Shade sails offer a great business opportunity for fabricators, but it’s important to keep some key “dos and don’ts” in mind.
That was the message from Shazeebo owner and founder Patrick Howe during his presentation “Shade Sails Dos and Don’ts—A Deep Dive,” presented at the IFAI Expo in Nashville.
There are several considerations for those that are looking to expand their shade sail business, Howe said.
Avoid waterproof shade sails, unless you’ve mastered shade sails. There is often a compromise in the design that doesn’t allow enough slope for water to completely run off. Howe recommends going with an awning in that situation.
Be sure to study the environment to look for possible problems.
A steady diet of wind will cause mechanical breakdown of the shade cloth, vibrate the hardware excessively and reduce the lifespan of the product. If you see a windfarm in the area, for instance, that could be a warning sign of a potential problem.
Look for water issues, such as a low-lying area that floods on occasion or a golf course where the owners soak the ground to make the grass grow. Too much water will saturate the ground potentially causing the footing to fail, which lets the posts tip in, making the sail loose.
If a yard is full of large rocks, they probably didn’t have them delivered. Those rocks likely came from the property. Warn the property owner there may be an extra charge for a hard dig.
Take care when storing shade sails. If the installation is an areas where it snows, take them down in the fall and reinstall in the spring. Be sure to get sails out of the way when construction or painting is going on. Store sails in a rodent-proof container and make sure to mark them so they can be put back up in the same place.
Don’t forget to measure properly and look for potential obstacles.
“One of the most important times to pump the brakes, slow down and take your time is during the measurement process,” Howe said. “If you put junk in, you’re going to get junk out.”
Howe recommends investing in a laser designed with a 3D function. It’s quicker, more accurate and safer than using a tape measure, he said.
It’s easy to overlook obstacles that will rub on a sail if you don’t account for them. Always check the straight line between attachment points for anything that is in the way, such as a roof corner, chimney or street sign.
Howe also offered some tips for the sales process. Focus on the big picture, not just the details of the installation.
“Paint a picture of life without shade rather than just the nuts and bolts,” he said. “Most people didn’t grow up with them and don’t know what the experience will be like. Everyone knows how an awning works or how a pergola feels but will have questions about a shade sail.”