How to Choose a Patio Umbrella: A Complete Guide

Patio Umbrella
With good company and a glass of iced tea, a warm day paired with an outdoor umbrella creates an oasis, inviting you to laze the day away in the shade. And it can transform into a romantic spot to spend your evenings and nights if you set up LED lights. But shopping for patio umbrellas can be confusing with so many different types, sizes, shapes, fabrics, and frames.

Regardless of your space, this guide will help you find the best patio umbrellas based on what you need and want. We've also highlighted five of our favorite patio umbrellas of 2024 to help you create your oasis. Ready to transform your outdoor space?

First: Always Look for Form and Function

"As with any home furnishing purchase, I always look for form and function," explained Megan Dufresne. "I want my patio umbrella to efficiently block out the sun while also adding to the overall design aesthetic of my outdoor space. And when working with clients, I consider the overall weather and the amount of use the umbrella will get. This informs accessibility and durability needs."

Market/Center Pole Umbrella
Credit: MC Design

You don't have to hire a professional designer to find a patio umbrella with the right balance of form and function, though. Instead, we're here to help you break these essential elements into bite-sized decisions to help you find the perfect fit.

We have a feeling that you'll be lounging underneath your new umbrella in no time.

The 2 Different Types of Patio Umbrellas

Before deciding on shapes, sizes, and materials, you need to know which type of patio umbrella you want. This will help make your home improvement project a success. There are two main types of patio umbrellas:

  • Market: If you want your umbrella to be at the center of an outdoor table, you'll need a market or pole umbrella.
  • Cantilever: If you want to shade a lounge area or a table without a center hole, you'll need a cantilever or freestanding side mount umbrella. (You can also set a center pole umbrella base near the seating, but you won't have as much shade coverage.)

Learning more about both types of patio umbrellas can help if you're unsure whether you need a market or cantilever umbrella to shade your patio furniture. Both types offer different forms and functions. So, ask yourself which would be more convenient and aesthetically pleasing with your outdoor furniture.

Note: Sun shades and awnings are different from the ever-trending patio umbrella. Sun shades can attach to various surfaces, stretching protective fabric overhead. And awnings are roof-like covers that extend from a frame or the side of a building. You'll also see beach umbrellas, which are much lighter and meant for carrying.

1. Center Pole/Market Patio Umbrella

The market patio umbrella is easily recognized by the center pole, which supports the structure and offers added durability. The umbrella pole can fit into a hole in the center of an outdoor dining table, often featuring a crank lift to open and close the canopy. Additionally, market umbrellas typically feature lower price points than cantilever umbrellas, but there are wide ranges of prices and quality to choose from.

Bluu Maple Pro Market Umbrella
Bluu Maple Pro Market Umbrella

"Market or center pole patio umbrellas have inherent durability and are available with mobile bases. However, they may not always be the most optimal for space planning," explained Ashley Newton.

2. Cantilever Umbrellas

Cantilever umbrellas, also known as side-mount or offset patio umbrellas, give you shade over seating areas and tables while the base remains off to the side. And they swivel and tilt with the turn of a knob or the press of a lever, offering extra versatility and allowing you to chase the shade.

Bluu Sequoia Pro Cantilever Umbrella
Bluu Sequoia Pro Cantilever Umbrella

A cantilever patio umbrella eliminates the pole in the center of your dining or lounge space. However, they are usually less durable than center pole umbrellas in high-wind weather.

"The functionality and added features are what set many cantilever umbrellas apart. For example, many cantilever umbrellas feature 360-degree rotation. This means that they don't have to be repositioned when the sun moves throughout the afternoon," Corey Lee explained.

Frame Material Options

"The frame material plays a major role in determining the best patio umbrella for your needs," said Luke Yau. "The frame provides rigidity and support, but it also adds to the weight of the overall umbrella. There are two primary materials to choose from when considering a patio umbrella: woods like teak, eucalyptus, or bamboo and metals like aluminum or steel."


Wooden frames give patio umbrellas a timeless aesthetic, lending a natural look that works well with lush, green settings. And if you have a wooden deck, a wooden umbrella with a similar finish can create a cohesive appeal.

Square Patio Umbrella
Square Patio Umbrella

However, umbrellas with wood frames often come with high price points and may require refinishing to prevent decay, insect, and weather damage. They're also less durable than metal options and can break in extremely high winds.

