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Pergola, lanai, deck, gazebo: these are all perfectly good ways to bring some shade into your patio. An umbrella, however, can be just as effective, at a fraction of the cost. All you need is to pick the right one, and here we will be providing you with plenty of useful pointers for this task. Find our reviews for the best patio umbrella for shade below!
Arriving At Your Best Pick: What is the Best Patio Umbrella for Shade?
It’s probably quite obvious why your regular umbrella or parasol won’t be optimal for providing shade in your patio: aside from being too small, you have to hold them in position so they will do their intended job, and that’s not really conducive to proper relaxation. Fortunately, patio umbrellas are just as diverse and readily available as their personal-size counterparts, so much so that it becomes necessary to dive into what makes them different.
Conventional umbrellas are only big enough for one person, or two if they closely huddle together. For your patio, it is important to consider just how big an area you want to cover. An umbrella whose diameter is between 5 and 8′ will cover roughly 4 people standing, or a round table with a 36″ diameter. For larger gatherings (around 10 people standing), it is best to consider a diameter of 11 to 13′.
This is largely (but not exclusively) defined by shape, and includes the following categories:
Market: These octagonal umbrellas are the most commonly seen around in patios and cafes. Their pole runs straight down their center, which makes them suitable for placing through a table’s hole, and they often feature a vented top so the wind won’t apply too much force to them.
Beach: These are almost identical to market umbrellas, with a few key differences. The pole ends in a narrower tip, so it can be driven into the ground, and the top of the umbrella features additional flaps so it will provide shade for a longer time before having to readjust it.
Cantilever: Almost universally, their shape is rectangular instead of round or octagonal. The main difference, however, is that their pole is offset to the side, which makes them optimal for shading areas with a more complex layout (a pair of lounge chairs with a table in the middle, for example).
Given their inherent instability, cantilever umbrellas require a weighted base at the bottom so they won’t tip over. Although many (somewhat surprisingly) don’t include one in the package, they are pretty easy to find.
The canopy—i.e. the part that extends over your head—cannot be made in just any old textile if we want our umbrella to grace our patio for a long time. Here is a list of outdoor-strong fabrics that are frequently found in patio umbrellas:
Polyester: One of the cheapest (and therefore most common) choices. Dries quickly after exposed to water, and it is often treated to boost its UV protection.
Olefin: Derived from polyester, it is of higher quality, inherently capable of enduring harsher conditions than the basic textile. Resistant to mildew and UV.
Sunbrella: The toughest, best looking and most expensive you can find nowadays. As it is solution-dyed, its color lasts for a long time without fading. It’s not exactly soft to the touch, but this is unlikely to be a problem, since you won’t be passing your hand over the canopy that often.
If Going Away, Best To Put It Away
Certain elements (snow, for example) may shorten the life of your umbrella; we strongly suggest you stash it away if you’re going inside, will be away from home, or if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
The Ones That Drew Our Attention
The following are solid options for throwing the shade you’re looking for; we included umbrellas of various sizes and configurations, to help you find just the right one.
1. Sunnyglade Market Patio Umbrella
This one is not particularly large—a mere 7.5′ in diameter, enough for a regular sized table. What gives it extra utility, however, is the tilt function: with the push of a button, you can change its angle, so you can effortlessly place the umbrella between you and the sun any time you want. The pole is aluminum, which keeps it lightweight while making it rust resistant. Worth noting that this one can cater to almost any aesthetic you might have in mind, as it offers a selection of 6 colors (plus one striped pattern) to choose from.
If no table is available to provide support, the umbrella will require a weighted base, which is sadly not included in the package; however, the manufacturer recommends the use of this one, from the same brand.
- Top of the umbrella is notably sturdy, thanks to the alloy steel frame it features.
- A well-rounded option that should be within reach for almost any budget.
- Manufacturer recommendation of weighted base cuts time in searching for a suitable one.
- Generally described as flimsy; should be preserved from strong winds.
