A Guide to Help You Find the Right Umbrella for Your Backyard
Are you looking for relief from the sweltering sun on your patio this summer?
Patio umbrellas provide shade anywhere in your outdoor space, so you don’t have to burn or overheat while enjoying the beautiful outdoors.
Outdoor umbrellas also provide extra privacy in your backyard, especially if you have neighbouring buildings that look down into your private space.
Along with shade and privacy, a backyard umbrella can also add a pop of colour to your backyard décor while helping define the outdoor seating area.
There are many types of patio umbrellas available, including table umbrellas, deck umbrellas, and cantilever umbrellas. And they all come in various materials, styles, and colours.
So here’s a guide to help you choose the best outdoor umbrella for your backyard needs.
How Do You Choose A Patio Umbrella?
Here’s everything you need to know about patio umbrellas so you can determine the best type to suit your needs.
Patio Umbrellas 101
Patio umbrella frames are typically made of wood, aluminum, or fiberglass.
Aluminum frames are lightweight and durable enough to resist breakage from strong winds. And with a powder-coated or anodized finish, aluminum frames can resist rust and damage from various weather conditions. These frames also come in different finishes to suit various outdoor décor.
Wood frames made with outdoor-tolerant wood such as teak, bamboo, or eucalyptus, are popular for natural outdoor-living décor. These frames may have oil or stain finishes to resist insects, rot, or weather damage. However, depending on their quality, they may be less resistant to breakage from strong winds compared to aluminum and fiberglass frames.
Fiberglass umbrellas are flexible, lightweight, and weather- and rust-resistant. Their flexibility makes these umbrellas the most resistant to breakage from strong winds. These frames are also available in a variety of colours.
Patio umbrella canopies are usually 5 to 11 feet in diameter and are on top of a pole that can be placed inside a hole in an outdoor dining table and is anchored to the ground with a weighted umbrella base.
These canopies are either round, octagonal, or rectangular, and can come in weather- and UV-resistant materials with various colours and patterns.
Patio umbrellas usually have a pulley or a crank mechanism to open and close. Or they can simply be pushed up to open and held in place with a pin, or have push buttons to open.
Traditional patio umbrellas use a pulley to open and close the umbrella with a pin to hold it in place. But for ease of use, many patio umbrellas these days use a crank mechanism that locks in place. The crank can open and close the umbrella and sometimes even tilt the umbrella.
Patio umbrellas come in two general types—centre pole and offset.
Centre Pole Umbrellas
These have a straight pole extending from a secure base to the top of the canopy. These umbrellas may have a fixed base or a mobile base with wheels, and may be used in the centre of tables with holes.
While centre pole umbrellas provide excellent protection against direct sunlight, they may not provide adequate protection against reflected or diffuse UV radiation coming from the sides of the umbrella.
Here are some of the various styles of centre pole umbrellas:
- Sunshades—a round disc on a pole, large enough to shade one person, usually near individual chaise lounges;
- Market—round or octagonal umbrellas, often with vented tops to cool the area and withstand strong winds;
- Pagoda—parasol-style, Asian-inspired umbrellas with a Japanese pagoda-style shape;
- Half umbrellas—have canopies with one flat side to sit flush against a wall, like a portable awning, and rounded or straight edges with or without drapes or valances. These are ideal for balconies, porches, and other small outdoor spaces.
Offset umbrellas, also known as cantilever umbrellas, are not inserted into table holes. Nor do they sit straight up like centre pole umbrellas. Instead, offset umbrellas sit beside a table or seating area with the base of the umbrella out of the way.
These umbrellas have an arched or jointed pole that is positioned off to one side, supporting the canopy that hangs over tables and seating areas. To support the overhanging canopy, cantilever umbrellas tend to have heavier bases than centre pole umbrellas.
Cantilever umbrellas can shade a large area without obstructing the patio space. Many can also rotate to provide 360˚ coverage.
