What is the best patio umbrella?
The answer is – that depends. There are many things to consider when buying a patio umbrella. Modern architectural design incorporates a seamless transition from indoor to outdoor spaces. Elaborate decks and lavish outdoor furniture allow you to enjoy nature, without sacrificing style or comfort. As spring and summer arrive, you’ll spend more and more time outside entertaining or lounging poolside. To keep you and your guests cool and protected from the hot sun, it’s important to have ample shade. Patio umbrellas are a prudent solution, in lieu of more permanent construction. However, choosing the right outdoor umbrella can be challenging. Based on your home, environment, budget and preference, there are many factors to take into consideration. This guide will help you gain a better understanding of patio umbrellas, their styles, materials and features. This knowledge will help take the uncertainty out of your buying decision and ensure that you can relax outdoors for years to come.
What are the parts of a patio umbrella?
When you’re researching outdoor umbrellas and comparing different brands and models, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the various components and options. Buyers should utilize the table below to identify common umbrella parts and learn their functions.
The slender pieces that give patio umbrellas their shape and hold the shade cover in the open position are called ribs or struts. There are two types of ribs:
- Main Ribs – Attach to the top of the umbrella frame and extend from the central axis to beneath the outer edge of the canopy
- Support Ribs – Connect to the underside of the main ribs and facilitate opening and closing of the canopy
The ringed apparatus that work in concert with the ribs are called hubs. There are two types of hubs:
- Top Hub – Located at the top of the pole, this hub holds the main ribs in place
- Runner Hub – Located further down the pole, this hub connects to the support ribs and glides up and down to open and close the canopy
The fabric part of a patio umbrella that blocks the sun is generally referred to as the canopy. In addition to the overall shade body, there are often two additional parts to a canopy:
- Vents – Canopy layers that allow air to pass easily through the fabric, which helps cool the air below and enables the umbrella to better handle high winds
- Valances – Flaps of fabric that overhang the perimeter of the canopy, as seen on many beach or cafe style umbrellas
Outdoor umbrellas are opened when the runner hub and support ribs are raised via a lift mechanism. There are multiple types to choose from:
- Push-up – The support structure is simply pushed up manually until a locking system (often a post or pin and hole) secures the umbrella in its open position
- Crank – A rotating handle is turned clockwise to open the umbrella and counterclockwise to lower it
- Pulley & Pin – A rope is pulled down to open the umbrella, which is then secured in place by inserting a pin into a hole below the runner hub
- Lever & Latch – A lever is pulled down and latched into place to secure the umbrella in its raised position
If you’re running your umbrella through a tall outdoor table, be sure to check the height of the lift mechanism to ensure that it clears the tabletop.
Some high end umbrellas allow you to tilt the canopy to maintain directional shade, as the sun moves throughout the day. It can be especially helpful for residential installations with close quarters. There are a few types to choose from:
- Push Button or Manual – A button is pushed to unlock the canopy, which can then be manually tilted to a variety of angles (often preset)
- Automatic or Crank – Once the canopy is completely open, continued cranking will tilt the umbrella up to 360°
- Collar – A sheathed apparatus, located above the crank, is twisted until the desired tilt angle is reached
What styles or types of outdoor umbrellas are there?
The first decision you have to make when buying a patio umbrella is what style you want. Your outdoor space constraints, furniture layout and expected usage can all factor into which style is right for you. Even after considering all of these variables, your own personal taste is the final determinant. So what is out there? There’s a wide variety of umbrellas to choose from, but they all essentially fall into one of two categories: center pole or offset.
Market Umbrella (a.k.a. Center Pole Umbrella)
The defining characteristic of centerpost patio umbrellas is the presence of a straight pole that extends from the top of the canopy to a securing base. It may be a single, solid piece or two separate pieces that are joined together. It’s important to note that center pole umbrellas may be stabilized by either a mobile or fixed base. This is the most common style of outdoor umbrella and it has been around for a long time. This type of outdoor umbrella can be effective protection against direct sunlight but reflected or diffuse ultraviolet radiation exposure from the sides diminishes the overall shade protection [Slevin 2014]. Within the market category, there are a number of variations.
