Having the best patio umbrella is essential to creating a relaxing outdoor space, especially during the summer and rainy days. The patio umbrella provides shade and protection from the elements, and adds a touch of style to your patio, deck, or garden area.
However, with so many options available, choosing the best patio umbrella can be overwhelming. In this comprehensive buying guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to find the best patio umbrella that suits your needs and enhances your outdoor experience.
Types of Patio Umbrellas
When it comes to patio umbrellas, there are two main types that dominate the market: market umbrellas and cantilever umbrellas. While both serve the purpose of providing shade and enhancing your outdoor space, they have distinct designs and functionalities that cater to different preferences and needs.
a) Market Umbrellas
Market umbrellas are the classic and traditional style of patio umbrellas. They typically feature a straight center pole and a round or octagonal-shaped canopy. The pole is located in the center of the umbrella and is supported by ribs that extend to the edge of the canopy.
These umbrellas are commonly used with outdoor dining tables, as they fit through the hole in the center of the table. They can also be used as freestanding units in open spaces.
b) Cantilever (Offset) Umbrellas
Cantilever umbrellas are popular for larger outdoor seating areas or lounging spaces. Unlike market umbrellas, they have an offset design with the pole located to one side. The canopy is supported by an arm extending from the side pole, allowing the umbrella to hang over the desired area without a central pole obstructing the space beneath it.
Most cantilever umbrellas come with a tilting mechanism that allows you to adjust the angle of the canopy. They require a sturdy base, often cross-shaped, to provide a counterbalance for the offset weight of the canopy. This base ensures stability even in windy conditions.
How to Choose the Best Patio Umbrella
Before shopping, take a moment to assess your specific requirements. Consider the size of your outdoor area, the number of people you wish to accommodate, and the primary purpose of the umbrella. Do you need it for dining or lounging?
With many options available, it’s essential to consider various factors to ensure you select the best patio umbrella that meets your needs.
1. Canopy Size
Selecting the right size for your patio umbrella is crucial for maximizing shade coverage. Follow these steps to determine the ideal size:
- Measure Your Patio Area: Use a tape measure to calculate the area you want to shade. Consider any obstacles that might affect the umbrella’s placement.
- Determine Umbrella Diameter: To estimate the umbrella size, divide the shaded area by 1.5. For example, if you have a 10ft x 10ft area, you’ll need an umbrella with at least a 6.67ft diameter.
Patio Umbrella Size Comparison
|Recommended Table Width
|30 – 36 Inches
|Small bistro or side tables
|36 – 48 Inches
|Standard round or square dining tables for 4-6 people
|48 – 54 Inches
|Large round or square dining tables for 6-8 people
|60 – 72 Inches
|Large rectangular or oval dining tables for 8-10 people
|Over 13 feet
|Extra-large dining tables for more than 10 people or multiple tables combined
2. Canopy Shape
Patio umbrellas come in various shapes, each with its advantages and aesthetics. Consider the layout of your outdoor space and the shape of your furniture when choosing the canopy shape.
Round (octagonal) Canopy
Round umbrellas offer a classic and versatile look. They evenly distribute shade in all directions, making them ideal for small to medium-sized seating arrangements. Round canopies are also easier to find and tend to be more budget-friendly.
Square umbrellas provide a more modern and contemporary feel. They are an excellent choice for square dining tables and seating areas. The four corners of the canopy allow for better coverage in square or rectangular spaces.
Rectangular umbrellas are ideal for long dining tables or lounge areas. They provide maximum shade coverage for extended seating arrangements and are perfect for outdoor gatherings and parties.
3. Canopy Fabric
The canopy fabric is a crucial factor in determining the patio umbrella’s durability and its ability to provide adequate protection from the sun and other elements. High-quality canopy fabrics offer better UV resistance, fade resistance, and weather resistance.
Polyester is a common and affordable choice for outdoor patio umbrellas. It offers decent UV resistance and is available in various colors and patterns.
Acrylic fabrics are known for their exceptional UV resistance and fade resistance. They also have a soft and luxurious feel. While more expensive than polyester, acrylic fabrics are worth the investment for their long-lasting performance and vibrant colors.
Olefin, also known as polypropylene, is a synthetic fiber that offers excellent resistance to UV rays and water. It is a popular choice for outdoor fabrics due to its durability and colorfastness.
Sunbrella® is a premium outdoor fabric brand known for its outstanding performance and wide range of colors and patterns. It is highly resistant to fading, mold, and mildew, making it an excellent long-term investment.
Thatch is a natural material typically made from dried palm leaves or other plant materials. Thatch umbrellas offer a unique, tropical look and are often used in beachfront or poolside settings for their aesthetic appeal.
However, it may not be as durable as synthetic fabrics and may require more maintenance to prevent mold or decay.
4. Patio Umbrella Colors
The color of your patio umbrella affects more than just its appearance; it can also impact its shade-providing capabilities. Darker colors tend to absorb more heat, while lighter shades reflect it. As a result, dark umbrellas are generally more effective at blocking UV rays compared to light ones.
Let’s explore the other differences between dark and light umbrellas in the table below:
|Absorb more heat, potentially making the shaded area warmer
|Reflect more heat, keeping the shaded area cooler
|Offer better UV protection, shielding from harmful rays
|Provide less UV protection
|Reduce sun glare and create a cozy ambiance
|May not reduce sun glare as effectively
|More prone to fading
|Less prone to fading
|Show less dirt and stains, requiring less frequent cleaning
|May show dirt and stains more prominently
When selecting the ideal color for your outdoor umbrella, consider your local climate and the ambiance you desire to create. Choose a color that complements your existing outdoor decor and furniture.
