What to Consider Before Buying an Outdoor Umbrella

Posted by Jennifer Morse on Jul 5, 2017 10:03:52 AM

Outdoor umbrellas allow us to spend time outside, while protecting us from the harmful rays and heat of the sun. When selecting an umbrella, choose one that fits your yard or table, suits your style, and is built to last. Here are four tips to know before you buy.

Where in the World?

Where in the world is your umbrella going to go? The first tip is to determine whether the umbrella will be placed into a table or stand over chaises or outdoor lounge chairs. This decision affects what size your umbrella will be, how thick the pole is, and what base you will need.


Size Does Matter

Umbrellas come in all shapes and sizes. The shade of an umbrella can be found in square, hexagon, and oval shapes, all providing coverage for the corresponding area. Be sure to scale the umbrella to size of the location, so that the umbrella has enough room to fully open and shade the desired area.

The size of an umbrella is definately important if being placed into a table. The span of the shade should cover the table and chairs, in other words, should be 2’ wider on each side of the table. For example, an 8’ umbrella works well with a 48” round tabletop, because all sides of the table and chairs will be covered. 

Size can also refer to the width of the pole. Most poles are available in 1.5” or 2” diameters. 1.5” diameter is standard for tables with umbrella holes, while 2” diameter is generally used for a freestanding umbrella.


Fabrics, Finishes, and Fun – Oh My!

Now the fun part of umbrella selecting- deciding the style of the umbrella. Not all fabrics are alike. Start with an outdoor fabric, for they are more durable and have been treated to withstand water, sun, and mildew. Then, select a material. We recommend 100% acrylic over polyester or a blend, because acrylic fabrics drape better and have a more suitable construction for umbrellas. Finally, pick a color or pattern. Knowing how colors react to the sun, such as white repels heat and black captures heat, or wanting a certain pattern to complement the seat fabrics will help determine which fabric you select for your umbrella. Thankfully, brands like Sunbrella®, Outdura®, and Bella Dura® offer amazing outdoor fabrics in a plethora of colors, so you can find exactly what you desire.

Wood umbrellas look great, but require hands-on care and maintenance. Aluminum umbrellas are easier to maintain and powder-coated finishes will definitely ensure durability and weather and sun resistance. You can have the best of both worlds with faux wood aluminum umbrellas like Tropitone's Portofino and Portofino II collections. 

Many umbrella manufacturers offer three types of umbrella closure options: crank, pulley, or manual. Cranks are the easiest to open and close. Pulleys are also an easy way to open and close umbrellas. Cranks and pulleys are recommended if you place your umbrella into the center of a table. Manual umbrellas provide the cleanest visual appearance, since there are no hardware or ropes.


Adding Bling

The final decision you will have to make is what, if any, additional options you want. Alternating panel fabrics, a double air vent, valance, or a silkscreen are just a few options to personalize your umbrella. Are you a sports fan? Show your support by getting an umbrella with alternating panels in your team’s colors and silkscreening the mascot onto a panel. You will have the most dazzling umbrella on the block.

For more information about outdoor umbrellas, view our Anatomy of an Umbrella infographic or learn how to maintain your colorful canopy by visiting Product Care.