After spending 20 hours researching backyard patio umbrellas and bases, considering hundreds of models, and testing five of each in a sunny and breezy hillside backyard in Los Angeles, we’ve determined that the 9-foot-wide Treasure Garden Market Aluminum Push Button Tilt Umbrella and 50-pound US Weight Umbrella Base are the best for most people. Treasure Garden is the most reliable brand we’ve found, and the umbrella should last a decade or more. Unlike other bases, the US Weight model is simple to use, cheap, and the least hassle to order and start using.
When we asked landscape designers and patio-furniture experts what umbrellas they recommended, the name they gave us again and again was Treasure Garden. Durability is a key quality that separates an okay patio umbrella from a great one, and the 9-foot-wide Market Aluminum Push Button Tilt Umbrella should last longer than any of the other umbrellas in our test group, thanks in part to its thick Sunbrella fabric. The Treasure Garden brand offers the most color and style options we’ve seen—including dozens of fabric colors and patterns, rare double wind vents, and a choice of models with push-button or crank tilt. Our umbrella pick offers the best value within the Treasure Garden line, including just the right features to be functional while omitting the extras that drive up the price. Treasure Garden also provides the best warranty of any umbrella brand we considered.
The Orchard Supply Hardware 9 Foot Aluminum Market Umbrella isn’t likely to last as long as the Treasure Garden umbrella and doesn’t come in as many styles or colors. But it costs less than half as much and has a convenient crank-tilt function, which allows you to shift the umbrella head to better block the sun without getting up from your seat (also an option in the Treasure Garden line, but one that raises the price). The OSH umbrella is made of Olefin fabric, which is stronger and more fade resistant than the polyester fabric on the other sub-$100 umbrellas we considered.
The US Weight Umbrella Base was the least expensive umbrella base we found that also had a robust history of positive reviews and weighed enough—50 pounds—to secure a 9-foot umbrella. This compact, low-profile base is perfect for positioning under a table, though we don’t recommend it as a stand-alone base if your umbrella is exposed to significant wind. It has a convenient built-in handle and comes in four colors.
Weight is the most important feature of an umbrella base, and the IKEA Lökö Umbrella Base was the heaviest we could find for under $75. It’s broader than the US Weight base, providing more stability in windy conditions. We also like the Lökö’s four rope handles, which allow two people to carry the base together. Lacing the rope into the concrete disk was a surprisingly tricky task for us, but it ended up being the only thing we didn’t like about this stand.
The Shademobile Rolling Umbrella Base is unusual among bases for its ability to roll and pivot across a smooth deck or patio—a crucial feature for anyone who may not be strong enough to easily lift 50 pounds or more. It comes empty, and you fill it with bricks, sand, or a combination of both for an extremely stabilizing maximum weight of 125 pounds.
For the past decade, I’ve lived in Los Angeles, where the near-constant sun fuels an equally constant quest for more and better shade. Since I moved into my home in mid-2010, I’ve gone through three 9-foot backyard patio umbrellas, each purchased for less than $100. The first was never the same after an epic 2011 windstorm. Carelessly left up, it was lifted by the wind and converted into a dangerous projectile that stabbed into our neighbor’s hillside (no, it didn’t hurt anyone, and no, we were not using a base). The second and third simply got shredded by some combination of temperamental Santa Ana winds and incessant UV damage after a little more than two years of year-round use. All three umbrellas are now exiled to an unknown garbage dump.
To expand my personal experience with patio umbrellas, I talked with AHBE principal architect Calvin Abe, Washington DC–area landscape designer Andy Balderson, and Los Angeles landscape designers Russ Cletta, Maggie Lobl, and Naomi Sanders (through email), all of whom have helped customers consider and select sun shades. Longtime sales associate Veronica Hoodless at the high-end Fishbecks outdoor-furniture store, manager Jesse Mezger at the upscale Patioworld, and manager Jesse Bawsel at Armstrong Garden Centers, all in Pasadena, California, provided additional insight into what customers are looking for when it comes to patio umbrellas and what styles and brands offer proven durability. I also studied a couple of primers on the differences (PDF) between common umbrella fabrics, size considerations, and various umbrella features and designs.
