Steel Shade Structures

At Chicago Roof Deck + Garden, we always say that the most important element of any roof deck (other than the decking itself) is a proper shade structure! Without a good shade structure, in Chicago, you are likely to get too hot much too fast in the summer months. A good shade structure offers an oasis from the unforgiving sun and also creates a sense of enclosure and privacy while promoting a central gathering space during any get together.

And when it comes to adding shade to your rooftop deck, you have many options to choose from.  You can keep it extremely simple by putting up a shade umbrella or you can step up your game with a cedar pergola.  But perhaps our all time favorite shade structure (for many reasons which we’ll get to shortly) is a steel pergola or veranda.


  • Steel allows you to span a greater distance from post to posT

Due to the incredibly strong material properties of Steel, one can extend a pergola or veranda a great distance without needing to break up the view with support posts half way through.  The only limiting factor becomes weight. But assuming your roof is structurally sound, you should be able to build quite a large steel shade structure without needing to add in extra posts to distribute the weight.  As a reference, most roof decks in Chicago are required to have a 100 PSF (Live Load).


  • Steel requires much less maintenance

Unlike a cedar pergola, which requires staining and perhaps replacement boards over the years, a steel shade structure usually requires nearly zero maintenance.  You can certainly paint your pergola from time to time, but this is not required to maintain the structural integrity of it.  Regardless, this color should last a lot longer than the stain that you would apply to cedar posts and beams which will likely fade within a few seasons.


  • Steel has a more contemporary aesthetic

More and more of our clients here at Chicago Roof Deck and Garden are coming to us looking for a contemporary look for their roof deck.  While a wooden shade structure still makes sense to many, given the style of their home, the cleaner more simple look of a steel shade structure is becoming more prominent throughout Chicago’s roof deck scene.  Whereas 10 years ago we were installing 2 steel shade structures for every 10 shade structures built, these days, that has become nearly 5 out of every 10!  People are investing more into their outdoor spaces with the intentions of building something that is going to really last!  Not to mention that builders in Chicago are building more and more contemporary style homes whose style better fits the sleek look of a steel shade structure.


  • Steel lasts a lot longer

There is no question that the lifespan of a steel shade structure far exceeds that of a timber structure.  A steel shade structure has the potential to last 50+ years.   Compare that to a timber shade structure whose structural integrity is likely to start to erode after about 10 years.  For some people, 10 years is as long as they see themselves in their home. But to be able to hand off an outdoor space that still has 40+ years of life to it, is certainly a huge plus for any homeowner.


Enjoy some photos of some steel shade structures that we have built over the years here at Chicago Roof Deck + Garden!  The come in many shapes, sizes, and color, but all are likely to last longer, require less maintenance, and really capitalize on the large potential of your outdoor urban space!

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