Like you, I found myself considering the options for patio covers and the various structures available to provide shade and protect an area of my backyard from rain. I soon realized that a simple patio umbrella wouldn’t suffice. As I delved into my research, I quickly discovered the overwhelming range of options for different types of patio covers, catering to every budget and price range. Depending on your budget and the size of your patio, a cover can vary from a small, inexpensive shade canvas to a robust rainproof roof spanning a large area. So I’ve organized all cover ideas based on the budget needed to install or build them. And I’m excited to share it with our readers. Take a look and get inspired!
Please note: many of these design ideas are suitable for a patio but not for a deck. Covering a deck requires a different design approach. For decks, visit our covered deck ideas guide.
CHEAPEST PATIO COVERS
1. Shade Sails
The cheapest way to cover a patio is to install DIY shade sails. As good-looking as they are inexpensive, this type of design can be knocked out in the afternoon and is great for a small patio. And you can have several installed, to create more shade.
The primary benefit of using a shade sail is that you get protection from both the rain and the sun with an affordable all-in-one solution. I’ve built one of these myself, and for a one-canvas shade sail, I spent under $100, making it super cheap and effective. Furthermore, the only necessary maintenance you’ll have to deal with is re-tightening the anchors once or twice a year to keep the shade canvas taut.
For installation examples, you can visit our extensive shade sail ideas page. Most of these can be undertaken as a one-day DIY project (with a bit of clever planning and some elbow grease). If you like the look of canvas canopies hanging over your patio or pool then this is the cheapest way to go. I’ve learned that the trick is to use the walls of your home or other existing outdoor structures to hang or anchor the sails. This way, you won’t end up forking out funds or spending on labor to install freestanding posts.
As far as concrete patio cover ideas go, I find this is a particularly good option for those hoping to avoid drilling through cement to install their covers. Shade sails can easily be attached to your house or storage shed or between trees. And don’t mind longer ropes – they will work just fine. Get a Shade Sail Hardware Kits suitable for triangle or rectangle sunshade installations. Just ensure you get one with adjustable turnkeys, as these are the easiest to use and maintain.
2. Fiberglass Screen Tents
Though I haven’t seen many of these fiberglass screen tents around yet, I love this standalone patio cover idea – perfect for providing shade and privacy and deterring pesky bugs like mosquitos or moths. These “pop-up” backyard covers are UV-resistant and super simple to install. It’s similar to setting up a tent for camping. As well as being affordable (most are under $200), you’re not locked into this design as they can easily be disassembled when not in use. And with plenty of sizes and shapes available, it should be easy enough to find a screen tent that is suitable for your space and your family size.
3. Pop-up Canopies
Like the fiberglass screen tents above, pop-up canopies can be folded up and moved as needed, whether you’re trying to create covered patio seating or taking them along to the beach or a campsite. All that is required is to build the frame and attach the cover, staking it into the ground as you would a tent.
The frames are made from stainless steel, making them relatively weather-resistant. Pop-up canopy kits include all the “tools” you need to assemble them, from sandbags to anchors, and they don’t cost an arm and a leg. In fact, once you’ve got the hang of the assembly, you can have your canopy set up in a matter of minutes.
This is one of my favorite ideas for small backyards, as it’s easy to move or take down if you want to use your outdoor space for more than one purpose. The solid canvas cover also provides privacy and protection from the sun, rain, or wind. You can find these online – simply search by the brand name.
4. Soft Roof Pergola Canopies
Soft roof canopies go by various names, i.e., pergola canopies, patio gazebos, soft top canopies, or metal canopies. But they are all inexpensive metal structures with some type of soft roof. Depending on the kit, your soft top may come with a retractable canopy, netting, or even curtains. There are a ton of different styles on the market (see images above), so you won’t struggle to find one that suits both your patio and your personal preferences.
The structures are made from aluminum or steel. These are more permanent cover types that need to be assembled and installed on a patio. Because of the soft top, these pergola canopies are cheaper than those with hard tops. As you can see in the image above, certain brands would be perfect for modern patio cover ideas.
5. Convex Awnings
If you’re looking for a small but stylish cover when opening a patio door, French door, or sliding doors, you could use a convex awning. These are extremely inexpensive, considering how nice they look. In the example above, the canopy is plastic-polycarbonate, and the brackets are aluminum. While mostly decorative, this type of awning can provide quite a bit of shade and a slight resistance to rain. Convex awnings are an excellent complement to an outdoor seating area and can be supplemented by other shading structures like big outdoor umbrellas.