I examined the umbrella inventory at local stores, including Costco, Home Depot, IKEA, Orchard Supply Hardware, and Walmart, and I systematically examined the much more extensive online offerings from the same as well as at Amazon, Armstrong Garden Centers, Crate and Barrel, Design Within Reach, Lowe’s, Overstock, Restoration Hardware, Target, Wayfair, and West Elm. I also looked at the models from upscale umbrella suppliers Tuuci and Santa Barbara Designs, the latter of which makes gorgeous umbrellas (including some that look like flamenco skirts or a shade for a popsicle cart) that are so expensive, the prices go unlisted in the company’s printed catalog.
If you need some shade to make outdoor dining or lounging more comfortable, a patio umbrella is likely the easiest and cheapest way to go. Each of the 9-foot umbrellas we review here will do double duty as a table shade—most outdoor dining tables include a hole for an umbrella, and a 9-foot umbrella is the perfect size for such use—and as a stand-alone umbrella to shade a couple of lounge chairs or a play area. (You measure umbrellas of this type by doubling the length of one spoke; because the spokes slope downward even when an umbrella is up, the total shade area with midday sun is less than 9 feet in diameter.) Landscape designer Maggie Lobl told us she often urges her clients to consider the humble umbrella over more expensive and less flexible pergolas or shade trellises: “They’re just really flexible. You can add a pop of color and they look really nice.”
Whether you plan to use your umbrella to shield a table from the sun or to act as a stand-alone shade, you’ll want a sturdy and heavy base to keep it in place. The most common mistake people make with umbrella bases is not buying one at all (they are almost always sold separately) or buying one that is not heavy enough. Yes, an umbrella will typically stay fairly steady if you simply slide it into the hole in the center of a patio table and let the tail end of the pole rest on the ground. But if winds unexpectedly pick up, that umbrella could easily be lifted from beneath, fly through the air, and crash into the ground—potentially breaking spokes or tearing fabric (it has happened to me). If you’re planning to use the umbrella as a stand-alone shade, arguably you should get a base that weighs at least 75 pounds.
Though you will occasionally see 6-, 7-, and 8-foot patio umbrellas for sale at Home Depot and similar stores, 9 feet is the most common size for patio umbrellas meant for use over a dining table for four, and it’s also a good size for moving around a deck to provide some shade for reading or playing. “People buy umbrellas that are too small all the time, and they’re useless,” said Russ Cletta, a Los Angeles landscape designer. Cletta told us he was on a job where he was throwing away three too-small umbrellas. “They don’t do anything. A 9-foot umbrella is a good size.”
We chose to focus on umbrellas with aluminum poles, rather than wood, both because they tend to be more popular and because aluminum umbrellas are much more likely to come with easy-to-use crank-lifting systems (as opposed to line pulleys), as well as with tilting functions that allow you to shift the head of the umbrella to the side. All the umbrellas we tested had similar cranks that we found equally easy to turn. In the past, we’ve seen the line on inexpensive pulley-lift umbrellas become frayed, and lines are slightly more fussy and time-consuming to secure.
All of the umbrellas we tested also had a tilt mechanism that allowed us to tilt the entire open head of the umbrella to the side to more effectively block the sun at different times of day. “Umbrellas need to move to be functional,” Cletta said. “It’s helpful if they’re easy to roll or if they can tilt when the angle of the sun changes.” You’ll find two types of tilt function. Push-button tilt is a common design that requires pushing a thumb into a button high on the pole to tilt the umbrella head to one side. Crank tilt moves the head to the side with another rotation of the same crank you use to lift the umbrella. Several umbrella brands offer both types of tilt; others, just one. We found that, given the choice, the crank-tilt option is easier and faster, especially for shorter people, who may have to stand on a chair to reach the push button near the top of a push-tilt model’s pole (though all the push-button versions we tried functioned just fine).
Wood umbrellas, which often cost more, tend to lack the tilt function and more commonly rely on fussy pulley-lift or lift-and-pin systems. Some of our picks do come in versions with wood poles and spokes, though, which many people may prefer for aesthetic reasons. The umbrellas we looked at all have poles that are 1½ inches in diameter, a standard size that will generally fit the hole in any outdoor dining table, as well as in the vast majority of umbrella bases.
We decided to focus on umbrellas that are under $350. We knew after talking with store managers and landscape designers that it’s possible to get a high-quality umbrella that will last a long time in that price range. High-end umbrellas from designer brands often cost hundreds, if not thousands, more, and you’re typically paying for beauty rather than added function. You’ll encounter exceptions, such as umbrellas made of marine-grade fabric or sail cloth, but those are outside the scope of what we think most people want. We also largely dismissed umbrellas that cost less than $75, since models in that price range are almost always made of polyester fabric, which we know from personal experience tends to fade and rip quickly. We did include one umbrella of this type in our testing so that we could see firsthand how it compared.