- Standard Market Umbrella – This is the most popular style of center pole umbrella. It has a round or octagonal shape with a clean edge. Some canopies are vented to encourage airflow, which cools the area below and helps the umbrella withstand windy conditions.
- Beach Umbrella – This type of umbrella tends to have a minimalist style. The canopy usually has a round shape with hanging valances around the edge. Many beach umbrellas utilize a simple spiked base, which is inserted into the sand.
- Half Umbrella – This specialized umbrella is constructed with one flat side, which allows it to be placed flush against a wall. It’s perfect for shading balconies or small porches that have confined spaces. Think of it as a portable awning. Canopies are rounded or straight with clean edges, drapes or valances.
Cantilever Patio Umbrella (a.k.a. Offset Umbrella)
Cantilever outdoor umbrellas feature an arched or jointed pole positioned off to one side. The canopy is supported from the side and above, which allows it to hang freely over a variety of seating and table configurations. The main benefit of modern cantilever umbrellas is that they can shade a large area without the obstruction that a center pole causes. This is especially important if you are shading a dining table that does not have an umbrella hole or a hot tub. Many cantilevers can also rotate to provide 360° coverage, which makes them even more versatile. Offset patio umbrellas require heavier bases than center poles and are typically more expensive.
What size & shape outdoor umbrella is ideal?
However, a good guideline is to first measure the area or table that you want to shade. Be sure to take into consideration the room needed to comfortably situate chairs. Then, add 2 to 2 1/2 feet to each side to determine the canopy diameter that provides just the right amount of shade. Review the reference table below for examples.
Suggested patio umbrella sizes
|Table Size||Umbrella Size||Shade Area||Ideal Settings|
|up to 30″||6-7′||36-49 ft2||2 Seat Bistro|
|up to 36″||7-8′||49-64 ft2||4 Seat Dining / Lounge Chair or Chaise|
|up to 48″||8-9′||64-81 ft2||4-6 Seat Dining / Small Sofa|
|up to 60″||9-10′||81-100 ft2||6 Seat Dining / Small Lounge|
|up to 72″||10-11′||100-121 ft2||6-8 Seat Dining / Medium Lounge|
|up to 84″||11-12′||121-144 ft2||8 Seat Dining / Large Lounge|
|up to 96″||12-13′||144-169 ft2||8-10 Seat Dining / Large Lounge|
|up to 108″||13-14′||169-196 ft2||10+ Seat Dining / Extra Large Lounge|
What’s important to know about large patio umbrellas?
- Big cantilever umbrellas need extremely heavy bases (100 to 400 pounds or more) or permanent mounting to counter overhanging canopies
- Large outdoor umbrella canopies are heavy, so mechanical assist mechanisms may be needed to lift, tilt and rotate the shade
- Tilting and rotating bigger offset umbrellas require more clearance space vertically and horizontally
- Frames of many large cantilever umbrellas do not collapse, so they may not be aesthetically pleasing when not in use
- Due to the heavy weight, big umbrellas may need to be removed from their base (even if wheeled) before moving
Choosing the shape of your sun umbrella canopy comes down to three things: the shape of the table or space you want to cover; any physical constraints of your outdoor environment; and of course your personal aesthetic preference.
What pole or frame material is best for a patio umbrella?
Choosing the material for your umbrella frame is really about deciding what your priorities are. Are you trying to match the look of your outdoor furniture set? Are you most concerned about durability in a moist or windy environment? Or, do you really want to complement the landscape and architectural design of your home? Heck, you might simply want to help your favorite canopy fabric really “pop.” The three primary materials used to construct patio umbrella poles and frames are wood, aluminum and fiberglass. Each material has its own benefits and characteristics, so you’ll have to decide which one best suits your needs.
Wood is treated to resist insects, decay and weather damage, but it does tend to fade after extended exposure to the sun and rain. Additionally, wooden poles are less durable than their aluminum and fiberglass counterparts, and can even snap when faced with extremely strong winds. Many manufacturers offer faux wood finishes on their metallic or fiberglass models, if you decide that you absolutely must have the look of wood.
