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10 Ways to Keep Your Deck Cool This Summer

June 19th, 2024 | 7 min read

By Aaron King

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Keeping your deck cool during the summer can feel like a challenge - especially during those Michigan summers we all know and love.

Each deck's unique design and exposure to the elements requires thoughtful planning. Do you have an open deck that basks in full sun or a partially shaded one? Are you ready to build a new deck but don’t know how to design it with the sun in mind? 

These distinct deck types require specific cooling solutions to remain comfortable seasonally. Over the past 15 years, we’ve worked with many homeowners to create enjoyable outdoor spaces.

In this article, we explore 10 common outdoor living space ideas to keep your deck cool this summer:

  1. Install a Pergola
  2. Use Outdoor Umbrellas
  3. Integrate Shade Sails
  4. Add a Misting System
  5. Use Outdoor Fans
  6. Choose Cool Decking Materials
  7. Plant Shade Trees
  8. Install a Roof or Awning
  9. Use Outdoor Rugs and Carpets
  10. Build a Water Feature

1. Install a Pergola

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A pergola provides partial shade and adds an elegant touch to your deck. By reducing direct sunlight, this structure can make your deck a comfortable outdoor area.

Here are a few common pergola options you can install for your outdoor living space:

Traditional Wood Pergola

  • Classic Look: Wood pergolas add a timeless and elegant look to any outdoor space.
  • Easy to Customize: They can be easily adjusted in size, shape, and color to match your outdoor decor.
  • Needs Regular Care: To keep it in good shape, you'll need to seal, stain, or paint it regularly to protect against rot and weather damage.

Modern Metal Pergola

  • Sleek Design: They offer a modern, clean look that fits well with contemporary outdoor spaces.
  • Low Maintenance: These pergolas require little upkeep, usually just occasional cleaning to keep them looking good.
  • Strong and Long-Lasting: Metal pergolas, made from aluminum or steel, are very durable and can withstand tough weather conditions.

Rustic Cedar Pergola

  • Eco-Friendly: Cedar is sustainable and biodegradable, making it a green choice for your pergola.
  • Naturally Resistant: Cedar wood naturally resists rot, decay, and insects, making it great for outdoor use.
  • Pleasant Smell and Look: Cedar has a nice smell and a warm color that ages to a beautiful silvery gray, adding rustic charm.

Vinyl Pergola

  • Weather-Proof: Vinyl pergolas resist sun, rain, and humidity, staying in good condition for a long time.
  • Very Low Maintenance: They don't need painting or sealing—just occasional cleaning with soap and water.
  • Affordable and Versatile: Vinyl pergolas come in many styles and colors, and they are usually more affordable than wood or metal options.

2. Use Outdoor Umbrellas

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Outdoor umbrellas are a versatile and easy solution for providing shade. They can be adjusted to block the sun at different times of the day and are a cost-effective way to keep your deck cooler.

  • Cantilever Umbrellas: These offer flexible shading without a middle pole, creating more space below.
  • Double-Sided Umbrellas: For larger areas, consider double-sided umbrellas to provide extensive coverage.
  • Variety of Styles: Umbrellas come in different sizes, colors, and styles to match your deck's look and provide shade.
  • UV Protection: Choose umbrellas with UV-resistant fabric to offer better protection from harmful rays and keep the shaded area cooler.
  • Portable and Adjustable: Umbrellas can be moved and adjusted to provide shade exactly where you need it. This makes them ideal for following the sun throughout the day.

3. Integrate Shade Sails

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PC: Better Homes & Gardens

Shade sails are a stylish and effective way to block out the sun. These flexible fabric structures can be installed in various configurations to suit the layout and design of your deck.

