Covering the Competition:
ShadeFX vs. Sun Sails

The latest backyard shade solution is tensioned fabric in triangular or square shapes. Styled with curved edges, the sun sail is a unique application. Sun sails and ShadeFX are another pair of solutions that consumers compare. They both provide protection from the sun; however, they are different products. So, what makes one unlike the other? Let’s keep reading and sail through the points below.

Sun Protection

Sun Sails: The area protected is minimal as the sails have curves along the edges when pulled taut. To cover more space, you’ll have to order a larger custom shade or overlap multiple sails to cover the gaps for full coverage.

ShadeFX Retractable Canopies: The canopies are only manufactured to custom sizes and have straight edge cuts to provide maximum coverage. Multiple units can also be deployed to cover expansive spaces.

Rain Protection

Sun Sails: Mainly designed for sun protection but can offer shelter from light rain and drizzle. Heavy rain will cause the tensioned fabric to pool water over time and stretch. The water will also pass through the fabric dripping water onto the objects and area below.

ShadeFX Retractable Canopies: 
Also designed for rain protection. Uses a single track down the middle of the canopy system which creates a peak, forcing water off the sides. The canopies are also available in water resistant, water repellent and waterproof fabrics.

Wind Tolerance

Sun Sails: If there is a strong wind or storm, it is recommended to take the sun sail down. Remember, it’s called a sail for a reason!

ShadeFX Retractable Canopies: During strong winds or storms, it is recommended to only retract the canopy to prevent damage. However, the canopy extended has been tested in 80+mph wind gusts.


Sun Sails: Will always be deployed providing shade and protection from the UV rays. Sun sails have to be taken down to enjoy the open sky.

ShadeFX Retractable Canopies: Can easily extend using a handle, rope or motor drive for protection from the sun or rain and retracted to expose the sunshine or starlit atmosphere.

Mounting Requirements

Sun Sails: Require a minimum of 3-4 posts or anchor points where the shade is to be connected. High tension requires the posts and footings to be very strong or they will deform over time.

ShadeFX Retractable Canopies: Requires an overhead structure such as a pergola, to mount the drive beam. Easily adapts to all types of existing structures, fitting within 1/8”.

Adding Comforts

Sun Sails: Only intended to keep an area shaded and protected from the sun. When night falls, there is no option to mount lights or heaters to the sun sail or its anchor points. Unless an anchor point is a wall.

ShadeFX Retractable Canopies: The structure that the canopies mount to have endless options to add or integrate lighting and heaters throughout the framework.

Offseason Appearance

Sun Sails: When the sail is removed for the winter season, what’s left are random posts in the yard.

ShadeFX Retractable Canopies: Because they require a structure such as a pergola, an attractive structural focal point remains in place.

Dirt and Debris

Sun Sails: Dirt and debris can and will accumulate on top of the sail. The weight from this can cause the material to sag or droop.

ShadeFX Retractable Canopies: Most dirt and debris will be washed off to the sides when it rains.


Sun Sails: Sails should be periodically checked for proper tension and turnbuckles may need to be tightened. If the fabric has started to sag or droop, it may need to be cut so it can be pulled taut again to the anchor points.

ShadeFX Retractable Canopies: The system is designed and manufactured to be maintenance free. Periodic inspection is recommended to identify and remove fauna and flora particles.


Sun Sails: The lifespan is determined by how well the sail is installed. Loose or sagging sails wear out quicker as they move around in the wind. So, ensuring the sails are taut is vital for longevity.

ShadeFX Retractable Canopies: Considered a long-term solution and is backed by an industry leading 12-year warranty.

If you are looking to add shade over your existing pergola, then a custom retractable canopy is the winner here. Sure, you can anchor off a sun sail. But don’t you want the versatility to retract the canopy and enjoy the open views? The clean, modern and simple appearance of the canopy alone is a trend that will stick around for years to come.

See our motorized retractable canopy in action.

Retractable Solutions for Outdoor Spaces

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