From the finial to the base.  All the parts of a patio umbrella

From the finial to the base. All the parts of a patio umbrella

Today's shopper is very educated about the products they..uhm...shop. When we're out buying a car, we educate ourselves on the make, the model, the options, the paint, the engine, the cylinders, even the kind of stereo that comes in the car. When we shop for our electronics, like a stereo, we research each and every feature, like whether it plays CD's or not (no, I'm not stuck in the 90's) MP3's (see, I told ya) the type of speakers it has, the ohms (repeat after me) and for the guys in the audience, the POWER!!!

But it's funny how such a great investment like a patio umbrella isn't a topic of regular conversation. I mean, when I talk to my friends about a new piece of furniture, like my new sofa, they ask about the leather, and the feet, and how wide it is, and the construction. When I talk to my friends about a patio umbrella, they never ask about the finial or the canopy fabric.

So let's go down all the parts of a patio umbrella, from the finial to the base, and give you a better idea on what makes up a standard patio umbrella.

THE FINIAL

According to Wikipedia, a finial is

The finial is an architectural device, typically carved in stone and employed to decoratively emphasize the apex of a gable, or any of various distinctive ornaments at the top, end, or corner of a building or structure.

So for a patio umbrella, the finial is the ornamental piece at the top. Patio umbrella finials come in varying shapes and sizes, and serve as finishing detail for a patio umbrella. It's purely decorative in function.

THE CANOPY

You pretty much can't have a patio umbrella without a canopy. As the name suggests, it's the top of the umbrella. The actual working part that provides shade. This is where the magic happens. Now the canopy has in itself some parts that make up the overall construction of it. The fabric, the vents, and the pockets.

THE FABRIC

Once upon a time, patio canopies, or patio covers, used to be made with cotton and some kind of sealant, such as wax or oil. Today, patio umbrella fabrics come in a whole slew of different materials and construction. Most notably are solution dyed acrylics, such as Sunbrella Fabrics. Sunbrella fabrics are probably the best known outdoor fabrics, and have even been recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for it's UV protection. They are noted for their colors, the soft hand, and their durability, which have been know to last for years. Some people even think of patio umbrellas with Sunbrella fabrics as Sunbrella Umbrellas. However, there is also Olefin Fabric, which are a value added outdoor fabric that is sometimes called polyethylene or polypropylene. It's weather resistant, strong, and carries colors well. There is also polyester outdoor fabrics, which are colorful and effective, but which are traditional made for limited use. And their is vinyl fabric. Vinyl fabric was probably the first commercial grade fabric that has been used for patio umbrellas, and car seats, and upholstery. You name it, somebody put vinyl on it, or the other way around. It's known for it's durability and longevity, but not for color choices.

THE VENTS

On an earlier post, Wind Vents What? I described the basic uses of a wind vent, but to recap... A wind vent passes air, wind and heat in, up and around an umbrella canopy. Wind vents prevent your patio umbrella from becoming, in essence, a very expensive kite. Wind Vents let heat rise up out of the canopy as well, so you don't trap the heat in, which defeats the purpose of going under a patio umbrella for shade...from the heat. Wind Vents can be configured in a bunch of different ways including:

  • Single Wind Vents - One Vent at the Top
  • Dual Wind Vents - Two wind vents for double the efficiency
  • Middle Accent - Two wind vents with an alternating fabric, for design.

THE POCKETS

Also known as Rib Pockets, these are the folds of fabric that are stitched together to create a pocket, that will then hold the ribs. What are ribs? Aha, we're getting to that.

THE RIBS

The ribs are the long wood or metallic rods that hold the umbrella shape, hold up the cover to the canopy, and in most patio umbrellas, can be moved up and down to close the umbrella. Most patio umbrellas are made in aluminum, thus the ribs are aluminum (great logic there huh?) Wood Market Umbrellas feature wood ribs, typically jointed with metal. There are also wind resistant umbrellas, also called fiberglass rib umbrellas, which are wind and shock resistant. Traditional Garden Umbrellas usually use a steel wire rib, which is much simpler in design.

In a market umbrella, there are two sets of ribs that make up the canopy. The outside ribs, which give the umbrella it's shape and size, and the center ribs, which attach the pole to the ribs from the Hub via a rib joint.

THE HUB AND RUNNER

The hub is where the center ribs attach to the pole of the patio umbrella. The hub is a movable piece set at the center pole to ensure that the ribs stay attached as the umbrella opens and closes.The runner is located under the hub when the patio umbrella is completely open. The runner is what pushes the hub up and down to open and close the umbrella.

THE POLE

Now it gets interesting. The pole is the center shaft that the holds the umbrella canopy up. Basically, the stick the umbrella sits on. Poles come in a variety of size, and are usually round, but there are some square poles in the market as well. The pole and the ribs are what make up the basic category of patio umbrella, such as wood market umbrella or aluminum patio umbrella styles. Aluminum poles can come in a variety of finishes, and even some textures, sand being a very popular texture. Most patio umbrellas feature a straight center pole, but there are different kinds of patio umbrellas, such as offset patio umbrellas, which hang over the side, so the pole is not in the center.

THE CRANK

Aluminum patio umbrellas often feature a crank for opening the umbrella. Wood market umbrellas are usually of a rope and pulley variety, and don't need a crank. The crank usually sits at about mid level in a standard patio umbrella.

THE TILT

When an umbrella tilts, the tilt function usually takes place at the top of the umbrella, just below the hub and runner. There are three basic kinds of tilts, such as push-button tilt, auto tilt, and collar tilt.

THE BASE

An umbrella base is not really a part of the umbrella, but an addition most people will need. The base is what holds an umbrella up and in position. It can be made of steel, aluminum, or even concrete. Umbrella bases come in a variety of weights, to use with different size umbrellas.

And there you have it, the different parts of a patio umbrella, from finial to base. Now you can go car shopping, electronics shopping, and patio umbrella shopping.