All of the experts we talked to mentioned Sunbrella fabric by name when we asked how to identify a good-quality umbrella. Several of them noted that customers are frequently confused, thinking Sunbrella is an umbrella manufacturer. In fact, Sunbrella fabrics are made by Glen Raven, a 150-year-old South Carolina textile company that makes materials for flags—including the one on the moon—and flame-retardant clothing for race-car drivers, as well as fabrics for marine-grade awnings and casual backyard pillows and umbrellas. Sunbrella fabrics are made of solution-dyed acrylic. “You’ve colored that material at the liquid level,” said Allen Gant III, great-grandson of Glen Raven’s founder and a current company manager. Gant explained to us that this process was what allowed Sunbrella fabrics to retain their color far better than polyester and other yarn-dyed goods: “If you take a radish and you expose it to UV and weather, you’re going to get to a white core. That’s what fading is. If you start peeling a carrot, it’s only going to get more orange as you go.”
Though umbrella manufacturers can buy Sunbrella fabrics in different weaves at different prices, all are colorfast and all come with the same five-year warranty, Gant said. Three of the five umbrellas we tested used Sunbrella fabric, and when it was an optional upgrade, we chose it. However, we also learned of many other solution-dyed fabrics, such as Olefin, that have a generally good reputation for durability and colorfastness.
Like most “market” umbrellas—the term refers to upright umbrellas of the type commonly found in markets and cafés, as well as backyards—all of the models we tested have wind vents at the top. A couple of our experts recommended double wind vents for people who live in particularly windy locations, such as near the beach or on the top of a hill.
Though we heard from several salespeople that cantilever umbrellas—the large umbrellas that have a base to the side and generally overhang a lounge area—have been growing in popularity, we decided to limit our review to the most popular 9-foot market umbrellas, which are a staple of both small apartment patios and sprawling backyards.
We devoted another six hours to reading about umbrella bases and sifting through hundreds of offerings online. We quickly realized that many people make the mistake of buying a base that isn’t heavy enough—lighter bases typically cost much less—or forgoing one entirely. And so we focused on bases that weighed at least 50 pounds, which experts recommended as the minimum to weight down a 9-foot umbrella. “Having a super-heavy base that we can still roll around is the thing that makes the umbrella work,” said Maggie Lobl. Be aware that many online descriptions of umbrella bases obscure the base’s actual weight; many of the least expensive bases weigh just 25 or 30 pounds, which is not enough to be reliable.
Since we think most people regard the umbrella base as a purely utilitarian afterthought, we also focused on bases that cost less than $100. (We made an exception for our upgrade pick, which has wheels that allow it to roll and pivot and thus offers far more functionality than any other umbrella base we found.) All the bases we considered have a mechanism that allows the base tube to tighten around the umbrella pole, ensuring a wobble-free fit.
We emphasized practicality over aesthetics. We think all the umbrella bases we recommend here offer good functionality for the price, though if good looks are your main concern you have plenty more to browse through.
We ultimately examined the specs of 16 popular umbrellas and 12 stands, after which we narrowed our list to five of each that ranked among the most highly recommended, offered excellent value, or both.
We unboxed all the stands and umbrellas and set them all up on the same day in a sunny Los Angeles backyard. Most of the stands required modest assembly, and we timed those efforts and noted how easy or difficult the bases were to move around and tighten around our umbrella posts. We considered the stands’ relative size, recording which ones easily fit beneath our favorite patio furniture sets and which ones were more suited to stand-alone use. Over the next month we observed how the umbrellas responded to different wind conditions (we couldn’t determine any significant difference among them) and how easily their mechanisms functioned. Not surprisingly, after just a few weeks we saw no noticeable deterioration of any of the umbrellas’ fabrics. As we know that fabric tends to be the point of failure for umbrellas, we had to rely largely on outside expertise and reviews in evaluating the options. We will continue to long-term test our picks and monitor their wear.
