Umbrella Design and Material
You want a beach or patio umbrella that looks good, is easy to carry and gives you best value for your purchase, right? We want that for you too. So here's what you need to know to buy the best beach or patio umbrella.
First, we'll review the materials used to make umbrellas to help you decide which type of umbrella you need. Starting with the most obvious, umbrella poles, can be constructed of aluminum, wood, steel and less frequently, PVC. Aluminum is usually the lightest of the pole materials used and may be painted in any color. White, silver or faux wood grain are the most common rust-resistant finishes applied to aluminum beach umbrella poles. Steel poles mainly come in a white or metallic finish and can weigh twice as much as an aluminum pole. There's no need to be alarmed if you're buying a typical 6.5 foot umbrella. Poles for these average beach umbrellas may only weigh 2 pounds, so adding an additional few pounds may not be a problem for you. Of course if you are buying a patio or other umbrella to be used with a base, the weight of the pole doesn't matter because you won't be transporting it that much.
Solid hard wood beach poles are the standard for commercial grade beach umbrellas. With diameters ranging from 1 - 2 inches, they fit most sand grabbers and come with a pointed end to be used without a sand anchor if you wish. Buying advice: Before buying a sand anchor to use with your umbrella, always check the product specifications on both items to make sure the pole will fit.
If we look at the underside of the canopy, we will see the ribs. These are the "spoke" like prongs. Fiberglass is known to be the lightest weight and the most flexible of the group. Fiberglass umbrella ribs flex with the wind and then return to their original shape.
Flexibility of Fiberglass ribs is shown below with a commercial grade umbrella by Frankford.
Steel ribs are also durable but they are not geared so much for wind as they are to support heavier umbrella canopies. 9 foot umbrellas and larger along with commercial patio or pool umbrellas often have steel ribs. Steel ribs also carry the load of heavier fabrics like PVC or vinyl.
Wood like resin ribs are also sturdy and are most common on market beach umbrellas. Market umbrellas are designed to recreate the look of old-style wooden umbrellas.
Two distinguishing features are the shape of the canopy and the shape and size of the ribs. Market umbrella canopies have 6 sides and large ribs that can be tubular or rectangular. Two market umbrella ribs styles are shown below.
The ribs are larger than the wire -type ribs found on other umbrellas. To complete the wood-look, market style umbrellas are often available with faux wood finish on the ribs to match the pole. Whether the market umbrella ribs are steel, fiberglass or wood like resin, they are larger than a typical style beach or patio umbrella and considered sturdy. In fact, there are quite a few beach-goers who will only choose market umbrellas both for the strength and original beauty.
Fabric materials include Polyester, Poly/nylon, Canvas, Acrylic, PVC, marine grade canvas or vinyl, and Sunbrella© fabric. Some fabrics are treated with a silver reflective coating that either faces outward on the top of the canopy or inward on the canopy underside. The silver reflective coating helps reduce the amount of heat felt beneath the umbrella.