2. BLUU Redwood 10 FT Square Patio Umbrella
This one is a good bet if you’re looking for something to situate near or next to a wall, as its square shape allows it to sit flush against the vertical surface of your choice, thereby providing you with optimal shade as opposed to an octagonal or round umbrella. While its color selection is not plentiful, it should still suffice to cover a decent variety of decoration palettes.
If you happen to like this model but are not a fan of the square shape, you may be happy to hear that there is also a round option, which features a diameter of 11′. Although it does not come with a weighted base, the configuration of the umbrella’s bottom makes it easier to solve this limitation; options include sandbags, bricks, or bolting the bottom to the floor.
- Generally praised for being easy to assemble and to operate.
- The color on the canopy is so resilient, it comes with a 3-year fade warranty, in addition to the 1-year warranty that covers the entire umbrella.
- A portion of the purchase goes towards an environmental initiative engaged in planting more trees.
- Remarkably expensive, especially for the amount of coverage it provides; coupled with the weighted base purchase, the cost could quickly blow past lower budgets.
3. Viney Deluxe 9 ft. Aluminum Market Umbrella
You may have heard of Sunbrella before, the fabric that is well known for enduring almost anything Mother Nature can throw at it. If, upon learning about it, you have decided nothing less will do, then this item could be the one for you. With a projected color fastness (i.e. resistance to fading) of 500 to 1,000 hours, you can expect this one to stay as shiny as the day it came out of the box for a long time; this endurance is further backed by a 5-year limited warranty, in addition to the 1-year warranty for the whole umbrella.
Given its design, the pole should be run through an appropriate table so the umbrella will be stable; if no such option is available or practical, a weighted base will have to be procured separately.
- Comes recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation (in tandem with other measures such as using sunscreen), thanks to the Sunbrella the canopy is made of.
- Remarkably long lasting color, and decent selection that should provide a match for a wide variety of decoration themes.
- The joint where the umbrella tilts has been known to be unreliable under strong winds.
4. PHI VILLA Twin Umbrella
Got lots of space to cover? No problem! This one is among the largest of its type (13 feet), which enables it to provide shade for a 6-people table. Run it through the table (or place it on an adequate base), crank it open, and you and your guests are good to go. The build is fairly sturdy, with a rust-resistant frame, 1.5″ thick pole, and 12 ribs holding the canopy. Fabric is polyester, with 3 colors that are somewhat common across the entire category: beige, navy blue and orange red.
Though it may seem complicated to assemble, it is anything but: all that is required is to put the two poles together. Backed by a 1-year warranty.
- Price could be considered more than reasonable, considering its structural resilience and the amount of space it is capable of servicing.
- Since the pole is not offset, it might be difficult to use it in outdoor living rooms or similar areas with more furniture density.
- No wind vent; this makes it more prone to bending if a sudden gust hits it.
5. Best Choice Products Lighted Patio Umbrella
At a glance (especially if closed), this one is all but certain to look like your run-of-the-mill shade source, and it is also made in fairly standard polyester and aluminum. The true highlight, however—if you will pardon the word play—is a rather uncommon feature: every one of its 8 ribs comes with 3 LED light bulbs, for a total of 24, which don’t even require you to run a cord all the way back home since they are solar powered. If color matching is your thing, you’re more than covered, as you get a total of 11 options to choose from; more than likely, the one you want is among them.
- As usable at night as it is during the day, thanks to its built-in LED lights.
- Impressive, wider than average, color selection.
- Operating the lights is not as intuitive as it should be; a top cap must be properly connected, and this bit of information doesn’t seem to be readily available from the manufacturer.
We Like Best: Viney Deluxe 9 ft. Aluminum Market Umbrella
By price, it’s not terribly up there, and it is definitely worth it: to start with, Sunbrella is widely regarded as the top choice when it comes to textiles that you will be exposing to the elements, an assertion reinforced by this product’s endorsement by the Skin Cancer Foundation. Its color fastness is nearly unparalleled, and the 5-year canopy-specific warranty can only provide additional peace of mind. You can select between 1 and 3-tier, if you like more vents in your umbrella. And you also get a decent color selection to pick from. From here, it is not hard to reach the conclusion that this option is a pretty solid choice from almost any angle.