How to Add Playground Shade

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With the growing awareness of the risk of skin cancer due to sun exposure, commercial playgrounds are increasingly being designed with a focus on utilizing sun shade, either natural or artificial. When selecting the site for your future playground, it is important to consider how your location will be affected by sun exposure. Try to determine if the sun will heat exposed plastic and metal surfaces of the play area during the hottest parts of the day. To alleviate the heat caused by sun exposure, some playgrounds will use existing shade features such as nearby trees to cast shadows onto the playground; however, with this option comes additional maintenance issues such as leaf and limb removal on a seasonal basis. For this reason, many customers choose to utilize a traditional shade structure for shading and protecting their playground.

When selecting a playground shade it’s important to look at the size of the use zone along with the elevation of your playground. This will allow you to ensure your columns do not lie within use zones or fall zones of the playground, and will additionally ensure that your playground canopy is sufficiently elevated above the play zone as needed. Learn more about playground shade assessments. Once the desired shaded space has been defined, it’s time to select what style of shade structure you want over your space. Most playgrounds are covered using either a traditional four post hip and ridge structure, large independent umbrella style structure, a series of shade sails, or a modular shade structure incorporated directly into the playground.


Hip and Ridge

Hip and Ridge shades represent the most functional and cost-effective option when looking for a playground shade solution that covers an entire playground. The play area canopy has a more traditional look, but it’s highly functional in that the canopy can usually span the entire playground. These shades usually have a max width of approximately 50 feet before the canopy needs to be broken up into multiple domes or canopies.




Umbrella shade structures can be utilized when trying to add shaded spaces to a large sprawling play area that might incorporate several playgrounds within the use zone. It’s important to position the columns outside of the use or fall zones to stay within code when using this option. These structures can provide areas where children or parents can take a break from the sun. Unfortunately, playground umbrellas do not provide much sun relief to commercial playground equipment as they have a typical max span of about 20 square feet and must be a minimum of 6 feet away from the playground, making it difficult for these umbrellas to overhang the playground and provide shade to the area itself.


Sail Shades

Playground shade sails are beautiful options for shading playgrounds that allow for great creativity when designing your shade structure. They can be configured into overlapping triangular sails to allow for greater depth to the design, or they can be laid out in hyperbolic square canopies which have a nice swooping effect to the canopy. Shade sails are usually the preferred architectural solution as they lend themselves the most to customization to the play space and have such a great look. The columns themselves aren’t supported by an internal frame like you would have with a hip and ridge shade frame, so you’ll typically find the column and footing sizes will be considerably larger to account for the difference and as a result, the product and installation cost for this option can be higher.


Modular Playground Shade

Lastly, one of the most affordable canopy styles, the modular playground shade is a great option for incorporating shade directly into either a new or an existing playground space. These are great in that they don’t require engineering or permitting, and are considerably less expensive to install as they do not require a footing. Their greatest limiting factor is the size of the shade as they max out at around 14 square feet.

Regardless of what style of playground shade solution you choose to incorporate into your play space, it’s very rewarding to see continued use of the playground throughout the hotter parts of the day. Additionally, as caretakers of children, it’s important to protect children from sun exposure.

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