Patio umbrellas are essentially large fabric sails attached to a base weight and maybe to a table. Strong wind gusts can do great damage to a patio umbrella (and to those sitting nearby, if the umbrella lofts at the wrong time!) Due to this issue, most market umbrellas sold are vented in some way. A vented patio umbrella is designed to allow air to flow through the umbrella, and exit out through the vent. This helps keep the umbrella stable during gusty conditions and also encourages fresh air to flow around the umbrella, keeping the air cool and comfortable.
In this article, we will look at a few different umbrella venting options, and discuss the pros and cons of each.
Patio Umbrella Stability
There are several aspects to patio umbrella design that will encourage stability and strength. They are:
- Number and quality of vents
- Weight of base
- Support from a table
- Material of umbrella ribs
- Number of Ribs
- Proper usage
Patio Umbrella Vents
Most patio umbrellas come with a ventilation system. A couple of the common ventilation systems are shown here:
Single Vent Umbrella
Most of the patio and market umbrellas commonly sold feature a single, central wind vent. This vent is situated typically at the top of the umbrella and is a separate flap of fabric, usually in the same color as the patio umbrella. This flap is usually attached with some sort of breathable mesh material underneath. The vent flap prevents water from entering the umbrella through the ventilation area, and the mesh allows air to flow up through the umbrella, and out the vent.
This air flow design helps to keep the umbrella as stable as possible and encourages fresh air to flow through the underside of the umbrella, and out the top.
Many people are familiar with hand-held umbrellas inverting themselves during gusty winds, and the vent system shown here helps prevent those sorts of events from occurring.
Double Vent Umbrella
Some generally more expensive patio umbrellas include a double wind vent system. These umbrellas usually consist of a top wind vent similar to the Single Vented Patio Umbrella canopy shown above, and an additional middle vent that spans the circumference of the canopy, and splits the canopy once again. The second vent is much larger and allows for significantly more air flow to escape through the umbrella again.
Double Vent designs tend to cost more than single vents, but they are often more durable designs and are more likely to be able to handle wind.
That said, finding replacement canopies for double vent umbrellas is generally much more difficult than for single-vent umbrellas, due to their comparative rarity.
Weight of Base
Perhaps the most important step in keeping an umbrella in the place you want it to be is getting a properly-sized base weight, and using it. Most patio umbrellas do not come with a base weight, but rather just a shaft that ends on the bottom. In most cases, these umbrellas should be installed into a weighted base. If you happen to have a wooden deck or concrete patio to which you would like to permanently bolt your umbrella, you could do that. But in most cases, buyers prefer to use a weighted base for flexibility and style.
For more information on weighting your patio umbrella properly, see our guide to market umbrella bases here.
Depending on how you wish to set up your patio, many users want to insert their umbrella through a central table. A table will increase the stability of the patio umbrella, and reduce the amount of weight needed on the base.
By inserting the umbrella through a table, another point of contact is made, and the umbrella will have a much more difficult time flying away when it is prevented from moving due to the table. If you wish to increase the strength of this contact, you could pick up a patio umbrella cone as well.
Umbrella Rib Material
The material and design of the ribs will greatly impact the overall strength and stability of a patio umbrella. The ribs need to be strong, flexible, and lightweight. They absorb most of the impact of the wind and are the most likely part of an umbrella to break under stress.
The most common rib materials are (from best/most expensive to worst/least expensive):
Generally, fiberglass ribs are the most expensive, as they offer the greatest amount of flexibility and wind resistance. For more information on fiberglass ribs, and wind resistance, please see our guide here.
Aluminum is also a very high-quality choice, as it is a metal that does not rust outside. Steel works well, but will often rust, and does not offer the flexibility of the other materials.
Wood is a bit of an outlier and is typically only seen in conjunction with wooden poles. Wood is a strong material for ribs but can snap under stress.
Plastic is the cheapest, and weakest, material for patio umbrella ribs. Though plastic is flexible, it does not offer the strength and resilience of the other materials.
Number of Ribs
The quantity of ribs present in a patio umbrella impacts the overall strength of the unit. Typically, most patio umbrellas feature either 8 or 6 ribs, depending on the diameter of the umbrella. Eight ribs tend to supply more support to an umbrella than six ribs do, as each rib is supporting less fabric.
For smaller patio umbrellas, say 6-8′ in diameter, six ribs may well be appropriate. For larger umbrellas, from 9-13′ in diameter, eight ribs is almost a necessity, and as the umbrellas get larger, the quantity and material type of the rib becomes more and more important.
When the wind starts to blow, it’s best to close up your patio umbrella and go inside. While technologies like double vents and fiberglass ribs can help, if the wind blows too much, you risk damaging your patio umbrella, and perhaps the table, and perhaps your guests!
The best course of action on a windy day is to simply close up your umbrella and store it for another time. Not doing so may mean that you won’t have an umbrella to use next time!
The Vented Patio Umbrella
The most important considerations to make with a patio umbrella is the quality of the materials, the functionality of the umbrella system, and the look of the umbrella. For small umbrellas, there is more flexibility in design and manufacturing quality, as the umbrellas don’t need to support so much weight and be so strong.
But for larger umbrellas, having a quality double vented patio umbrella with eight fiberglass ribs will mean a long-lasting, high-quality outdoor shade system. This 11′ market umbrella from California Umbrellas, hits all the marks, with a double vented canopy, eight fiberglass ribs, and an easy tilt function, and a solution-dyed polyester fabric canvas. It is an outstanding choice for those looking for a great double vented patio umbrella.
- Standard double wind vent canopy design with 8 heavy duty fiberglass ribs
- Advanced collar tilt system offering infinity tilt with deluxe crank lift...
- Canopy is made of pacifica fabric, which is a solution dyed polyester
- Overall dimensions 132-inch length by 102-inch height by 132-inch width
- Optional base is not included and must be purchased separately
Last update on 2021-05-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API