Aluminum is an inexpensive alloy, lightweight and durable, which makes it a great choice for outdoor shades. Most aluminum frames are powder-coated or anodized to resist corrosion and other signs of wear. Aluminum is inherently malleable and strong, so it can be shaped into extremely dynamic and interesting shapes that wood cannot attain. It also comes in a wide variety of finishes, which helps it coordinate with other furniture pieces. Aluminum will not break in high winds, although it can warp after prolonged exposure over a long period of time.
While it tends to be more expensive than the other material options, its ability to withstand extreme weather conditions for years make it a strong investment in the long run. Fiberglass umbrellas are available in a variety of colors, which helps them blend into any outdoor color palette. Many modern patio umbrellas pair fiberglass ribs with aluminum poles to reap the benefits of both materials. Tilt and crank lift features are also available on most fiberglass umbrellas.
What canopy fabric should I use for my outdoor umbrella?
Choosing your canopy material is one of the most important decisions you have when buying a patio umbrella. Not only is the color or pattern the most visible aspect of the umbrella, but ultimately it is what protects you from the heat and glare of the sun. Canopies are made from many different materials with their own physical characteristics, benefits, drawbacks and cost considerations. Some fabrics are coated with PVC or styrene-acrylic to increase weather resistance, but the process has the drawback of decreasing the textile’s tensile tearing strength [Eltahan 2017]. Here are a few of the more common canopy material options and brands.
Acrylic – Sunbrella®
Acrylic – Sunbrella®
- Material – 100% solution dyed acrylic fabric
- UV Protection – Yes – 98%
- Fade Resistant – Yes
- Mildew Resistant – Yes
- Water Resistant – Yes
- Cleaning – Soap, water & even bleach
- Permeable – Yes
- Pricing – Premium
- Warranty – 5 to 10 year limited warranty against fading (based on grade)
- Other – Greenguard & Skin Cancer Foundation certified
Other popular acrylic brands include: Outdura, Suncrylic and Spuncrylic.
Polyester – Pacifica®
Polyester – Pacifica®
- Material – 100% solution dyed polyester fabric
- UV Protection – Yes – UPF 40
- Fade Resistant – Yes, but fades more easily than acrylic
- Mildew Resistant – Yes
- Water Resistant – Yes
- Cleaning – Soap & water
- Permeable – Yes
- Pricing – Mid-range
- Warranty – 4 year limited warranty against fading
- Other – Soft to the touch
Olefin – Texsilk®
Olefin – Texsilk®
- Material – 100% solution dyed synthetic polyolefin fabric
- UV Protection – Yes – UPF 80
- Fade Resistant – Yes
- Mildew Resistant – Yes
- Water Resistant – Yes
- Cleaning – Soap, water & even bleach
- Permeable – Yes
- Pricing – Economy
- Warranty – 2 year limited warranty against fading
- Other – OEKO-TEX certified. Eco-friendly – 100% recyclable
Polyethylene – Coolaroo®
Polyethylene – Coolaroo®
- Material – Dyed high density knitted polyethylene fabric
- UV Protection – Yes – 90%
- Fade Resistant – Yes, but fabric is semi-translucent
- Mildew Resistant – Yes
- Water Resistant – No
- Cleaning – Soap & water
- Permeable – Yes
- Pricing – Economy
- Warranty – 5 year warranty against UV damage (excluding fading)
- Other – Encourages cool airflow – great for hot climates
What umbrella color is best?
Holding canopy fabric constant, there are relative performance differences between colors. Darker colors absorb light and heat, while lighter ones reflect them. Consequently, deeper tones like navy, burgundy, forest green and violet block UV rays more effectively than sky blue, pink, lime and lilac. The temperature below dark canopies is slightly hotter too, although the height of most umbrellas would make the difference less noticeable. The closer a color is to white (e.g. beige, natural & cream), the more glare may become an issue. If you have a pool or light-colored external walls and flooring, you may want to steer toward darker umbrellas to help minimize reflected light. Dark canopies also tend to hide dirt better than light ones, so they require less frequent cleaning. However, dark and vibrant colors are more susceptible to fading. A striking black or chic dark taupe canopy will degrade over time to shades of grey and brown. Similarly, electric blue and fire engine red will fade to muted versions of their original color if exposed to direct sunlight.
