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Shopping for a High-Quality Patio Umbrella

Shopping for a High-Quality Patio Umbrella

Posted by Fortunoff Backyard Store

Find your perfect shade.

When the sun is out, shade is a priority, but how do you know if you are getting the most umbrella for your buck? We talked about the types of umbrellas you can bring home and even walked you through the anatomy of an umbrella, but what should you look for when shopping for a patio umbrella? The answer to that question begins with a hard look at the materials.

Quality Matters

When shopping for the best outdoor umbrella for your space, size, and function, drive the conversation. Still, an educated buyer will also consider the materials used in construction.

There are many ways for manufacturers to cut corners during production, so it's critical to pay close attention to the materials used for these four parts of your umbrella: the canopy, the ribs, the pole, and the base.

High-Quality Umbrella Canopies:

The best fabric for an umbrella canopy is a solution-dyed acrylic fabric like Sunbrella®. Sunbrella and similar brands are impervious to mold, mildew, and fading while providing the utmost protection against the sun. Acrylic fabrics are so good at blocking harmful UV rays the American Cancer Association recommends them in addition to sunscreen for a healthy outdoor protection regimen.

However, the gold standard for outdoor fabrics will increase the price of your umbrella. If you're looking for a more budget-friendly shade option, a solution-dyed polyester canopy is a solid alternative. You may have to buy a new umbrella every year if you downgrade to a polyester umbrella, but with proper care, a polyester canopy can last up to three years. Fortuoff Backyard Store carries a mix of Sunbrella and high-quality, solution-dyed polyester umbrellas to cater to every price point but recommends acrylic fabrics over everything else.

High-Quality Aluminum Umbrellas:

When shopping for a patio umbrella, your plastic and steel frame umbrellas are your budget-friendly options. Steel or plastic umbrellas can typically survive a season but are prone to rust and damage when left uncovered and exposed to the elements. A quick glance at the pole will tell you the primary material used, but it's not uncommon to find plastic fixtures or even fiberglass umbrella ribs in lower-quality umbrellas.

Fortunoff Backyard Store does carry some umbrellas with steel ribs, but we avoid plastic. We also strongly encourage our steel umbrella customers to invest in an umbrella cover to prevent rusting. Rust is less of a problem with higher-quality umbrellas, but it's still best practice to keep your umbrella closed and covered when not in use.

Aluminum is often the primary material used in high-quality umbrellas and is our first choice for umbrella bases, poles, and ribs. We prefer aluminum because it cannot rust, and the likelihood of an umbrella rib breaking or base failing is minimal due to the strength of the material. Aluminum especially shines in umbrella ribs because of its weight-to-strength ratio. We've found it holds up better in strong winds compared to fiberglass, plastic, or steel umbrella ribs. Customers choosing the best umbrella materials is one way to ensure they get the best value but to guarantee it, it's necessary to follow best umbrella use practices.

Shade Responsibly

Neglecting outdoor furniture is common, but if you want your patio furniture to last, a little maintenance can go a long way. Do you know how to care for your umbrella properly? It's easier than you may think. Let's begin with how to weigh down your umbrella base.

High-Quality Aluminum Umbrellas:

When shopping for a patio umbrella, your plastic and steel frame umbrellas are your budget-friendly options. Steel or plastic umbrellas can typically survive a season but are prone to rust and damage when left uncovered and exposed to the elements. A quick glance at the pole will tell you the primary material used, but it's not uncommon to find plastic fixtures or even fiberglass umbrella ribs in lower-quality umbrellas.

Fortunoff Backyard Store does carry some umbrellas with steel ribs, but we avoid plastic. We also strongly encourage our steel umbrella customers to invest in an umbrella cover to prevent rusting. Rust is less of a problem with higher-quality umbrellas, but it's still best practice to keep your umbrella closed and covered when not in use.

