Adding a new umbrella to your patio allows you to spend more time outside without frying in the sun. Whether you’re throwing a pool party or hosting a backyard barbecue, a top-rated outdoor umbrella provides you with shade. But choosing the right one can be tricky.
Patio umbrellas come in many different styles, types, and sizes. Of course, not every umbrella offers the same level of quality and performance. To find the perfect patio umbrella, you should take a close look at its design and features to make sure it fits perfectly in your backyard.
To help you do this, our buying guide breaks down everything there is to know about patio umbrellas. By understanding the different features, you’ll have an easier time deciding what works for you. But before we start, take a look at our list of high-quality outdoor umbrellas if you need some great ideas.
How To Choose A Patio Umbrella — Buying Guide
Size is one of the main considerations when purchasing an umbrella for your patio. The diameter and height of your umbrella are in direct relationship with the shade size. The best backyard umbrella is large enough to create a good shade over the table and chairs but isn’t too large to get in the way.
In terms of diameter, most canopies range somewhere between 6 and 14 feet. As for the height, it can reach up to 10 feet. However, 7 feet is usually sufficient for most people to comfortably stand without hitting their heads.
The best rule of thumb to use when determining size is to calculate the area you want to cover and then 2 feet on all sides. For example, if you want to shade a 6ft table, it’s best to get an umbrella with a 10-foot diameter to ensure the table and chairs are fully covered.
The material used in your umbrella affects both its performance and its durability. There are two parts of the umbrella where the type of material is very important – frame and canopy.
The most common materials used to make the frame are aluminum, steel, wood, and fiberglass. It should be durable and withstand your local weather conditions, so you should make your decision based on this. If you are in a windy area, a sturdy thick steel or aluminum umbrella would suit you better.
If you live by the ocean, salt can be extremely corrosive and damage the frame even on a top-rated outdoor umbrella. In this situation, a high-quality metal frame is a long-lasting investment. Powder-coated aluminum and stainless steel are both excellent choices for rust and corrosion resistance.
The canopy material should be waterproof, windproof, and have UV protection. Umbrellas usually come with a durable fabric that not only gives great protection but also looks great longer. On top of this, higher-quality materials are easier to clean as well.
While most canopies are made of polyester, the quality of the fabric is not the same. Look for a heavier material for better durability, preferably with some kind of additional treatment to block UV rays more efficiently. Additionally, if you want a vibrant color, make sure that is has been solution-dyed because it will resist color fading and be easier to maintain.
A base is a weight in which you place your umbrella to ensure it doesn’t move and it remains stable in the wind. Every umbrella needs some type of base to provide weight for structural stability. Unfortunately, almost all patio umbrellas are sold without a base, so this is an additional investment you have to make.
The heavy block you’ll get has a hole where the umbrella pole can be inserted. Even if you are using your umbrella with a table, it is smart to have a weight under the table to stabilize your umbrella. Make sure the hole diameter matches the diameter of the pole, so it can fit properly.
The manufacturer of your umbrella should give minimum weight recommendations for the particular model. This information will help you find an umbrella base that will keep your umbrella secure but won’t be too heavy to move.
An umbrella doesn’t need to be highly portable, because it’s mostly be used around your garden. This being said, it still needs to be manageable so you can reposition it when needed. The sun moves across the sky, so it’s best if you can easily adjust the shade.
Despite not being the most compact objects, patio umbrellas shouldn’t be too heavy to prevent you from lifting them. This is why you shouldn’t go with the heaviest umbrella, even if you think that it would be more stable. Most patio umbrellas weigh 30 pounds (some even less), but a double canopy umbrella can go up to 50 pounds.
Every umbrella should be collapsible so you can move it easier. This, in combination with lighter weight, makes storing it for the off-season much simpler. The best design should allow you to take it inside and pack it without too much struggle.
There are two main types of patio umbrellas – market and cantilever. Depending on where you plan to put them, one might suit you better than the other.
Market: The market type has a straight central pole that works as the main structure of the umbrella. It’s probably the more common type and often costs a bit less. While they usually work with an umbrella base, they can also fit at the center of a compatible table, giving them more versatility.
