When browsing for umbrellas, you will often find the term “market umbrella” referenced. The term market umbrella is an industry term and is often used without reference to what a market umbrella exactly is. So what is a market umbrella? And what is a patio umbrella as well? What is the difference between the two?
Often it seems the two are used interchangeably in advertisements and on Pinterest, and it is unclear what the difference is. Hopefully, we can clear that up a bit here.
What is a Market Umbrella?
A market umbrella is a type of umbrella, usually made of wood, that is placed in order to shade and protect a booth and customers. These umbrellas are commonly used in farmers markets, crafts fairs, kiosks, and the like. Market umbrellas may cover farm stand structures, food vendor tables, farmers market stalls, and other (generally temporary) commercial common spaces, as shown in the above double vent umbrella image from HeatherBullard.
Merchants set up their stands, bring their market umbrellas, attach them so that they are protected from the sun during the time they are out selling. These umbrellas also offer shade to customers and create an inviting environment to help facilitate commerce.
Market Umbrella Design
Typically, these umbrellas take the shape of a straight pole, with an umbrella base attached on the bottom. The fabric of the umbrella is usually in an octagonal shape, though occasionally square and rectangular market umbrellas can be found.
Often these umbrellas don’t get inserted through a table or other stabilization system, and as such are stabilized by a weighted base only. Occasionally, a farm stand or food cart may have an insert designed to hold the umbrella, but that is not always the case.
What is the Best Material for Market Umbrella?
Umbrella Shaft Material
Commonly the shaft of a market umbrella is made of wood or metal. Wooden market umbrellas can be quite attractive, though expensive, and metal is certainly more common. Wood is typically heavier than hollow tube steel and is considered stronger, though also more of a pain to move around.
Fabric ranges from polyester to more durable materials like Sunbrella canvas. Due to the fact that traditionally, market umbrellas would be used to shelter vendors who may be outside rain, shine, in windy conditions and even in snow, the durability of material may be very important.
Usually, the ribs of the market umbrella are made of wood, fiberglass, or steel. Fiberglass may flex a bit more than steel will, and is often the best choice for a rib material when the umbrella will be unfurled in windy conditions. Steel is also a strong material, as well, though it offers less flexibility than fiberglass.
Wood often is used in common with a wooden umbrella shaft, and wood can look lovely. It is generally more expensive, and perhaps not as flexible as fiberglass.
What is a Patio Umbrella?
The term patio umbrella, on the other hand, is a term typically reserved for those umbrellas designed to fit through a hole in a table, and shelter the occupants sitting underneath the umbrella from the sun.
These umbrellas are used in backyard patios, in commercial spaces to cover outdoor tables, and other environments where eating and lounging are more likely to occur, rather than commerce.
Patio Umbrella Design
Patio umbrellas, often also called bistro umbrellas, typically are used in conjunction with a table for stabilization. Often an additional weighted base is used to keep the umbrella straight, but the base is much less important than it would be for a traditional market umbrella, due to the fact that the table brace provides significant stability and balance for the umbrella.
See our umbrella size guide to determine your shading needs.
Generally, the fabric of a patio umbrella is octagon shaped, though occasionally it may be rectangular or square in shape.
What is the Best Material for Patio Umbrella?
Umbrella Shaft Material
The shaft of a patio umbrella is usually made of wood or metal. Wood is generally more expensive but can look quite nice. Hollow metal tubes are usually lighter than wood, which makes them more likely to blow away, but also easier to move around.
Patio umbrellas usually are made with polyester fabric, which is fairly resistant to the elements and can be quite attractive. Higher end umbrellas are available with better fabrics like Sunbrella fabric, and these are much more likely to last a long time and are capable of handling the elements a little better.
The rib material on patio umbrellas typically is made of fiberglass, steel, wood, or plastic. Generally plastic is the cheapest, and weakest, material, though some higher grade flexible plastics are being introduced. Fiberglass is usually considered the best rib material due to its high flexibility and strength, though steel can also be a good material for ribs.
Wood is a handsome material when used in conjunction with a wood shaft, though it is expensive and may not be as strong as fiberglass.
Patio Umbrellas and Market Umbrellas seem similar. So what’s the difference?
In modern practice, there is no difference anymore! The terms have merged over time.
Because umbrella design is standardized, and most umbrellas are sold separately from weight base systems, the term market umbrella and the term patio umbrella have merged into the same meaning.
If you see a beautiful photo of a market umbrella on a traditional patio, or a patio umbrella at a farmer’s market, you can see that the terms have simply blended and become intermingled. In the same way that the terms “commercial kitchen” and “home kitchen” have merged, “market umbrella” and “patio umbrella” have merged.
In practical modern language, patio umbrella and market umbrella mean the same thing. For more information and reviews of market and patio umbrellas, please take a look at our Patio Umbrella Buying Guide and Reviews article! And if you’re looking for some great patio inspiration, check out this patio guide by StreetEasy.com.