Beige, taupe, or gray offer a timeless and versatile look. Neutral colors effortlessly blend with various outdoor settings and are less likely to clash with changing decor.
Bright and vibrant colors like red, orange, or turquoise can infuse your outdoor space with a pop of excitement. These colors work well if you want to create a bold and lively atmosphere.
Stripes and Patterns
Opting for striped or patterned canopies can add visual interest and personality to your patio. For instance, blue and white stripes can create a beachy or nautical vibe, adding to the overall appeal.
5. Frame Materials
The frame material of the outdoor umbrella directly affects its sturdiness, weight, and longevity. Consider the climate and weather conditions in your area when selecting the frame material. If your region experiences strong winds or heavy rainfall, opt for a sturdy material like steel or fiberglass.
Aluminum is a popular choice for patio umbrella frames due to its lightweight nature and resistance to rust and corrosion. It is easy to move around and offers a modern look.
Steel frames are sturdy and robust, providing excellent stability in windy conditions. However, they are heavier than aluminum, which can make them less portable.
Wooden frames provide a natural and timeless appeal to your outdoor space. They are often used in classic and traditional settings. However, wood requires more maintenance to prevent rot and decay, and it is generally not as weather-resistant as metal frames.
Fiberglass is a strong, lightweight, and durable material that offers excellent resistance to corrosion, weather, and chemicals. Some high-end patio umbrellas use fiberglass frames, which combine flexibility and strength.
Fiberglass does not degrade or weaken when exposed to sunlight for extended periods. It is also less likely to bend or break in strong winds, making it a durable option.
6. Opening Mechanisms
Consider the ease of use and convenience when selecting the opening mechanism, as this will determine how frequently you use the umbrella.
a) Pulley System: A traditional opening mechanism that involves pulling a rope to lift the umbrella canopy. While it is a cost-effective option, operating can be more challenging, especially for larger umbrellas.
b) Crank Lift: One of the most user-friendly opening mechanisms. They feature a handle that can be turned to raise or lower the umbrella effortlessly. Crank lifts are ideal for larger umbrellas as they require minimal effort.
c) Push-Up: It involves manually pushing the umbrella upward until it is fully open. This mechanism is often found in smaller and more compact umbrellas. They may not be as suitable for larger umbrellas, as the manual effort can become more challenging with increased size.
d) Remote Control: Some high-end patio umbrellas come equipped with a remote control opening mechanism. These umbrellas are motorized, allowing you to open and close the canopy with the press of a button on the remote control. They are ideal for users with limited mobility or those who want to control the umbrella’s movement from a distance.
7. Umbrella Base
The stability of your patio umbrella is crucial to prevent it from tipping over during windy conditions. The base provides the necessary weight and support to keep the umbrella grounded.
You can achieve stability with weighted bases by filling them with sand or water. Alternatively, you can choose freestanding bases that are naturally heavy and stable, requiring no additional weight.
For standard patio umbrellas with a diameter of up to 9 feet, a base weight of 30 to 50 pounds is generally suitable. However, larger umbrellas or those in windy areas may require heavier base weights, such as 50 to 75 pounds or more.
To ensure a proper fit, make sure the umbrella base or stand has a hole with a diameter that matches your umbrella pole’s size. The standard pole diameters are usually 1.5 inches or 2 inches.
Additionally, you can choose bases that come with wheels for easy mobility.
8. Additional Features
Beyond the basic features, some patio umbrellas have additional options that enhance their functionality and comfort.
Wind Vents: Wind vents are small openings at the top of the canopy that allow air to escape. This design reduces wind resistance and helps prevent the umbrella from toppling over in strong winds.
Tilt Mechanisms: Tilt mechanisms allow you to adjust the angle of the canopy to block the sun from different directions as it moves across the sky. Tilt options include push-button tilt, crank tilt, collar tilt, and auto-tilt.
Solar-Powered LED Lights: Some patio umbrellas have built-in LED lights powered by solar panels, perfect for evening gatherings.
Multi-Canopy: A multi-canopy umbrella typically has multiple individual canopies or sections attached to a single frame. These sections can be adjusted independently, allowing you to tilt and position each canopy to block the sun from various angles.
Swivel: Cantilever Umbrellas with a swivel feature have the ability to 360° rotate or pivot on their base. This allows you to change the direction of the umbrella without moving the entire base.
9. Budget and Price
Setting a budget before shopping for a patio umbrella is essential to narrow down your options and avoid overspending. Patio umbrella prices can vary significantly based on factors such as canopy size, material, brand, and additional features.
- Budget Options: Budget-friendly patio umbrellas with smaller canopies and basic features can start as low as $50 to $100. These options are suitable for occasional use and modest shade coverage.
- Mid-Range Options: Patio umbrellas in the mid-range price bracket typically range from $100 to $300. These umbrellas offer a good balance between quality and affordability, often featuring more durable materials and better UV resistance.
- High-End Options: High-end patio umbrellas can cost $300 to $1000 or more. These premium options often feature top-quality materials, advanced features, and superior UV protection. They are designed for long-term use and may come with extended warranties.
Keep in mind that investing in a higher-quality option can offer better long-term value and performance.
Final Thoughts for Patio Umbrellas
In conclusion, when purchasing an outdoor umbrella, it’s essential to determine its intended use and assess the available space.
Once these factors are established, selecting a suitable style that complements your outdoor decor is crucial. Additionally, carefully considering the materials used in the umbrella’s construction and opting for durable canopy fabrics will ensure its longevity and performance.
By following these steps, you can confidently choose the best patio umbrella that enhances both the aesthetics and functionality of your outdoor living area.