There are also aesthetic considerations such as coordinating with the palette of patio furniture, architecture or even the environment. Earth tones convey a more organic and natural feel and are great for wooded areas. Jewel tones add rich color without overpowering the rest of the outdoor setting. Neutrals complement most decor and add subtle sophistication. Bold colors are eye-catching statements that add life and energy to a space.
Finally, there are psychological and physiological considerations depending on the purpose of your outdoor setting. Red increases your heart rate and hunger – making it a good choice for restaurants. Orange and yellow evoke cheerful and happy feelings – perfect for public gathering areas. Brown and green make people feel comfortable and relaxed – ideal for hardwood decks surrounded by trees. Blue conveys trust and health, but makes you thirsty and less hungry – nice idea for a poolside bar.
What kind of patio umbrella stand or base is appropriate?
Once you’ve determined the style and size of your patio umbrella, you’ll need to figure out what kind of base you want or need. Choosing the right base or stand is critical to ensure that your umbrella is stable and upright under calm conditions and does not fly away when there’s a gentle breeze. Center pole and cantilever umbrellas can use either mobile or fixed bases, but the latter is more appropriate the larger the umbrella is and the windier the setting.
- Floor Mount – This is the most popular fixed base structure. Floor mounting kits enable you to quickly secure a base plate and sleeve to a concrete patio, hardwood deck or cement poolside. They work great beneath all kinds of umbrella tables since you don’t need clearance for a bulky stand.
- Wall Mount – This type of fixed base can only be employed for cantilever umbrellas that are designed to accommodate a vertical mounting. Consider a wall mount when you have a small area, where ground space is at a premium.
- In-Ground – These bases are inserted directly into the ground and can be secured by pouring concrete around them. Typically, these are only used for very small umbrellas. If you have soft dirt or loose gravel and want to establish a permanent setting, this type of base is probably not the best choice.
How heavy does the deck umbrella base need to be?
The required weight of your mobile base is dependent on three factors: the size of your umbrella canopy; the expected environmental conditions; and the presence or absence of an umbrella table. There are many schools of thought as to how much weight is needed, but we tend to err on the side of safety. To account for average wind conditions, our rule of thumb for free-standing center pole umbrellas is 10 pounds per canopy foot. If the pole is running through an umbrella table, you can reduce it to 5 pounds per foot. The best offset patio umbrellas either include or identify the appropriate mobile base, or provide you with choices of fixed mount options, so there’s usually less confusion. However, bases for cantilever umbrellas often run 30-40 pounds per canopy foot or more.
Recommended patio umbrella minimum base weights*
|Type / Size||7′||8′||9′||10′||11′ +|
|(Through table)||35 lbs||40 lbs||45 lbs||50 lbs||55 lbs|
|(Freestanding)||70 lbs||80 lbs||90 lbs||100 lbs||110 lbs|
|Cantilever Umbrella||210 lbs||240 lbs||270 lbs||300 lbs||330 lbs|
*These are general guidelines. Follow the umbrella manufacturer’s recommendations for their specific models.
Base Tube Diameter
Whether you’re using a mobile or fixed base, make sure that it can accommodate the diameter of the umbrella pole. Most center pole umbrellas range from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. If you’re purchasing the umbrella and base from different sources, please be sure to double-check with the manufacturers to ensure compatibility. Ideally, you want a base tube that is no more than 1/4″ wider than the pole to ensure a snug fit.
Standard patio umbrellas are relatively static, which can pose challenges as the sun travels across the sky or you move furniture. Some umbrellas, however, offer additional dynamic features that can resolve these shade problems.
Some contemporary offset umbrellas have modular designs that allow you to add more than one canopy. Typically, two or four canopies are used to shade multiple areas when floor space is at a premium. These adaptable deck umbrellas are great for outdoor restaurants and cafes where dining tables are situated close together.
Some cantilever umbrellas have 360° rotation capability. This allows you to cover a much larger area, without ever moving the base (not even a choice if you have a mounted base). This is extremely handy if you continually move about during the day and want to remain in the shade.
How important is wind speed for outdoor umbrellas?