6. Retraction Awnings – Attached
Retraction awnings, which provide better cover than convex awnings, are available in manual or motorized designs. They all have a slight slope, and some of the options are very inexpensive. The benefit of these structures is that they can be retracted when not in use, in case of strong wind or inclement weather, or simply to keep them clean. Most retraction awnings need to be mounted to a wall only, but some also come with legs for extra structural integrity. Personally, I am not a big fan of patio covers that are installed as cantilevers (attached on one side only), and they don’t feel super secure. But many people really love them, because you can always retract them back to the house wall like they were never there. While most awnings are DIY-friendly, you can also opt for installation for extra expense.
Manual awnings are recognizable by the presence of a handle of some sort (see images above), which can be rotated to retract the awning.
Motorized awnings (images above and below), on the other hand, operate with the push of a button. While a definite upgrade from the manual designs, they are still pretty cheap, especially if you install them yourself.
In today’s market, you can select your awning from a whole range of colors and sizes. They are perfect for a covered outdoor seating area, especially if you’d still like to have the option to bathe in the sunshine or provide shade and rain protection as required.
7. Freestanding Awning – Detached
Image credit: SunSetter
If you’re not quite ready for the commitment of a wall-mounted awning, you’re in luck. These freestanding awnings are the perfect solution for detached patio cover ideas that don’t carry the bulkiness of gazebo or pergola structures. Furthermore, they’re available in both motorized and manual options. This is a great and budget-friendly cover solution that we only recently discovered ourselves. Requiring no installation (only assembly), freestanding awnings effectively provide shade and rain protection. Unlike outdoor umbrellas, which can be flimsy and unwieldy, a freestanding awning is secure, attractive, and suitable for multiple outdoor spaces, whether deck, garden, or poolside.
If your house has ranch-style architecture with a low roof, the only feasible way to attach an awning would be to install it on the roof itself. However, most people are reluctant to make alterations to their roofs for this purpose. So then, investing in freestanding awnings can prove to be beneficial, particularly if you have plans to move them around. These standalone awnings offer greater coverage compared to cantilever awnings as well.
Let’s briefly discuss assembly, which is simple but definitely more manageable with a second set of hands. You will need sufficient space to set up your awning. Also, the structure is relatively high, so you may need a stepladder and assistance installing the cover. For extra security, if you’re planning to keep your awning in one spot, you can add additional braces and bolt it down to your patio or a deck.
Image credit: SunSetter
8. Arbor Bench
For small and simple patio roof ideas, go with arbor benches. I love these outdoor structures, and they are perfect for a DIY project. Yes, they range in size and design complexity but you can always pick an easy design and even add your own features. We’ve written about garden arbor bench ideas extensively. Stylish and serene, your project can be done on a small budget, depending on the materials you choose to use. The main benefit of these options is that you can tailor your bench to your personal aesthetic, creating a small standalone patio seating area or adding to a larger space, like a deck.
ON A BUDGET IDEAS
Not the cheapest, but still quite affordable.
9. Sloped Hard Roof Patio Covers
Sloped hard roof covers, or sloped patio awnings (as they’re often named), differ from retractable awnings in that they are fixed, immovable structures. That aside, they are similar in how they look. Usually made from polycarbonate panels or corrugated aluminum, the roof part of these awnings is solid, providing excellent rain and sun protection.
Like other awnings, they are sloped and installed in a cantilever style, with one side of the cover attached to the house and the other resting on support posts. Some varieties are detached and designed to rest on four posts but tend to be more expensive and may require professional installation (depending on their size and building materials).
While polycarbonate is mostly see-through, you can get a shade cover to add on top or choose a solid-colored material instead. Either way, these types of patio covers are virtually unbreakable, making them perfect for an all-weather patio cover.
10. Budget Pergolas
Wooden pergolas are the types of patio covers I am most interested in, as they can be DIY-ed from a kit or from scratch. They can be called Pavilions or Gazebos. But don’t let the names confuse you. To keep it simple, any shade-creating structure that is supported by at least 2 posts and has some type of roof is a pergola to me. Such structures can be made from wood, aluminum, or vinyl. There are some quite affordable kits now such as Toja Grid brand.
Please note: If your primary goal is to create shade over an area of your patio or deck, then we’ve covered this topic in detail in our covered pergola ideas guide.
That said, let’s summarize some ideas briefly. Constructing a pergola from scratch is a popular solution for a patio cover that will appeal to DIY enthusiasts. You can opt for a freestanding design or a lean-to pergola – the latter which is attached to your home or supporting walls.
