A Basic Primer in Patio Umbrellas

Umbrellas are no big mystery; they have been designed to offer protection from the rain and sun. Patio umbrellas, by the same token, have been designed to offer protection from the sun. Paper umbrellas, on the other hand, offer no protection to a pina colada, but that’s another story.

Patio umbrellas are essential in any outdoor area that affords no shade; a lovely summer luncheon under a blazing 90 degree sun is not anyone’s idea of a good time. And while any patio umbrella can deliver shade, not all patio umbrellas are created equal.

Patio Umbrellas


Market Umbrella

Traditionally, market umbrellas are simple. They have wooden poles, a vented top, and are opened with elbow grease. Once you have opened the umbrella, there is a pin that holds it in place. However, many umbrellas now go under the moniker of “market umbrella” and not all of them are wooden or simple. The common denominator, as far as I can figure, is the vent. Vents are important; they can be the difference between your umbrella remaining on your patio or flying onto your neighbor’s roof. Modern market umbrellas have steel or aluminum poles and most open by utilizing a crank mechanism.

Tilt! (It’s not just for pinball.) Some market umbrellas offer a tilt feature, which is a nice when you are trying to block the sun. There are a variety of ways to tilt an umbrella, and this has a direct bearing on how much you pay. From budget to luxury, tilting goes from push-button to collar tilt.

A push button tilt is achieved by reaching up, depressing a button and angling the top of the umbrella manually. This can be problematic for the vertically challenged.

A crank tilt allows you to use the same crank you open the umbrella with to cause it to tilt. You simply keep cranking until the umbrella achieves an angle.

A collar tilt umbrella offers an easily accessible band that you twist to cause your umbrella to tilt.

Cantilever Umbrella

A cantilever, or offset umbrella, differs from a market umbrella in that it does not have a center pole. The pole is off to the side of the umbrella canopy and is attached to the top. Cantilevered umbrellas are extremely versatile in that you don’t have to put them through a table; they can literally sit off to the side and still supply the desired shade.

Bright Patio Umbrellas



It’s all about that shade, so when you are shopping for a patio umbrella, you want to make sure that you choose one that will provide you with the coverage you need. Patio umbrellas come in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles. A typical, run-of-the-mill patio umbrella is round and is 8’ to 9’ in diameter, but you can also find umbrellas that are specifically designed for oversized oval, rectangular, and round tables. You can also use patio umbrellas to provide shade and protection for conversation areas, hot tubs, and entire patios.

For dining purposes, the rule of thumb is that you need an umbrella that measures 2’ larger on each side of your table. So if you have a 48” table, you need an 8’ umbrella to make sure everyone gets shade.

A 30-36” table requires a 6’-8’ Umbrella

A 38-48” table requires a 9’-11’ Umbrella

A 54-60” table requires an 11’ or larger Umbrella

A conversation area consisting of a sofa, loveseat, and lounge chair requires a 10’-13’ umbrella.

A large sectional will require a 16’ umbrella.


Budget umbrellas will often use printed polyester fabric, which, while it is water resistant, the sun will do a number on the color and it will fade quickly. A step up from this is solution dyed polyester which will retain its original color much longer. Outdura and Sunbrella are two brand names for solution dyed acrylic fabric which has the reputation of being water and fade resistant. Purchasing an umbrella with this type of fabric ensures that your umbrella colors will stay crisp and true.


You can always find an umbrella in neutral black, beige, taupe, and white. Navy blue and dark green take the “neutral” a bit farther. However, an umbrella is a perfect opportunity to add some fun to your outdoor space. Don’t worry too much about matching or blending in; there are so many beautiful umbrella fabrics with rich colors and exuberant patterns that it would be a shame to stick to the basics. Better umbrellas often offer the option of choosing your own fabric; take advantage of the opportunity and brighten up your life.


Family Leisure carries a broad selection of umbrellas and awnings in all shapes and sizes for nearly any venue, including brands like Treasure Garden, Tropitone and Leisure Select. Check out Treasure Garden umbrellas for everything from basic crank push tilt umbrellas to massive cantilever umbrellas. Treasure Garden prides themselves on their innovative designs and offer the collar tilt umbrella and Easy Track umbrella exclusively. If you enjoy something a little unexpected, check out their Shanghai Collar Tilt. Tropitone has long been in the patio furniture business and their umbrellas reflect their expertise. Tropitone carries a full line of patio umbrellas, including commercial grade market umbrellas, and Basta Sole cabanas. Leisure Select offers budget-loving market; auto and push tilt umbrellas, as well as a wind resistant style with a unique profile that discourages fly-aways. 



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