Aluminum is often the primary material used in high-quality umbrellas and is our first choice for umbrella bases, poles, and ribs. We prefer aluminum because it cannot rust, and the likelihood of an umbrella rib breaking or base failing is minimal due to the strength of the material. Aluminum especially shines in umbrella ribs because of its weight-to-strength ratio. We've found it holds up better in strong winds compared to fiberglass, plastic, or steel umbrella ribs. Customers choosing the best umbrella materials is one way to ensure they get the best value but to guarantee it, it's necessary to follow best umbrella use practices.

1. Determining How Much Weight Your Umbrella Needs

Most garden and market umbrellas do not come with a weighted base, and we only sell 50-pound pre-weighted umbrella bases. At Fortunoff Backyard Store, we recommend free standing and table umbrellas are weighed down by at least 80 pounds. Outdoor tables alone cannot support a patio umbrella, so add an umbrella base to your purchase. However, depending on the height of your umbrella, you may need to add more weight. A good rule is 10 pounds of weight for every foot of height.

For example, a 10-foot umbrella would need a 100-pound base, and a 12-foot umbrella would need 120 pounds. Umbrella weights can be purchased to help you get to the suggested weight.

Unlike market umbrellas, all Fortunoff Backyard Store cantilever umbrellas come with a base. However, this base needs to be filled. Many umbrella owners fill their bases with water or sand, but we recommend gravel and provide it with every cantilever umbrella purchase at no extra cost. Our umbrella weight rule still applies to cantilevers, but since arc umbrellas are much larger than market umbrellas, we suggest 20 pounds for every foot of height. A good standard though, is 200 pounds minimum for a cantilever umbrella.

We make meeting weight requirements easier by constructing our umbrella bases with heavy materials like cast aluminum, cast iron, and weighted add-ons for additional security.

2. Maintaining Your Umbrella

Now that your umbrella base is secure–let's discuss umbrella maintenance. A responsible umbrella owner will invest in an umbrella cover. An umbrella cover is essentially a furniture cover; it will protect your umbrella from the elements when it's not in use.Suppose you purchased a solution-dyed polyester umbrella instead of a Sunbrella umbrella.

In that case, an umbrella cover protects the fabric from fading and the elements. We recommend covers for all outdoor furniture purchases, regardless of the material, to extend the life of your purchase. Washing your umbrella canopies is another excellent way to maintain and extend the life of your umbrella. Follow this step-by-step breakdown to get started:

Umbrella Canopy Care
Caring for the canopy is easy. All you need to do is follow these simple steps:

  • Unscrew the finial and detach your umbrella canopy.
  • Brush off loose dirt from the canopy. A soft bristle brush works well.
  • Fill a large bucket with two parts water to one part mild soap. Place your umbrella canopy in the bucket and swirl it around.
  • Allow the cleaning solution to soak into the fabric for 15 minutes before rinsing.
  • Rinse until the water runs clear.
  • Allow the canopy to air dry before reattaching.


Treating Mold & Mildew Stains on an Umbrella Canopy
Umbrella canopies may develop mold and mildew if grime settles on the fabric. To remove mold or mildew, follow these steps:

  • Unscrew the finial and detach your umbrella canopy.
  • Prepare a solution of 1 cup of bleach and 1/4 cup of mild soap for every gallon of water used.
  • Spray the mixture on the infected area and allow it to soak into the fabric for 15 minutes.
  • Clean the surface area with a clean sponge, towel, or soft bristle brush.
  • Rinse thoroughly to remove all solution residue.
  • Fill a large bucket with two parts water to one part mild soap. Place your umbrella canopy in the bucket and swirl it around.
  • Allow the cleaning solution to soak into the fabric for 15 minutes before rinsing.
  • Rinse until the water runs clear.
  • Allow the canopy to air dry before reattaching.


For severe mold or mildew growth, increase the bleach ratio.

Umbrella Best Practices

The last thing a responsible umbrella owner can do to protect their investment is right on the warning label: keep the umbrella closed while unattended and during severe winds.

If you can follow these rules and keep up with maintenance, your umbrella can last well beyond its warranty. Want to learn more about umbrellas and other outdoor furniture items and patio accessories? Subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll receive emails that keep you up-to-date on all things related to outdoor comfort and patio trends.

12th Dec 2023 nbrown@chairking.com BigCommerce

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