There are many of options when it comes to constructing the roof area of your pergola, too. You can have a solid roof to protect from rain or snow, or you can simply go with shade-creating rafters, a retractable canopy, or even a louvered roof. Solid roofs are super budget-friendly if you use plastic panels or see-through sheeting. For those looking for something a little more high-end, you can invest in a metal roof, which is longer-lasting and more durable. Of course, there are pros and cons to both. Metal tends to heat up quickly, while plastic tends to discolor or crack in extreme temperatures. In either case, pergolas can have multiple roof styles and be designed with a modern edge or toward a more classic aesthetic.
Here’s an example of a modern louvered pergola roof – isn’t it gorgeous?
This classic metal pergola is available from Costco (see image above) for an incredibly low price. It consists of a rust-proof aluminum frame and a galvanized steel roof and cupola. To add privacy and to prevent bugs from coming in, install mosquito netting.
11. Inexpensive Gazebos
Gazebos come in various designs and offer a range of features, and they can also be constructed from a kit. Think of them as pergolas with roofs and partial walls. The concept of gazebos has undergone significant transformations in the past decade. Previously, we associated them with classic wooden hexagonal shapes, featuring one open side as an entrance and solid shingles or metal roofs. However, things have changed. Nowadays, any structure with a solid roof is referred to as a gazebo, and it can be rectangular, square, or of other shapes. The roof is often made of plastic, while the frame is constructed from metal. Gazebos now come in both open and enclosed designs. These new modern designs are much more affordable and accessible.
For the above open gazebo, the assembly should be easy and straightforward. On average, it shouldn’t take more than two days to assemble, and you can benefit from having some assistance. By following all directions, you should have no problem knowing where to place your felt tape and bolts on each panel. Though the roof panels allow some sunlight to filter through, it is a great fit and quite sturdy. You can add netting to deter mosquitos or a set of curtains for additional privacy.
Another favorite is the hot tub gazebo, which is an absolutely gorgeous combination of classic elegance and modern design made from wood and aluminum. Though not as easy to assemble as the previous example, it’s suitable for DIY enthusiasts who don’t mind a bit of manual labor. Or you can hire some help to put it together. On that note, you’ll need to use your power tools and keep your head switched on when navigating the instructions. To make it easier, there could be a great YouTube video online that takes you through the instructions step-by-step. The best thing about this gazebo is the excellent quality cedar wood it’s made from. You’ll end up with an ultra-professional patio cover for an affordable cost.
If you’re looking for the quintessential entertainment space, it doesn’t get better than this. Durable and dependable, this bar gazebo has convenient wooden bar shelving for holding your refreshments and is topped off with a rust-resistant aluminum cover for protection from the weather. Assembly is simple, and all instructions are provided. Once installed, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy this space for many years to come.
MID-RANGE PRICED IDEAS
12. Small Glass Greenhouse
If you have a little more money to spend on your cover design ideas, it may be worthwhile to consider a small glass greenhouse. They are great for She sheds. I mean, just look at the image above. We liked the idea so much that we dedicated an entire article to Greenhouse She Sheds. This beautiful example has high ceilings and a sturdy frame and is almost 3 x 3 meters (1o’ x 10′) in width and breadth. It’s ideal for a protected seating area or even for growing herbs and veggies (or both). At between $5,000 and $8,000, a greenhouse is definitely an investment, but it adds value to your property and a space to entertain, irrespective of the weather.
13. Fully Enclosed Gazebo
A fully enclosed gazebo (or solarium) is one of those patio cover design ideas that remain functional throughout the year, ultimately serving as another room for your house. It’s also a great option for privacy. While this may be on the more expensive side, it’s large and highly durable, as it is made of extruded aluminum with reinforced polycarbonate panels for windows and roofing. The clever design also includes wind-resistant paneling so you can escape and enjoy your garden without worrying about the walls coming down. The sliding doors can be left open or closed, and the tinted panels ensure that it doesn’t get too warm inside, even when the weather is at its sunniest.
14. Garden Dome Hypedome
The Hypedome has to be one of the most extraordinary covered backyard patio ideas we’ve seen in the last few years. And don’t be fooled by its fragile looks; it’s extremely tough and can withstand the elements, whether sun, rain, or snow. Available in three different sizes, it sells for around $10000, which may seem steep but is well worth it considering its versatility. Use your Hypedome as an outdoor entertainment area or relaxation hub or simply as an extension of your home. Assembly is simpler than it looks, but if you don’t believe me, have a look at this video and find out more about how you can put together your new, super modern patio cover.