Let’s take a look at a few strategies and pros to incorporate shade sails into your patio or deck:

  • Color Options: Choose lighter colors to reflect sunlight and keep the area cooler.
  • Layering: Install several shade sails at different angles for maximum coverage and a dynamic look.
  • Easy Installation: Shade sails can be easily installed using existing structures. This makes them a flexible and practical option.
  • Customizable: Shade sails come in various shapes and sizes, allowing you to customize the coverage area to suit your deck’s layout.
  • Durable Materials: Shade sails are made from durable, weather-resistant fabrics, designed to withstand the elements while providing excellent sun protection.

4. Add a Misting System

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Misting systems can reduce the temperature on your deck. They release a fine mist of water that evaporates, cooling the surrounding air. While not typically the first choice for many homeowners, there are a few strategic reasons for opting for a misting system. If you have a lot of vegetation or planters on your deck, the added moisture can benefit your plants, keeping them hydrated and healthy in the heat.

Additionally, misting systems can create a more comfortable and enjoyable outdoor environment during hot summer days, allowing you and your guests to spend more time outside without feeling overheated. These systems are especially useful in arid climates where the air is dry, as the mist can also increase humidity slightly, making the air feel more refreshing.

Here are some popular mister options for your space:

  • Portable Misters: Use portable misting fans for flexible cooling options that can be moved around the deck.
  • Energy Efficient: These systems use minimal water and energy, making them an environmentally friendly cooling option.
  • Timer Systems: Install misting systems with timers to control when and how long the mist is released, optimizing water usage.
  • Installation Options: Available in various styles, from portable units to permanent installations, misting systems can be tailored to fit your deck's design.

5. Use Outdoor Fans

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If you already have an overhead structure, outdoor fans are a great solution to improve air circulation and provide a cooling breeze. Fans can be installed in various locations on your deck, such as your dining area, to create a comfortable environment, even on the hottest days.

Here are some common outdoor fan options to infuse your deck or patio with breezy relaxation:

  • Oscillating Fans: Choose oscillating fans to cover a larger area and keep the air moving across the deck.
  • Ceiling Fans: Install ceiling fans on covered decks or pergolas to create a consistent and gentle breeze.
  • Solar-Powered Fans: Opt for solar-powered fans to reduce energy consumption and enhance eco-friendliness.
  • Portable Fans: Use portable outdoor fans that can be moved around as needed to target specific areas on your deck.
  • Misting Fans: Consider misting fans that combine air movement with a refreshing mist for an added cooling effect.

6. Choose Cool Decking Materials

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Selecting the right decking materials can make a significant difference in the temperature of your deck. Materials that reflect heat rather than absorb it can keep your deck surface significantly cooler, enhancing comfort and usability during hot weather. 

The choice of decking material impacts how much heat is absorbed and retained, directly affecting the surface temperature.

Here are a few cool decking options you can install to keep your space comfortable:

  • Light-Colored Materials: Lighter colors reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat, helping to keep the deck surface cooler.
  • Heat-Resistant Coatings: Apply heat-resistant coatings or treatments to your deck to reduce heat absorption and improve comfort.
  • Trex Transcend Lineage That Deflects UV Rays: Install this premium composite decking option, which features a UV-ray-reflecting outer shell.
  • Bamboo Decking: Bamboo is a sustainable and eco-friendly decking material that tends to stay cooler than traditional hardwoods. Its natural properties and light color help reflect heat, making it a comfortable option for hot weather.

7. Plant Shade Trees

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Natural shade from trees can make your deck much cooler and more enjoyable. You can create a pleasant and shaded environment by carefully planting trees around your deck.

Imagine relaxing under the natural canopy, enjoying the cool breeze and dappled sunlight filtering through the leaves. This enhances your outdoor experience and adds beauty and tranquility to your space.

Let’s take a look at strategies and foliage options to spruce up/cool down your deck:

  • Evergreen Trees: Plant evergreen trees for year-round shade and privacy.
  • Tree Placement: Position trees to provide optimal shade without obstructing views or pathways.
  • Fast-Growing Varieties: Consider fast-growing tree species to establish shade and cooling benefits.
  • Deciduous Trees: Choose deciduous trees that provide shade in the summer and allow sunlight through in the winter.
  • Strategic Planting: Plant shade trees on your deck's southern and western sides to block the harshest sunlight during peak hours.

