Picture of the tarp starting to sag

Quick & Dirty Shade Tarp


The back patio of our house has no protection from the sun until late in the afternoon. This results in 2 separate issues. The obvious problem is that it is too hot to enjoy sitting outside during the summer days, but the kids really want to be outside. The second problem is that it also makes the inside temperature rise because of the sun beating down on the sliding glass door all day.

Our lease is up in September, so my wife and I decided to throw together a temporary shade tarp so we can enjoy sitting outside the rest of the summer. We wanted to do it as cheaply as we could, while not having it be a complete eyesore.

Parts List:

1 – 10′ x 12′ Mesh tarp
2 – 3/4″ x 10′ EMT Conduit
2 – 1″ x 2′ schedule 40 PVC pipe
1 – 60 lb bag of Quickcrete
2 – 2″ C-clamp
2 – 14″ round planter
2 – 3/16″ eye bolt
4 – washers and nuts for eye bolts
Duct Tape
Carabiners  (optional)


Drill with bits
Container to mix concrete in
Trowel (or other tool to mix concrete)

How we did it:

This build was very simple and worked surprisingly well. The steps were as follows:

Step 1: Tape one end of the PVC pipe closed, so no concrete can get inside it later. (Do this for both pipes)

Picture showing the PVC pipe taped shut on one side.

Step 2: Stand one piece of PVC pipe upright in the planter. Mark it 1/2″ below the top of the planter then cut it off at the mark. Cut the other PVC piece to the same length.

Step 3: Drill a few drainage holes in the bottom of each planter.

Image showing drainage holes drilled into the bottom of the planter.

Step 4: Mix up the concrete as per the instructions on the bag.

Picture of the concrete being mixed

Step 5: Stand the PVC pipe back up in the center of the planter. Then start pouring the concrete into the planter, taking care not to get any concrete inside the PVC pipe. Stop adding concrete when it is about 1/2″ to 1″ below the top of the pipe. Be sure the pipe is perpendicular to the ground.

Picture of the concrete being added to the planter.

Step 6: Once both planters are full of concrete and the pipes have been checked to make sure they are square you will need to let it sit while the concrete cures.

Step 7: Drill a hole straight through each piece of the conduit on one end only. Put a washer on each eye bolt, then feed one eye bolt through each piece of conduit. Put a washer and nut on the back side and tighten them down.

Step 8: Once the concrete has cured drill a hole in the center of the planter. This hole should pass through the plastic of the planter and into the void created by the PVC pipe. This is necessary to allow the PVC pipe to drain after it rains. Then drill a few holes through the side of the planter just at the top level of the concrete (same purpose)

Step 9: Use the C-Clamps and paracord to attach one side of the tarp to the eaves of the house. I used a taut line hitch so I would be able to easily adjust the tension of the cord later on.

Step 10: Carry the planters outside to the area you want the tarp over. These will be the 2 anchor points away from the house. Try to visualize where your tarp will go and position these a foot or 2 further away from the house and a foot or two wider than the tarp.

Step 11: Optional (but if you don’t do this you will need larger planters, guy lines to hold your tarp up, or live in an area that never has any wind). Dig holes to set your planters into. You want to get them at least half of their height into the ground, deeper will make the shade-screen sturdier, but you will have a bigger hole to fill when it comes out.

Step 12: Put one piece of conduit into the PVC in each planter. Pull the tarp over to conduit and hold it at the height you would like it to be at once everything is assembled. Mark the distance from the top of the conduit to that point. Then cut off that much pipe from the BOTTOM of the conduit (the side without the eye bolts). Measure and cut each pipe separately- the ground may not be level or the planters/PVC pipe may not be square.

Step 13: Put the cut conduit into the PVC pipe and use more para-cord to tie off the remaining ends to the eye bolts. If you would like to be able to easily take down your tarp, connect carabiners to the eye bolts and then tie the tarp off to those.

You are done! By using the PVC sleeves the tarp can be easily removed (although the planters are semi-permanent) and put back up when needed.

Thoughts & Improvements

The tarp worked really well for the time we had it up (8 months) with a few issues that we had to deal with. The conduit is not strong enough to support the tarp under load. If the winds pick up the conduit ends up bending over time and the tarp sagged. I am not sure what the best solution to this would be, but next time I would probably layer a 1/2″ EMT inside of the 3/4″. A few wraps of electrical tape on each end and the eye bolt should keep everything snug and prevent rattling. The pipe didn’t bend too much in this build, just enough that the tarp started to sag and I had to take all of the slack out of the para-cord to keep it up.

Picture of the tarp starting to sag

We also had an issue with the planters starting to tilt in the ground. This happened during a rainstorm when the ground was saturated and the wind picked up. The soft ground allowed the planters to be pulled to the side somewhat and left them at an angle. I was able to fix this later by taking the tarp down, saturating the ground and resetting the planters. In the future I would just take the tarp down when inclement weather was on its way, since we weren’t going to be sitting outside in the rain anyway. If you used giant planters you would probably never have this problem, and not have to recess them in the ground.

When it was finally torn down to move we had 2 holes in the ground where the planters had been. Not a huge problem, but it might be an annoyance for some folks.

We had intended to plant some flowering ground cover to make the planters less ugly, but we never got around to it. They would have been a lot more attractive with something growing in them.

Picture of not quite 2 year old daughter sitting in the shade.

You can see the upright behind Karissa in this picture, and the planter with bare concrete visible.


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