15. Roof Extensions
If you’re building a new house or remodeling, a fixed patio roof extension is an excellent option for a patio rain cover that will blend seamlessly with your existing architecture. Whether you’re extending a ranch roof or the second floor of a two-story house, you can simply mortgage your existing patio expenses by adding to your roof cost. For ranch-style homes, extending your house’s roof is a logical and affordable way to save on adding detached patio covers later. In areas where the weather is more unpredictable, like in Florida and Hawaii, you can invest in a screened-in roof extension, also called a lanai, which is essentially an extension of an existing living space created by elongating your roof.
16. Screened-in Patios or Pool Cages
Made with aluminum frames and fiberglass panels, or alternatively with metal mesh screens, pool cages are perfect for protecting your living space from the elements and from creepy crawlies that want to blow in on the breeze. Mainly seen in Florida, these structures can range in tens of thousands of dollars and will need to be professionally installed by specialists in the field. Even so, they are extremely good-looking and functional, serving as an extra living space and, by default, extending your home’s size.
17. Glass Sunrooms
Who doesn’t love a sunroom? This is one of my favorite attached patio cover ideas, although sunrooms usually need to be considered right off the bat when building your home – given the permanent nature of their structures. Traditionally, sunrooms consist of wood or aluminum frames and glass panels. They are resistant to the weather and can have French doors or sliding doors to allow foot traffic to enter and exit your garden.
The glass roof panels allow for a clear view of the sky, whether day or night. A peaked or gabled ceiling is the way to go. Adding a sunroom to your home after the fact can be costly. However, the benefits are that it adds value to your property while allowing you to enjoy the outdoors in a controlled environment. And if your space is large enough, you can turn it into a multipurpose room for entertaining. South-facing sunrooms are your best bet when it comes to enjoying the weather all year long.
Solariums are much like sunrooms in that they consist of an aluminum or steel frame filled in with glass panels. These structures are excellent outdoor covers offering shade and rain protection, that even come with their own gutters. But the main advantage is that they can be added later after the home construction is completed.
The example above is a brilliant add-on to an existing house. It fully encloses a small outdoor patio, making it the perfect area for hosting guests, growing plants, or both. The expense with a project like this is that you’ll need to have your solarium professionally installed, particularly regarding the structural integrity of the glass panels. From a design perspective, you can view this style as almost like an extension of an awning, except instead of resting on legs, it’s resting on gorgeous glass walls.
19. Glass Terrace or Living-room Conservatory
Image credit: Weinor
Adding a conservatory or glassed-in terrace to your home is the perfect way to transition between the indoors and the outdoors without having to face the elements. Though many scholarly debates will insist that the differences between sunrooms, solariums, and conservatories lie in their purpose, I firmly believe that all three work perfectly well as living areas. Ultimately, they all serve to cover what would otherwise remain an exposed patio area.
The above example, a combination of all three, is almost entirely comprised of glass for maximum sunlight intake. But tt also has a louvered roof. A conservatory can be insulated or uninsulated, depending on your preference. For summer, opt for tinted glass and a shaded ceiling for glare protection. You can even include small heaters to keep you warm during the year’s cooler months.
20. Large Glass Greenhouse
If you have space to play with and can’t resist a bit of greenery, consider investing in a large greenhouse that doubles up as an entertainment area. This design is so cozy that it’s hard to resist, right down to the wooden patio deck. Unlike a standard sunroom, which has large windows, or a solarium, which is entirely composed of glass, this greenhouse has sloped “window-frame” panels that draw in sunlight without becoming overwhelming. The ceiling rafters offer a traditional aesthetic, while built-in planter boxes bring the outdoors inside.
The traditional pavilion is the last on our list and definitely one of your pricier options. Unlike pergolas, which usually have no roof, or gazebos, which have both a roof and side walls, a pavilion sports a substantial roof but no walls. The roof shingles themselves may be constructed of wood or metal and capped with tiles or slate. As a patio cover, this gorgeous option will undoubtedly add value to your property. The example above falls into the $45000 range, but there is no denying its architectural beauty or functionality as a patio shading.
How to Select the Right Cover for Your Patio: ask yourself these 4 questions
1. How much of a patio area you’d like to cover? Different solutions are good for different size outdoor areas.
2. What are you trying to cover your patio for or from? Do you just need shade or do you also need protection from the rain and snow? Or do you need protection from mosquitos and falling leaves? Or do you need all of the above? Based on your answers, you would decide the type of outdoor structure to go with.
3. What does ‘covered’ actually mean to you? Is this just about the roof? Or do you prefer to have sides enclosed too, meaning the roof plus walls?
4. Can you do it on a budget? Can you DIY it? There are cheap inexpensive ideas and there are more elaborate patio cover ideas that may still be done on a budget but require some building and planning.