Buying the Best Patio Umbrella
It is spring and the weather has been consistently beautiful, meaning my time spent outdoors has increased dramatically. Basking in the sunshine is my favorite way to recuperate from the winter weather, but when I do not want to slather sunscreen all over myself, I will simply sit underneath an umbrella. Based on my past umbrella buying experience and with the experience I have working with our Umbrella, there are three main considerations I believe everyone should make when purchasing a new patio umbrella:
Easy Set Up and Use
Durability and quality are considerations when I make any purchase, not just patio umbrellas. Canvas durability is extremely important if an umbrella is expected to last through multiple seasons. Sunbrella fabric is by far the highest quality fabric I have seen for any outdoor furniture, which is why we use it exclusively on our Helical Drive Umbrellas. These fabrics are fade and tear resistant, meaning they will withstand bleaching from both the sun and chemicals, as well as normal wear and tear. Sunbrella not only makes fabric for umbrella canopies, they make fabric for patio furniture as well, so if you are in the market for new patio furniture I suggest checking them out.
Material choice is another important factor to consider, as there are many fabric choices available. We use acrylic fabric, but canopies can be found in polyester, acrylic coated polyester, and a variety of plastics. From our experience, fully acrylic canopies are the most durable, but they are pricier.
East to Set Up and Use
How easy is the umbrella to put up and take down? I will confess, this was not a consideration I made until I bought an umbrella so difficult to raise and lower that I stopped using it altogether. If you are buying in a store, I implore you, try it first. If you are buying online, read the reviews or email the company and simply ask them about it! If you can get a video, do. Beware, however, of both crank systems and rope and pulley systems, as these tend to be tricky to use, especially after some normal wear and tear.
You will probably only set up a new umbrella once, and take it apart only once, but it should still be a straightforward process. Some patio umbrellas will come fully disassembled with the center rod in multiple pieces. For these umbrellas, read the reviews first, because they may not hold up over time. I personally do not mind assembling products within reason, but there is always a balance between cost and amount of labor involved in the assembly process.
When not in use, I want to be able to close and cover my patio umbrella to prolong it’s life, this means closing the umbrella and using the canopy cover. Most canopy covers I have encountered are extremely difficult to put on, because you have to somehow grow 3 feet taller or get a ladder to reach the top of the umbrella. This is something to be aware of while shopping, as some companies make canopy covers that are easier to use than others. If you want to see a good example of a great canopy cover, look at our Helical Drive Umbrella. We built a rod into the cover so it will maintain its shape as you lift it above the umbrella.
Post season storage is another consideration to make. I am fortunate to have a detached garage in our backyard where I put mine, fully assembled, during the winter months. If you have limited storage and need to disassemble it, be sure to buy an umbrella that can be easily taken apart and put back together. If you need to leave your umbrella up year around, be sure the materials used to make the umbrella are weather and wind resistant.
Having a bad experience with a patio umbrella can tarnish the reputation of all umbrellas, so be careful with what you buy. Read reviews, talk to your friends, and if you need more advice, ask.