Patio Umbrella Buying Guide

Updated: Sep. 22, 2023

For proper shade, safety and protection, you need the best patio umbrella for your cherished outdoor space. The fabric, frame, base and much more must match your needs. Take a look at our product recommendations and tips for buying the perfect umbrella.

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Table Umbrellas

Only Use Table Umbrellas on Level Patios

Many patio tables are manufactured with a hole in the center to hold a table umbrella. Though typically sold separately, the table and umbrella are sometimes available as a package.

A table umbrella in a sturdy stand cannot easily be moved, and it requires a perfectly level surface to prevent wobbling. That makes table umbrellas the most suitable way to create shade on patios, large deck spaces, poolsides and other highly developed areas.

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Patio Umbrella With Lounge Chair In Field
Daniel Sambraus / EyeEm/Getty Images

Consider Mobile Shade

Freestanding umbrellas work well for all-around yard protection. They’re ideal for larger yards with lots of open space. Unlike table umbrellas, freestanding umbrellas don’t require level ground, so you can set them up wherever backyard shade is needed.

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. There also are permanent freestanding installations that require screwing a base to a wall or floor.

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Phi Villa Patio Umbrella

Get a Patio Umbrella Larger Than Your Sitting Area

For properly shaded space, you’ll need a patio umbrella a couple of feet wider than the table or area where you’re sitting. Most home patio umbrellas are nine feet wide, fitting tables six to seven feet across. Large tables require even larger umbrellas or shade sails to provide shade for everyone.

If you only want a single-person or a small table umbrella, then 6-1/2-feet should be fine. But in general, larger is usually better.

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umbrella made with durable fabric
One Percent/Shutterstock

Pick a Durable Fabric for Outdoor Use

Patio umbrella fabrics need to be lightweight, strong, stain-proof and easy to fold. 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 lets you pick patterns and colors while providing the durability you need.

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Tilting Patio Umbrella!

Use a Tilting Umbrella for Adjustable Shade

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

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wind proof umbrellas
Arvind Balaraman/Shutterstock

Consider Weather Conditions

Wind is the diehard enemy of patio umbrellas everywhere. If you live in a windy area, choose one made with flexible materials like wood or fiberglass. Aluminum resists moisture damage, but its lack of flexibility makes it more vulnerable to high winds.  No matter how sturdy the umbrella, it’s best to fold it up when not in use, and remove it entirely if there is severe weather on the way.

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freestanding umbrella needs a heavier base

Use a Base Weight for a Stable Umbrella

A table umbrella typically needs an umbrella base around 20 to 40 pounds for proper anchoring. A freestanding umbrella, however, will need a heavier base, 50 pounds or more, depending on the size of the umbrella. Don’t skimp in this area! Umbrella bases are usually sold separately.

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Cantilever umbrella

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 lots of shade, you’ll probably need a cantilever patio umbrella. These angle out over a large area while not getting in anyone’s way. They tend to be more expensive than the average table umbrella, but there are some more affordable models.