Outdoor Shade: The Anatomy of an Umbrella

Outdoor Shade: The Anatomy of an Umbrella

Posted by Fortunoff Backyard Store

Welcome to Umbrellas 101:

We all know what an umbrella is, but how much do we really know about how an umbrella works? In our first blog, we introduced you to the most popular umbrellas on the market; now, let's get into the details. We're explaining each part of an outdoor umbrella from the top down.

What Makes a High-Quality Patio Umbrella?

There are many parts to an umbrella, and each has a specific function that benefits the whole to provide optimal shade. Here’s a quick overview of each of these parts and how they work together to keep you safe from harmful rays:

Finial: The finial is located at the top of the canopy, just above the vent. The finial holds the canopy and the vent to the pole to keep them from slipping down or flying away. Without the finial, the fabric would not stay in place.

Vent: The vent, or vents, can be found near the top of the umbrella. They are slits sewn into the fabric designed to allow air to pass through the umbrella, which helps keep it on the ground during high winds and provides stability by allowing moderate airflow.

Canopy: The canopy is the fabric that is pulled across the ribs. It’s what provides shade and sun protection to those who relax underneath it. Without the canopy, there would be no shade or sun protection. The higher quality of the canopy fabric, the more sun protection you can expect.

Ribs: The ribs provide the canopy structure and support. Without the ribs, the canopy would have no shape. When an umbrella breaks, it is often at the ribs. High-quality umbrellas are made with aluminum ribs for more flexibility during high winds. Low-quality umbrellas use plastic or steel ribs. Always verify the rib material before investing in an umbrella.

Pockets: The ribs give the canopy structure, but the pockets house the ribs. The pockets are sewn into the canopy and keep the ribs attached to the canopy. Without the pockets, the ribs would hang loosely and would be unable to provide adequate structure to the umbrella canopy. Some manufacturers secure the canopy to the ribs with screws, but high-quality umbrellas will have tightly sewn pockets for maximum canopy support.

Tilt: The tilt mechanism allows the user to angle the umbrella in the desired way. Most umbrellas have to be fully open before the tilt function can be used, but once unlocked, the tilt feature lets users control their umbrella canopy and change the direction the shadow is cast.

Pole: The pole provides structure and height for the canopy and all the mechanisms attached to it. Without the umbrella pole, the umbrella canopy would be a blanket with ribs attached.

Crank: The crank is responsible for opening and closing the umbrella. It’s an upgraded feature that makes using an umbrella much easier.

Lock: The lock keeps the pole attached to the weighted base. The lock is often where the umbrella pole connects to the umbrella base.

Base: The base is what keeps the umbrella upright and in place. A properly weighted umbrella base prevents the umbrella from falling over or flying away.


The first umbrellas came from China and date as far back as 3500 BC.

Now that you know the parts of an umbrella, you’re ready for the next step: shopping for a high-quality umbrella. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest outdoor furniture news, trends, and sales.

12th Dec 2023 BigCommerce

Recent Posts


Customer Service Hours

Mon-Sat: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CST

CALL 855-337-8785


Contact Us
About Us
Trade & Contract


Outdoor Dining
Outdoor Seating
Outdoor Decor
Umbrellas & Shade


Fabric & Furniture Care
Guardsman® Plan
Financing Options
Affirm Financing
Progressive Leasing
Pickup & Delivery
Return Policy
My Account
Track Your Order


All Showrooms
New York
New Jersey