Metal (Alumunim/Steel)

Metal patio umbrellas are usually made from aluminum or stainless steel for a sleek and modern look. You can find them in all different colors and styles, with wood-grain style options available for those who want a more natural look. In addition, metal frames often have lower price points than wooden ones, with aluminum being the lowest-cost choice.

Round Aluminum Market Umbrella
Round Aluminum Market Umbrella

However, metal frames can develop corrosion and rust from the salt in the air on saltwater coasts unless they're made with marine-grade steel. Metal can also warp after prolonged exposure to extremely high winds, but it won't break like wood can.

How to Choose the Right Frame Material and Finish

The form and function of wood and metal frames are different, so consider your outdoor area and what's most important to you. Ask yourself:

  • Will the patio umbrella be exposed to extremely high wind speeds or salty air?
  • What material or color would look best in your space?

"For the finish, most brands (like Frontgate) offer various options to choose from, like teak, silver, and bronze. Pick a finish that suits your décor and personal style, and remember to read the fine print to ensure your frame is crafted to resist weathering and rust (like Frontgate umbrellas are). Also, do the research and read the reviews to ensure your frame is easy to open, close, and tilt with hand cranking or lever mechanisms," Lindsay Foster recommended.

Don't Forget a Base…

You must properly secure your patio umbrella to prevent tipping. Note that you'll need a base for stability and reinforcement even if your dining table has an umbrella hole. Most patio umbrellas include a base, but it's essential to read the fine print to check the weight and if it requires sand or pavers.

The standard way to determine the correct umbrella base weight is to multiply the width of the canopy by 10. So, a 9' patio umbrella would call for a 90-pound base. However, you may want to increase it from 10 to 15 if you experience extreme winds or reduce it from 10 to 5 if the pole is in the center of a large, sturdy table.

Remember to look for an option with wheels for convenient movement. This is especially helpful if you expect to move the base to chase the shade throughout the day.

How to Choose the Right Size Canopy

The size of your canopy changes how much shade it provides, so it's essential to choose the correct dimensions. As a rule of thumb, you'll want a canopy that's a minimum of two feet wider than the space you'd like to cover.

To find your minimum umbrella size, start by pulling all the chairs out around your table as though they're occupied and measuring the space around them. Your canopy needs to be at least two feet wider than this space.

Alternatively, look for a canopy at least 4' to 5' wider than your table. This method can help you choose an umbrella canopy when you don't have access to your patio set.

Small: 6' to 8' Canopy

Small canopies work well with compact seating areas, small patios, and tables.

  • <30" table size: Try a 6' umbrella canopy for tables 30" and smaller (or a 7' canopy if you have the space).
  • 31" to 38" table size: A 7' to 8' patio umbrella is ideal for tables no larger than 38", although some would recommend a 9' canopy.

Market umbrellas usually work pretty well for small seating areas.

Medium: 9' to 10' Canopy

Medium canopies are the most common for standard patios, seating areas, and table sizes. They also work well with small patio tables (<38" table size), as they'll provide ample shade.

  • 40" to 44" table size: Try a 9' patio umbrella for tables between 40" and 44", with up to eight chairs.
  • <48" table size: A 10' umbrella canopy will provide plenty of shade for tables up to 48", "although it will still only accommodate around eight people and eight chairs," noted Luke Yau.

Market umbrellas work well for medium seating areas. But if you're worried about the pole getting in the way, try a cantilever umbrella instead.

Large: 11’+ Canopy

Large canopies are necessary for expansive seating areas and sizeable tables. However, if you have room, they're also luxurious in small and medium patio settings, as they offer an abundance of shade.

  • 48" to 60" table size: For large tables of 48" to 60" that seat up to 10 people, an umbrella canopy that's at least 11' will work best.
  • >60" table size: For tables upwards of 60", you'll need a patio umbrella with at least a 12' canopy. Remember to refer to the rule of a canopy that's at least 2' wider than your occupied seating area or 4' to 5' wider than your table. Most large patio umbrellas come in sizes up to 16'.

Cantilever umbrellas are often best for large seating areas, as they're adjustable and offer generous shade without getting in the way.

And How Do You Decide What Shape Canopy is Best For Your Patio or Garden?

Picking the right shape for your patio umbrella will help make the scene inviting and cohesive. It also directly impacts the shape of the shaded area in your space. As a general rule, the shape of your umbrella will typically mimic the shape of the space you're looking to shade.

