Cheap garden shelter ideas: 11 budget-friendly structures to protect your patio

These cheap garden shelter ideas are perfect for cozying up your plot, providing shade, and boosting the sense of privacy

parasol and archway over decking
(Image credit: Polly Eltes/Future)

Cheap garden shelter ideas are definitely worth thinking about if you want to update your plot without splashing the cash. 

Whether you're going for a total outdoor makeover or just want to freshen up an existing scheme, adding some sort of cover has all sorts of benefits. Not only will it extend the use of your alfresco living space by keeping off inclement weather or providing cool shade, but it will also boost the sense of exclusivity for your plot (ideal for urban gardens), and help define a zone. 

But, they're not always budget-friendly – the likes of kitted-out garden buildings, luxury pergolas, and bespoke timber gazebos all come with a price tag that won't suit everyone.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can provide shelter in your backyard without splurging all your savings. And they're not just practical – they look gorgeous too. We've rounded up some of our favorite looks – if you're on the lookout for cheap garden ideas, these are for you.

Get inspired to update your space with these 11 cheap garden shelter ideas

From DIY canopies to stunning she sheds, these budget backyard ideas will help cozy up your seating space and turn it into the perfect spot for socializing or simply relaxing with a good book.

1. Keep cool with a budget-friendly shade sail

shade sail over seating on patio

Shade sails are stylish and practical

(Image credit: Polly Eltes/Future)

Shade sails are one of our favorite patio cover ideas, and most designs also happen to be budget-friendly.

Made from a weather-resistant material, all you need to do is suspend the corners from nearby walls, fences, or even trees, so they can be used in all sorts of plots. Choose between square, rectangular, and triangular shapes to find one that suits your space best.

Ideal for creating shade for your dining setup, or keeping off light rain showers, they offer a laid-back, holiday feel. Bright white is a classic choice, but there are plenty of colorful options too, if you fancy a boost of vibrancy.

2. Combine a DIY pergola with trellis panels

pergola with trellis panels from Jacksons Fencing

A smart setup from Jacksons Fencing

(Image credit: Jacksons Fencing)

'Prebuilt garden shelters can sometimes be a little pricey, so as an alternative, you can create the feel of an outside shelter using other garden landscaping products,' says Leigh Barnes of Jacksons Fencing

'Timber pergolas and trellis panels work well together,' he continues. 'The pergola gives the height, which gives the feel of an outside room, whilst the trellis panels frame and enclose the space giving you shelter from the wind and sun.'

There are lots of cheap pergola ideas to try – but the best money-saving option tends to be building your own. Don't forget you can always give it an extra dose of pizzazz by painting it in a color that complements your theme. A tub of exterior paint isn't very expensive and it's a great project for a sunny weekend.

3. Transform an old shed into a haven for cheap

she shed painted with thorndown paints

This shed has been given a fresh look with Thorndown Paints

(Image credit: Thorndown Paints)

Got an old, run-down shed that doesn't get much use? Consider turning it into a chic she shed for sheltering from the sun or rain.

All it takes is a few DIY skills to fix up any broken windows and doors, or maybe it could do with a fresh felt roof. Or perhaps, it just needs a good clean and clear.

Once you've got your base set up, give it a gorgeous new color – our guide on how to paint a shed will take you through the steps. Then, fill it with comfy seating, pretty accessories, and maybe some inexpensive lighting options for a cozy nook that will feel welcoming all year round.

4. Opt for a pretty parasol

parasol and arch over decking

Parasols are a classic choice for gardens

(Image credit: Polly Eltes/Future)

You can't go wrong with buying one of best parasols when looking for cheap garden shelter ideas. These versatile features are a backyard must-have, and they are one of the most affordable options for adding overhead cover to a patio or deck.

A simple, cream design will complement all sorts of outdoor themes, but of course there are plenty of bright designs available too, if you prefer to make a statement with your patio umbrella ideas

And if you're planning on keeping your parasol up for a while, elevate the scene further by weaving outdoor fairy lights around the interior of the canopy. It will create a magical glow when night falls and the perfect ambiance for entertaining guests.

