The Real Cost of Saving

We were recently contacted by a local school who was in need of repairs to shade structures that were damaged during a very mild storm. To our surprise we had actually provided quotes to this school some time ago for the very shades that failed. We were not awarded the project because the cost of our shade structures and installation was just too high.
Instead of using shade structures that were engineered to meet wind loads, installed by a licensed contractor with proper permitting and oversight, the client chose to utilize a vendor who was inexperienced, unlicensed who was selling structures that were not engineered and lacked the proper material strengths to be safe.

As you can see from the photos the damage to the shade structures from this very minor storm was devastating. Virtually all of the structures came apart, threatening property and persons in the vicinity. Fortunately the storm was minor, had it been a more powerful storm or hurricane, the components of this poorly installed and designed shade could have easily become wind born debris, capable of serious injury, even death.

This school was very fortunate that the failure occurred during a storm when the playground was not in use, had it been during normal school hours on a sunny day, it is possible that the failure could have caused severe injury or death to the children and teachers on the playground.

Why Shade Structures Fail

Shade structures can fail without warning for a number of reasons. It is important that consumers understand what is really required to make a shade structure sound and safe.

Proper Engineering

All shades should be designed by a licensed structural engineer. There is no exception to this rule. Without the proper understanding of moments and forces that act on a tensile membrane it is impossible to safely design a shade structure.

Correct Footings

All shade structures will require a proper footing for the columns. The footing size will vary depending on the size of the structure, local code requirements and soil bearing capacity. In general all footers should contain rebar without exception. Proper footings for these structures are expensive and can be difficult for the inexperienced installer, as such incorrect footings are the number one cause of shade failures.

Proper Component Connections

One of the most common things we see on incorrectly installed shades is the lack of proper attachment of the structural members of the system. Often the units will be assembled, then never bolted or screwed together. When a wind storm comes rest assured they will separate.

Licensing and Permitting

Most if not all shade structures should be permitted and installed by a licensed general contractor, and they should be permitting. Permitting the shade structures will insure all of the points made above have been addressed and are correct. Many of our clients will tell us they cannot afford to permit, the truth is they cannot afford not to.


This client will now have to remove all of the old shades and install the correct shades with the proper engineering, permitting and requirements. This endeavor will cost far more now than just doing it correctly in the first place. When it comes to shade structures, do it right and call the experts at Pro Playgrounds.