The wind condition of your environment is a critical factor in evaluating patio umbrellas and materials. Still air or lazy breezes can accommodate almost any type of shade, whereas gale force winds require reinforced design, increased material strength and flexibility, as well as more substantial mounting and heavier base weight. Additionally, as wind gusts increase in intensity, it becomes increasingly important to properly close and secure canopies in a timely fashion to prevent damage and extend the life of your umbrella.
Beaufort Scale – Measuring Wind Speeds & Their Effects
The most common reference used by outdoor umbrella manufacturers to measure the wind tolerance of their shades is the Beaufort wind force scale. It was developed in 1805 by Irish hydrographer Francis Beaufort to help sailors estimate wind conditions at sea. This scale is based on visual observation in lieu of scientific measurement tools and it helped to standardize what had been subjective. Later, land observations were added and measurable wind speeds were assigned to the descriptions. [Forrester 1986]
Most patio umbrella brands indicate the Beaufort scale level, along with the acceptable wind speed ranges, for each of their products and variations in size, shape, etc. These tolerances are typically listed on specification sheets or in warranties since product damage coverage is dependent upon proper use and maintenance under specific conditions.
Beaufort Wind Scale Chart
Below are the Beaufort scale levels and their corresponding descriptions, wind speeds and land conditions.
|Level||Description||Wind (mph)||Land Conditions|
|0||Calm||0-1||Smoke rises vertically|
|1||Light Air||1-3||Wind direction is indicated by smoke drift but not wind vanes|
|2||Light Breeze||4-6||Wind is felt on the face; leaves rustle; vanes begin to move|
|3||Gentle Breeze||7-10||Leaves and small twigs are in constant motion; light flags are extended|
|4||Moderate Breeze||11-16||Wind raises dust, leaves and loose paper; small tree branches move|
|5||Fresh Breeze||17-21||Small trees in leaf begin to sway|
|6||Strong Breeze||22-27||Larger tree branches move, whistling is heard in telegraph wires; umbrellas are used with difficulty|
|7||Near Gale||28-33||Whole trees move; resistance felt when walking against wind|
|8||Gale||34-40||Twigs break off trees; generally impedes progress|
|9||Severe Gale||41-47||Slight structural damage occurs; shingles blow off roofs|
|10||Storm||48-55||Seldom experienced inland; trees broken or uprooted; considerable structural damage|
|11||Violent Storm||56-63||Very rarely experienced inland; accompanied by widespread damage|
How easy is an umbrella to use?
Regardless of whether you land on a market or cantilever umbrella, it’s important to evaluate how easy the shade is to operate. That depends largely on the size of the umbrella, its functional characteristics, the outdoor environment and your activity. Every design has its pros and cons with different options available within even the same model, so take careful consideration before making a selection.
- Opening, Lifting & Closing – Small center pole umbrellas can be opened, raised and closed fairly easily manually. Their lightweight canopies can usually be lifted with one hand while the other inserts a pin to secure it into place. It becomes more challenging with larger canopies that weigh more and may be higher off the ground (tough for shorter people). In those instances, crank mechanisms or pulleys are more efficient. Most side pole patio umbrellas use levers or cranks to open the canopy, while a few have gas-assisted technology to deploy oversized shades.
- Rotating – If you plan to rotate the canopy of a cantilever umbrella to shade adjacent areas (e.g. lounge seating on one side and a dining set on the other), you might opt for a model that has a lever mechanism. Many side post umbrellas have 360° rotational capability, but without something to grab on to, simply twisting the frame or walking canopy around may prove difficult.
- Tilting – You can tilt the front edge of many cantilever umbrellas by raising the canopy to less than its full height using a crank or lever lift. A few even tilt side to side with a slight adjustment. These mechanisms make it relatively effortless. Market umbrellas can be tilted by turning a crank, twisting a collar around the pole or pressing a button near the central hub. The first two options are pretty easy to manage, although you need to be keenly aware of the mechanism’s height if the umbrella is to be used through a hole in an outdoor dining table. Tilting using a push button can be a bit more challenging since you have to stabilize the canopy with one hand while you release the catch with the other. The button can also pinch your finger or thumb as it locks back into place if you’re not careful.
