When purchasing the best patio umbrella for your outdoor space there are a number of important considerations.  Outdoor patio umbrellas are available in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, styles, colours and materials. 

Finding the best patio umbrella will be much easier if you know what to look for.  Here’s a few things to consider.

Types of Outdoor Umbrellas

Offset or cantilever umbrellas have a base with a pole off to the side.  Because of this they need a heavy base to support the umbrella, more so than a center pole umbrella.  The canopy hangs off the offset pole and can usually be tilted to different angles or adjusted to different heights.  Cantilever umbrellas are particularly useful for outdoor tables that don’t have a hole in the center and they can also be easily positioned over pools or outdoor lounges to provide shade. 

The pole being offset to the side tends to keep it out of the way.  It is adviseable to place the pole towards the sun for providing optimal shade.  Some cantilever umbrellas can be rotated which provides even more options for shading your outdoor areas as the sun moves.

best pool umbrella

These stylish outdoor umbrellas are great for shading an outdoor table without a central hole, a lounge area or make an ideal pool umbrella.

umbrella size guide

Center pole umbrellas have a single pole in the center and the canopy opens on top of this pole.  A sturdy base is required to hold the umbrella and they tend to be steadier than cantilever umbrellas.  Market umbrellas are one example and usually have fixed canopies. 

Some best patio umbrellas with a center pole have the option to tilt the canopy which can be helpful as the sun moves during the day.  Other center pole umbrellas have only half a canopy which can be ideal if it is to be placed close to a wall.  If you are planning to use a center pole umbrella in a table, be sure to check the diameter of the pole with the diameter of the hole in your table.  Wedges can be purchased to ensure a more secure fit and reduce movement of your patio umbrella.

These outdoor umbrellas are ideal for an outdoor table with a central umbrella hole or perhaps a couple of deck chairs around the pool.

Sizing of Patio Umbrellas

When choosing a patio umbrella it is important to get the size right to provide the best shade and to fit your space.  Outdoor umbrellas can be used to shade outdoor tables and seating, lounging areas, a swimming or perhaps even play area for young children. 

For outdoor tables, it is recommended to have an umbrella that extends 2ft beyond the table on each side.  For example, a 4ft (48”) table would require an 8ft umbrella.  For an outdoor seating area with lounges, calculate the area covered by the lounges and then compare this with the coverage of the umbrella. 

Following this recommendation, here are a few examples for round umbrellas to help guide your choice.  See our comprehensive Umbrella Sizing Guide for more information.

Table SizeUmbrella Size
36"7 - 8ft
42"7.5 - 8.5ft
48"8 - 9ft
54"8.5 - 9.5ft
60"9 - 10ft
72"10 - 11ft
84"11 - 12ft

The above recommendations are for a minimum umbrella size.  If you want to have a bit more room for extra seating or comfortably moving around you may want to consider going to a larger patio umbrella to provide the extra shade to cater for this.  You won’t be disappointed with the shade but remember that a larger umbrella may be more cumbersome to operate.  Generally speaking, the larger your table the more generous you want your umbrella to be to cater for a larger number of guests. 

Be sure that your outdoor umbrella will fit in the space you have for it.  Sometimes people are surprised at how big their patio umbrellas are when they set them up so measure carefully.  There should be some space between the house and your outdoor umbrella to allow for tilting the canopy and potential movement caused by wind. Some of the larger cantilever umbrellas do require a bit of space to be able to open and close them and you need to remember to allow space for the offset stand and pole as well.

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Recommended umbrella sizes for round, square and rectangular outdoor dining tables

Canopy Features

Shape

If you are looking for the best patio umbrella consider what shape will ideally suit your space.  Canopies are usually round (octagon), square or rectangular.  Round umbrellas are the most common canopies although square umbrellas offer a very contemporary style. Rectangular umbrellas are ideal for shading longer tables or may suit narrower patios.

When comparing the same size round and square umbrellas, the square umbrella will provide a larger coverage area.  For example a 9ft round umbrella will have a coverage area of about 55ft2, whereas a square 9ft umbrella will cover 81ft2.

Fabric

When choosing the best patio umbrella, you should be aware of the fabric used to construct the canopy.  The fabric used is of particular importance as it affects the durability of the umbrella.  Look for a fabric that is weather resistant, fade resistant and UV resistant

There is a wide range of variability with the term ‘fade resistant’.  The Abba Patio umbrella is one of the few patio umbrellas that qualifies that the fabric, which is solution-dyed, will be fade-resistant for up to 1000 UV hours.  Darker colors will tend to fade quicker than lighter colours.

Most modern outdoor umbrellas are now manufactured using UV resistant fabrics made from synthetic materials. These materials can be obtained in different finishes, colors and prints.  There’s plenty of options to choose a style to suit your backyard. One thing to consider is that a lighter fabric may allow more light to diffuse through during the day and won’t be as likely to fade.

Wind vents in the canopy are of great benefit for two reasons.  They allow warm air to escape, helping to keep it cooler under the canopy and also allow the wind to flow through.  Umbrella canopies are a bit like a giant kite so can easily be damaged by gusts of wind, however vents helps to reduce the possibility of this.  Keeping your umbrella folded when not in use is often recommended to prevent damage to the canopy, ribs and other parts from unexpected high winds.  Using an outdoor umbrella cover will also protect it and will extend the longevity of the color.

