When thinking about setting up the perfect patio space, consider not only the furniture on the ground, but the space above as well. Scorching summer sun can last into the dinner hours even in New England, so to protect your family and guests from a sweaty and squinty evening on the patio, make sure you include a shade plan into your overall patio furnishing plan. That includes knowing what to look for when you shop for a patio umbrella.
Figure out what you need
Study your patio on a sunny day and watch where the sun is shining during those times you are most likely to be using the area. A building or tree usually only provides shade for a few hours, meaning you must find other options for the sunny hours.
Next, figure out where you’d like the shade. If you just want relief during meal times, a table patio umbrella might be your best bet. If you want a larger shady space over your favorite reading area, a free-standing patio umbrella might be better.
Having an idea on the size of the area you’d like shaded is also helpful, because it tells you what size umbrella you need. Here’s a basic chart showing how much shade different umbrella sizes can provide:
- 4-foot to 6-foot umbrella = covers a 30-inch table or two patio chairs
- 7-foot- to 8-foot umbrella = covers 36-inch table or a pair of lounge chairs
- 9-foot to 10-foot umbrella = 48-inch table and chairs or a small patio seating set
- 11-foot umbrella = 60-inch to 72-inch patio table with six chairs or a full patio seating set
What to consider while shopping
Think about the fabric: Look for an outdoor umbrella that has fabric designed to stand up to the elements. The fabric should be weather-, mildew- and UV-resistant. They are great for keeping you cool under the shade on especially hot summer days.
Think about the frame: Umbrellas come with either a metal or wood frame. Wood frames usually open with a pulley and pin system, requiring the user to push up the center of the umbrella and pin it into place, which means more work. Metal umbrellas usually come with a crank that you can rotate to open an umbrella. Also make sure to examine the part of the frame that extends out from the top – called the ribs. The more ribs, the sturdier the umbrella.
Think about the base: Even umbrellas installed in the center of a patio table must have an umbrella base. Bases hold your patio umbrella straight and protect it from gusts of wind. Obviously, the size of the base depends on the size of the umbrella. For large 10-foot to 11-foot umbrellas, look for the largest umbrella base you can buy.
Think about the tilt: If you opt for a smaller umbrella over a table or seating set, consider buying an umbrella with a tilting feature on the pole. This is especially handy if your yard is along the ocean where the horizon is flat, or in an open area with few structures. A tilting patio umbrella can be adjusted with the movement of the sun, so you won't need to move your table and chairs to chase the shade. You will find tilting mechanisms include buttons at the top of the umbrella, in the frame underneath the rib hub, or in conjunction with crank handles.
Island Lifestyles carries a wide range of attractive patio umbrellas made by Tuuci, Treasure Gardens, Shadescapes USA, Tropitone, Barlow Tyrie and others. Stop by and our staff can walk you through the many options available.