Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Ideas, advice, tips, and tricks regarding shelter, shade, tents, and camping. Yes, this includes RV's too.
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Molotov
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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by Molotov » Sat May 05, 2018 11:37 am

The DPW shade crew has been constructing shade structures for years at selected areas...(Ranger outposts, Earth Guardians, ESD medical stations, many others) They are simple in design and tough as nails, parts are interchangeable and can be reused annually, and are typically 20 X 20 but can be scaled upward. Not super stylish, but I have never seen one blown apart by the wind.

Drawback? They use a skid steer loader mounted auger to bore pretty deep holes into which the 4 x 4 uprights go. When they go through tear down and remove the posts, the holes are filled back in. I don't know how that would go over in a non-org operated camp.

If you could get permission for the post holes, cloning this proven design in your own camp might be a good idea.

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by didjeridude » Sun May 06, 2018 11:19 pm

Popeye wrote:I'll add, if you only have a few people build the frame on the ground and put the roof tarp on after the frame is installed on the uprights. If you tie a rope, centered, across the roof frame from upwind to the downwind ends of the frame you can bungy the upwind end first then unroll the roof tarp as you bungy the sides.
Last year we put up a 12x20 with two people, by following the instructions and putting the tarp on while on the ground. The girl on the upwind end was doing chin ups :shock: when the wind got under it. :D :D Had to cut about 10" off the conduit where it bent. That was a light breeze!
This is excellent advice. Can I clarify something though.... lets say you've got a 10x20 tarp, would it be worth to rig the upwind 10' side on the ground, then lift frame onto uprights and unfurl as described?
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Popeye
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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by Popeye » Mon May 07, 2018 1:13 am

You could and it would probably work ok, roll the tarp first. Might be awkward lifting the frame and tarp together.
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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by DoctorIknow » Mon May 07, 2018 6:06 pm

livinglovingsteph wrote:
Another question: what's the best ball bungee size to get? 6"? 9"?



That outfit in Oakland that makes the ever popular 12x20 shade structure includes 7" ball bungies with all it's kits.

I use the "Oakland company" supplied 12x20 roof tarp (the actual measurements are less) and side shade cloth I bought from two different vendors, and the 7" ball bungies work great.

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Molotov
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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by Molotov » Mon May 07, 2018 8:18 pm

Here is an excellent article on how DPW Shade crew does their work. Might be some ideas there folks can use. You Can't Hang With Shade

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by krly » Wed May 09, 2018 3:20 pm

If building a flat top (silver tarp) structure using 1" emt what is the longest "clear space" (no supporting pole) you can go ? I'm thinking of a 14'x14' and wondering if I can get by with only 4 corner posts (?).
Thanks..................Ken

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by motskyroonmatick » Fri May 11, 2018 9:40 am

EMT comes in 10 foot lengths. My square tubing shade 1/16th wall max unsupported length is 13 feet and is fragile and susceptible to bending at that length. I have sleeved EMT to get it to 15 feet successfully with a 5' sleeve made from fence rail the EMT slides in to.
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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by JohnnyA » Fri May 11, 2018 12:38 pm

krly wrote:I'm thinking of a 14'x14' and wondering if I can get by with only 4 corner posts (?).
If you *really* want 14' spans, then you might want to consider researching the use of 1 3/8" Fence Top Rail instead of 1" EMT.

You can get that in 20' lengths (as a special order) at one of the big box stores, and the canopy intersection parts are readily available, and aren't that much more expensive than the parts for the 1" EMT.

I've not done it myself ... but it's the path that I'm considering for building a shade over my little old trailer.

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by Popeye » Fri May 11, 2018 3:28 pm

Maybe a brace like this https://www.canopiesandtarps.com/fvbb20 ... gLPxvD_BwE would help with the span and with additional twisting and uplift forces with more roof area.
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Token
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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by Token » Fri May 11, 2018 9:56 pm

PSA:

Thin-wall conduit is not structural or load bearing.

Rigid conduit is limited-load bearing and has specs published. It does cost more and is heavier.

Schedule 40 metal pipe is load bearing and is even more expensive.

I use 1 1/4 “ (actual OD is 1.66”, 0.41” wall thickness) aluminum Sch40 pipe with Holleander speed-rail fitting. Way stronger than any conduit and even then I never go longer than 10’.

You get what you pay for with metal pipe / tube.

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by JohnnyA » Sat May 12, 2018 6:38 pm

Token wrote:Schedule 40 metal pipe is load bearing and is even more expensive.

