How to Make a Shade Canopy With a Tarp

How to Make a Shade Canopy With a Tarp

Heat waves are becoming more and more prominent as time goes on, and we can’t use an air conditioner for everything.

Many of us have livestock in our homesteads or farms, or multiple dogs that need to roam outside, and they need the shade. Heck, we all need the shade as well.

Whether you’re trying to cast some shade on your back deck so you can grill in peace, or make a shade canopy for the sidewalk in front of your store, we’re going to show you how to make shade canopy models that help you beat the heat.

You can use these for just about any purpose, make them as large as you want, and place them practically anywhere. We’ll show you how to make them, then you decide what to do with them.


What Kind of Tarp do You Need?

What Kind of Tarp do You Need?

I’m going to lay out the main three types of tarps, and then let you decide for yourself once you know what the differences are.


This stands for polyethylene, and it’s the most popular choice for any tarp material out there. Poly tarps allow certain amounts of light to come through, so you aren’t just sitting there in the darkness underneath your shade canopy.

Because they do allow some light to come through, they might not be as effective at cooling things down as you want, but they are one of the best choices. These are very waterproof and UV resistant, so you’ll be able to enjoy yourself even when the rain comes tumbling down.

Among these different types of materials, poly tends to be the least expensive option, and is fairly easy to put up.

One last thing you should know is that polyethylene is a type of plastic that you’ll see everywhere, in just about everything. It’s flame retardant for the most part, so it won’t catch fire in the summer.

Canvas (Cotton or Polyester)

There’s another kind of poly in the mix, and that’s polyester. This is thicker than polyethylene, which is good at providing shade, but not quite as good for durability.

Polyester and cotton can fall prey to mildew growth, which is a common problem in any type of tarp if they’re not taken care of properly.

These are not weak materials by any means; they’re actually one of the most common things you’ll see in tent construction, they just don’t necessarily make the best long-term canopies.


Blended between silicone and nylon, this hybrid material is extremely waterproof, which is why it’s used in a lot of canopy construction. Silnylon is like a nylon tarp dipped in liquid silicone and left to dry. It’s effective, but may need to be recoated once every few years.

You can do this with a waterproofing spray, or you can find a simple recipe online to make a custom silicone dip to completely drape your tarp in. The call is all yours to make, it just needs some TLC from time to time.

The most common canopy material you’re going to find is polyethylene, and one reason that’s a good thing is because it’s extremely cost-effective to manufacture.



This is a simple list that you can get in one online shopping trip, or from a few trips to different stores. This is what you need:

  • High-quality tarp with rust-resistant grommets
  • Ball bungees and bungee cables
  • Tent stakes
  • Multiple 8 ft tent poles (depending on the canopy size you want to go with)
  • One 10 ft tent pole
  • Four-slot T brackets for connecting the tent poles together
  • Footpads
  • Angle bracket with five slots
  • 20V drill
  • Cement screws or decking screws (depending on surface you’re affixing this to)

Overall, singling out these products one-by-one isn’t going to be very expensive. It’s a lot cheaper than buying a full canopy set and just setting it up the way it tells you to in the box.

You can save an average of 45% on a self-made canopy with independently sourced products instead of buying a premade canopy. The savings are worth it, but it’s also good to make something customized and one-of-a-kind for your own backyard.

Does a DIY Shade Canopy Last Longer Than a Store-Bought  Canopy Set?

It certainly can, but I’m not going to elude you into any dreams of grandeur here. You could make a great DIY shade canopy that lasts a decade with minimal maintenance, or you could have it last for one year and fall into disrepair.

It all depends on how you source your materials in terms of quality, how well you build it, and the weather conditions that you commonly face. We can’t predict the next decade of weather, and conditions might be enough to put your shade canopy through the ringer.

Step-by-Step Guide

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1. Prepare Your Tarp

Spread the tarp out in the area that it’s going to go. Try to remove any wrinkles in the fabric and make sure everything is laying nice and flat. Put something to weigh it down for the time being.