The 9-foot-wide Treasure Garden Market Aluminum Push Button Tilt Umbrella comes with the Sunbrella fabric our experts recommended and offers more customization options than any other umbrella we looked at—including a rare double wind vent and a protective cover. The umbrella’s eight-spoke construction also makes it more durable than competitors with only six spokes. Its crank lift and push-button tilt worked smoothly in our tests, and it simply stood more elegantly than any other umbrella we used, both open and closed.
Many umbrellas meet untimely deaths from ripped, shredded, or unpleasantly faded fabrics. The relative superiority of this Treasure Garden umbrella’s richly colored and thickly textured Sunbrella fabric was evident as soon as we had our five umbrellas set up side by side in a California backyard. Pinched between fingers, the fabric felt thicker and coarser than the thinner, smoother fabrics of the other umbrellas. Unlike the Costco umbrella’s wrinkly appearance—that model was one of two others we tested made with Sunbrella-brand fabric—the Treasure Garden umbrella appeared pleasingly taut when open. Multiple interviews supported our expectation that Treasure Garden models hold up well for years.
The company offers an expansive array of options for customization. If you want your umbrella shipped in one to seven business days, through PatioLiving’s quick-ship option you can choose from five finishes for the aluminum pole and spokes (bronze, champagne, anthracite, black, and white), as well as from 30 Sunbrella and Obravia fabrics. (Amazon also sells a small selection.) PatioLiving offers more customization options if you order under its standard configuration option (which takes four to six weeks to ship). This choice gives you more than 100 fabric options—a far greater selection than you get from any of the other umbrellas we tested. For about $25 more, you can also upgrade to a double vent, a good choice for anyone near the ocean or in other windy locations. With both the quick-ship and standard configuration options, you can add lights to your umbrella for about $75 or a protective cover for less than $25. PatioLiving allows you to order up to five free fabric swatches to help you consider your umbrella choices, and it provides free shipping.
Like all the umbrellas we tested, this Treasure Garden model has a pole and spokes made of lightweight aluminum. Unlike a couple of the cheaper umbrellas we tested, from Abba Patio and Hampton Bay, this model uses an eight-spoke construction, which is stronger than the six-spoke construction that’s also common on umbrellas of this size.
This Treasure Garden umbrella, again like the rest of our test group, also uses an automated crank-lift system (some simpler umbrellas, particularly those with wooden poles and spokes, use a manual-lift system, in which you pull and cinch a line to lift and secure the umbrella). Although the crank makes a clicking sound, in our tests we didn’t find the noise irritating.
Manager Jesse Bawsel at the Pasadena location of Armstrong Garden Centers—a California-only chain—told us that Treasure Garden was the only umbrella brand his store carried. “They make the best stuff, and have the best warranty,” he said. Despite the fact that the aluminum Treasure Garden umbrella (PDF) comes with a one-year warranty for the push-button-tilt model and a two-year warranty for the crank-tilt model, and Sunbrella fabric itself has a five-year warranty, he rarely sees a return on them, Bawsel told us. “Treasure Garden is actually the best,” concurred Veronica Hoodless, a longtime sales associate at the upscale Fishbecks patio store in Pasadena. “Costco’s are maybe one-third of the price,” said Hoodless, whose store sells 9-foot Treasure Garden umbrellas from about $250. “But they fly away, they get torn. The Treasure Garden will last 10 to 15 years.” Jesse Mezger, manager at nearby Patioworld, agreed, noting, “Three or four hundred dollars is inexpensive if it’s going to last you 15 years or so.” Mezger also recommended Treasure Garden umbrellas as standing head and shoulders above cheaper brands: “We have customers who come here to buy something quality after having something fail from Home Depot or Costco.”
Like other experts, Bawsel advises that a 9-foot umbrella be paired with a base that weighs at least 50 pounds.
We tested the Treasure Garden Market Aluminum model with push-button tilt. While the button was easy enough for us to push and the mechanism worked well, if cost were not a factor we would choose the more convenient crank-tilt model (called Auto Tilt) instead. With that design you simply keep cranking beyond the point that the umbrella is fully lifted to tilt the umbrella head to one side or the other, something you could likely do from your dining seat rather than having to stand up (and perhaps standing on a chair if you’re on the shorter side). But a 9-foot aluminum-finish Treasure Garden umbrella with Sunbrella fabric costs about $350 for the crank-tilt Auto Tilt model and around $265 for the Push Button Tilt model.
Although you can order the Treasure Garden Market Aluminum umbrella in near-infinite styles, ordering certain options may involve a delay of several weeks.
