The Ultimate Patio Umbrella Shopping Guide — Boxhill & Co., LLC
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Two parasol outdoor umbrellas shade a pool lounge area.

The Ultimate Patio Umbrella Shopping Guide

Welcome to your ultimate guide to picking the perfect patio umbrella, where we dive deep into the nitty-gritty of outdoor shading. Yes, it's lengthy, but trust us, every word counts when you're on the quest for peak patio perfection! We’re not just tossing you an umbrella and wishing you luck; we’re here to empower you with all the knowledge you need to make an informed choice that would make even the savviest designer nod in approval.

From deciphering the mystique of Parasol vs. Cantilever umbrellas to understanding the crucial trifecta of Size, Placement, and Angle, we’ve got you covered. Need to know what size umbrella to buy? Check. Pondering where to place it for maximum chic and comfort? We've got insights. Debating whether to go adjustable or stationary? We’ll help you decide. And because we’re all about detail, we’ll also guide you through choosing the right canopy shape, material, and essential features that could make or break your outdoor sanctuary.

Buckle up and prepare to become a patio umbrella guru. Here’s what we’ll cover to ensure you have all the tools to choose wisely and stylishly:

  1. Parasol / Market Parasol vs. Cantilever/ Offset Parasol: What’s the difference?

  2. Size: What size patio umbrella do I need?

  3. Placement: How does placement affect what patio umbrella I should buy?

  4. Angle: Should I get an umbrella with an adjustable angle or stationary?

  5. Canopy Shape: What shape canopy is best for me?

  6. Materials: What material of umbrella should I choose?

  7. Features: What features should I look for in a patio umbrella?

Parasol / Market Parasol vs. Cantilever/ Offset Parasol – What’s the difference?

Parasol / Market Parasol

A parasol, often called a market parasol when used in commercial settings, is a type of umbrella designed primarily to provide shade from the sun rather than protection from the rain. Market parasols are typically larger and sturdier than standard parasols and are used in outdoor market settings, cafes, and patios.

Ideal Scenarios: These are perfect for garden tables, poolside lounging areas, and outdoor dining areas at home or in commercial settings. They are particularly suited for environments where the umbrella can be inserted through a hole in a table to provide centralized shade.

Advantages: Market parasols are very portable and can be moved easily. They are straightforward to open and close, usually using a pulley, crank, or push-up system. The central pole design provides stability and allows for uninterrupted space under the umbrella for seating or decorations.

Disadvantages: The central pole may obstruct views or interfere with the layout of furniture underneath. They generally cover smaller areas compared to cantilever umbrellas and require a base heavy enough to prevent tipping.

Featuring the Ledge Lounger Essential Umbrella from Boxhill

Cantilever / Offset Parasol

Cantilever or offset parasols are umbrellas where the support pole and base are not in the center of the umbrella but to the side and often above the shaded area. This design allows the canopy to hang over a space without a pole blocking the area beneath it.

Ideal Scenarios: Ideal for lounging areas where free movement without obstruction is desired, such as over hot tubs, pool decks, and outdoor seating areas without a central table. They are also suitable for providing shade over children’s play areas or any place where a central pole would be impractical.

Advantages: Offers flexible positioning and extensive coverage without the central pole obstruction. Many models include adjustable tilting and rotating features, allowing for optimal sun protection throughout the day. They are particularly favored for their versatility and modern look.

Disadvantages: Generally more expensive than standard market parasols. They require a much heavier base for stability and can be more complex to assemble and adjust. In some designs, the balance can be an issue in windy conditions unless well-secured.

Featuring the Veil Cantilever Outdoor Umbrella from Boxhill

How do I choose the right patio umbrella for my outdoor space?

To ensure you select an umbrella that meets your needs, consider three critical factors: Size, Placement, and Angle. These elements determine how well the umbrella will provide shade, fit within your space, and adapt to the sun’s movements.

  • Size

  • Placement

  • Angle

What size patio umbrella do I need?

The size of your umbrella comes down to this simple question: How much shade do you want?

The size of the umbrella should be proportionate to the area you want to shade. A common rule of thumb is that the umbrella should extend over the dining or seating area by at least two feet on each side. For example, a 6-foot diameter umbrella could adequately cover a small table and two chairs.

It’s also important to recognize that companies may measure canopies differently depending on their shape and the shape of the particular umbrella.

Round and Octagonal Umbrellas are typically measured by their diameter. This measurement is taken straight across the center of the umbrella, giving a clear indication of its size but not always accurately reflecting the total area of shade provided.