Cantilever (offset): These patio umbrellas can shade larger areas because of their out-of-the-way pole design. The pole is placed on the side, which means the umbrella canopy is hanging overhead and you can stand directly under it. They offer a lot more in terms of adjustment and tend to do well in harsh weather conditions.
Choosing the umbrella shape mostly comes down to personal preference. You can find umbrellas that are round, square, hexagonal, octagonal, or rectangular. When choosing, it’s good to think about the space you need to protect and which shape would most efficiently provide the cover needed.
Some umbrella shapes can be paired together to cover a larger space. For example, if you want to cover two dining tables, two square umbrellas may be better than one larger rectangular umbrella. Of course, a certain shape might look better on your patio than others.
The ribs are the structural support that holds the canopy up and open. An umbrella for patios usually has about 6 to 8 ribs, but you may find umbrellas with more. While more ribs may sound great for stability and support, remember that the more ribs there are, the heavier the umbrella will be.
The material used to make the best ribs should be lightweight, durable, and rust/corrosion-free. Common materials used are wood, aluminum, and steel. Wood gives a great natural look but tends to be less durable. Aluminum is perhaps the best choice because it offers admirable strength while keeping the weight low. Steel ribs are the strongest, but also the heaviest.
The lifting method determines how you open and close your umbrella. There are three common lifting methods: crank, push-up, and pulley. Regardless of the type you choose, remember to always close the umbrella when not in use.
Crank: A crank lift is the most commonly used because it’s the easiest to operate. A minimal amount of strength is required to turn the crank and push the canopy up and open. To close it, you just need to turn the crank the other way.
Push-Up: Pushing the canopy open is also very common, similar to opening a rain umbrella. It’s harder to do compared to the crank method, which is why it’s better for smaller patio umbrellas. You place one hand on the pole and use the other to push up until it’s open and you hear a click. To release the canopy, you have to press the pin or button that releases the lock.
Pulley: This is a less common method that combines the crank and push-up methods. Rather than turning a crank, you pull a cord that opens the canopy, as if you were using a crank. To close the canopy, you have to find the pin or button that releases the lock and then use the cord to slowly lower the canopy.
To position the shade better without moving the whole umbrella, most models offer some type of canopy adjustment. There are two possible ways you can adjust the canopy – tilting or rotating. Depending on the model, your umbrella may use one or both of these methods.
Tilting adjustment: The canopy allows you to change the angle at which it rests, so the shade can cover an area better. Most modern patio umbrellas have this feature and use one of the three mechanisms (collar tilt, crank, or push button).
- Collar tilt: You adjust the canopy angle by simply twisting the part of the pole in one direction or the other. If your umbrella comes with a collar tilt function, you can adjust the canopy from a seated position (if you can reach the pole). This is usually found on the best outdoor patio umbrellas.
- Crank: The same crank that is used to open and close the canopy can also be used to tilt the canopy. This is the easiest method because you just have to use the crank, rather than move the entire umbrella.
- Push Button: Umbrellas with a push-button have a joint with a metal pin that keeps the canopy in a certain position. Pressing on the pin unlocks the canopy so you can change the angle. This is the least expensive method.
Rotating adjustment: A rotating umbrella allows you to change the shaded area without changing the angle or moving around patio furniture. This method is found on cantilever umbrellas, where the pole rotates inside the base so you can easily move the canopy in a wide circle. This allows you to potentially cover a much wider area.
Regardless of the model you get, your umbrella should be durable. Because it will be exposed to sun, wind, and often rain, you want an umbrella made of high-quality materials that can withstand these conditions. Don’t skimp on money when it comes to durability because the best patio umbrella will serve you for years and make your investment worth it.
Last but not least, we all want our new umbrella to look good. As you had the chance to see, there are huge differences in style between models. Picking the right one depends on your personal taste and whether it will be a good fit on your patio (match the dining table and lounge chairs). Canopy color and materials used are the main factors that determine how an umbrella looks.