- Covering – Market umbrellas are a breeze to protect using sleeve-like weather-resistant covers. They simply slide over the closed canopy from the top and secure the bottom around the pole via a snap or drawstring. Side pole umbrellas may have protective covers that wrap around both the post and collapsed canopy or the canopy alone. The former has the added benefit of creating an aesthetically pleasing minimalist profile when out in the open. The latter, however, leaves the covered canopy hanging like a bat from the horizontal arm. Most cantilever umbrella covers have an open seam to accommodate the framework as you wrap the canopy and seal with velcro or snaps.
- Moving – Portability is largely dependent upon the overall weight of your patio umbrella and whether or not your freestanding base has wheels. Market umbrellas can be relocated by removing the pole and canopy from the base, moving the base and then reinserting the pole into the base tube. The wheels are typically engaged by just tipping the base in the direction of the axle. However, large center post umbrellas and most side post umbrellas weigh too much or are too awkward to easily move piece by piece. In those cases a wheeled base is necessary, but even they can be challenging to navigate across a deck, patio or poolside area. The wheels lock into place to prevent movement when the umbrella is in use. Outdoor umbrellas that are mounted to the surface typically remain in place, but can be unscrewed from connecting plates if necessary.
- Storing – Most center pole umbrellas store easily because the base is the only thing that takes up horizontal floor space. The pole and collapsed canopy are relatively narrow and only take up vertical space. Offset umbrellas, however, can very greatly in storage requirements. Some have fixed frames with arms that remain extended even when the canopy is closed. Others have arms that collapse into the upright frame, thereby minimizing the horizontal space required to store them. There are also designs that allow you to remove the canopy entirely, so you can easily store it without ever moving the frame or base.
There are other items that you should consider when ordering a patio umbrella.
A weather-proof cover is a “must-have” accessory for any outdoor umbrella. Your shade takes a beating during the heat of the day and in the summer months, so it deserves the protection of a cover during its downtime. Most covers are made from durable canvas fabrics, but hard shell versions do exist, as well. See the maintenance and storage tips below to learn why a cover is critical to extending the life of your umbrella.
What are alternatives to patio umbrellas?
Sometimes, an umbrella is not the best shade solution for a particular outdoor circumstance. There are a number of stylish options available, each with its own specific application.
Shade leafs usually have rotating canvased frames, which allow you to continually adjust the level of sun exposure, without disturbing your neighbor. They are lightweight, so they’re easy to move about if you change your furniture configuration.
They’re used as an expression of aesthetic taste, as much as for a specific functional purpose. Alone, they are iconic visions. In a row or group, they create an artistic vista of order.
The corners of the pieces of canvas are secured to sliding tracks on walls or mounted poles and stretched until taut. They are used alone or in combinations that can be adjusted throughout the day. They’re a stylish option for large commercial dining areas.
Most include curtains to provide additional protection and privacy. This extra lateral protection is extremely important to account for the movement of the sun and ambient scattered ultraviolet radiation that reflects off of water and light surfaces [Turnbull & Parisi 2006]. On the high end, you might see louvered wooden or aluminum walls, retractable canopies and built-in seating. Some luxury versions even offer lighting, ceiling fans, speakers and Bluetooth capability.
A few of the bells and whistles include: pull-down side shades for morning and early evening sun; retractable canopies; and easy set-up, break down and storage. If a cabana is a little too much to handle, a pavilion is a sensible choice.
How do you clean and maintain a patio umbrella?
To ensure that your outdoor umbrella is looking great and working properly year after year, it’s important to keep it clean, maintained and protected at all times.
Cleaning your Outdoor Umbrella
You should frequently clean your patio umbrella to ensure that it retains its appearance and remains free from debris that could hinder performance. Open the canopy completely and, using a hose, spray everything down with water.
- Fabric cleaning – In general, mild soap and water are fine for most canopy fabrics, but be sure to read the instructions from the manufacturer for their recommendations. Use a sponge, dishrag or soft bristle brush to clean any problem areas. Let the cleaning solution soak in for a bit and then rinse since soapy buildup can lead to mildew. Keep the canopy open to allow the fabric to air dry completely.
