It elevates your patio style and wards off the elements, blocking UV rays and rain, while adding a rich, radial burst of color to outdoor tables and seating areas. A well-designed patio umbrella can pretty much make your day … after day after day, yielding a spectacular spring and summer, completely free of squinting, sunburn, or follow-the-shade-around chair shuffling.
With that cool outcome in mind, the following tips will help you find the best patio umbrellas at hayneedle.com for your favorite outdoor activities and seating arrangements.
Material Issue: What Makes Up the Pole & Canopy Matters
A patio umbrella is a material duo: a supporting structure of pole and ribs that holds up a shade-spreading canopy of outdoor fabric. The material you choose for these two parts will determine not only your umbrella’s style and durability, but also the design features it can provide.
In the case of poles, aluminum and wood are the primary options. Wood poles are preferred for their traditional style. Their light and dark weather-resistant finishes are a classic match for wood dining tables or resin wicker conversation sets in contemporary earth and jewel tones.
Many of our wood poles at hayneedle.com feature brass trim and hardware, a beautiful choice for dining-oriented patios and decks. If your backyard has a more tropical aesthetic, a bamboo pole with stainless steel hardware would make a great home bar or BBQ canopy.
The downside of wood is that most wood-poled patio umbrellas feature a simple pulley-lift or push-up-lift system that locks the canopy in place or secures it with a large metal pin – and that means no tilting to block the sun as it slides through the afternoon sky.
Aluminum patio umbrella poles are the contemporary standard. Aluminum’s a strong, lightweight, rust-resistant metal that’s commonly used as a frame material in modern patio furniture. Aluminum is therefore a great stylistic match for most home patios, and a very rugged pole material for commercial venues. But aluminum’s greatest appeal lies in the high-tech, shade-shifting versatility of its crank and tilt canopy systems (there’s more detail on those in the “What’s Your Type?” tips below).
As for umbrella fabrics, Sunbrella is the industry leader in both style and performance. Sunbrella canopies are water-repellent and mold- and mildew-resistant, easy to clean, provide up to 98% UV protection (variable by color depth, e.g. darker is better), and come with a five-year manufacturer’s fade warranty. Among Sunbrella alternatives, fabrics such as solution-dyed acrylic and Olefin should provide excellent colorfastness and moisture-resistance. For a value buy, try spun polyester, a high-strength poly upgrade with excellent color retention for commercial or home use.
The Scoop on Size & Shape
A patio umbrella’s size is a measure of its shade diameter. The most common sizes are 6- and 7-foot patio umbrellas for bistro and café tables, and 9- and 11-foot umbrellas for standard patio tables (round, square, or rectangular). As a general rule, your umbrella canopy should be at least 5 feet larger than the area you wish to shade.
If you don’t feel like busting out the measuring tape, use these numbers as a point of reference:
- A 6-foot umbrella can cover a 30-inch bistro or café table
- A 7-foot umbrella can cover a 36-inch bistro or café table
- A 9-foot umbrella can cover a 48-inch round or square patio dining table
- An 11-foot umbrella can cover a 60-inch round or square table or a 72-inch oval or rectangular table
While most patio umbrellas are round, you’ll also find square market-style umbrellas at hayneedle.com, in addition to rectangular and oval designs.
Another option to consider in large dining or poolside settings is an offset umbrella. This cantilevered design extends the canopy far out from the pole, giving ample shade, while eliminating visual clutter in ensembles such as conversation sets or sectional sofas.
What’s Your Type?
On long summer afternoons, a standard patio umbrella can make you feel like you’re trapped in a sundial, constantly picking up your chair and shuffling back into the slowly moving shade. If you’re upgrading your patio from a standstill, sundial-era canopy, you’re going to love the ultra-convenient umbrella designs that are available at hayneedle.com. These modern patio marvels can block the sun in its tracks, without even the hassle of getting you out of your chair.
These super-easy shades are known as tilt patio umbrellas and are available in three basic types:
- Collar tilt, named for the “collar” above the crank, which allows for infinite adjustment positions at any shade angle, even with a non-fully opened canopy
- Auto tilt umbrellas (aka crank tilt), which crank fully open, and can then be cranked further to move the canopy to any desired shade angle, even from a seating position
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- Push-button tilt, which requires you to stand up, push a button to unlock the canopy, and move the umbrella manually to one of its available pivot points
In addition to tilt and crank designs, another type to look for is wind-resistant patio umbrellas, which feature flexible ribs or springs for greater give and resilience, allowing the canopy to bend in the wind without cracking.
Summer’s just around the corner. Get ahead of the sun with fast, free shipping on patio umbrellas and accessories from hayneedle.com.
- Joshua Avram, guest blogger