"A canopy's shade is most efficient when its shape matches the area it is shading," explained Ashley Newton.

  • Round: Round umbrellas offer a classic look and ample protection from the sun and rain. They're ideal for curvilinear seating arrangements such as a radial terrace, round table, or curved banquette. The same is true for octagonal and hexagonal umbrellas.
  • Square: Square patio umbrellas work well for round and square tables. They're also suitable for bistro sets and rectangular patio dining tables.
  • Rectangular: Rectangular umbrellas work well with rectangular tables and seating arrangements (e.g., two or more loungers, sectionals, and other linear layouts).

However, introducing the opposite shape can create visual balance if one already dominates a space. "For example, if you have a lot of rounded elements, an umbrella that has straight lines may help break that up," explained Megan Dufresne.

What are the Fabric Options?

The right canopy fabric for your umbrella should provide complete UV protection (from UV-A and UV-B rays) with the durability to withstand long, hot summers in direct sunlight. You'll also want a fabric that's water-, fade-, dirt-, mold-, mildew-, and weather-resistant.

The brands our experts recommend include:

These are the fabrics you'll find on most of today's premium patio umbrellas, and they're some of the longest-lasting options on the market. They're made from heavy-duty acrylic fabric and are designed to provide years of lasting protection, beauty, and enjoyment. You'll also see umbrellas made with olefin (aka polypropylene) or polyester fabric, often for a lower price point.

"Most of Frontgate's umbrellas are made with 100% Sunbrella solution-dyed acrylic fabric that resists fading, stains, mold, and mildew. To ensure a long life for your umbrella, I recommend seeking a similar fabric," Lindsay Foster told Living Cozy.

Umbrella Care Tips

A patio umbrella is an investment in your home and outdoor decor, so you want to keep it in good shape for years to come. Like almost all things home and garden, this means keeping up with care and maintenance.

Always Close the Umbrella and Watch the Wind

When your umbrella is not in use, close it to prevent tipping and wind damage. And regardless of where you live, you'll need to be aware of wind conditions so you can protect your umbrella from related damage.

"Common sense wind guidelines dictate that whenever an umbrella is unattended, or the weather is too inclement for us to enjoy (humans can comfortably withstand about 20 mph constant windspeed), you should collapse the canopy. Additionally, as an industry standard, wind damage is not covered in umbrella warranties, so this both protects buyers' investments and is safest," Ashley Newton told Living Cozy.

Rinse Your Umbrella and Wipe it Down

Keeping your umbrella clean isn't difficult, but it does require some regular maintenance tasks. Here are some best practices, as explained by the experts:

  • Periodically wash with gentle soap: "When you need a deeper cleaning, I recommend washing the cover with mild soap and water, followed by a thorough rinse and drying. Avoid using abrasive materials, cleaners, or bleach products (depending on the canopy material) as these may damage the finish," Corey Lee explained.
  • Rinse monthly with a hose: "The canopy should get a 'shower' every month or so," said Ashley Newton. "Because it should have a water-resistant coating, running a hose over the surface should easily remove dirt and debris, which over time can cause mold and mildew."
  • Wipe down surfaces regularly near the coast: "Those on a saltwater coast should be diligent about preventing the accumulation of salty air and water on the surface of the frame and hardware to prevent rust. This means wiping down the surface every few days to keep it clean and dry," added Ashley.

Store the canopy in an umbrella cover: "Place your canopy in a protective cover when out of use for an extended period of time. And should you want to change the look of your umbrella in a later season, make sure your supplier offers replacement canopies (as Frontgate does)," Lindsay Foster recommended.

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5 Patio Umbrellas to Check Out in 2024

1. The Market Umbrella

The Market Umbrella by Frontgate

The best-selling Market Umbrella from Frontgate provides the finest protection under the sun. It allows you to personalize your outdoor space with over 40 canopy options (all resistant to fading, UV rays, water, dirt, mold, and mildew). Other options include two frame materials (aluminum or teak), four aluminum frame finishes, and sizes ranging from 7 1/2' to 11'.

Note that the Market Umbrella features differ slightly based on your chosen frame. For example, the teak frame features a convenient double-pulley opening system and does not tilt. Meanwhile, the aluminum frame boasts classic crank operation with an auto-tilt function. Additionally, the umbrella stand and cover are sold separately, allowing you to use this tilting patio umbrella with your current patio table.

