Patio Shades

DEAR MIKE: I have a patio cover that faces south and consequently we get lots of sun. We want to cut the amount of sun we get by installing some pull-down sun shades along the edge of our patio. We bought some at a home improvement store, but they don't look as easy to install as the package said. -- Joyce R.

DEAR JOYCE: God bless complicated instructions. They keep guys like me in business. If it were up to me, I would make it a manufacturer's requirement to write instructions so impossible to comprehend that it would take a Ph.D. just to open the box.

Sun shades will reduce the amount of sun you will get, especially when the sun is low in the sky. However, you need to realize that these shades are usually only six feet long, and since your patio is taller than that, you will have a gap of several feet underneath. This will also lead to another challenge: keeping the shade from flapping when it's windy.

You can buy the shades in widths of six, seven or eight feet so you will need to measure the area you want to cover and then buy the combination of lengths that cover the area. It is likely that you will have a small space on the ends of the area because these shades cannot be cut.

Each end of the shade will mount into a bracket. One bracket will have a clutch end (a unit that controls the up and down movement of the shade), and the other will have an idle end.

The shades will come ready to be hung with the clutch unit on the right-hand side, and since the pull-chain is connected to the clutch, you will operate the shade from this side. The brackets come ready to be installed horizontally from the surface.

You can change the clutch from right-hand to left-hand, or you can mount the brackets so that they hang straight down. To do this, you need to remove the screws holding the clutch to the bracket and rotate the clutch by 90 degrees so that the chain hangs straight down.

Now you're ready to hang the shades. Make sure you have measured accurately. Although the box might say you have a six-foot shade, the actual installed length of the shade is going to be several inches longer than six feet due to the mounting hardware on either end. Make sure you account for the extra length before you hang the shades.

If your patio cover is made of wood, you will be able to use the screws that are included in the package. If it is made of aluminum or is frame-and-stucco, you will need to purchase screws.

Mark the locations of the holes so that they are all uniform from the edge of the patio cover. For a wood patio cover, pre-drill the holes and then attach the brackets with the screws provided.

If your patio cover is aluminum, use bolts and nuts or self-tapping galvanized screws. These screws will drill a hole through the metal as they pull the bracket tight to the patio cover.

For a frame-and-stucco patio cover, you will have to estimate where the wood lies. Use a small masonry bit and drill a hole through the stucco. With any luck you will hit wood once the bit works through the stucco. If there is no resistance, remove the bit and drill another hole next to it until you find the wood. Once you hit wood, use a No. 12 wood screw 2 1/2 inches long or longer depending on how deep the wood lies. The screws should bite into the wood at least three-quarters of an inch in depth.

Snap the shades into the brackets and operate the pull chain. If the chain tension is too tight, slightly turn the screws that hold the clutch counterclockwise.

You can also add tie downs to the bottom of the shade, but use caution because the wind could turn the shade into a sail and cause damage to the patio cover, the shade or your neighbor's rose garden.

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