Southern California in-store experts Jesse Bawsel and Veronica Hoodless both said that even though a Treasure Garden umbrella is likely to last a decade, some fading of the fabric is sometimes noticeable after about five years. Sunbrella manager Allen Gant III explained that, due to inherent qualities of the dyes, red umbrellas can be more susceptible to fading than other colors, particularly in places with notably harsh sun, such as Arizona.
The inexpensive Orchard Supply Hardware 9 Foot Aluminum Market Umbrella won’t last as long as our main pick, but it has the crank-tilt function that we like and offers several appealing colors and options, such as built-in LED lights. Several Southern California homeowners told us that their inexpensive OSH umbrellas have held up well for four or five years—a good while for a roughly $100 umbrella serving year-round in a climate with strong sun.
Of the five umbrellas we tested, we liked the look and feel of the fabric on this umbrella second-best after that of the Treasure Garden. We tested the OSH umbrella made of Olefin fabric, which looked smoother and nicer than the fabrics on the Abba Patio, Costco, and Home Depot umbrellas we also tested, all of which felt thinner and weaker to us even though the Costco and Home Depot umbrellas are made of presumably superior Sunbrella fabric (we will be comparing how these umbrellas weather over the next couple of years).
We loved using the simple, no-reach crank-tilt mechanism on this umbrella, a feature that is often considered an umbrella upgrade but is common to all OSH umbrellas. Informal surveys lead us to believe that many people rarely think to use the tilt function on their patio umbrellas, though it obviously is quite helpful for keeping shade where you need it without moving your table or umbrella base. We think that if you do have the crank-tilt option, you’re likely to use the tilt more often simply because it is so easy and simple to do.
Though the OSH umbrella we tested doesn’t come with anything close to the number of style and color options as our top-pick Treasure Garden model does, the available options are generally appealing. The regular aluminum umbrella comes in three colors: blue, grenadine (the deep but muted orange hue of the unit we tested), or camel (light brown). For $50 more, the same umbrella is available with tiny solar lights along the ribs (we did not test this version) that give off a romantic glow more appropriate for dining than, say, for reading; this version comes in red, cilantro, and beige. OSH also sells a similar umbrella with a wood pole and spokes, the price of which is either similar to the aluminum umbrella or $20 to $30 more depending on color (it’s available in more colors than the aluminum umbrella, including red, deep blue, beige, and a lime-green color called “ginko”). Many people like the natural look of wood, especially when matching the umbrella to a wood table. But note that OSH’s wood umbrellas require lifting with a manual pulley system—no crank lift here—and that, unlike all the aluminum umbrellas we tested, they do not tilt.
OSH’s site does not include customer reviews, but anecdotally many people told us that they’ve experienced good longevity with OSH umbrellas. Maggie Lobl, a landscape designer in northeast Los Angeles, has personally owned one for the past four years. “It’s holding up really well,” she said. “I don’t know if the color has faded a bit, but we still get a lot of use out of it. I like the tilt feature, too.”
The umbrella is sold only at Orchard Supply Hardware stores (a total of 80 locations in California, Oregon, and Florida). If you’re not near one, you have to order by mail and pay shipping costs, which were about $15 to $20 for the few locations we checked. It comes with a one-year warranty.
Unlike most of the umbrellas we tested, this OSH model does not have a cloth tie to cinch the fabric together when the umbrella is closed. We doubt the lack of a tie makes the umbrella much more likely to blow over, though we noticed that competitors with a tie, including our top-pick Treasure Garden model, looked neater when not in use.
After we had our OSH umbrella in hand, the company introduced an umbrella canopy made with Sunbrella fabric for about $130. OSH is now selling those canopies separately from the umbrella frames, which are about $90 for the aluminum or the wood—meaning that an aluminum-framed, crank-lift, Sunbrella-fabric umbrella totals about $220, plus shipping if you don’t live near an OSH store. At that price, we think most people would most likely be better off going with the proven brand name—and durability—of the Treasure Garden umbrella. For someone who knows they want a crank-tilt umbrella, however, the OSH buy-separately package would likely be a good option, and it’s one we hope to examine more closely in the future. Currently the Sunbrella canopy from OSH also comes in more colors than the standard canopy, including a teal-like Aruba blue, navy blue, a paler regatta blue, grenadine, spectrum sand (beige), forest green, and a couple of striped options.