If you’re looking for a more natural look, a nice wooden frame will work best. On the other hand, a metal can look more modern if that’s what you’re going for. As for color, all the models we featured come in a variety of vibrant options to choose from. Keep in mind that a lighter umbrella won’t warm up as fast as a darker one.
Q: How Do You Clean An Umbrella?
Cleaning an umbrella for patios is relatively simple but requires a little work. Before starting, move the umbrella to a shaded area. Vacuum all the debris around the pole and on the canopy. Mix a mild detergent with warm water and scrub the canopy with a sponge or a soft brush. Rinse it off with a hose and then move it back to the sun so it can dry off.
Q: Will My Umbrella Fade?
It depends on the canopy fabric and which dyeing method was used. If a fabric is dip-dyed, it will fade significantly faster than a polyester fabric that is solution-dyed. However, even the best patio umbrellas will fade after a few years. The sun is harsh and, if you use your umbrella constantly, the colors are difficult to last.
To help preserve the color longer, you should always close your umbrella when not in use. This can help the color last longer. On top of this, the umbrella should be stored indoors during the offseason. We also need to add that lighter colors show less fading over time. Choosing ivory over red means having an unchanged color for a longer time.
Q: How Do I Measure Umbrella Size?
You measure umbrella size by measuring the length of a single rib and multiplying this number with two. This will give you the diameter of your canopy. For an ideal shade, the umbrella should extend two feet over the table edge on every side.
Q: Can I Install Lights In The Umbrella?
Yes, you can easily install lights on any umbrella. While some models have lights pre-installed, adding a few LED strips isn’t that difficult even if yours doesn’t have them already. Doing this will allow you to enjoy your patio in the evening too. The lights can be powered through replaceable batteries or with a solar panel.
Q: Do I Need To Buy An Umbrella Stand?
Yes, if your umbrella doesn’t already come with one. Having a stand or base allows you to set up the umbrella anywhere with less risk of it being blown away or falling over. Adding a base will give it stability and make setup easy even if you don’t have a table with a hole inside.
Q: What Should I Use As A Weight To Keep The Umbrella From Blowing Away?
Ideally, the umbrella base that you purchase will come weighted. Weighted stands or bases are commonly filled with sand. However, if your garden umbrella with stand doesn’t have weight, you can buy your own sandbags or use rocks to weigh it down. Some models allow you to pour water into the base and use it as weight.
Q: What Color Is Best?
Lighter colors (beige, white, tan) are better for a couple of reasons. The first is that lighter colors heat up slower, making the shade a bit more pleasant in the scorching sun. The other reason is that lighter colors fade slower (or it shows less at least). Of course, the choice of color ultimately comes to your own preference.
Q: What Is An Auto Tilt Umbrella?
An auto tilt umbrella is a model that uses the crank lever to tilt the canopy. The crank tilt mechanism is thoroughly described in the buying guide above. An auto tilt umbrella is perhaps the most convenient to use, but this design is also the most expensive.
Q: How Do You Store Patio Umbrellas?
Before storing the umbrella for the season, make sure to properly clean it first. Afterward, close it, tie it, and remove it from the base. It’s advisable that you cover the exposed pole too. The umbrella should be stored in a dry area away from freezing cold. Proper umbrella storage will significantly increase durability.
Q: Do Patio Umbrellas Block UV Rays?
Yes, but the percentage varies between different models. Thicker canopies made of high-quality polyester can block over 90% of harmful rays, keeping you protected while you’re sitting in the shade. Without an umbrella UV protection, you could get sunburns even if you’re not directly exposed to the sun.
Q: What Is The Difference Between An Umbrella For Patios And A Market Umbrella?
The difference is in the terms, not necessarily in the products. A market umbrella is just one type of umbrella. A market umbrella has a central pole under the canopy, while other umbrellas patio include both this type as well as a cantilever umbrella. If you want to learn more about the differences, check out the buying guide.
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A new umbrella might be the best accessory you’ll buy this season. By protecting you from sun and rain, a top-rated umbrella will make spending time outdoors much more enjoyable. It’s important that you pick an umbrella that will be both functional and look stylish in your yard. Hopefully, the tips in our guide have helped you find the best patio umbrella that is going to be reliable protection for years to come.
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