8. Install a Roof or Awning

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A roof or awning provides permanent shade and protection. This solution keeps your deck cool and allows you to use the space in various weather conditions.

It’s important to note that a roof is a permanent shade solution, whereas an awning can be opened and closed whenever you need sun protection.

Here are a few roofing and awning options to consider for your outdoor living space:

  • Pergola with Roof: Combine a pergola with a roof for a stylish and functional outdoor space.
  • Insulated Roofs: Insulated roof panels can provide extra cooling by reducing heat transfer from the sun.
  • Fixed Roofs: A fixed roof offers complete coverage and can be designed to complement your home’s architecture.
  • Glass or Polycarbonate Roofs: Use materials like glass or polycarbonate for a modern look that provides UV protection.
  • Retractable Awnings: For flexibility, install retractable awnings that can be extended or retracted based on your needs.

9. Use Outdoor Rugs and Carpets

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PC: The Home Depot

Outdoor rugs and carpets can help keep the deck surface cooler. They add a layer of insulation between your feet and the hot deck surface.

Let’s explore some common rug and carpet options, as well as tips for choosing your deck surface cover:

  • Outdoor Mats: Place outdoor mats at entry points to reduce heat transfer and enhance comfort.
  • Large Area Coverage: Large rugs cover significant portions of the deck, increasing the cooling effect.
  • Material Choice: Choose rugs made from heat-resistant and UV-protected materials to withstand outdoor conditions.
  • Comfort Underfoot: Rugs and carpets can provide a cooler surface to walk on, preventing the deck from becoming too hot.
  • Style and Color: Select light-colored and reflective rugs to enhance the cooling effect while adding a stylish touch to your deck.

10. Build a Water Feature

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PC: Houzz

Water features can naturally cool the surrounding air. The presence of water can make your deck feel like an oasis during the hot summer months.

Here are some trending water features to build for your deck:

  • Bird Baths: Simple and decorative, bird baths can add a cooling element and attract birds to your deck.
  • Mini Waterfalls: Install mini waterfalls for a continuous flow of water that cools the air and adds a refreshing sound.
  • Ponds: A small pond can have a significant cooling effect, especially when combined with aquatic plants that enhance evaporation.
  • Fountains: Install a fountain to create a soothing ambiance and a cooling mist. Fountains come in various styles and sizes to fit any deck design.
  • Water Walls: Water walls provide a modern and elegant cooling solution. The flowing water cools the air and adds a tranquil sound to your outdoor space.

Next Steps to Remodeling Your Deck for the Summer

Keeping your deck cool during the summer can be challenging, especially if your deck is exposed to the sun all day. Without proper cooling solutions, your outdoor space can become unbearable, preventing you from enjoying it this summer.

You can create a comfortable and inviting deck space by exploring and implementing the cooling strategies we've outlined—such as adding shade structures, using outdoor fans, and incorporating cooling decking materials. These methods will help to ensure your deck remains a pleasant retreat, even on the hottest summer days.

With 15+ years of experience helping homeowners enhance their outdoor living spaces, we understand the importance of making your deck enjoyable year-round. Our team has guided many clients through the design and remodeling of their decks, ensuring comfort and satisfaction.

Ready to transform your deck into a cool summer haven? Contact our team of design-build professionals to discuss your project. Let's create an outdoor space you'll love spending time in, no matter the temperature. 

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Now that you know more about ways to keep your deck cool this summer, let’s explore how much composite decks cost, the must-know construction terms for building your summer deck, and the projects that can increase the resale value of your home:

Aaron King

Aaron has been in the building industry his entire life. He worked in his family’s housing business growing up in Dewitt, MI, and for nearly 40 years, built homes in the Mid-Michigan area. He has also worked with the Greater Lansing Home Builder’s Association since he was 18 years old.