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What to Consider Before Buying a Patio Umbrella

For proper shade, safety and protection, you need to pick the best patio umbrella for your cherished backyard space. Take a look at our product recommendations and tips on buying the perfect umbrella for your needs!

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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Table UmbrellasArtazum/Shutterstock

Only Use Table Umbrellas on Level Patios

Table umbrellas are a combination of a patio table with a hole in the center and a properly placed umbrella, typically sold separately but sometimes available as a single package. The two complement each other both in design and support, making this a common option. However, a table umbrella cannot easily be moved, and it requires a perfectly level surface to prevent wobbling. That makes this combination most suitable for level patios with plenty of open, unused space, large deck spaces, poolsides, and other highly developed areas.

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Patio Umbrella With Lounge Chair In FieldDaniel Sambraus / EyeEm/Getty Images

Consider Mobile Shade

Freestanding umbrellas are the best patio umbrella for all-around yard protection. You can move them to wherever kids, guests, or you personally want to sit, which makes them ideal for larger yards with lots of open space. Level ground also isn’t nearly as important, so you can set them up in the grass or on the patio with equal ease. However, they don’t have as much support as table umbrellas and will tilt over easily, so you will need to focus on maintenance and always take time to put the umbrella away when you are finished.

Movable freestanding umbrellas typically use a screw-in system (similar to how one might set up a Christmas tree), so there’s rarely need for extra tools. Note that there are permanent freestanding installations that require you to screw in a base to a wall or floor, although of course you won’t be able to move these around.

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Get a Patio Umbrella That is Larger Than Your Sitting Area

For proper shade space, you need a table patio umbrella that’s larger than the table or area that you are sitting at (otherwise, at eye level, you won’t get much sun protection). As a general rule look for umbrellas that are a couple feet wider than the table you have. Most home patio umbrellas are nine feet in diameter, which fit tables around 36 to inches in diameter – extra large tables should have even larger umbrellas around 11 feet. If you only want a single-person umbrella or a small table umbrella, then you can consider going down to 6.5 feet, but in these cases larger is usually better. Plus: Check out other outdoor projects to improve your yard!

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umbrella made with durable fabricOne Percent/Shutterstock

Pick a Durable Fabric Designed for Outdoor Use

Patio umbrella fabrics need to be lightweight, strong, stain proof and easily foldable. That’s a tall order, but there are fabrics out there that can handle it. One of our favorite umbrella fabric producers is Sunbrella, which allows you to pick your own patterns and colors while still providing the durability that you need. Plus: DIY Outdoor Lighting Tips for Beginners

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tilting umbrellaSubject Photo/Shutterstock

Use a Tilting Umbrella for Rotating Shade

A tilting umbrella can be angled to protect against sunlight coming from a specific direction. If you use your patio in the early morning or late evening when the sun is low in the sky, a tilting patio umbrella is a good choice for your house. They are also useful in wide-open spaces where there are no buildings nearby to add extra shade.

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wind proof umbrellasArvind Balaraman/Shutterstock

Consider Weather Conditions

Wind is the diehard enemy of patio umbrellas everywhere: If there is a lot of wind in your area, choose a design that uses more flexible materials like wood or fiberglass. Aluminum is a strong material that resists moisture damage, but it tends to get damaged more easily during windstorms because it has very little flexibility. And while we probably don’t need to say it, when you are finished on the patio, always fold up the umbrella, and remove it entirely if it looks like there’s going to be a storm.

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freestanding umbrella needs a heavier basebaohbah/Shutterstock

Use a Base Weight for a Stable Umbrella

The base of the umbrella may be sold separately, and must be the proper weight (typically weight in pounds). A table umbrella typically needs a base around 20-40 pounds for proper anchoring. A freestanding umbrella, however, will need a heavier base from 50 to 80 pounds, based on the size of the umbrella. Don’t skimp in this area!

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Cantilever umbrellaChiyacat/Shutterstock

For Extra-Large Patio Spaces, Consider a Cantilever Umbrella

If you have a large patio sitting area with multiple seats/sofas, or an outdoor bar that needs more than your average amount of shade – but a full canopy just won’t work – then you need a cantilever patio umbrella. These umbrellas are made to angle out over a large area while not getting in anyone’s way. They tend to be a bit more expensive than the average table umbrella, but they do come in home-friendly models.

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