Lighting

There are a variety of solar lighting options available with some of the best patio umbrellas.  Some have a larger central light, others have single LED lights on the ribs or LED light tubes along the ribs.  Some are placed closer to the center of the ribs and others are at the edges.

Most of the lights provide a cool, white light that is sufficient for dining and conversing with friends, but not all have enough light for reading or playing a game of cards.  The Best Choice 10ft round cantilever would be our pick for the one that provides the most light.  It’s more than likely that you will need additional patio lighting if you like it bright, but they do create a lovely outdoor ambience and are an attractive feature.

For center pole umbrellas the solar panels are usually placed on top of the umbrella canopy, so be sure you have attached it before setting up the umbrella.  On cantilever umbrellas they are usually on top of the pole.  All have an on/off switch to operate them, some being more easy to reach than others. For some umbrellas, it is necessary to ensure that the solar panel is actually charging the lights by simply unscrewing the solar panel and plugging in the connection.  Once charged the lights will last anywhere from 4 – 12 hours. 

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Outdoor Umbrella Frames

The frames of an outdoor patio umbrella can vary but are usually made of wood, powder-coated aluminum or more recently, fibreglass.  Powder-coated aluminum is the most commonly used material. It is highly durable, lightweight and can stand different types of weather conditions.

Wooden frames, apart from sometimes being more expensive than aluminum, are less durable, however the look of wood does appeal to some people.  And often the poles of a more expensive umbrella are replaceable.

A convenient alternative to aluminum is fiberglass.  Fiberglass is flexible, which allows it to bend in the wind and it’s very lightweight. It is also non-corrosive and can withstand extreme weather conditions making it the most durable option.  It is however, more expensive and therefore should be thought of as a long term investment.

Mechanics of the Umbrella

For opening and closing your patio umbrella, there are a couple of options.  Many of the best outdoor umbrellas have a crank handle mechanism that you wind to open and close and it can be locked in position.  Ideally a smooth operation is ideal as it is best to store your umbrella in a closed position to protect it from wind damage and fading.  The crank handles allows it to be easily opened and closed whenever it is needed.  Some umbrellas have a pulley system with a rope and pin to open and close, which is not as convenient but fairly reliable.

The best patio umbrella will have the option to tilt the canopy, adjusting the angle as the sun moves.  Once tilted, the canopy can be locked into position.  Some tilt umbrellas have a push button and for others the crank handle also controls the tilting position.  Sliding the handle adjusts the level of tilt and can be locked in position.  Centre pole umbrellas tend to only tilt to one angle, where as cantilever umbrellas have multiple tilt adjustments.

best outdoor umbrella mechanism

Umbrella Bases

All outdoor umbrellas require a weighted base to support them and these usually have to be purchased separately.  Some people mount their umbrellas in place by bolting them directly onto a post or patio floor. 

Centre pole umbrellas should use a base that allows the umbrella to be screwed securely into position.

Cantilever umbrella bases are often filled with sand or water and should provide sufficient weight to balance and secure the umbrella.  It is best to position your patio umbrella where it will be staying before filling the base as they do become very heavy.

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Tips for Maintaining The Best Patio Umbrella

Even with the best patio umbrella you can buy, it will last longer with a bit of care and general maintenance. Here are our suggestions to prolong the life of your outdoor umbrella:

  • close the canopy when not in use to prevent wind damage and minimize fading
  • wrap the folds of the canopy in one direction when closing and use an outdoor umbrella cover
  • clean the canopy if it gets dirty, with mild, soapy water and a soft cloth or soft-bristled brush
  • be sure the umbrella is dry before storing
  • secure the patio umbrella with a weighted base to prevent it blowing over in strong winds
  • open and close and adjust the canopy angle with care
  • always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
best outdoor umbrella maintenance

Choosing the Best Patio Umbrella

Choosing the best outdoor umbrella for your backyard depends on how it will be used and the space you are wanting to shade.  If you are looking to get something for a small space, the Sunnyglade 9ft may be one of the best patio umbrellas to consider. Be sure to measure the space you want to cover and choose an appropriate size of canopy.  Allow room for opening and closing and room for the base if it is a cantilever umbrella.

For a patio umbrella that offers some extra features consider the products with 360-degree rotation.  This provides a lot of flexibility for positioning your umbrella to shade different parts of your backyard.  These patio umbrellas can be easily adjusted as the sun moves throughout the day.   

We recommend thinking about how you will use your umbrella and making a list of features you would like your umbrella to have to make it fully functional in your backyard. 

When purchasing an umbrella it is rare that a heavy base will be included so you need to factor this into the purchase price.  Generally the more you pay, the higher quality the parts will be and the longer your outdoor umbrella will last.  But the way in which you plan to use your umbrella and your budget will largely determine what is necessary for you.  In most cases, outdoor umbrellas will last longer if closed when not in use.  If you are looking for the best patio umbrella we believe considering these options will help you find the ideal umbrella for adding style and functionality to your backyard.

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Make the most of summer!