How to Build a Rainbow Shade Structure

Difficulty: Very Complex  |  Estimated time: 6 hours  |  Help needed: 10 volunteers

Shade is a very important topic for many communities when it comes to their children. The structure not only provides a bit of relief from the sun but also adds to the aesthetic quality of the overall playspace. The more inviting a gathering area is, the more likely community members will begin to treat it like the “town square” it should be.

A rainbow shade structure provides a colorful place to keep cool on a hot, sunny day!

Download Instructions

Materials and tools

Quantity: Materials:
6 6x6x10' board
4 6x6x12' boards
12 2x6x8' boards
8 2x6x12' boards
24 24"x48" Plexiglass
18 80lb. bag of concrete
16 1/2x10" Galvanized Carriage Bolts
16 1/2" Galvanized Nuts
16 1/2" Galvanized Washers
10 2 1/2" Deck Screws (lbs)
24 H2.5A Simpson Rafter Ties
8 Skewable Angled Braces (LS30-R)
15 1 1/2" Simpson N8 Nails
20 Roofing Screws (lbs)
Tools needed:
Marking Paint
[2] Levels
[2] Measuring Tape
String Line
Speed Square
[5] 2 1/2" Deck Screws
Sawsall or Hand Saw
[2] Safety Goggles
[2] Carpenter's Pencil
[2] Hammer
[2] 1/2" Long Droll Bit
[2] Screw Driver Bit
[2] 3/4" Socket w/ Ratchet
[2] 3/4" Open Ended Wrench

Preparation instructions

  1. Sort all materials into piles by like items to ensure you have materials needed to complete project.

  2. Take the [2] 6x6x12' boards. Cut each into [4] 36" pieces, for a total of [8] 6x6x36" pieces.

  3. Do NOT cut the following:

    • [6] 6x6x12' boards

    • [12] 2x6x8' boards

    • [24] 24"x48" Roof Panels
  4. Angled Cuts:
    **Please note: For all of the following instruction, the lumber is to be cut from the wood that you just measured and cut**

    • Take the [8] 2x6x12', set the miter saw to 10 degress and cut the angle as shown. Be sure to mark which end of the 2x6x12 has the angle cut because it can be difficult to identify since the angle is so slight.

    • Take the [8] 6x6x36" and cut into 45 degree trapezoids.

  5. To build the large shade structure you will need to set the six posts prior to Build Day. You'll use six 6x6x10s as the posts. Each post will be buried 2 feet in the ground with concrete. The footprint of the shade structure is 6'x 18'.

  6. LAYOUT. 6ft x 18t rectangle (there will also be posts at 9ft on the two long sidest). See picture below for measurements. Measurements are taken from the CENTER of each post.

  7. HOLES. Holes need to be 24" deep with about an 18" diameter. It is best to have the bobcat dig these hole susing the 18" auger.

  8. LEVEL & PLUMB. Your posts need to be level both side to side and front to back. They also need to be in a straight line with proper alinement, (see photo below) a stringline can be helpful for this.

  9. You will use about 3 bags of concrete per hole. Be sure to clean out the wheelbarrow and tools used for concrete, then your post setup is complete!

  10. After the concrete has had a chance to set, you'll attach the headers. The headers are 2x6x12s that were with a 10° angle, this angle is very slight and can be difficult to see (there should be a total of 8). The headers will sandwich the 6x6 posts with the angled cut meeting on the center posts and slanting downward towards the outside posts on both ends. You'll attach the headers to the posts using 2 1/2 in deck screws.

    NOTE: The tops of the center posts must be at the same height so that the roof is level.

  11. Start at the lower center post and attach the header (see image) using the 2 1/2 deck screws.

  12. Make sure the top of the angled 2x6x12 is at the center of the center post. Use a speed square to ensure that it sits at a 90 degree angle on the center post and slopes downward toward the outside post.

  13. Next, you'll attach a second 2x6x8 angled header next to the one you just installed.

  14. Now you'll take a string line and run it from the top of the headers you just installed across the other center posts. Ensure the string line is level, then mark where level is on the second center post.

  15. Return to the center post where you installed the first 2x6x12 angled headers and install 2 more headers on the other side using the 2 1/2 deck screws. As you are installing the headers, be sure to check to see that the headers on the same side are level (this will ensure the roof is level).

  16. Now you will attach the headers to the remaining posts following the same steps. Be sure that the tops of the angled headers are on the level line you made using the stringline. Don't forget to check that the 2 headers sandwiching the posts are level (just like you did in the previous step).

  17. Finally, cut the tops of the posts (above the installed headers) off. A sawsall will be the easiest way to do this.

Build instructions

  1. Before building, inventory and sort all of your lumber and other materials.

    Quantity: Inventory:
    8 6x6x36" trapezoids
    8 2x6x12' with a 10° angle
    6 6x6x10' boards
    12 2x6x8' boards
    24 24"x48" Roof Panels
  2. Take a minute to orient yourself with the posts and headers. They are set in a 14x14 ft square with the headers attached with 2 1/2 deck screws.

  3. Your first step will be to secure these headers by drilling 1/2 holes through the 2x6 header, the 6x6 post and the other 2x6 header. Use the corded drill and long drill bit provided.

  4. Then put the 1/2x 10" carriage bolt through this hole and attach with the 1/2 washer and 1/2 nut. You will repeat this process for every 6x6 post. Total of 8 times (once per post and twice on the center post through both 2x6x12 boards).

  5. Next you'll attach the 6x6x36" trapezoid braces . You'll sandwich these braces through the 2x6 headers so that it sits flush against the 6x6 post. Attach the 6x6 trapezoid to the post using the tie plates provided and the N8 nails. You'll secure the trapezoid brace to the headers by holding it in place with 2 1/2 in deck screws then repeating steps 3 & 4 for every brace (1/2 hole followed by a 1/2x 10" carriage bolt, washer and nut). There are a total of 8 braces.

  6. Now you'll attach the twelve 2x6x8 rafters onto the headers. There will be a total of 6 per side (see picture below). The best way to do this is first by making a mark at 48" from the top of the angled and then a second mark at 96" Attach the first rafter so it is flush with the outside edge of the angled rafter. Then attach two rafters on both sides of the 48"mark and the 96" marks. Finally attach one rafter flush with the outside edge of the 2x6x12.

  7. Now you will attach the plexiglass panels to the rafters. There are a total of 24 panels . The end of the panel should be flush with the 2x6x8 outside rafter (see picture below). Before you screw any down layout the panels on the rafters to ensure you will evenly cover the roof and that the panels are square with the structure. PILOT the holes using an 1/8 drill bit, this will prevent the plexiglass from splitting.

    NOTE: There will be a slight gap at the peak of the roof.

  8. Congratulations, you're done! Thanks for all your hard work!