"The frame is outfitted with stainless steel hardware and a vented canopy that allows hot air to circulate. Plus, the aluminum frames tilt to help you enjoy the shade no matter the time of day," added Lindsay Foster.

2. 8' x 10' Rectangular Aluminum Market Umbrella

Rectangular Aluminum Market Umbrella

The 8' x 10' Rectangular Aluminum Market Umbrella from SunVilla is perfect for most 6- to 8-person dining tables. It features multiple fabric options for the canopy and a hand crank to raise and lower the umbrella. All you'll need is an umbrella base and a patio table for a luxurious poolside (or wherever) experience.

This table umbrella boasts a sturdy aluminum pole and frame in your pick of a dark brown or black powder-coated finish and several olefin and Sunbrella umbrella fabric options. There's also an Ecobello option for this model, with six additional fabric choices.

"The new SunVilla line of Ecobello 8' x 10' Rectangular Market Umbrellas is sized perfectly for almost every dining set. The Italian-made Ecobello acrylic fabrics are designed not to fade and are available in several beautiful, custom colors," Corey Lee told Living Cozy.

3. Bluu Oak Auto Tilt Cantilever Umbrella

Bluu Oak Auto Tilt Cantilever Umbrella

The Auto Tilt Cantilever Umbrella from Bluu comes in your choice of four colors in Outtra Recycled Fabric. It boasts an extra-thick aluminum frame that's lightweight but still strong and durable and is designed to provide shade for up to eight people year-round.

"For our new Auto Tilt Cantilever Umbrella, we designed a super smooth multi-function crank that opens, closes, and tilts the umbrella with ease. Simply crank the handle clockwise to open, close, tilt, and rotate it, making use of the innovative 360-degree rotation system for all-day shade. And all operations can be done by one person using one hand," said Luke Yau.

4. 10' Round Cantilever Outdoor Patio Umbrella

Round Cantilever Outdoor Patio Umbrella

The 10' Round Cantilever Outdoor Patio Umbrella from Pottery Barn is designed with versatility in mind. It boasts an arched arm that telescopes on its vertical pole to allow you to adjust the canopy height and a simple crank system to adjust the canopy tilt. In addition, a foot pedal allows you to rotate the canopy to adapt to moving sunlight without moving the base.

This umbrella comes in navy blue and neutral beige fabric options. It includes a base, and the pole is made from aluminum with a beautiful bronze finish.

Note: While Pottery Barn is a retailer with physical locations, they do not offer in-store pickup.

5. The Altura Cantilever Umbrella

Altura Cantilever Umbrella

The Altura Cantilever Umbrella from Bluu is a state-of-the-art option that provides ample shade coverage without interrupting sight lines. Its cantilever design allows it to shade any outdoor area, from dining to lounge spaces. And the architectural design enables a 360-degree swivel, so you can stay out of the sun as the day progresses.

Unlike market umbrella options, the Altura comes with a base. To stabilize the umbrella, the base requires twelve 16" x 16" pavers (not included). It also comes with a custom cover and cover pole.

"This is a great option for large-scale dining and seating areas that get lots of use, thanks to that swivel feature AND the tiltable canopy," said Lindsay Foster.

Note: Due to their large scale, cantilever umbrellas have limited size and color options. But neutral selections will go in just about any space.

Meet the Experts

At Living Cozy, we work closely with top brands and professionals to provide the latest expert recommendations, tips, and picks. In this article, you'll hear from:

  • Luke Yau, Bluu
  • Lindsay Foster, Senior Director of Merchandising for Frontgate
  • Corey Lee, VP of Sales at SunVilla
  • Megan Dufresne, Founder and Principal of MC Design
  • Ashley Newton, Design Consultant, Shadescapes Americas, Shadescapes USA
Written by
Heather Bien
Heather Bien is a Washington, DC-based writer whose work appears on Apartment Therapy, MyDomaine, Martha Stewart Weddings, mindbodygreen, and more. She previously worked in interior design and still can't resist redecorating every chance she gets.
Heather Bien
Written by
Heather Bien
Heather Bien is a Washington, DC-based writer whose work appears on Apartment Therapy, MyDomaine, Martha Stewart Weddings, mindbodygreen, and more. She previously worked in interior design and still can't resist redecorating every chance she gets.
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