Blue sky, fresh air, and bright sunshine are what make an outdoor living space good for the soul. But, does your space sometimes get too much sun? Overexposure to the sun can be very harmful to your skin, and the heat that direct sunlight brings can be overwhelming.
Don’t solve the problem by staying inside—what you need is a patio umbrella!
Whether you’re having a meal, hosting a party, or just kicking back and relaxing, a great patio umbrella is an easy and inexpensive way to elevate your outdoor living experience.
Finding the Right Patio Umbrella
First, it’s good to know the terms for the parts of an umbrella:
- Canopy: The fabric that covers the umbrella structure is called the canopy.
- Vents: Vents are open spaces in the canopy fabric that let the wind through to help keep the umbrella from tipping over or blowing away.
- Finial or Ferrule: The finial is a decorative piece at the top that holds down the canopy.
- Ribs: The ribs are the pieces that give the umbrella its shape. They attach to the hub and collapse or extend as the hub is moved up and down.
- Struts: The struts are the short pieces that extend and support the ribs as the hub is pushed up.
- Hub: The hub is a ring piece that moves up and down the pole to spread out the ribs and struts.
- Pole: The pole is the central shaft where all the parts attach.
- Base: The base is the weighted part at the bottom of the umbrella that anchors it in place. The base contains the base tube, where the shaft is attached to it.
Then, it’s time to consider these important umbrella features:
- Design: Patio umbrellas come in two basic designs—market and cantilever. The classic market style umbrella is an upright design with a central pole. They may have the ability to tilt at the top, but the shape is straight and symmetrical. A cantilever umbrella’s pole is an off-set arm, positioned to the side with the ability to rotate.
- Fabric: Umbrella fabric must be durable enough to stand up to sun, rain, wind, and cold. Polyester, canvas, and acrylic fabrics do well outdoors.
- Frame: Umbrella frames are generally made of aluminum, wood, or fiberglass. Aluminum is most common because it’s lightweight, inexpensive, and flexible enough to stand up to reasonable weather conditions. Fiberglass is the most expensive frame material—it doesn’t rust or weather, and it’s sturdy enough to withstand high winds. Wood is a stylish option, but it may break in rough weather.
- Mechanisms: The lift mechanism opens and closes your umbrella. If the mechanism is push-up, then you will have to lift the weight of the canopy, ribs, and struts. A crank mechanism uses a pulley system with a handle to open and shut the umbrella. Some umbrellas have a tilting mechanism that allows you to change the angle and direction of the canopy; this mechanism may be a button, a crank, or a rotating collar.
- Base: Quality umbrella bases are commonly made from stone, iron, or concrete. Less expensive bases may be hollow plastic that you have to fill with sand or water. Cantilever umbrellas need more base weight than market umbrellas, and the base weight you need increases with the size of the canopy. As a rule of thumb, use 40 pounds for 5-to-6-foot umbrellas; 50 pounds for 7.5-to-8.5-foot umbrellas; 60 pounds for 9-foot umbrellas; 70 pounds for 10-foot umbrellas; or 100 pounds for 11-to-13-foot umbrellas.
- Size: If you get an umbrella that’s too big for your space, it will be too bulky and awkward—too small, and it won’t give you the coverage you need. Umbrella size refers to the width of the extended canopy, not the height of the pole. The height of an umbrella should be at least 7 feet. The canopy size you need depends on the size of the space you have: a 5-to-6-foot umbrella canopy covers a small table and two chairs; a 9-to-10-foot umbrella covers a mid-size table and four to six chairs; an 11-foot umbrella works for a medium-sized conversation area; and for a large conversation area, you need an umbrella that’s 12 to 13 feet across.
These patio umbrella options are great picks for a variety of outdoor spaces:
Best for Large Patios: Grand Napoli 11-foot Patio Umbrella
The Grand Patio Napoli cantilever umbrella has a generous 11-foot wide canopy with 360-degree rotation that’s perfect for covering a large seating area or dining furniture set. Its aluminum frame with a sturdy pole and eight ribs and its vented canopy made from water- and fade-resistant polyester fabric are both designed to last season after season.
The umbrella opens and closes with its crank mechanism, and it has an auto-lock system that allows the angle of the umbrella to be adjusted up to 90 degrees.
This umbrella requires a base weight of at least 176 pounds and a base tube that accommodates its 2.4-inch pole. The base must be purchased separately.
Grand Patio Napoli 11 FT Cantilever Offset Umbrella Aluminum Frame, Crossbar Base Side Mount Umbrella with 360° Rotation, Beige
This cantilever umbrella is perfect for a large seating or dining area, season after season.
Best for Small Patios: Pure Garden Half-Round Patio Umbrella
The Pure Garden half-round canopy is a neat solution for balconies, small patios, or small decks. This umbrella has an easy-open crank system and is made with five durable steel ribs and a sturdy steel pole that fits in most tables and umbrella stands. The vented canopy is 4.3 by 7.6 feet, made from weather-resistant 160G polyester fabric.
The umbrella needs a base with a base tube of 1.5 inches. The base is not included.
Half Round Patio Umbrella with Easy Crank – Compact 9ft Semicircle Outdoor Shade Canopy for Balcony, Porch, or Deck by Pure Garden (Sand)
This half-round 28-square-foot canopy is a great addition to balconies, small patios, or small decks.
Best for Backyard: Best Choice Double-Sided Outdoor Umbrella
This supersized 9-by-15-foot canopy with three wind vents provides 135 square feet of shade and UV protection for your patio, pool, garden, or outdoor dining area. The Best Choice patio umbrella is designed with 12 steel ribs and opens with a crank system. It’s great for garden parties or backyard birthday parties!
A base for this umbrella is sold separately by the same brand.
Best Choice Products 15x9ft Large Double-Sided Rectangular Outdoor Aluminum Twin Patio Market Umbrella w/Crank and Wind Vents - White
This 9-by-15-foot umbrella provides 135 square feet of shade and UV protection your patio, pool, garden, or outdoor dining area.
Best for Rough Weather: California Sunline Collection Patio Umbrella
The 7.5-foot round California Patio Umbrella, built with an aluminum frame and six fiberglass ribs, comes in five stylish polyester fabric colors. It opens with a crank system and also has a push-button tilt mechanism to adjust the umbrella angle. It has weather-resistant polyester fabric to hold up in inclement weather, and it looks great over a round table on a patio or next to other outdoor furniture.
The base is not included and must be purchased separately.
California Umbrella 7.5' Round Aluminum Pole Fiberglass Rib Umbrella, Crank Open, Push Button 3-Way Tilt, Champagne Pole, Brick Red
This stylish patio umbrella is constructed with fiberglass ribs and weather-resistant polyester fabric.