The simple, compact, 50-pound US Weight Umbrella Base costs less than any other umbrella base we tested and also requires less effort to set up, so it’s a good choice for people who just want an unassuming base that will do its job with minimal fuss. In our tests, its built-in handle made it easier to move than most of the other bases we tried. And the smaller diameter and the lack of a pole shaft mean that this stand will easily fit beneath almost any dining table. The compact size, though, makes this model inappropriate for people seeking a base for a stand-alone umbrella in windy areas.
This model was the least expensive highly reviewed umbrella base we could find that weighed at least 50 pounds. Most 50-pound umbrella bases cost $80 or more and are made of wrought iron or concrete. Despite its weight (it’s filled with concrete), the US Weight base ships free with Amazon Prime. While some other low-cost plastic umbrella bases of this variety come as empty shells that you fill with sand or water, this one comes prefilled, making life a little easier and less messy. (Though you can buy a fillable version of the same thing for less, and fill it yourself with sand or water, that method will result in a maximum weight of 35 pounds, which is less than experts recommend for a 9-foot umbrella.)
We loved the built-in handle, which—combined with the base’s compact profile, just 16 inches in diameter and 5½ inches high—made the US Weight base easier to move around than any of the other nonwheeled bases we tested out.
That compactness also allowed it to fit easily beneath all our favorite patio tables without significantly cutting into foot space. If you’re in a low-wind area and you religiously remember to close your umbrella, it could also work as a stand-alone base, but at just 16 inches wide it won’t provide as much stability as broader and heavier designs. It comes in black, white, or beige.
Though at this writing it has an overall rating of 4.2 stars out of five across more than 340 reviews on Amazon, several reviewers complain that the simple metal thumb screw is hard to turn or gets stripped easily. If for some reason you plan to move your umbrella in and out of its base frequently, this model might not be the best choice.
The IKEA Lökö is a disk of solid concrete that offers excellent functionality for the price. But it’s a particularly good value only if you have an IKEA store nearby or already have a large IKEA order coming your way. If you don’t, shipping costs at least $100, which is why the Lökö is not our main pick. (We think most people don’t want to spend half a day on a trip to IKEA just to buy an umbrella stand.) The base weighs almost 90 pounds, much more than any other stand we tested except the rolling Shademobile, which costs almost three times as much. The wide-diameter Lökö will keep a 9-foot stand-alone umbrella stable on even the windiest days, though you should note that the shaft—measuring 15¾ inches off the ground—is too tall to fit under some tables with legs that curve inward. We didn’t find any other base that weighed as much for this low of a price.
The Lökö comes with inserts that allow you to adjust it precisely for umbrella stems of different diameters, a feature that did seem to ensure an especially snug and stable fit in our tests (though other stands we tried that used only screws also seemed to work fine). The knob mechanism is easier to turn and adjust than the rough screw on the US Weight base.
In typical IKEA fashion, this base took longer for us to assemble than you might imagine—longer, in fact, than any of the other bases, including the more complex Shademobile. Including one false start, a novice needed close to 20 minutes to properly thread the rope that becomes the handles through the concrete base and then install the stem to the base. The job requires both a wrench and a hammer.
Once set up, the Lökö felt satisfyingly heavy and sturdier than any of the other sub-$100 bases we tested. Since it’s both heavy and broad—23¼ inches in diameter—the Lökö is a good option if you plan to use your umbrella as a stand-alone shade. It can also work beneath tables, though you should measure your table in advance: The stem rises almost 16 inches from the ground, slightly too tall to pair with our favorite wrought-iron dining set.
At a maximum of 125 pounds, the Shademobile Rolling Umbrella Base is far heavier than any other umbrella base we tested, as well as the only one in our test group you have to fill yourself. It’s also the only one with wheels, a feature that allows you to quickly and easily reposition your umbrella as your family—or the sun—moves around your yard.
The Shademobile is made of high-density polyethylene, which will most likely have more longevity than the plastic of the less expensive US Weight base. The Shademobile arrives empty, weighing 22 pounds. Once you fill it with bricks and/or sand, it can weigh up to 125 pounds, making it an extremely stable choice for a stand-alone 9-foot umbrella. Though the company advises against using this base for cantilevered (offset) umbrellas, it’s stable for even 12- and 13-foot upright umbrellas, according to company head David Taylor, who argues that his base makes an upright umbrella more versatile than many cantilevered models. “It’s almost like the tail wagging the dog,” he told us. “The base is as important as the umbrella, because of the added functionality.” Although this model could fit beneath many dining tables, it doesn’t make sense to buy this type of base if your umbrella stays over your tabletop.