Square and Rectangular Umbrellas, on the other hand, provide a more straightforward measurement of length by width, often resulting in a larger shade area than their round counterparts. These shapes tend to offer more extensive shade coverage because their straight edges extend further beyond the canopy, making them ideal for larger tables and seating areas.

Additional Considerations for Maximum Shade Coverage:

  • Shade Radius Beyond the Canopy: Especially with square and rectangular umbrellas, the actual area shaded extends beyond the literal measurements of the canopy due to their angular design. This means they can cover more space efficiently, providing better protection from the sun.
  • Dependence on Position and Angle: The amount of shade an umbrella provides is also dependent on its position and the angle of the sun. An umbrella’s effectiveness can vary throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. Features such as adjustable tilt and rotational abilities enhance an umbrella's ability to provide continuous shade, regardless of the time of day.

Umbrella Size Guide

5-6 Feet Diameter (Round / Octagonal)
  • Best for: Tables up to 30 inches in diameter.

  • Ideal Furniture Set: Accommodates two chairs comfortably, making it perfect for bistro sets or small café tables.

  • Usage: This size is suited for small balconies or compact patio areas where space is limited.

7-8 Feet Diameter (Round / Octagonal)
  • Best for: Tables up to 48 inches in diameter.

  • Ideal Furniture Set: Provides shade for up to four chairs, ideal for medium-sized dining sets.

  • Usage: Great for larger balconies, patios, or poolside areas, offering more extensive coverage for dining or relaxing.

9-10 Feet Diameter (Round / Octagonal)
  • Best for: Tables up to 60 inches in diameter.
  • Ideal Furniture Set: Suitable for six chairs, perfect for larger dining sets.
  • Usage: Ideal for spacious outdoor settings where gatherings and family meals take place, providing ample shade for guests.
11+ Feet Diameter (Round / Octagonal)
  • Best for: Large tables or dining areas over 72 inches in diameter.
  • Ideal Furniture Set: Accommodates eight or more chairs, suitable for expansive dining groups or outdoor events.
  • Usage: Best used in open spaces such as large decks, gardens, or commercial venues needing significant shade coverage.
7-9 Feet (Square Canopy)
  • Best for: Square tables that seat 4-6 people, offering balanced shade coverage that complements the table’s geometry.
10-13 Feet (Rectangular Canopy)
  • Best for: Long dining tables or outdoor seating areas, these canopies provide extensive coverage, protecting multiple furniture pieces from sun and light rain.

How does placement affect what patio umbrella I should buy?

When planning how and where you will use your outdoor umbrella, it’s important to consider if you want to have moveable shade options or a stable set-it-and-forget-it situation.

Moveable Shade – Choose a Parasol

If you prefer the flexibility to reposition your shade throughout the day or season, a traditional parasol might be the ideal choice. Parasols are typically mounted on a central pole with a standard base, allowing you to move them around easily. This makes them perfect for small patios, balconies, or spaces where you want to adjust the shade to match the sun’s position. The convenience of a parasol is unmatched for those who like to rearrange their outdoor setup or change the shade angle frequently.

Set-and-Forget – Choose a Cantilever

For a more permanent shading solution, a cantilever or offset parasol is an excellent option. These umbrellas are designed to be stable and sturdy, often featuring a side-mounted pole that allows the canopy to hang freely without a central pole obstructing your space. Cantilevers are ideal for larger outdoor areas, such as gardens, decks, or poolside settings, where you want a consistent shade spot without the need for frequent adjustments.

SIDE NOTE: Cantilever Sensitivity to Wind. While cantilever umbrellas offer great stability and shade coverage, they are more susceptible to wind. The large, extended canopy can catch wind more easily, which may lead to tipping or damage if not properly secured. When choosing a cantilever umbrella, look for features like a weighted base, wind vents, and durable materials designed to withstand breezy conditions. It’s also advisable to retract the canopy during strong winds to prevent any potential damage.

Strategic Placement Tips:

Consider Your Space Layout: Think about the layout of your outdoor area. Cantilevers are perfect for creating shade over dining areas or lounging spots without obstructing views or movement. Parasols, on the other hand, can be easily relocated to different spots, making them ideal for versatile setups.

Accessibility and Functionality: Ensure that the umbrella’s placement allows easy access to the shaded area, especially if you have furniture or other features around. Cantilevers are great for creating a central shade zone, while parasols can be placed near seating, dining tables, or sun loungers for targeted shade.

Shop cantilever umbrellas at Boxhill

Should I get an umbrella with an adjustable angle or stationary?