Cantilever umbrellas are ideal for shading:
- Patio tables without umbrella holes
- Small spaces, since the base stays out of the way
- Small tables
- Lounge chairs—e.g., by the pool
- Deep-seating sets
Cantilever umbrellas don’t get in the way, and they can be adjusted when the sun moves so you can have shade throughout the day.
What to Look For
What is the Best Material for a Patio Umbrella?
The best canopy materials are fabrics that won’t fade in UV rays, such as Sunbrella acrylic UV- and weather-resistant fabric. These fabrics, along with olefin fabrics, are easy to wipe clean and are resistant to mold and mildew.
Canopies with colours, stripes, and patterns look better for longer compared to white fabrics, which tend to show dirt and age.
For umbrella frames, consider durable materials that won’t break easily, such as aluminum and fiberglass. If you want wood, choose a wood that will age well, is weather-resistant (e.g., teak or bamboo), and is treated to resist insects, decay, and weather damage.
How Do You Size a Patio Umbrella?
To find an umbrella that will provide enough shade for your patio and patio table, measure the table first and add 2 to 2.5 feet to the measurement for added shade.
You will want the canopy of the umbrella to cover the size of the table and any chairs around the table, with a bit of extra coverage on each end to cover people sitting at the table with their chairs pushed back a bit.
But make sure the umbrella isn’t too much larger than the table, or it might overwhelm your seating area.
You’ll also want to consider the distance from the umbrella to your house. If your outdoor seating area is right beside your house, you won’t want your umbrella to be so large that it’s touching the house. There should be some space between the umbrella and the roof or overhang of your home.
Your umbrella should also be far enough away from the entrance to your home so it won’t disrupt the flow of traffic and far away from the open flames of your outdoor grill.
As a general rule of thumb, size your umbrella based on the following shade area sizes:
- Shade area (diameter): Up to 36 inches—Umbrella size: 7 to 8 feet
- Shade area: Up to 48 inches—Umbrella size: 8 to 9 feet
- Shade area: Up to 60 inches—Umbrella size: 9 to 10 feet
- Shade area: Up to 72 inches—Umbrella size: 10 to 11 feet
- Shade area: Up to 84 inches—Umbrella size: 11 to 12 feet
- Shade area: Up to 96 inches—Umbrella size: 12 to 13 feet
- Shade area: Up to 108 inches—Umbrella size: 13 to 14 feet
How Do You Store a Patio Umbrella?
When not in use during patio season, you should close and cover your umbrella with an umbrella cover. During the off-season, carefully remove the pole and canopy from the base and make sure it’s clean and dry before storing for the winter.
To prevent wrinkling, wrap the folds in one direction before covering with an umbrella cover.
Cover the pole ends with cardboard or thick rags. And store in an upright position in a dry, enclosed area—such as a garage, basement, or pool house.
What Are the Best Patio Umbrellas?
Best Umbrellas for Tables
If you have an outdoor patio table with a hole in the centre, then consider a centre pole umbrella to place in the hole.
But if you want an outdoor dining table without a hole, a cantilever umbrella is best for providing ample shade. Just make sure that the umbrella you choose is large enough to cover the table and those sitting around the table.
Best Umbrellas for Shade
Cantilever umbrellas provide the most amount of shade throughout the day since they can shade a larger area and rotate to provide shade in all directions. Consider one that can move easily and be adjusted as the sun moves throughout the day.
Best Umbrellas for UV Protection
Cantilever umbrellas with UV-resistant fabric, such as Sunbrella acrylic canopies, not only block direct UV radiation but can also help block reflected or diffuse UV radiation from the sides since these umbrellas rotate and tilt.
Best Umbrellas for the Beach
Beach umbrellas are separate from patio umbrellas. Many beach umbrellas have a spiked base to insert into the sand. They also tend to have a minimalist style with a round canopy and valences hanging around the edges.
To find the best umbrella for you, consider this guide and keep in mind your outdoor décor, shade, and patio needs. A well-designed umbrella can keep you comfortable and protected from the sun while keeping your outdoor living space looking great for many summers to come.