- Frame cleaning – The directions for washing your umbrella frame are the same, whether it is wood, metal or fiberglass. Using a clean damp cloth, wipe down the ribs, hubs, pole and finial. Be especially careful around the joints, lift and tilt mechanisms, since you don’t want any threads or debris getting caught up in the moving parts. In most instances, mild soapy water is okay to use for cleaning very dirty areas, but consult the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure. It’s very important that you avoid using an abrasive cloth or harsh cleaners, as they could damage the finish of your wood or metal frame. Keep the canopy open to allow the frame to completely air dry before closing.
Patio Umbrella Maintenance Tips
Throughout the warm and temperate seasons, a little common sense and care will go a long way toward keeping your outdoor umbrella in tip-top shape.
- Open it gently – Most umbrellas are designed to rest comfortably in a fully closed position. To properly and safely open yours, push and extend the main canopy ribs away from the pole a bit before engaging the lift mechanism. If you notice that the umbrella is struggling to open, don’t force it – you may need to clear stray twigs or leaves that may be hindering proper functioning of the lift.
- Close it when not in use – Even if you have a substantial base or mounting fixture, it’s wise to keep your outdoor umbrella collapsed, in its locked position, when you are not using it. Inclement weather and high winds can play havoc with an open umbrella. Rather than risk damaging your umbrella’s ribs or launching it across the yard, take a few moments to close it. Many manufacturers exclude wind damage from their warrantees, so be smart.
- Keep it dry – Ideally, you should employ an umbrella cover whenever it’s not in use. In addition to protecting it from unnecessary exposure to the sun, a cover helps keep out mildew causing moisture. If you can’t always put the cover on, be sure that you completely dry the canopy before closing the umbrella. Most outdoor fabrics are treated to resist mold and mildew, but moisture can collect and remain protected within the folds of a closed umbrella.
- Review manufacturer recommendations – Each manufacturer has instructions and tips for using their umbrellas. Some woods require periodic oiling, while others can go without it completely. Different materials and structural designs have their own specific guidelines for upkeep, so brush up on what you need to do before you set up your umbrella.
Protection & Storage of Your Umbrella
During the off-season, or when there are extended periods of time during which your patio umbrella remains idle, you should carefully remove the pole and canopy from the base or mount and store it properly.
- Make sure it’s clean and dry – Follow the guidelines listed earlier, before storing your patio umbrella.
- Use a protective cover – The cover will prevent moisture build-up, block dust and debris, and minimize inadvertent damage from other items brushing up against it.
- Wrap the folds in one direction – To minimize wrinkling and preserve the aesthetic qualities of your canopy, wrap the folds in the same direction, before securing it within the cover.
- Cover the pole ends – To minimize damage to the ends of the pole, you should cover them with cardboard or heavy rags.
- Store it in an upright position – Laying umbrellas on their sides puts unneeded weight on the rib assembly, especially if other items are apt to be stacked on them or they are at risk of being stepped on.
- Keep it in an enclosed dry area – Be sure to store your umbrella in a dry covered space like a garage, basement or pool house in the off-season. Even if it has a protective cover, the cold and moisture have a way of creeping in and damaging items left outdoors and unattended for too long.
Frequently Asked Questions – Patio Umbrellas
What is a market patio umbrella?
A "market umbrella" is what most people think of when they picture an outdoor umbrella. It features a center pole and its canopy typically has an octagon or rounded shape. Some canopies include vents to allow airflow to keep the area below cool and help stabilize the umbrella in high winds.
What is the standard size patio umbrella?
There is no such thing as a "standard size" patio umbrella. It just depends on your own specific environment.
As a rule of thumb, an outdoor umbrella should extend 2-2 1/2 feet beyond the edge of the area you wish to shade. Smaller umbrellas (10 feet dia and less) are usually market style, while larger models (12 feet dia and more) are often offset or cantilever style.
Do patio umbrellas block UV rays?
