A cool soft drink on a hot summer day from the comfort of our own back yard has become as much family entertainment as going out used to be. Our homes are our sanctuaries, and making them comfortable, sumptuous and inviting is the new American pastime. Creating an outdoor room that invites living al fresco is a surefire means to enjoy family time together.

One simple makeover that can make a difference is providing a shaded oasis that will turn a concrete slab into a covered patio. Homeowners have a variety of choices when it comes to having a covered patio, starting with a permanent installation.

Hammer and nails

Installing a permanent pergola is a good option for the most handy. The Lowe’s home improvement chain offers complete materials, measurements, instructions and diagrams to build an 11’x14’ pergola, with one builder reporting the materials coming in at under $1400. Check out photos and illustrations at Lowes Created Ideas: Backyard Pergola.

Keep in mind, however, that this project is made of wood and canvas. Over time, weather and the elements can wreak havoc, even on treated materials. This video shows what happens to a decades-old patio cover that can no longer bear up and has to be rebuilt:

Playing for keeps

While still being a permanent addition, some homeowners will prefer to cover a patio with the help of installed awnings. These can range from a freestanding, tilting canopy on a frame to permanently attached retractable awnings. This is a project that can be done in a weekend, as seen in this video:

Depending on price range, these weatherproof awnings are opened and closed manually, by means of a hand crank, or automatically, with the touch of a button. At the highest end of installed awnings are those that retract themselves at dark and open themselves with morning light.

Both the wooden pergola and retractable awnings require a good deal of investment, both in know-how and financially. But there is also an option that is entirely temporary, not to mention mobile.

Umbrellas go upscale

The evolution of the patio table with a hole in the middle, with a wind-up umbrella popping out, is the newest way to cover a patio. Today’s backyard umbrellas are massive beasts, cantilevered and counterbalanced to lean to one side without becoming a sail in the wind. They are mounted with hand cranks to rotate throughout the day to follow and block the sun. And they offer shelter for a full dinner party because the stand is situated outside, leaving all the space inside free.

Depending on your needs, your budget and your building skills, the means to having a covered patio are within your grasp, from sturdy and permanent to adaptable or downright portable.

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