What to look for in an outdoor umbrella (Tips, top features and more)

Thinking of buying a new outdoor umbrella? Want to make sure it’s reliable, durable and provides the perfect shade for your space? Keep reading to learn the top 9 things to look for in a quality umbrella.

There are a wide range of outdoor umbrellas on the market in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes but they’re not all created equal.

In this article you’ll learn the top 9 things to consider when buying an outdoor shade umbrella so you can be sure of buying one that's built to last.

1. Is the umbrella made with quality materials?

The umbrella canopy is one of the first look at when comparing different umbrellas. If you want one that’s made to last and can deal with wind, sun and rain, we recommend you check if it has the following features:

100% solution dyed

This means every layer in the fabric is dyed and the canopy will keep its colour for longer. Put another way; you could imagine ‘100% solution dyed’ as a beetroot – when you cut it in half, the colour is the same the whole way through! Then, when it comes to lower quality fabrics, imagine they're like a radish – the dye only penetrates the surface layers.

Marine-grade materials

Outdoor umbrella canopies bear the brunt of sun, rain, wind and debris. If you come across an umbrella with a ‘marine-grade’ canopy, you can be sure that the fabric can withstand different weather conditions and is made to last – like vessels at sea!

Has a high UPF rating.

The ultraviolet protection factor rating indicates how well the material blocks UV from the sun. The higher the rating, the less UV you will be exposed to. In Australia, UPF 30 is considered ‘good’ and UPF 50, 50+ ‘excellent’ according to Australian Government agency ARPANSA. Sunbrella™ fabric is also approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation.

If you want an umbrella with a high UPF rating, check out Spa World’s range of Shadowspec umbrellas which all have UPF ratings of 50+.

2. Is the umbrella the right size for your space?

It’s almost certain that the outdoor area you want to shade is different to what your neighbour, friends and family have.

Before you make plans to buy an umbrella because you like how it looks in a different location, make sure the umbrella is the right size for your particular space.

Why is size important? Choosing an umbrella that’s the right size for your outdoor area means you will always have the right amount of shade. The last thing you want is an umbrella that casts too little or too much shade.

Some brands on the market such as Shadowspec™ offer a range of different canopy sizes. The Shadowspec™ canopies available through Spa World™ range from 2m square to commercial size umbrellas that can cast shade that’s 2.5m wide and 8m long. If you need more shade, you can join up to four canopies with the Shadowspec™ Unity.

Pro tip: Take some measurements of your desired shade area before you see a salesperson, or keep these details in mind if you’re shopping for umbrellas online.

3. Is the umbrella easy to open and close?

An umbrella that requires little effort to use will definitely increase the use you get from the umbrella!

There are many opening options including crank handles, pulleys and holding pin systems. Some umbrella brands even have their own patented designs that take ease of use to the next level.

Examples include the Shadowspec™ Unity and Shadowspec Serenity™ that come with a ShadowLift™ and ShadowGlide™ opening system. These features work together to allow you to lift, open or close the umbrellas in as little as three seconds – without too much effort.

4. Does the umbrella have a tilting canopy?

An umbrella canopy that’s easy to rotate and tilt means you can relax under cover for longer, knowing the umbrella can adapt to the movement of the sun.

This feature found on some outdoor shade umbrellas, is particularly useful if you plan to spend long periods of time under an umbrella.

Umbrella brands that sell models that rotate or tilt include Shadowspec™ (also available at Spa World™), Shelta Australia®, Coolaroo® and IKEA®.

5. Does the umbrella have a portable base?

Can the umbrella be moved around? If you have multiple areas you want to shade at different times or for different occasions, then an umbrella that can change locations makes a lot of sense.

Umbrella bases on wheels are a great idea for flat areas as you can simply wheel them easily from space to space.

6. Is the umbrella mast made of anodised aluminium?

Some metal umbrella masts are protected with a powder coated layer over steel, while others are made with anodised aluminium.

Anodised aluminium is the superior option. Why? A sprayed powder coating on metal can chip away over time, exposing the metal underneath and making it vulnerable to rust and corrosion.

Whereas an anodised coating is absorbed into the aluminum meaning it won’t chip off and, even if it did get scratched, the aluminum won’t rust.

