How Strong Does A Sun Umbrella Need To Be?

03 July 2024
With our changeable weather, NZ outdoor umbrellas must be strong enough to stand up to more than calm sunny days to serve us well.

Each summer, the blazing heat and resulting inability to be on patios without sun shelter compel Kiwis to seek shade solutions for their outdoor living spaces. Outdoor umbrellas are easily the most accessible, and, when well-chosen, the most durable and cost-effective solution, providing stylish, versatile shelter.

When visualising a sun umbrella in our lovely outdoor space, we typically picture blue skies and sweltering calm days in which the sun umbrella casts an oasis of cool shade. Wind and rain are not usually part of the imagined summertime picture, and rightly so. But here in New Zealand with our changeable weather, outdoor umbrellas must stand up to more than a calm day to have any chance of lasting.

Strength: Year-round, the wind seems increasingly destructive and unpredictable. Even in relatively sheltered locations, customers relay experiences they describe as ‘a mini tornado’ or ‘a freak gust even for stormy weather’. Strength in an outdoor umbrella is becoming more important than ever. But what does it mean for an umbrella to be strong? What should we look for if we want our outdoor umbrella to last? These tips will help clarify what is important.

At the simplest level, an outdoor umbrella is made up of a canopy, frame, and pole (or mast if it is a sturdy Shade7 Riviera cantilever umbrella). A strong canopy will be constructed of canopy-grade or awning-grade canvas or polyester, thick enough to not flail or easily tear, and imbued with weatherproofing so it doesn’t rot or break down in wet weather or harsh sunlight. Canopies must be solution-dyed to virtually eliminate colour fading.

Durable umbrella canopies are generally also heavy. Such umbrella canopies need a strong frame (umbrella arms) and pole to support the weight of the canvas and keep it open and stable when the wind picks up. There are various umbrella frames available. Timber arms have a unique charm but are vulnerable to breakage over time. Aluminium arms, such as those featured in some of Shade7’s premium umbrellas, must be dense and engineered to withstand great pressure. Fibreglass is another material featured in some of Shade7’s premium umbrellas. Engineered to last, Shade7’s fibreglass arms work a little like premium fishing rods, able to flex under pressure and bounce back, yet stiff enough to easily support heavy canvas canopies.

Poles must be extremely sturdy to manage the frame, canopy, and weather. For example, all Shade7’s umbrella poles are anodised aluminium, with pole walls of between 2.2mm-3mm density depending on model, and each will perform for many years. Anodising is a treatment that sinks into the aluminium surface and is both durable and attractive.  Shade7 umbrella poles are so strong they are used as levers to shift the extremely heavy bases that hold them upright.

Milan Square Grey Outdoor Umbrella

The importance of strong materials and good engineering applies not only to the umbrella canopy, frame, and pole, but to cables, pulleys, spigots, bases, and installation fittings. Each component in an umbrella is important for a peaceful, long-term experience. Everything must work together to be durable and look fantastic.

Once you have chosen your strong umbrella, make sure it is installed properly. If it can withstand strong wind when open, the base or installation method must be strong enough, and in some cases, such as centre pole umbrella bases, heavy enough to keep the umbrella upright. But even the strongest umbrella and base are not infallible. A good example to consider is a sailboat: when the wind catches the sail, it can propel an entire boat across the water’s surface. An outdoor umbrella, even a cantilever umbrella, weighs just a fraction of the weight of a boat, and unlike a boat, isn’t intended to travel.

To give your umbrella the opportunity to do its best for you for many years, be practical and close it when strong winds are coming up, or even when you are not in attendance. Freak gusts can lift roofs, let alone umbrellas. And once your beautiful umbrella is closed, protect it with a durable water-resistant cover bag to save yourself the job of cleaning the canopy too often, or even of having to replace it.

Even the toughest outdoor umbrella may experience issues over time. Will there be support for your umbrella in the years that follow your purchase? To learn more about what after-sales support for umbrellas means, read the next article in this series about support.

For any further information on strength and performance in a Shade7 umbrella, and tips on maintenance, contact the friendly team at Shade7.

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