The position and intensity of the sun vary throughout the day, making it essential to choose an umbrella that either aligns with when you’re using your shaded area, or can adapt to these changes for continuous comfort. Consider the following based on your typical sun exposure:

  • Morning and Evening Sun: If your space gets significant sunlight during early morning or late evening hours, opt for an umbrella with a tilting feature. This allows you to angle the umbrella effectively to block low-angle sun rays, providing targeted shade without repositioning the entire setup. Tilt mechanisms can vary from manual to auto-tilt, depending on the model.

  • Midday Sun: For spaces that primarily require protection during the midday when the sun is high, a standard parasol with a fixed pole may suffice. These are generally more cost-effective and offer a straightforward shade solution without the complexities of adjustable angles.

Consider Wind and Sun Dynamics: In addition to the sun’s path, consider the wind dynamics in your area. Umbrellas with vents or those made from breathable materials help reduce wind pressure and maintain stability. The ability to tilt the umbrella can also protect it from being caught by strong winds, which is especially useful during unexpected gusts.

Versatility and Control: For ultimate sun control, look for umbrellas that feature a rotating base or a 360-degree pivoting pole. This functionality allows you to shift the shade as needed throughout the day without moving the base or the furniture underneath. Such features are particularly valuable in multipurpose outdoor spaces where sun exposure and seating arrangements vary.

By selecting an umbrella with the right tilting and rotating capabilities, you can ensure that your outdoor area remains shaded and comfortable, regardless of the time of day or the angle of the sun.

Featuring the Pacific Crank &Tilt Parasol from Boxhill

What shape canopy is best for me?

Round & Octagonal Canopies

Round & octagonal canopies are ideal for compact spaces featuring smaller tables, fire pits, hot tubs, or groupings of chaise loungers where the goal is to create a more intimate setting. These shapes are traditionally used for café-style settings, small patios, or balconies.

Aesthetics: Round and octagonal umbrellas bring a classic and elegant look that complements a variety of decor styles. Their symmetrical design helps soften the overall appearance of an outdoor area.

Functionality: These shapes are effective at providing evenly distributed shade for circular, square, or smaller rectangular tables. They are also easier to maneuver and adjust.

Square Canopies

Square canopies are ideal for contemporary spaces that feature clean lines and modern design elements. Square canopies work well in larger seating areas or over square and round tables to provide maximum shade coverage.

Aesthetics: Square umbrellas offer a modern and sleek look that aligns well with minimalistic and contemporary outdoor furniture and layouts.

Functionality: While somewhat bulkier than round or octagonal canopies, square canopy umbrellas provide maximum shade coverage and are particularly useful for covering larger areas without leaving any part excessively exposed to the sun.

Rectangular Canopies

Rectangular canopies are ideal for long dining tables, rectangular patio areas, and asymmetrical furniture layouts. They are perfect for covering elongated spaces without the need for multiple umbrellas.

Aesthetics: Rectangular umbrellas have a practical, streamlined appearance that suits formal dining settings or commercial spaces like restaurant terraces.

Functionality: These shapes excel in providing shade over elongated areas, making them ideal for family gatherings, outdoor receptions, or any situation where a long table setting is involved. They efficiently cover more ground, ensuring that all guests are protected from the sun.

Rectangular outdoor umbrella, image via ZLACUIU.

What material of umbrella should I choose?

When selecting an outdoor umbrella, the choice of materials for both the frame and the canopy is crucial. These materials not only determine the durability and longevity of the umbrella but also its aesthetic appeal and functionality. Choosing the right materials for both the frame and canopy of your outdoor umbrella depends on your specific needs, including your local climate, the umbrella's primary use, and your budget. Here’s a brief overview of the options you’ll find when shopping for your patio umbrella:

Frame Materials


  • Pros: Lightweight yet strong, aluminum frames are resistant to rust and corrosion, making them ideal for humid or coastal environments. They often feature various finishes that can mimic the look of wood or other metals.

  • Cons: Aluminum can sometimes bend under extreme weather conditions, especially in cheaper models.


  • Pros: Wood frames, such as teak, eucalyptus, or hardwood, offer a classic and elegant look that many find appealing. They are sturdy and can hold up well under considerable weight and stress.

  • Cons: Wood requires more maintenance to prevent decay and can be heavier, making it less easy to move. It also tends to be more expensive.


  • Pros: Extremely durable and strong, steel frames are suitable for umbrellas that need to withstand significant wear and tear or heavy winds.

