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Now is the time to be sure you have plenty of shade and protection from the rain by installing an outdoor umbrella or two or three or more. As you go shopping online for patio umbrellas, you may be confused by the various terms and features. This short guide to outdoor umbrella elements is what you need to be informed and get exactly what you want and need.

The Canopy

Let’s start from the top by first focusing on the canopy. Outdoor umbrella canopies are composed of foldable panels (for the most part, with the exception of shade features such as sails) that can be raised and lowered.

Treasure Garden Shanghai shade umbrella will retain its beauty thanks to the durable Sunbrella canopy

There are plenty of options for canopy material. A very durable outdoor umbrella canopy material is Sunbrella, which is specially created and treated to withstand weather, sun, mildew and fading. You can also opt for polyester, acrylic or olefin all of which do a fine job of providing shade and protection.

treasure garden umbrella
This Treasure Garden umbrella uses colors and pattern to tie it into the surrounding furnishings and landscape

Today’s outdoor umbrella canopies are available in a dizzying array of colors, patterns and textures; there is sure to be one or several that will look gorgeous with the rest of your backyard living area décor. You can also add a valance along the bottom edge or opt for a vented canopy with mixed material colors or patterns for visual interest.

The Frame

An aluminum outdoor umbrella frame is very durable.

Next up is the frame. This is what holds your outdoor umbrella in place, whether it is firmly mounted inground or uses a separate, movable umbrella base. Again, you have several choices when shopping for an outdoor umbrella. The umbrella frame is commonly made from aluminum, wood or fiberglass with aluminum being the most durable. A teak or other hardwood frame is prized for its beautiful, natural appearance but does require additional care to keep it looking good. For areas subject to strong winds, the best choice is fiberglass due to its superior pliability.

Movement Elements

Of all the outdoor umbrella elements, choosing the type of shaft lift and pole tilt is often the most confusing.

This is an example of outdoor umbrella elements that lift the canopy via crank.

Lift mechanisms are either push, pulley or crank operated. A push element is the simplest of all and requires a manual push to raise the canopy and a pin system to keep it in place. A pulley system uses the old-fashioned wheel and rope (think of ship’s sails) to raise the canopy. Some outdoor umbrella elements for movement include a crank system, which is the best choice for the minimal amount of exertion even with a large canopy size.

A tilting patio umbrella allows you to provide shade where it is needed.

Many homeowners want their outdoor umbrellas to tilt in order to follow the sun and provide the maximum protection against its rays. In order to tilt the shaft of the frame, the umbrella will utilize a crank, push or collar mechanism. Much like options for lifting, a push tilt is manual, while a crank system works with a hand crank to fully open the canopy and twist it into position. If your outdoor umbrella elements include a collar on the pole, this means the canopy can be tilted independently once it is fully opened.

Market, Cantilever or Sail Style

TUUCI stingray umbrella
The Stingray parasol umbrella from TUUCI is the epitome of elegant design in a sail style shade feature.

As far as style, patio umbrellas are generally considered either market umbrellas, cantilever or sail. The former is usually a stationary model with a straight frame shaft that can sometimes be tilted and is most often used to shade a table. A cantilever umbrella is connected to a sturdy base and the pole is often curved to provide maximum coverage, making this a good choice when you have a larger area or entire set of outdoor furniture to shade. Sail shades are simply pieces of fabric attached to a pole or strung between three fastening points in your outdoor space.

As you shop, make sure you consider these outdoor umbrella elements so your new purchase does everything you want it to and more.

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