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Do Gazebos Protect You From The Sun?

There’s nothing more relaxing than lounging on a summer’s day under a gazebo – a gentle breeze keeping you cool as you read your latest book. Sounds idyllic – but are you leaving yourself open to skin damage from the sun?

Gazebos do offer limited protection from the sun, however, direct sunlight can still come in the sides of the structure – and this also means you won’t be protected against reflected light. Both fabric and hard top gazebos do offer UV protection though.

Let’s dive down into this subject to explore exactly how much sun protection gazebos provide, what types of gazebos are best in this context – and whether you can still get a tan under your gazebo. We’ll also consider ways of prolonging the life of your gazebo so it offers more sun protection for longer.

Gazebos Only Provide Limited Sun Protection

Gazebos do help protect you, your family, and your friends from the sun. But not enough.

A gazebo’s canopy does block damaging UV rays. But there are two problems. Firstly, we don’t sit directly under the roof or canopy – we sit several feet away from it. Unless the sun is high overhead, you may get some direct sunshine. Secondly, gazebo roofs or canopies can’t protect you from reflected light.

Sure, we all know we should sit in the shade to avoid a sunburn. But sometimes, even sitting in the shade – you get sunburned! That’s because the sun’s rays ricochet all over the place. While you might be sitting underneath your gazebo canopy – in its cool shade – UV rays can still tan or burn you.

A gazebo is defined as a covered outdoor structure that is open on all sides. Gazebos have been around since the 1800s. They grace parks or house music festivals. Gazebos can be permanent or portable.

Permanent gazebos (also called hard tops) have a foundation. The uprights are anchored deep in the ground or in cement. Most hard top gazebos have fixed and solid roofs. 

Permanent gazebos are built like your house and will last like your house. They withstand wind, rain, and snow. They are a long-term investment. Permanent gazebos can add value to your house and beauty to your garden.

Although you can design (or have an architect design) your own hard top gazebo, there are several kits on the market as well. Some are ideal for snowy climates.

Portable gazebos are fun and functional. There are two types of portable gazebos, the soft top, and the pop up. Portable gazebos have a fabric canopy. They are not designed as permanent structures. 

Soft tops are designed to be modular and lightweight. Soft tops look fun in your garden. Some have mosquito netting. You can add solar lights. You can move soft tops around (with help) in summer and put them away in winter. 

Most soft tops weigh between 100 to 500 pounds. Depending on your climate, you may need to add tie-downs for the legs in stiff winds. The fabric canopy won’t hold up to heavy snows, so you should store the canopy during the winter.

Grillzebos are a kind of soft top gazebo. They are designed to protect you and your grill. Some models have shelves for platters or for grill utensils. 

Pop up gazebos are another type of portable gazebo. Just like the name implies, they are super easy to put up and take down. You can use pop up gazebos in your backyard, at the beach or in the mountains. 

Pop up gazebos are perfect for solo adventurers. Pop up gazebos will go up in a couple of minutes – just before it starts raining. They store in a bag that you can sling into your car. They offer shelter from rain, bugs, and sun.

Portable gazebos have fabric canopies. Most fabric offers a good amount of sun protection. Many fabric canopy manufacturers quote UV protection rates of up to 98%.

Sounds great, right? The manufacturers aren’t exactly lying, but they are misleading. 

Gazebos, both permanent and portable, do provide UV ray protection. Because permanent gazebos have solid roofs, they protect more protection than portable gazebos. But neither will totally prevent burns or skin damage because of reflected (or indirect) sunlight.

The best advice to avoid sunburns outside is to diversify your sun blocking methods – use natural shade, man-made shade, clothing shade and sun blocking lotion.

Does a Fixed Hard Top Gazebo Protect You From The Sun?

Yes, the roof of a permanent gazebo helps protect you from the sun. Just not totally.

A fixed or hard top gazebo’s roof is built with traditional roofing materials, like asphalt or cedar shingles. Permanent, traditional gazebo roofs are styled to coordinate with your home. Many times, the gazebo shingles match the house shingles. Metal is another traditional roof material.

Modern, hard top gazebo roofs can be constructed with bamboo, reeds, wicker, molded composite, or polycarbonate panels. Gazebo designs often overlap with follies or pergolas. Traditionally, pergola roofs are not solid – they are slatted. A beautiful and practical gazebo/pergola design combines slats with colorful fabric strips woven between.

Custom gazebos can be whatever you envision in whatever style suits you. Here are some fabulous gazebo ideas

For UV protection, hard top gazebos do offer more protection than portable ones. Most gazebo roofs are solid and cast a good amount of shade, which is important. But even a solid roof overhead can’t protect you from reflected light.

The sun’s rays are reflected by anything shiny or light-colored. Look around your yard and consider what might reflect or scatter light: a water feature, a pool, light-colored cement, light-colored pebbles, windows, mirrors, white house paint, glossy deck paint, sand or snow. 

Most gazebos don’t have walls. But if you live in a sunny climate, consider adding a wall or curtain to help protect you from the most glaring sun of the day. 

Does a Pop Up Fabric Gazebo Offer Sun Protection?

Not completely – some UV rays can come through the fabric, and many more can get through the sides of the gazebo.

Pop up gazebos are designed to go up (and come down) fast. You can take them car camping or put them up for parties. Pop up gazebos are not good in the wind, snow, and heavy rains – they aren’t designed for that. They are designed to be handy, convenient, and pretty darn adorable.

Pop up gazebos have fabric canopies. Many fabrics do a great job of blocking harmful UV rays. Sitting under a fabric that is high on UV protection is a great start, but its not enough.

Gazebo sun protection

Can You Sunproof Gazebo Fabric (To Protect Me & Prolong its Life?)

Yes, there are a lot of UV protective applications for gazebo fabric. Applying a UV fabric protector will add UV protection, prevent your canopy from fading and prolong its life.

“Sunproof” fabrics are a myth. Even NASA can’t even design a fabric that will withstand the sun’s damage forever. UV rays cause fabric materials to break down and colors to fade. While some fabrics are more sun-resistant than others (like acrylic), they all need some help. 

Applying sun proofing is easy – you just spray or brush it on. Depending on your climate, you should apply sun proofing once every year or two. 

Put waterproofing and sun proofing your gazebo fabric on your Spring To-Do list.

Can I Get a Tan or Sunburn Under a Gazebo?

Yes! You don’t have to be in direct sun to tan. You can tan under a cloudy sky, on a cool day, underwater, under a tree, under an umbrella and yes – under a gazebo.

Tanning is the skin’s production of melanin. Even under some shade, you can burn or tan in as little as 10 minutes. For some people, melanin production is slower, and you won’t see a tan for a few hours. 

But while having a tan can be attractive – it can damage your skin. And it won’t be so attractive 20 years down the road. UV rays can damage the DNA in your skin cells. 

We don’t want to live in windowless basements all our lives, hiding from the sun. We need to be outdoors – we need sunshine for mental health. To protect yourself, enjoy being outside with plenty of shade and sunscreen.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, if you apply sunscreen and don’t let either direct sunlight or reflected sunlight hit your skin for too long – you should be protected under both fixed and pop up gazebos.

Both hard tops and fabric tops will protect against UV rays, and you can still top up your tan with short bursts of sunlight (both direct and reflected), that come in the sides of your gazebo.

So make yourself a cool drink, slap on some factor 50 – and get stuck into that new book you were reading. Your gazebo will do its best to protect you from the worst of the sun’s heat and UV light. 

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >