches to the home, you will be somewhat limited size-wise. Weaknesses to a retractable awning? The “retractable” means moving parts, which take time to engage and close, with the possibility of mechanical failure always looming. Furthermore, awnings aren’t snow resistant, if the plans are to shelter your hot tub for winter use. And, they’re deathly afraid of a strong wind – perhaps not to the same degree as a deck umbrella, which will simply take flight and land somewhere in the united counties – but winds can seriously damage an awning nevertheless.
So, with no concerns regarding having to close things up, retract things back, or shift things around, homeowners should consider a permanent-shade type of structure. Essentially, this will require either extending the roof, similar to a carport or extended garage type of construction, or erecting the latest in deck shading, that being a pergola with operating louvers.
The bonus to a roof extension is the chance of rain or snow making its way through to the deck drops to zero, with lighting being provided by a series of skylights, or a string of electrical fixtures. Plus, a permanent roof extension allows you the freedom of leaving the cushioned furniture as is, saving you the task of having to constantly remove and reinstall cushions at the first sign of rain, a real pain in the butt over time, even with deck boxes.
If you’re thinking a more simple structure than a roof extension is more in line with your budget, then consider the “Sun Louver” pergola, an aluminum product where the louvers can tip downward, offering shade or protection from the rain.
Next week, further sun-avoiding strategies.