Watch: Shadowspec™ Serenity – a durable, easy-to-use umbrella

7. Does the umbrella come with a good warranty?

Warranties often reflect the quality of materials used. Put simply, when it comes to fabrics and frames – the longer the warranty, the stronger and more durable the material and structure is likely to be.

For example, the Shadowspec™ umbrellas available through Spa World™ all have fabric warranties that range from 2 years to 10 years.

Their frame warranties also range from 4 years to 6 years. These warranties are a good indication that the models are made with quality materials and the brand has confidence in its products.

8. Is the umbrella durable and weather-resistant?

Many outdoor umbrellas look great when you first bring them home then, after a few summers, they’ve faded and rusted.

If you want your umbrella to look great year after year then you’ll want to look for one that’s rust proof, wind resistant and rain proof.

Here are the top three features of a quality, weather-resistant umbrella:

  • Anodised aluminum mast and frame. A spray coating on metal can chip over time but anodised coatings penetrates into the metal, preventing it from rust and corrosion.
  • Stainless steel components. If you want an umbrella that can withstand stronger weather conditions, then look for parts made of corrosion-resistant 316 stainless steel.
  • Marine-grade canopy fabric. Umbrella canopies that meet this standard are designed to withstand the same conditions you would get at sea. Therefore these canopies are designed to hold their colour, resist rain, wind and provide high UV protection.

9. Does the umbrella come with accessories or extra features?

Many outdoor umbrellas have extra features that can make using them a pleasure. Make sure to ask if accessories are included in the price of your umbrella or if the brand offers these extras separately.

Things to think about:

  • What accessories are available?
  • How will I keep my umbrella secure in high winds?
  • Does it come with a cover?
  • Can I add lights so I can use it at night?

Here are some common accessories you might want to look out for:

  • Umbrella cover
  • LED lights for umbrella canopy
  • Portable umbrella bases and fixings
  • Wall mounts
  • Customised canopy and colour options

In Summary

Hopefully after reading this article, you have a better understanding of what makes a quality umbrella stand out from the rest – so you can purchase with confidence!

Remember, an umbrella with strong components; that’s weather and rust resistant; and has extra features like LED lighting or a portable base; will not only last but will also be a pleasure to use.

Most importantly, it will hopefully mean you'll use it more so you can use your outdoor space for longer while staying protected from harsh UV rays.

In summary, when shopping for a quality outdoor umbrella, make sure to ask youself these 5 key questions:

  1. Is the umbrella canopy made of quality materials and will it hold it’s colour?
  2. Is this the right umbrella for my space? Think about size, location (is it shelthered or exposed) and the weather conditions.
  3. Does the umbrella come with a good fabric and frame warranty?
  4. Is the umbrella made of quality materials making it rust proof, wind proof and rain proof?
  5. Does the umbrella come with some practical, desirable accessories (For example, LED lights and an umbrella cover) or are they an additional cost?

To learn more about umbrellas sold in Australia and which brands are worth taking a closer look at, read this review of the top umbrella brands sold in Australia.

Finally, we've mentioned the Shadowspec™ umbrella range several times in this article. You can learn more about this quality brand and the models available at Spa World™ by clicking the button below.

Visit your local Spa World showroom or contact our customer care team, to view or learn more about our range of outdoor umbrellas, pergolas, spa pools, swim spas and saunas.

Disclaimer: In this article, we’ve used brand names not affiliated with Spa World™ or Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd, the parent company of Spa World™. All information, including pricing and product details, was accurate at the time of writing (August 19, 2021) and may change without notice. The following registered trademarks are owned by companies not affiliated in any way with Spa World™ or Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd: Shadowspec, Shadowglide™ and ShadowLift™ trademark is owned by Unicrest Group Sunbrella® trademark is owned by Glen Raven, Inc. Shelta Australia® trademark is owned by Zhun-An Ma. Coolaroo® trademark is owned by Gale Pacific Limited. IKEA® trademark is owned by Inter Ikea Systems B.V. Shade7® trademark is owned by Shade7 Ltd. Mimosa® trademark is owned by Bunnings Group Limited.

Affiliations: Vortex® Spas, Fisher™ Spas and Spa World® are trademarks owned by Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd. Spa World™ is a trademark owned by Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd. The Shadowspec brand is owned by Unicrest Group Limited and licensed for use to Spa World™ in Australia and New Zealand.

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