  • Cons: Steel is prone to rust if not properly coated or if the coating wears off, making regular maintenance essential. It is also the heaviest frame material.

Canopy Materials


  • Pros: One of the most common materials due to its affordability, polyester canopies are versatile and come in various colors and patterns. They are relatively durable and easy to clean.

  • Cons: Polyester is not as UV-resistant as other materials, meaning it can fade over time and provide less protection from the sun's harmful rays.

Sunbrella Fabric

  • Pros: Known for its superb fade-resistance and ability to block UV rays, Sunbrella fabric is highly durable and resistant to mold and mildew. It's an excellent choice for areas with intense sun exposure.

  • Cons: Sunbrella fabric is more expensive than polyester, but its longevity and effectiveness often justify the cost.


  • Pros: Olefin is a synthetic fiber that is water-resistant, fade-resistant, and durable. It offers good UV protection and is more affordable than Sunbrella while still providing many of the same benefits.

  • Cons: While it's strong, olefin may not feel as premium as Sunbrella fabric and can be less resistant to soiling than other materials.

Featuring the Hyde Luxe Hanging Parasol by Boxhill

What features should I look for in a patio umbrella?

When shopping for a patio umbrella, the choice of lift and tilt mechanisms can significantly affect how easy it is to use and adjust your umbrella. Here’s what you should know about each option:

Lift Mechanisms

Push Up – This is a simple manual lift where you push the umbrella open and secure it in place with a pin or clip.

  • Pros: Typically found in less expensive umbrellas, push-up mechanisms are straightforward and have fewer mechanical parts that could break.
  • Cons: Requires more physical effort and is less convenient for frequent adjustments.

Pulley – Operates with a rope that you pull to raise the umbrella. Once open, it locks into place with a pin.

  • Pros: Easier to use than push-up models, especially for larger umbrellas, as the pulley system reduces the effort needed to open it.
  • Cons: Like the push-up, it can be inconvenient for frequent adjustments and requires manual locking.

Crank – Features a handle that you turn to open and close the umbrella. This mechanism is often integrated into the pole.

  • Pros: Very user-friendly, allowing for easy and quick opening and closing. Ideal for umbrellas that need to be adjusted often.
  • Cons: More mechanical parts mean there is a higher possibility of mechanical failure over time.

Tilt Mechanisms

Push Button Tilt – Features a button near the umbrella pole that you push to tilt the canopy.

  • Pros: Simple and quick to operate; usually just requires one hand.
  • Cons: Limited tilt angles compared to other mechanisms.

Crank Tilt – Uses the same crank handle that opens the umbrella to tilt it, providing more precise control over the angle.

  • Pros: Offers a greater range of angles for optimal sun protection; easy to use.
  • Cons: Mechanism complexity increases the potential for repairs.

Collar Tilt – You twist a collar located above the crank on the umbrella pole to adjust the tilt.

  • Pros: Allows for continuous tilting, giving you more precise control over the shade without having to reach up to adjust.
  • Cons: Can be more expensive; requires a bit more effort to understand and use initially.

Wind Vents

Wind vents are openings, usually at the top of the umbrella canopy, designed to allow air to flow through. This feature is not just for aesthetic appeal; it serves a practical purpose in the overall performance of the umbrella.

When selecting a patio umbrella, consider opting for models that include wind vents, especially if you live in a windy area or if the umbrella will be placed in an exposed location. The presence of wind vents is particularly critical for larger umbrellas, where the surface area that could potentially catch the wind is greater.

Benefits of wind vents in patio umbrellas:

  • Increased Stability: Wind vents allow air to pass through the umbrella instead of catching it like a sail. This reduces the umbrella's susceptibility to being blown over by gusts of wind. By decreasing wind resistance, wind vents help prevent the umbrella from toppling and reduce stress on the umbrella’s frame and base.

  • Enhanced Durability: By allowing wind to escape, wind vents reduce the chance of the umbrella flipping inside out during high winds. This helps protect the integrity of the ribs and the fabric. The reduction in wind pressure can significantly extend the life of the umbrella by minimizing wear and tear on its components.

  • Improved Comfort: The flow of air through the vent can also create a cooling effect underneath the umbrella, making it more comfortable for users during hot weather. This feature enhances the usability of the umbrella in various weather conditions, making it more versatile.

Need a Hand? We're Here to Help!

Choosing the perfect patio umbrella might seem daunting, but you don't have to do it alone! Whether you have questions or need personalized advice, our friendly team is ready and waiting. Drop us an email at or give us a call at 520-351-0053 — yes, we really answer the phone!

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