How to Choose the Best Umbrella for Your Patio
Determine the Umbrella Size and Shape You Need
Break out the tape measure and find out exactly how much space you need to shade. When you’re throwing shade on a lounge or play area, choose an umbrella that covers as much of the space as possible. Remember, a larger umbrella means more space for the kids to play while they’re still protected from the sun. Your umbrella should be 7 to 9 feet tall, no matter which type of area you’re shading.
For an outdoor table, you need a 2-feet shade buffer around the table for optimal comfort. The extra shade provides a fuller glare-free experience depending on where the sun is in the sky. The shape of your umbrella should match the shape of your table for a cohesive look. If you can’t find an umbrella that matches your table, you might want to buy a patio umbrella table instead. Refer to the chart below for exact measurements.
Patio Umbrella Size Chart
|Patio Table Size (Diameter/Length in Feet)|
|Umbrella Size (Diameter/Length in Feet)|
Give Your Umbrella Plenty of Support With a Sturdy Base
Before you complete your purchase, add an umbrella base to your order. You don’t want the excitement of getting your umbrella in the mail to be overshadowed by disappointment when you can’t use it until you order the base. Free standing umbrellas need heavier bases than their table counterparts since they don’t have the extra support of a table.
Refer to the chart below to make sure your base is heavy enough to keep your umbrella standing tall. Fifty pounds is the absolute minimum base weight for a free standing umbrella. Reserve anything lighter for your table umbrellas.
Patio Umbrella Base Weight Chart
|Free-Standing Umbrella Size (Diameter/Length in Feet)|
|Minimum Base Weight (In Pounds)|
Find a Shade That Will Last, Rain or Shine
Typical outdoor sun umbrellas made of plastic or lightweight fabrics are not waterproof, so they may not hold up well in heavy rain. Just like your umbrella frame, your shade’s fabric needs to be durable enough to survive in unpredictable weather. That means anything that is susceptible to fading, mold, or holes is out of the question. Sunbrella is the miracle umbrella fabric. It’s water and fade resistant, has UV protection, and comes with its own suit of armor. Okay, everything but that last one.
For a patio umbrella that won’t fade in the sun, you’ll want one made from canvas or vinyl. To save money, go with a polyester umbrella. It’s almost as durable as Sunbrella and is similarly resistant to fading, mold, and holes or tears. Check out our guide on Patio Decorating Ideas to make sure your umbrella fabric coordinates with the rest of your patio decor.
Choose a Frame That Can Withstand Rough Weather
Patio umbrellas are made survive in all kinds of weather. While you should always try to close your umbrella when the wind picks up, sometimes you might forget. Or maybe it’s raining and you don’t feel like going outside — we get it. If you live in an especially windy area, or you have a tendency to forget to close your umbrella, you need one with a strong frame.
Look for an umbrella style that works in your climate. There are durable sun umbrellas made to withstand high winds; these umbrellas often have fiberglass ribs to protect the frame from bending.
An aluminum frame is your best bet for standing up to storms and other bad weather. Plus, aluminum resists corrosion, so it will look just as great in a few years as it does the day you buy it. Choose a steel frame if you’re on a budget but you still need something strong and sturdy. It might not stay as pretty as an aluminum option, but it will still endure the wind and the rain.
Choose an Umbrella Design that Suits Your Needs
Lunching poolside with friends, lounging away the afternoon in an outdoor chaise, or playing in the sandbox with your little ones — no matter what your patio activities include, there is an umbrella to meet your needs.
Choose a standard market umbrella to accompany your outdoor dining table. Market umbrellas also work for open seating or play areas but with a center pole you run the risk of blocking your view. A cantilever, or offset umbrella is a better choice for open spaces. The pole is off to the side making the area obstacle free. Offset umbrellas are particularly useful for shading benches and chairs that don’t belong to a matching patio table. You can also buy several offset umbrellas to create an expansive canopy for special events, such as weddings or other outdoor celebrations.
Brighten the Night With Umbrella Accent Lights
You don’t have to close your patio umbrella the moment the sun sets. When your umbrella includes lights, you can easily transition an evening dinner into a nighttime dessert. You can take advantage of a particularly sunny climate and buy a solar patio umbrella that absorbs the sun’s rays during the day and then lights your patio at night. When you choose a pre-lit umbrella that is solar powered, you don’t have to worry about cords and power outlets. If your umbrella choice doesn’t have lights, just add your own. Check out our guide on Best Outdoor Lighting to find an option that’s right for you.
Save Your Elbow Grease With an Easy-to-Clean Umbrella
Although outdoor umbrellas are designed to withstand outdoor conditions, they do get dirty from time to time. Choose a cleanable umbrella now and save yourself a scrubbing-induced headache in the future.
Umbrellas made with Olefin or Coolaroo fabrics are easy to wipe clean. Plus, they resist mold and stains so you don’t have to clean them on a regular basis. In fact, you can clean them once a year when you put them away for the season and they’ll be good to go. For advice on how to store your umbrella in the off season, read How to Store a Patio Umbrella in Winter.