I use 1 1/4 “ (actual OD is 1.66”, 0.41” wall thickness) aluminum Sch40 pipe with Holleander speed-rail fitting. Way stronger than any conduit and even then I never go longer than 10’.
Well that doesn't exactly sound like you're fully embracing the principle of "Safety Third"! :wink: :lol:


My camp's main shade is built using the same pipe and fittings, so I've seen how solid and impressive it is.

But It does seem like total overkill for hanging some personal aluminet, though.

Have there been a bunch of reports of the 1" EMT style structures failing because of the strong winds on the Playa?

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by DoctorIknow » Sat May 12, 2018 7:27 pm

krly wrote:If building a flat top (silver tarp) structure using 1" emt what is the longest "clear space" (no supporting pole) you can go ? I'm thinking of a 14'x14' and wondering if I can get by with only 4 corner posts (?).
Thanks..................Ken
I think the easy answer would be what is the most common, AND SUCCESSFUL ON THE PLAYA, for a type 1" conduit shade structure.

Why would anyone want to tempt fate and make a span greater than 10' in order to try to eliminate internal posts:
several-shade-structures.jpg
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motskyroonmatick
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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by motskyroonmatick » Sat May 12, 2018 9:17 pm

JohnnyA wrote:
Have there been a bunch of reports of the 1" EMT style structures failing because of the strong winds on the Playa?
I've heard of numerous instances and personally seen a few where 3/4" conduit structures have failed in high wind. Very little stories of 1" structures failing once assembled and tied down.

My circa 2009 1" square tubing shade that is made up of 10'x 13" roof rectangles was severely damaged during tear down when the people taking it down did so in wind high enough that one entire 20'x40' section was flipped over with legs still installed and roughly 1/3 of all the tubes were bent beyond use. It's important to have very little to no wind when raising or lowering with shade cloth attached.

The situation where I have extended 1" conduit out to 15' by using 5' sleeves is one done on one section of a shade that has the normal 10" square cells on either side of it. We were going for a more open space on the inside of the shade and it works well. I would not feel confident building a shade with 15' cells exclusively using the same sleeve method. I would want a much more stout material like mentioned in an above post. One big advantage of going with a larger material is that hammocks could be hung between the top fittings. I have not hung hammocks from any of my EMT shades. I feel the structural capability is just not there. I do allow hammocks to be hung from the center spine of my square tube shade frame where the 2 20'x40' frames meet up and are tied together.

Overall it seems that the 1" conduit structures are the go to on playa for flat shade. They definitely are for me and I like the commercially made fittings even though I am perfectly capable of making all the fittings like I did for my square tube shade frame. It's a proven system. There are appropriate reasons to do a frame based on more stout material and every builder should be realistic about what they are asking their frame to do and not ask it to do too much.
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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by Token » Sun May 13, 2018 8:41 am

JohnnyA wrote: Well that doesn't exactly sound like you're fully embracing the principle of "Safety Third"! :wink: :lol:


My camp's main shade is built using the same pipe and fittings, so I've seen how solid and impressive it is.

But It does seem like total overkill for hanging some personal aluminet, though.
S3 is reserved for truly dangerous shenanigans. ;)

It becomes less overkill when one can simply put it up without having to spend all the extra time and effort “securely strapping the thing down”, duct-taping legs to rebar/t-posts, then maintaining straps and ropes for days on end.

It is also handy when you use real NATO camo-netting, which is rather heavy but also a fantastic stressed member in the design.

No straps, ropes, lines when you simply use the shade material (camo net) to the ground attachment.

Set and forget design with minimal work.

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by JohnnyA » Tue May 15, 2018 1:27 am

Token wrote:Set and forget design with minimal work.
Awwww ... cr*p! I'm a sucker for massively over-engineering solutions. :oops:

It looks like I can get 1 3/8 OD sch 40 aluminum pipe for approx 3x the cost of using 1 3/8 OD fence top rail from HD ... which sounds like a potentially decent tradeoff of costs over strength and longevity (maybe).

Would you say that there is any particular real-world advantage to using 1 1/4" sch 40 pipe (1.66" OD) over the cheaper 1" sch 40 pipe (1.31" OD) for shade (i.e. NOT with solid side walls)?

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by Token » Tue May 15, 2018 7:01 am

JohnnyA wrote:
Would you say that there is any particular real-world advantage to using 1 1/4" sch 40 pipe (1.66" OD) over the cheaper 1" sch 40 pipe (1.31" OD) for shade (i.e. NOT with solid side walls)?
I have both 1” and 1.25”

Both are dandy. The 1.25 is more rigid at full span.

My inventory is 80% 1” , 20% 1.25

If building a scaffold rather than tensile/tensegrity structures then 1 3/8 is recommended and 1.25 will not cut it. But for shade, that .31 thick Al wall on the 1” is plenty strong and orders of madnitude stronger than conduit with more or less similar weight and rust proof.

