- The best patio umbrellas provide thorough sun coverage and can stand up to all kinds of weather.
- We spoke to landscape architects to find traditional and cantilever umbrellas for your budget.
- See also: Where to buy outdoor furniture online
A patio umbrella is an important addition to your backyard if you eat and lounge outside regularly.
Though it’s tempting to buy one off looks alone, remember that “as a functional piece, the most important feature in a patio umbrella is the coverage,” said Melissa Lee, the founder and creative director of design firm Bespoke Only.
“Think about the sun pattern in your yard,” Kevin Lenhart, a landscape architect and design director for online landscape design service Yardzen, said. “Even if you have a large space, you might not need a huge umbrella if you’re able to angle it to block the sun and shade the area you are enjoying.”
In addition to umbrella canopy size, consider the fabric, which needs to stand up to rain, sun, and wind. Sunbrella, a durable performance fabric that’s resistant to fading, stains, and mildew, is a favorite among landscape designers.
There are two main types of umbrellas: a traditional “market” umbrella, which is usually placed in the middle of a table, and a cantilever umbrella, which is freestanding and brings in the canopy from an angle. You can learn more about the pros and cons of each, as well as other things to keep in mind when shopping for a patio umbrella, here.
Currently, all of our picks are based on research and expert input. In the future, we plan to test these patio umbrellas and evaluate their ease of assembly, effectiveness, and durability.
Here are the best patio umbrellas in 2021
- Best patio umbrellas overall: Bridgehampton, Tuuci
- Best cantilever patio umbrellas: Hampton Bay, Crate & Barrel
- Best patio umbrellas on a budget: Sunnyglade, Abba Patio, Bluu
- Best patio umbrellas with lights: Blissun, Hampton Bay
- Best patio umbrella stands: Abba Patio, Noble House, Shademobile
We determined the best patio umbrellas through a combination of research and expert input. Using insights and brand recommendations from our experts, we chose two to three options per category, keeping a variety of sizes and prices in mind. We plan on putting these umbrellas through a variety of tests in the future.
The best patio umbrellas overall
A traditional “market” umbrella is the classic style that works best for most people. It’s affordable; easy to use; and widely available in many sizes, fabrics, and colors. Because it’s placed right in the middle of a table, it requires less backyard space and is less likely to get in the way of foot traffic.
The best cantilever patio umbrellas
If you have a larger backyard and don’t like how traditional umbrellas disrupt table space, you should get a cantilever umbrella. Keep in mind cantilever umbrellas tend to be heavier and more expensive, but there’s great payoff in the large amount of shade provided.
The best patio umbrellas on a budget
A budget umbrella may lack the sturdiness and longevity of the umbrellas above. Still, we found some solid options with well-designed mechanisms and strong canopies.
The best patio umbrellas with lights
Lighted patio umbrellas offer extra pizzazz and visibility when you’re sitting outside on a warm summer night. The best part is they’re solar-powered, so you don’t have to deal with tangled cords.
The best patio umbrella stands
A weighted umbrella stand or base ensures your patio umbrella won’t shake or blow away with the slightest gust of wind. “A good rule of thumb is to take the width of your umbrella and multiply it by 10,” said Lenhart. For an 8-foot-wide umbrella, for example, you’ll need a base that’s at least 80 pounds. Pre-filled stands are more expensive than empty stands, which require you to add sand or gravel.
Patio umbrella FAQs
Traditional vs. cantilever umbrella — which should you buy? What are the pros and cons of each?
|Traditional umbrella||Cantilever umbrella|
“The biggest pro of traditional umbrellas is that they get the job done at a relatively low price. They stand up to harsh and windy conditions and require little maintenance. They also tend to be less expensive,” said Lenhart.
Danu Kennedy, design director of creative design firm Parts and Labor Design, likes cantilever umbrellas because “you don’t have to interrupt the seating connectivity to place the umbrella, but they tend to be a little more clunky whereas a traditional model is perhaps more easily worked into the aesthetic.”
What size umbrella is best for your space?
In addition to sun pattern, consider the size of the space where you’d like to place the umbrella, as well as the surrounding foot traffic. “Do you have room for a standalone umbrella or should you look for a table that allows for an integrated umbrella? A good rule is to allow for three feet around the umbrella to circulate,” said Blythe Yost, a landscape architect and cofounder of online landscape design service Tilly.
What are the best materials for the umbrella stand and canopy?
For the stand and pole, look for durable, rust-resistant materials like aluminum, coated steel, and concrete (which is harder to find). Some designers also like teak wood because it weathers beautifully.
As for the canopy, Olefin and Sunbrella come highly recommended by our experts. “Olefin is a durable, sustainable fabric that requires no water during production and maintains its quality for years. Sunbrella is a leader in outdoor performance fabric — it’s easy to clean and has beautiful colors and designs,” said Lenhart.
Once you’ve figured out size and coverage, how do you find a patio umbrella that fits the rest of your patio style?
Look at your surroundings, and ask yourself whether you want your umbrella to blend in or pop out. “If you want your umbrella to meld in the natural setting, think neutral colors like white, gray, and beige or even subtle greens and blues. If you want your umbrella to make a statement, check out umbrellas in vibrant colors or patterns,” said Yost. “If you’re in a city, we prefer a bold, fun pattern to add a pop of color to the gray cityscape, but if you’re near a lake or beach, the piece shouldn’t compete with nature,” said Lee.
How do you maintain a patio umbrella?
If your umbrella is crafted from high-quality materials, it’ll stand up to water, sun, and wind, making your job easier. Still, a few small steps can help make your umbrella last much longer. Wipe down the canopy and stand once a month with a soft cloth and a gentle cleanser like mild laundry detergent. “Finding an umbrella with fabric with the color as part of the material, and not dyed, will help retain the color in outdoor conditions,” Yost said. ‘When it comes to extending the life of your umbrella, it’s a great idea to store it when it’s not in use. Either bring it in a garage or you can find an umbrella cover for the material and the stand.” Just make sure everything is fully dry before you pack it away.
Glossary of terms
Traditional umbrella: Also known as a market umbrella, this is the style of umbrella you typically see at outdoor dining setups. The pole goes through the middle of the table and the canopy, which is either circular or rectangular, covers the table fully. Traditional umbrellas are usually lighter than cantilever umbrellas.
Cantilever umbrella: The base and pole of a cantilever umbrella are offset, bringing the canopy in from an angle. Cantilever umbrellas are heavier, bigger, and more expensive than traditional umbrellas.
Crank lift: A mechanism that helps you open your umbrella and adjust the canopy tilt by turning a crank handle. This mechanism is easier and smoother, but slower to use, than a push lift and could also break more easily.
Push lift: A mechanism that helps you open your umbrella and adjust the canopy tilt by pushing a button. The button is typically located at the top of the pole and may be difficult for some people to reach without the help of a chair.
Sunbrella: An outdoor performance fabric made of solution-dyed acrylic (the UV-stabilized pigment is spun directly into the yarn). It’s frequently used in outdoor furniture products because it’s resistant to fading, abrasion, mold, mildew, stains, and water. It’s strong, easy to clean, and comfortable to the touch.
Olefin: Also known as polypropylene. A strong and thick synthetic fiber used in many household products like carpeting. It’s good for outdoor use because it’s resistant to fading, water, mold, and mildew, but it may stain more easily than Sunbrella.
Check out our other outdoor home guides