What Should I Look For In A Sun Umbrella?

31 May 2022
Are some outdoor sun umbrellas better than others? If so, what should you look for to get the best umbrella for your needs? We have the answers here.

The starting point for anyone considering purchasing an outdoor sun umbrella is almost always shade – the most common reason people start to think of a sun umbrella is the sun and the need for relief from the heat and glare. But are some outdoor sun umbrellas better than others? And if so – why? Is some shade quality better than others? And what other elements might be important when choosing a sun umbrella? This article offers a quick guide to what to look for in a new sun umbrella.

These days, especially in New Zealand, there is more to shade than simply a shadow: protection from UV rays is increasingly important. If the umbrella canopy hasn’t been made for New Zealand conditions, you and your family and friends may be sitting in the shade of the umbrella, and still experience UV damage. Additionally, to the disappointment of many, it can also mean early and sometimes swift degradation of the canopy itself. Choosing a canopy that is highly rated for UV protection, like Shade7’s Recasens acrylic canvas, will give the best protection from not just the heat and glare, but from damaging ultraviolet radiation, as well as longevity of the canopy.


When it comes to depth of shade, dark colours cast a denser shade and eliminate glare from above, and also from below if the substrate is pale. Light colours admit greater light, which is preferable for some, for example if the open umbrella is near a kitchen or lounge that is already relatively dark. Light colours can create a resort-style ambience, evoking the elegance of luxury retreats. Dark colours are effective in enhancing both architectural and historic character design sensibilities. Our article ‘What is the best colour for a sun umbrella?’ offers a more in-depth exploration on choosing the best colour for your outdoor sun umbrella.

Durability is one of the ultimate considerations when purchasing a sun umbrella, but it can sometimes be overlooked for price. Shopping on price can seem to make sense at the time of purchase; without umbrellas of varying quality and durability beside each other for direct comparison, the differences can be difficult to spot for someone with little experience of materials or design construction. In addition, many of us struggle to think long term, or are forced to sacrifice some aspect of a desired object to meet budget restrictions. But with durable sun umbrellas, opting for a low price point can prove to be a false economy, becoming the costliest option in the long run with numerous replacement umbrellas being a common experience. For an overview on how to look after your sun umbrella, read this article.

In the same way, assuming the most expensive umbrella will perform the best, look the best, and last the longest, is also an incorrect assumption, often to the disappointment of those seeking the optimum experience of sun protection and outdoor entertaining. The product brand, production and logistics, or even location of the store can sometimes be the determining factor of an umbrella’s price, rather than its actual quality and the value it will bring to your experience of your outdoor space.

So, when considering purchasing a sun umbrella at any price point, if its appearance ticks all the boxes, be sure to find out about the materials and the durability of the construction, about its performance in wind, and about the warranties: will the umbrella last? Will the canopy rot? Will it fade or fray or sag prematurely? Will the arms bend or break, will the base or spigot rust or bend? And even more importantly – will there be support from the supplier for any issues that may arise? Are replacement canopies and parts available? Taking the time to weigh up the true value of an umbrella designed to both perform and look beautiful, and engineered to last for many years, can save stress and cost in the long term, and greatly increase your enjoyment of your outdoor space.

Functionality of sun umbrellas in an outdoor space is relatively simple to address. In small patios and courtyards, particularly for use inside a table, a centre pole umbrella will often stay in one place. How easy is it to close and open? Being able to close it and cover it is important for longevity. Using a quality cover bag, such as Shade7’s Recasens cover bags, can double the life of the canopy.

If the umbrella is going to stay in one place, would a tilting canopy be effective as the sun moves over the day? Shade7’s Venice Tilt sun umbrella is particularly popular for small, elevated spaces such as apartment balconies where the sun can strike below the edge of a regular umbrella canopy for a large part of the day.

For larger areas, as the sun moves throughout the day, should the umbrella move too? If so, for larger concreted areas such as a poolside or spacious patio, wheeled bases are extremely useful. To move an umbrella just a metre or so across a timber deck, a concrete-filled plastic base is often ideal. If an outdoor sun umbrella will be used in more than one place, another option is moving the umbrella between two bases rather than moving one base around. And in some instances, multiple umbrellas can be the best solution.

For strong umbrellas, umbrella bases also need to be strong enough for their purpose, not just heavy enough. Some heavy bases have flimsy spigots intended for use with umbrellas that are not designed to withstand the wind. If an umbrella is designed to withstand windy conditions, choose a strong base to make the most of the umbrella’s strength.

A strong umbrella can make enjoying your outdoor space so much easier. In a place like New Zealand, wind is everywhere, and quite changeable. Four seasons in one day is the common phrase, and that can also be true of wind over the course of a day. Being able to enjoy an outdoor umbrella as much as possible is the primary expectation of anyone looking for an outdoor sun umbrella. Shade7’s outdoor sun umbrellas are engineered to withstand winds of 40-80kph depending on the size and design, and are in commercial locations all over New Zealand and the pacific Islands as well as enhancing and shading the outdoor spaces of New Zealanders nationwide. Again, if the appearance of the umbrella ticks all the boxes, consider its stability. Is it going to break or blow away in mild wind? Will the movement even in a breeze be so irritating that you will have it closed more than open?

If you are considering a sun umbrella for your outdoor space, whether for home or for a commercial venue, the friendly team at Shade7 will be happy to discuss your specific requirements with you by phone, or when you visit the showroom at 1096 Great South Road, Mt Wellington, Auckland.

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