Outdoor umbrellas do block much of the harmful effects of direct ultraviolet rays. The large the umbrella, the greater the area of protection. However, the material and color of the canopy impact just how much. Here are some key factors:
- Weave – The tighter the fabric is woven together, the less UV radiation passes through
- Color – Dark colors of identical fabric types absorb ultraviolet rays more strongly than their lighter shades, which increases the sun protection
- Weight – A heavier version of the same fabric will be minimally more protective against UVR
- Stretch – The greater the stretch or tension put on a textile, the lower the UPF rating
- Water – Some fabrics, such as polyester and cotton, provide less protection against UVR when they have absorbed water
- Washing – Cotton-based fabrics tend to shrink after the first washing, thereby tightening the weave and reducing the transmitted ultraviolet radiation
- Additives – UVR stabilizers or additives can be used to improve the sun protection of a variety of textiles
Additionally, you need to be aware of indirect UV rays that are reflected off of water, glass and light-color walls.
What is the best material for patio umbrellas?
There are a variety of great weather and UV-resistant canopy textiles:
- Acrylic - Sunbrella
- Polyester - Pacifica
- Olefin - Texsilk
- Polyethylene - Coolaroo
Who makes the best outdoor umbrellas?
There are countless manufacturers of outdoor patio umbrellas. They offer a wide range of products that appeal to a variety of budgets. Many of these brands provide value for a low cost and are certainly good options in the short run. However, as a retailer of luxury outdoor furnishings, Decor Outdoor focuses on products that perform and look great over the long run. The following brands may be more expensive, but their premium umbrellas have cutting edge designs and are made from the finest materials, using state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques. These collections are also backed by industry-leading warranties and service agreements.
- Tuuci - Unique and innovative shade solutions with thoughtful, refined designs that enhance the natural ambiance of the outdoors for years.
- Jardinico - Flawless elegant patio umbrellas with slim profiles, taut shades and impeccable finishes to provide a finishing touch to classic outdoor settings.
- Shadowspec - Stunning luxury outdoor umbrellas with evolutionary designs, patented technology and marine-grade materials.
- Woodline - Sophisticated center pole and cantilevered umbrellas designed to the highest standards using anodized aluminum, marine-grade stainless steel and kiln-dried eucalyptus.
- Umbrosa - State-of-the-art, elegant and understated shade solutions inspired by nature and built to last.
- Shademaker - Architectural grade shades with contemporary, precision-engineered designs for high end residential and commercial outdoor applications.
- Bambrella - Eco-friendly bamboo umbrellas with sleek, modern designs that are extremely weather-resistant - even in the windiest conditions.
- FiberBuilt - Commercial-grade patio umbrellas with flexible fiberglass ribs that are resilient under strong winds and last 4-5 times longer than steel or wood.
- Slevin, T. (Ed.). (2014). Sun, Skin and Health. Csiro Publishing.
- Forrester, F. H. (1986). How strong is the wind? The origin of the Beaufort Scale. Weatherwise, 39(3), 147-151.
- Eltahan, E. (2017). Structural parameters affecting tear strength of the fabrics tents. Alexandria Engineering Journal.
- Turnbull, D. J., & Parisi, A. V. (2006). Effective shade structures. Med J Aust, 184(1), 13-15.
- Treasure Garden
Kris Ingmanson says
I built a tall table for use between a couple of tall Adirondack chairs. The top of the table is 39″ so the crank on an umbrella would need to be at 45 inches or so. Is that something that they make umbrellas for? How do I specify that?
Bill Ferris says
Not all market umbrellas have a crank lift, so a manual push-up lift would not have that issue. There are also telescopic poles with some umbrellas that extend to put a crank above the tabletop. Be sure that the canopy can close as well.
Darcy Gaines says
Hello! I am planning a pool area with several lounge chairs in a row and flush ground inserts for umbrellas. I am planning to purchase 2 market umbrellas and four ground inserts so I can move the umbrellas around as needed. I was thinking I could put 2 at the “foot” end of the chairs and 2 at the “head” end of the chairs and place the ground inserts on the sunny side of the chairs. Or course I will make sure when open they are at least 9 feet apart so as not to touch. But wanted to ask if you have any other thoughts or suggestions about placement for such a situation as mine?!? Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
Bill Ferris says
Obviously, the number and spacing of the chairs along with the positioning relative to the sun matters. Were you thinking of rotating the chairs 180 degrees when the sun changes, so the umbrellas can always be placed behind the “head” and not obstructing the view as you face the “foot?”
Depending on the size of the canopy, you may be better off placing the ground mounts such that the umbrellas are between the chairs.