We love this archway too – a nice option for defining the entrance of a zone. But, if you train climbing plants around it and pop a bench beneath, you'll have an additional sheltered seating area for your space.

5. Make a creative canopy

outdoor structure with sheet over seating

We love this laid-back yet luxurious scene from Sandtex

(Image credit: Sandtex)

If you have an existing overhead structure such as a pergola installed, but want an extra touch of shade, then this is a stunning solution. Sure, it's not permanent, but it's ideal for a garden party.

It's simply a case of finding a long length of fabric and weaving it around the overhead beams, allowing it to drape romantically. Dress the scene beneath with layers of comfy cushions and freshly-picked posies for a whimsical outdoor seating setup.

6. Buy a budget gazebo

garden gazebo

Create a 'garden room' on your patio

(Image credit: Sergey Nazarov/Alamy Stock Photo)

Garden gazebo ideas can be a little pricey, particularly if you opt for bespoke, wooden designs. However, there are some cheaper, pop-up options available that are great for creating an 'outdoor room' on your patio.

Easy to assemble, they will protect you, your guests, and your garden furniture from the glaring midday sun or a spot of rain. And once summer's over, they can be quickly dismantled and stored away safely.

7. Use patterned fabric for a makeshift shelter

shade sail over decking

The perfect spot for relaxing with friends

(Image credit: David Brittain/Future)

Looking for free garden ideas for keeping cool? Fashion your own shade sail from a pretty piece of fabric tied between trees or swagged between walls. While it won't keep out the rain, it's perfect for providing a bit of respite on a hot summer's day. And, it can add serious style points to your setup, too.

This blue patterned design looks lovely alongside soft textiles in complementary colors. All that's needed is a nice cup of tea for a relaxing afternoon.

8. Cozy up with an arbor

arbour from Rowlinson

This pretty structure is from Rowlinson

(Image credit: Rowlinson)

Garden arbors are brilliant features, offering shade and seating in one. They're ideal for smaller plots as they don't take up much room. Plus, they're much cheaper than many other garden shelter ideas.

Make it a destination point in your plot by tucking it against a fence or at the end of a lawn where you can sit back and enjoy the view. Timber designs can also be customized with a lick of paint – this smart gray shade oozes a sense of contemporary cool.

9. ...or, stay sheltered with a swing seat

Viaduriniit swing seat near pool

This stylish swing seat is from Viaduriniit

(Image credit: Viaduriniit)

Speaking of multi-functional pieces, another top option to consider for your cheap garden shelter ideas is a covered swing bench. These fun pieces of furniture offer the height of relaxation, and there are plenty of budget-friendly styles. 

Many come with cushions, but if not, up the comfy factor by adding your own outdoor-suitable ones in colors that match your scheme.

Position alongside a pool for post-swim chill-outs, or add to a patio where it will make the most popular seating option in your plot.

10. Make a saving on screening with trellis panels

trellis screen from jacksons fencing

Add subtle shelter with a trellis screen, like this one from Jacksons Fencing

(Image credit: Jacksons Fencing)

Shelter isn't just about overhead covers. In your garden, you might be keener for screening from the side. This can be particularly handy in windy plots, or if you have neighbors close by and want to up the sense of privacy. 

A quick and cheap approach is using trellis panels around your patio, which can be made even more beautiful with the addition of climbing plants. Opt for scented ones, such as a rose or jasmine, to up the sensory appeal, too.

You can find more trellis ideas for gardens in our dedicated guide.

11. Build a shelter for summertime picnics

fringed canopy shelter on lawn from Cox & Cox

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

Create the perfect base for lazy and luxurious picnics by assembling a magical hideaway like this.

This pretty design is available to buy and is a lovely way to add to your summertime lawn ideas. However, it wouldn't be too tricky to make a similar structure yourself with some materials around the house – an old sheet, some tent pegs, string, and a couple of long bamboo poles are all you really need. Or, make the most of a washing line for an even quicker approach.

Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.