Ask the Expert

Outdoor shade structures

Q: Before the summer sun starts beating down, we'd like to consider extending our usable outdoor space with a shade structure. What are some stylish options that would work well year-round in Alaska?

Although actual sun protection isn’t typically necessary and therefore not frequently requested in most parts of Alaska, weather protection from rain and wind often is. The traditional look of sun protection, such as pergolas and privacy walls, can accomplish this function nicely. We recently finished a swinging porch-bed project where the client had a custom-made bed that they wanted to use outdoors, even in the wind and rain. We framed the bed on a hinged pergola that allows the bed to swing freely, and we finished it with a cedar pergola and a polycarbonate roof. Because the home is in a high-wind area, we created a tall glass railing around the perimeter of that section of the deck. This custom-designed space extends the homeowner’s footprint and allows the porch-bed to be used year-round in Alaska.

A few years ago, we also created a stage with a covered area for the Anchorage Market and Festival. The covering is trellis-styled which also has a discreet weather barrier to allow the stage to be used by dancers and musicians on Saturdays and Sundays that might be rainy and otherwise unusable. This design has been a popular request by our Alaskan customers who want the look and feel of an open trellis but the weather-proofing a more enclosed space provides.

One very savvy design is for the barbecue grill area off a kitchen deck to be covered. Because permitting for entire roof structures can be burdensome and sometimes not obtainable, smaller areas that protect the grill area only are a great alternative. This also allows the grill to be used during our colder and snowier winter months.

Probably the most popular roof protection is the deck above it. The upper deck, when properly sealed with under-deck roofing, makes a rain and snow barrier giving maximum protection to the deck below. Although many homes don’t allow for this design, when possible, it is ideal for year-round weather protection.

Jeannine Jabaay is a fourth generation Alaskan and the president and CEO of Treeline Construction, which has been a deck and remodeling company in Alaska since 1999. Treeline is an award-winning contractor recognized nationally and locally as a leader in the deck construction industry. Visit