The Difference Between Shade Structures, Covered Patios & Enclosed Patios

Having a patio is always a welcome addition to a home. A patio makes it easy for you to engage in a variety of outdoor activities from barbecuing to reading. However, when less than perfect weather arrives, having protection against the sun, rain, or cold winds with a patio cover or enclosure helps you enjoy your outdoor space when normally it would be less than convenient to do so. There are several different options you can consider when adding to your patio to help you battle the elements and and also offer you a degree of privacy. We will go over a number of enhancements, types and materials below to help you choose the right pato additions for you.

Shade Structure, Covered, Open, Enclosed

Shade Structure

Shade structures offer you some protection from the sun without totally blocking it out. Besides sun protection, you are still exposed to temperature, wind and rain. This is a benefit when the weather is beautiful outside and you want maximum exposure to the outdoors. If you want to enjoy your patio when it is rainy or cold, this may not be your best option. Popular types of shade structures include lattice and pergolas.

Covered Patio

A covered patio is the next level of protection. This gives you total areas of shade in your patio. A cover also offers some level of protection from the rain. A covered patio will not offer you much protection from wind or cold weather. A cover is great if rain and sun are your main concerns. Since you will not have access to the natural sunlight that a shade structure offers you, additional lighting is a good ideal when installing a covered patio.

Enclosed Patio

An enclosed patio offers you the most protection from the elements. This is pretty much like having an additional room in your house. You can use your patio without concern for sun, wind or rain. An enclosed patio retains heat unlike a shade structure or patio with only a cover . A popular type of enclosed patio is a sunroom which is an enclosed patio that has 60% or more windows. You can still have a great view of the outdoor area in a sunroom.

Frame Materials


Wood is the classic material for a patio frame. Wood is durable. Wood is also considered to be very beautiful. Wood can be considered environmentally friendly if it has been harvested in a sustainable matter. One fall back of wood is it takes periodic maintenance in order to keep it in good shape.


Aluminum is durable and lightweight. Aluminum resists the elements and is therefore a low maintenance option for a frame. Aluminum is fully recyclable which makes it environmentally friendly. Aluminum is often made to have the look of wood.

Cover Materials


The same pros and cons of wood for the frame apply to the cover as well.


The same pros and cons of aluminum for the frame apply to the cover as well.


Viny is another durable, low maintenance material that can be used for a patio cover. Though it is durable, it does not hold its appearance as well as wood and aluminum. It doesn’t have the appearance of quality that wood and aluminum have as well if that is a priority.


Cloth is another option for a cover but is not a good consideration for anything meant to be permanent. Cloth will fade easily and will not last nearly as long as the other aforementioned materials

Choose the patio solution that is right for you

Choosing the type of patio and materials comes down to what is right for your particular situation. Some homeowners choose to have an open patio and deal with the elements as they come along. Now that you are educated with some of the more popular options, you can also choose the patio that is right for your home.