The Best Outdoor Umbrellas

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When searching for the best outdoor umbrella, whether for a patio, a garden, or the beach, there are a number of things to take into consideration. Is it stable? Is it fashionable? Will it last? Will it withstand the raging winds? These are four questions that must be asked to determine what kind of outdoor umbrella to purchase.

Difference in Construction

  • Typically, there are two kinds of outdoor umbrellas -- the patio or garden umbrella and the beach umbrella. Patio or garden umbrellas are designed for stability with a centered or cantilever offset base and frame. The base of a patio umbrella is often bolted down on the surface, be it concrete, wood, or compact soil. This allows the umbrella to stand tall amidst heavy winds.

    Beach umbrellas are similar to traditional personal umbrellas with regards to construction, wherein the canopy can open wide and close easily when the upper part of the frame or the runner is eased up and down respectively. They are fashioned without a base platform, as they are normally wedged and embedded down onto the sand for stability.

The Canopy

  • When choosing an outdoor umbrella, the first thing that must be scrutinized is the canopy. A good umbrella should have a canopy that is breathable and wind resistant. Canvas umbrellas sport a weave that allows air to pass through while providing wear and tear resistance. Canvas lasts long and is laced with waterproof additives to preserve color and design. For beach umbrellas, where shade is more important than breathability, a polyester canopy finish with polyurethane is the best choice since it provides maximum sun protection.

The Frame

  • The material used for the frame of an outdoor umbrella consists of a single or two-piece pole and the ribs on top for the canvas to lie on. Typically, outdoor umbrellas are made of aluminum, stainless steel, wood, or fiberglass. While a lot of people would prefer wooden frames due to its rustic appearance, they are often prone to wind damage and must stand straight up. Aluminum and stainless steel frames are flexible since these can be tilted at virtually any angle and offer good resistance against wind. Rust is the only real issue with any metal-based frame. Fiberglass frames are great for beach umbrellas, as they are built to withstand heavy winds.

The Base

  • Typically, the wider the base of the umbrella, the more stable it will be. However, do pay attention to the position of the bolts and the material of the base. It should be made of metal and there should be bolts at all sides, be it round or square in shape. Since beach umbrellas are not fitted with a base; select one with a screw-type end for easy wedging into the sand.

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