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Buying guide for best adjustable patio umbrellas

You want to be able to sit outside on your patio and enjoy the nice weather, but the sun’s intense rays can sometimes be too much. An adjustable patio umbrella can solve this problem. It provides much-needed shade so you can enjoy the outdoors in comfort.

There are a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles of umbrellas to choose from, but this can make it difficult to settle on just one. Most people focus on the aesthetics, but there are other functional concerns that are even more important.

Here’s a guide that outlines all of the key factors you need to consider so you can find a stylish and durable adjustable patio umbrella that’s perfect for your space. We’ve included several of our favorites, too.

Some adjustable patio umbrellas let you adjust the height of the pole so you can better control where the shade is.

Key considerations

The most important features to focus on when choosing an adjustable patio umbrella are size and style.


When choosing a patio umbrella size, think about the size of the area that needs shade. An umbrella that’s too large could dwarf the space, while one that’s too small might not provide as much as shade as you need.

  • Diameter: The general rule for patio table umbrellas is to choose one that exceed the diameter of the table by about four feet. If you want a freestanding umbrella to use by a pool, measure the space to determine which size you need. Pay attention to the diameter of the umbrella pole as well if you’re going to be using it with a patio table. Most patio umbrella poles are 1.75 inches in diameter, but some are larger and might not fit in the hole in your table.

  • Height: Your patio umbrella should be at least seven feet tall so that the people sitting underneath it don’t have to stoop. You can choose an umbrella that’s taller than that, but you should note that this will impact the area that’s in shade.


There are two main types of adjustable patio umbrellas: tilting and cantilever.

  • Tilting: Tilting umbrellas are the more common type. These umbrellas have a mechanism at the top of the pole that lets you adjust the angle of the umbrella. By changing the angle and rotating the umbrella, you can keep yourself in the shade as the sun moves without moving your seat. Tilting umbrellas are usually used with patio tables, but you can use one freestanding as well.

  • Cantilever: Cantilever patio umbrellas are typically more expensive than tilting umbrellas, but they’re also more flexible. You can adjust the height up or down and change the the tilt angle. Unlike tilting umbrellas, which have the pole in the middle, cantilever umbrellas have the pole off to the side. The umbrella is suspended on a metal arm to provide maximum range of motion. It might be difficult to use one of these umbrellas if you have a large patio table, but it could work with a small table or as a freestanding umbrella near a pool.

Adjustable patio umbrella features

Once you know the size and style you want, you can narrow down your choices even further based on the following features:


Patio umbrellas must be durable enough to stand up to high winds, rain, and the sun’s UV rays.

  • Canopy: If you choose a low-quality fabric, the umbrella could rip or fade over time. Go with an adjustable patio umbrella made from all-weather, UV-resistant fabric. These fabrics are designed to withstand all manner of outdoor conditions and won’t degrade in sunlight. Ideally, the fabric should be water resistant and breathable as well. This will prevent water from saturating the fabric and causing mold.

  • Pole: Consider the material the pole is made out of, too.

    • Fiberglass poles are tough and slightly flexible, so they’re a great option if you live in an area that’s prone to high winds.

    • Aluminum poles are affordable, lightweight, and rustproof, but they need to be secured to a strong base to keep from flying away in the wind.

    • Wooden poles add a touch of style, but they’re more prone to rotting and warping when exposed to extreme weather.

Opening mechanism

Traditionally, you opened and closed patio umbrellas by operating a hand crank located on the pole, and some adjustable patio umbrellas still use this method. But some newer umbrellas require you to lift the umbrella and insert a pin attached to the umbrella into the umbrella pole to hold it open. Both of these methods accomplish the same thing, but you might prefer one over the other.


Octagonal patio umbrellas are the most common, but if you’d like a more modern design, choose a square or rectangular adjustable patio umbrella. A rectangular umbrella is a smart choice if you have a long outdoor table that isn’t adequately covered by a square or octagonal umbrella.


Adjustable patio umbrellas are available in every color under the sun, and some manufacturers offer the same umbrella in multiple fabric choices so you can select the one that best matches your décor. Think about the colors that are already in your space and pick an umbrella to match. If you can’t find one that blends in, go with a neutral color.

For your safety
A freestanding umbrella needs a stronger base than a patio table umbrella.

Adjustable patio umbrella prices

Most adjustable patio umbrellas fall in the $30 to $100 range. Most table patio umbrellas are cheaper than cantilever umbrellas, usually less than $50. Cantilever umbrellas start at around $80 and go up to several hundred dollars.

The size of the umbrella also plays a role in the cost, as does the quality of the materials. You can expect to pay more for a larger umbrella than you would for a smaller one. Umbrellas made from durable, high-quality fabrics also cost more than umbrellas that aren’t made from UV-resistant materials.


  • Choose the base as carefully as you choose the umbrella itself. The base should weigh at least 30 pounds for a patio table umbrella and at least 50 pounds for a freestanding umbrella. If you live in an area prone to high winds, you might want to choose an even heavier base.

  • Close your adjustable patio umbrella during high winds. This will prevent your umbrella from blowing away or getting damaged.

  • Store your adjustable patio umbrella indoors during the colder months. This is particularly important if you live where it snows in the winter.

  • Measure the size of the umbrella hole in your patio table. You want to know which size poles it can accommodate before you begin shopping for an adjustable patio umbrella.
A few adjustable patio umbrellas contain built-in lights, which is a nice feature if you plan to use your patio table outside in the evenings.


Q. How do I measure the size of an adjustable patio umbrella?

A. Patio umbrella size is measured by opening the umbrella all the way and measuring the diameter of the canopy. The manufacturer should indicate the size of the umbrella on the product page or the packaging, so you shouldn’t need to measure it yourself. But it can be helpful to know how it’s done in case you need to replace your old patio umbrella and aren’t sure what size to order.

Q. Is a traditional or cantilever umbrella a better choice to have near a pool?

A. Either will work, but a cantilever umbrella might be the better choice because the area under the shade is completely open. With a traditional umbrella, you need to fit your seats around the pole and base and this leaves less room in the shade.

Q. Are aluminum patio umbrella poles durable?

A. Aluminum is one of the most common materials for patio umbrella poles and it is surprisingly durable. However, if you live in an area that’s prone to high winds, you might want to step up to a fiberglass or steel pole that’s a little heavier and stronger.

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