The Shademobile’s standout feature is its ability to roll and pivot across decks or patios, and we found that once filled it did so quite smoothly over the cracked concrete patio area in our Los Angeles backyard. (We chose to fill it with sand, for a total weight of about 110 pounds.) It’s equipped with four wheels, two of which have simple brake levers to keep the stand still once it is parked.
The base is beloved by reviewers on the Amazon, Costco, and Overstock websites. Manufactured in North Carolina, it comes in dark bronze or light sand, and the company sells an add-on accessory that turns your patio umbrella into a convenient side table appropriate for setting down a book or a couple of cocktails. About a third of customers buy the table, which was introduced two years ago, Taylor told us.
Once we had our fill material on hand, we took about 15 minutes to fill the base and assemble the stand. (You can buy sand or bricks at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or another hardware store.) The Shademobile comes with detailed instructions, and you should be sure to follow them closely to avoid scuffing the stand before you set it up. More than 20 screws are required to close up the filled base; if you use a power screwdriver (as we did), the job will be much faster. The base comes with a two-year warranty, and if a single part breaks after that, you can replace it individually.
Wind, sun, and moisture are your umbrella’s inevitable adversaries. Using an umbrella cover will prolong its life, as will putting it away in a garage or other sheltered place during the off-season. Sunbrella offers some cleaning advice for its fabrics.
The most important thing you can do to extend your umbrella’s life is to remember to close it up when you’re finished using it. Otherwise, unexpected winds may send it flying or tip it over—the landing may break spokes or cause tears—or simply exert pressures that will eventually degrade the fabric.
At about $120, the Costco 9 ft. Market Umbrella is unusually inexpensive for an umbrella made with Sunbrella fabric, and it also has the crank-tilt function that we like. But in our tests the fabric felt inferior to that used on our top pick, the Treasure Garden umbrella, and the Costco umbrella—which comes in only red or off-white, the color we had—appeared wrinkly. Several of our experts noted that white and other very light colors are best avoided for outdoor use. That said, if you want a white or red crank-tilt umbrella and don’t mind some wrinkles, the Costco model seems to offer good value. Shipping is free, too. Note that non-members pay a 5 percent surcharge on the product price when shopping online.
We like that the Hampton Bay 9 ft. Aluminum Patio Umbrella from Home Depot is highly customizable, with black or brown aluminum plus 10 colors in the standard fabric and five in Sunbrella fabric. We tested a model with Sunbrella fabric, and we’ll be watching how it holds up over time compared with the OSH and Costco umbrellas. For now we think the Treasure Garden model is a better, proven choice for people who can afford to spend a little more. For budget buyers, the advantages of the OSH umbrella (crank tilt, lower cost) outweigh the possible fabric advantage of the Hampton Bay model. Finally, the Hampton Bay umbrella has six spokes, a design that is not as strong as the eight-spoke construction on both of our two top picks.
The 9-foot Abba Patio Market Aluminum Patio Umbrella with Push Button Tilt and Crank was the least expensive of the umbrellas we tested—and it showed. The umbrella lacks a crank-tilt mechanism, and in our tests the UV-treated polyester fabric remained slightly wrinkled, even after a few weeks of use. We don’t think the umbrella canopy will hold up for more than a year or two. But for around $60, this model may seem like an excellent value to people who are happy to view a patio umbrella as a semi-disposable purchase.
The simple 55-pound Fiberbuilt Umbrellas Concrete Patio Umbrella Base works well and has clean, simple lines. While it’s more stylish than our picks, it’s also more expensive, and in our tests we found this type of stand—which doesn’t have any sort of handle—slightly difficult to move around. It comes in four colors (beige, bronze, black, and white).
The wrought-iron Home Decorators Collection Classic Market Umbrella Base weighs 50 pounds and has the most classic look of the five umbrella bases we tested. Like the 55-pound Concrete Patio Umbrella Base, this model wasn’t the easiest for us to transport, but we liked the double knobs that made it simple to ensure a tight fit to the umbrella pole. The base comes in black, bronze, or champagne.
(Photos by Jeremy Pavia.)