2. Construct a Frame

Start by applying the footpads to each of the four corner poles of your choosing. This is going to cut down on a very egregious process later on. On the tops of these poles, you’re going to add your T brackets. Be sure there’s the angled piece on top for the poles to fit.

3. Horizontal Frame

You should now have four poles with footpads and T brackets on them. Connect your horizontal tent poles between each of the corners until you have a solid frame. This will stand on its own, but won’t be very supportive just yet. Hop up on a ladder and do the rest of this.

4. Attach Top Poles

Attach your four remaining poles on the top of the four-slot T brackets in the corners. These are going to meet up in the middle, right on top in the center of your canopy. The tricky part here is going to be affixing that five-slot angled bracket right in the center of all of them.

5. Run the Center Pole

That 10 ft pole I told you to get is finally coming into play. You can put the footpad on it, and then wedge it in at an angle to fit in the bottom of that five-slot angle bracket.

Wiggle it into place, and make sure it’s in there nice and tight. Wiggle the pole around if you have to for a short amount of time until it feels like it fits properly.

6. Tighten All Brackets

Go around and make sure everything is nice and secure. Poles should fit into brackets nice and snugly, making everything fairly rigid and durable. If there’s still a little bit of wiggle, don’t worry; there’s a step for that.

7. Attach Canopy

This part isn’t exactly fun, but with a canopy this size, this is when it has to be done. Throw the canopy cover over one side of the roof and let it fall down on the other. Once everything is properly in place, use curtain clips to anchor things down against the poles in the corner.

Run ball bungees through the grommets in the canopy, and around the poles of your canopy roof so that everything is in place. If you have bungee cables handy, consider hanging them off the corners and stretching them down to the loops on the footpads of your four corners.

8. Put Into Place

Wherever you’re going to affix your canopy, get it set up now. Make sure everything is the way you want it, because we’re going to permanently affix it here.

9. Screw Into Place

Time to put that drill to work. Whether it’s in concrete or your back deck, use the appropriate screws and drill this into place.

It helps to have a second set of hands for this task to make sure the footbeds on the other three corners aren’t skipping around from the force of the drill. After everything is in place, you’re good to go.

And that’s all she wrote. Your canopy is now completely constructed. It’s time to enjoy your time in the sun, and retreat to the shade to enjoy a cold one and spend time with friends and family.

Why You Need to Clean Your Shade Canopy Off Frequently

Why You Need to Clean Your Shade Canopy Off Frequently

Our biggest enemy with a shade canopy is mildew. I can’t be there when you actually set the canopy up, so I don’t know if it’s done with a perfectly level setup, if there are problem areas where water is going to get trapped, or anything of the sort.

Even though the best shade canopies use polyethylene, which is naturally mildew resistant, it’s not invincible against mildew: it can just resist growth for a while. Mildew is more powerful than people give it credit for.

It’s that smell that punches you in the nostrils when you open up your shed to grab an old tarp, only to realize it’s been months where moisture has built up repeatedly.

On a semi-frequent basis, you should use a hose to spray down your canopy from the top. This will break up any water that’s sitting there and slowly building bacteria.

While it’s hard for mildew to grow in the sunlight, you could run into other problems with stagnant water as well.

If possible, get a mop handle or something similar and cover it with a cotton cloth8, then run it over the top of the shade canopy to soak up the new water, and leave it nice and dry.

It’s Better in the Shade

Something simple like a bit of shade can help cool down an area by over fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, which makes an enormous difference in how you spend your summers.

Avoid sunburns, sun poisoning, and still be able to enjoy your backyard with your new custom, DIY, one-of-a-kind shade canopy.

No matter what you’re using your shade canopy for, you have to start with the right tarp.

We have a wide selection of poly, canvas, and mesh tarps for you to choose from. It’s easy to find a tarp that fits your canopy frame with the right rust-resistant grommets already in place, saving you time and money.