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How to Buy a Patio Umbrella

For proper shade, safety and protection, you need to pick the best patio umbrella for your cherished backyard space. The fabric, frame, base and much more must match your needs, which makes it necessary to put some thought into your purchase. Take a look at our product recommendations and tips on buying the perfect umbrella for your needs!

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Use Table Umbrellas for Roomy, Level PatiosArtazum/Shutterstock

Use Table Umbrellas for Roomy, 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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Use Freestanding Umbrellas for Mobile Shade2p2play/Shutterstock

Use Freestanding Umbrellas for 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 you 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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Make Sure Your Table Umbrella is Larger Than Your Sitting AreaTaLaNoVa/Shutterstock

Make Sure Your Table Umbrella is Larger Than Your Sitting Area

For proper shade space, you need a table 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.

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Pick a Durable Fabric Designed for Outdoor UseOne Percent/Shutterstock

Pick a Durable Fabric Designed for Outdoor Use

Patio umbrella fabrics need to be lightweight, strong, stainproof 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.

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For Long-Term Shade, Use a Tilting UmbrellaSubject Photo/Shutterstock

For Long-Term Shade, Use a Tilting Umbrella

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 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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Find an Umbrella Frame That Matches Your WeatherArvind Balaraman/Shutterstock

Find an Umbrella Frame That Matches Your Weather

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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Use a Base Weight that Matches the Area Coveredbaohbah/Shutterstock

Use a Base Weight that Matches the Area Covered

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 30-40 pounds for proper anchoring. A freestanding umbrella, however, will need a heavier base from 50 to 70 pounds, based on the size of the umbrella. Don't skimp in this area!

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For Extra-Large Spaces, Consider a CantileverChiyacat/Shutterstock

For Extra-Large Spaces, Consider a Cantilever

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.