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A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Patio Umbrella

When you're enjoying the outdoors, it's always nice to have a space that lets you and guests retreat from the sun. Whether you're enjoying casual conversation with friends and family or good book outside, a patio umbrella creates the perfect shaded oasis for relaxing in sunny weather. As you start searching, consider these different types of patio umbrellas and features, so you find the ideal one for your backyard.

Types of Patio Umbrellas

Cantilever Umbrellas

Cantilever or offset umbrellas are built with the stand on one side and a canopy that hangs off to the other side.

  • Bistro sets - For cafe-style seating areas in your yard, a cantilever-style umbrella can provide just enough shade without getting in the way.
  • Pool lounge areas - This model is perfect for adding a little shade to your pool side hangout. It also can cover enough space for two chaise lounge chairs.


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Standard Pole Umbrellas

Standard pole patio umbrellas are tall and feature a long pole that slides into your patio table. These options also can stand alone with the help of a sturdy base.

  • Standard patio sets - Many patio tables have a built in place for your umbrella, and a pole model will fit perfectly in its place to complete your patio decor.
  • Budget-friendly option - A baseline pole model will provide style and shade while being kind to your wallet.


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Tilt Umbrellas

These are built like a standard pole umbrellas, but the top has a hinge that lets the canopy tilt in various directions.

  • Ideal for sunrise and sunset - If you enjoy a morning cup of coffee outside or like having dinner al fresco, you can tilt the canopy to shade you from the sun during these times. That way no one has to sit staring into the glare of the sun.
  • Custom shade areas - Some guests want shade while others want to bask in the sun. A tilt umbrella lets you customize a shaded area based on your preference.


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Commercial Umbrellas

These umbrellas are large and durable, so they can stand up to heavy day-to-day use. Commercial umbrellas are typically found in public places like restaurants, cafes and large office patios.

  • Single-pole construction - Unlike a residential umbrella, a commercial model will likely be built with a single pole instead of two poles threaded together. This reduces maintenance and chance of breakage.
  • Canopy style - A commercial canopy typically uses high-grade fabrics and comes in a wide variety of colors to match the palette of your home or office.

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Patio Umbrella Features

The latest patio umbrellas come with a wide variety of feature you’ll have to consider. Not every model has every option, but deciding which ones are necessary for you should help you make the right decision.

Frame Construction

  • Wood - Typically built with teak, ash or another hardwood, these umbrellas are best for areas where high winds aren't as likely. A traditional wood frame will give your patio area a rustic, natural feel.
  • Aluminum - Extremely light weight and durable, aluminum constructions come in a wide variety of finishes to help personalize your decor.
  • Fiberglass - If you live in a coastal area or a place where you experience high winds often, fiberglass frames provide the most flexibility of any other construction.
Opening/Closing Mechanisms
  • Crank operation - A smooth turning handle can open and close your umbrella with ease.
  • Pin-and-pulley system - Pull the pin out of the umbrella, and raise the canopy with a string. Once you have it opened, place the pin in the hole to lock the umbrella in place. The lack of multiple moving parts makes this option ideal for heavy use and commercial areas.
  • Pop-up opening - This opening mechanism works like a standard umbrella. Simply press a button, and the umbrella will open. Then when you're ready to close up for the night, press the notch at the top and pull the umbrella down until it locks.
Popular Features & Add-Ons
  • Stands - Depending on the construction, height and type of umbrella you have will determine the weight of your stand. For a stand-alone or cantilever model, you'll need a heavy base to keep it upright. If the umbrella is going to slide into a table slot, a lightweight stand is ideal.
  • Speakers - Some of the latest umbrellas come complete with Bluetooth speakers, so you don't have to bring a radio outside to listen to some tunes.
  • Lights - To add some light when the sun finally sets, certain models come with built-in LED lights to keep the party going into the evening.
  • Canopy shapes - Canopies come in round, rectangular, square, hexagonal and octagonal shapes. For small sets, consider round or square shapes to provide adequate shade. If you want to cover a large area, octagonal and hexagonal options work best.