If you are anywhere near SoCal, IMS Metals is the place to go. Look them up in the Google machine. A candy store for fabricators.

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by livinglovingsteph » Thu Jun 21, 2018 2:36 pm

Would something like this work to attach the ratchet straps to in the ground:
http://www.ysbw.com/24-inch-Rebar-Tent-Stake-p/4016.htm

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by asr9754 » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:12 pm

Hi, yes in theory that would work, I wonder about the strength of the ring welded to the rebar tho. Also the pointy part left exposed is a trip or foot impaler, please bring a safety cap for them. I like candy-cane rebar (also available for sale online if you don't want to bend your own), others like lagbolts.

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by livinglovingsteph » Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:54 am

Thanks for the tip! Just found these ones on amazon, hoping they do the trick:

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by asr9754 » Fri Jun 22, 2018 4:24 pm

I like the 18" stakes just like that, they are cheaper on that Eb*'/ auction site, search : 18 j hook deer fencing.
(I don't work for them their prices are just better) :)

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by livinglovingsteph » Thu Sep 06, 2018 12:11 pm

THANK YOU for all the wonderful advice everyone! Our shade structure went up without a hitch and worked just perfectly :D Thank you all again!

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by pacts179 » Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:07 am

Hi--

Newbie (to eplaya) here. I’ve been tasked with designing a new shade structure for my theme camp of approximately 40 campers, and we’ve collectively decided on a flat-top conduit shade structure approach.

After reading the various threads and posts in here about the topic, I’ve decided on using 1-3/8” top rail or conduit as well as various canopy fittings from ysbw.com.

My main question at this point is, are approximately 20’ spans between uprights doable/feasible? We’re thinking about using 10' lengths of top rail/conduit as well as 20’ x 20’ tarps for the roof, with cross canopy fittings (like these: https://www.ysbw.com/Canopy-Fitting-1-3 ... p/2430.htm) under each tarp to keep it from sagging.

For a 60’ x 100’ shade structure, this approach would mean 24 uprights total, spaced in a 20’ x 20’ grid. However, I’m concerned that those spans might be too great, and that 10’ spans (for a 10’ x 10’ grid) would be more pragmatic. However, this would drive the number of uprights from 24 to 77, which would drive up the cost significantly.

Thanks for any and all input!

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by DoctorIknow » Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:48 am

pacts179 wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:07 am
However, this would drive the number of uprights from 24 to 77, which would drive up the cost significantly.
First off: if 40 people are going to pay for 100x60 shade, which I assume is that large for tents (and hopefully, not every camp member wants a 10x20' tent!) then forget about the $ needed for such a monster shade, as there COULD be severe safety issues with 20' spans.

I would suggest you buy 5 way connectors for all uprights (even the ones on the outside perimeter as they can be useful immediately or in the future) and bring all the conduit posts needed for all connectors.

Build the shade structure with all the posts (uprights) installed and then once set up, remove the posts in the middle of 20' sections and see how it goes.

Maybe you don't need them, that would be fantastic, but you will be up shits creek if you need them and don't have them. Shade structures can not be a "lets see if it works..." especially if people are sleeping under it.
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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by pacts179 » Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:18 am

Thanks for the suggestion re: using 5-way connectors for all uprights; have seen that suggestion elsewhere, and it makes sense, plus would provide for more utility and would mean less unique pieces.

The consensus seems to be that 20' spans are not feasible, so will go with a 10' x 10' grid for uprights -- better safe than sorry, especially for something as mission critical as a shade structure under which tents would be placed.

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Re: Flat Top Shade Structure Guidance + Am I Missing Anything?

Post by some seeing eye » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:46 pm

If you are using a tarp for the roof, it's a sail. Even shade cloth or camo is a sail, though less.

The force on a sail in pounds for each square foot is 0.00256 x wind speed in mph squared. If the wind can get under it that's a lot of force. If you are surrounded by RVs there is less a chance the full wind will be present. The Washoe County design guide for Risk Category II, which most would argue applies, is 130 mph.

So a 10x10 sail at 130mph has a force of over 2 tons across its attachments.

For a flat top shade structure, you have a lifting failure mode, and a shear scissoring failure mode. So you need a lot of diagonal and tie down structure. If it rains, it is also a good idea to have a pole to poke up the middle of the tarps to drain them as they fill with water.

Elastic bungies can help even out gusts.

A lot of the commercial tents are made with structural aluminum tubing. Don't know the spec of the tenting
material.

i'm not a structural engineer and I'm not your engineering advisor any way any how. But Eplaya readers are savvy learners and researchers!
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