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I thought buying a parasol was simple!

When “The Patio Umbrella” was just a germ of an idea, I thought one patio umbrellas was much like another. How wrong I was, and how much there is to learn on the subject!

Here are a few guides for you to think about before you choose one

  1. How do you want to use the space below the parasol?

If you have loads to spare outdoor space this might not seem too important, but if you are really tight then think about a side post or wall mounted patio umbrella.
The side post parasols allow you to move tables and chairs in and out (or fold them away) leaving room for the children to play in the shade or for a sunlounge or just a shaded empty space as overspill from a party.

  1. Do you need to buy a cover?

Technically no. Any good patio parasol should have rot, mould, water and fade resistant material.Otherwise it is not going to look good for long. So in that case, the parasol cover is not absolutely required. However, even the best patio canopies tend to have a lifespan that is shorter the the frame on which they are set. So using a cover properly will extend the canopies life. Remember to dry the parasol thoroughly before putting on the cover bag, however, or you will encourage rot and mould instead of reducing the risk!

  1. Is is worth spending a lot of money on a parasol?

The answer basically depends on how often and how you intend to use the patio umbrella. If you want an umbrella that is going to give you shade for outdoor life from Spring to Autumn then the answer is yes. Cheap parasols break, particularly in the struts or pole, and then the whole thing has to be thrown away. Brands like Tradewinds have virtually indestructable poles and the struts are replaceable, as are the canopies and other components. So the initial outlay is more, but the lifespan and enjoyment is far longer!

  1. What kind of base should I go for?

If you want your parasol to stand on its own and withstand a moderate wind without blowing over and getting damaged, then buy a heavy base – the recommended weights should be available from your supplier.

Remember to check the pole diameter of your parasol before choosing a base. You need to make sure that the parasol is going to fit and stay secure.

  1. Other important dimensions

If you intend your parasol to go through a table, check that it will close over the height of the table – again your supplier should be able to tell you. You will also need to check the size of the hole in your table to make sure that the parasol pole will fit.

  1. Where am I locating my parasol?

The best place for parasols is in a sheltered position because you will be able to have it up for the most time.

Obviously, the stronger the materials used to make the parasol, the more robust it will be. However, even parasols that have been wind tunnel tested and approved cannot withstand gusty, stormy weather. They need to be folded down when the wind gets up. Even giant commercial parasols with integrated heat and light that are built to stay out all year, year in year out, need to be collapsable. So I advise that you close them at night and when you are out. That way, they will be safe even when you are not around to check.

  1. What kind of canopy should I go for?

Canopies need to have a vent in the middle so that the air or wind will pass through and not blow the parasol over.

Check out how reinfored the pockets are at stress areas such as where the struts fit in. This will extend the canopiy’s lifespan by some margin.

Rot and mould resistant canopies are also great to keep the parasol looking nice for far longer.

More expensive parasols will also be fade resistant and water tight.

A real advantage is the removeable canopy which allows you wash the canopy and replace it when it gets tatty. So if you do get mould spots developing, a washable canopy can be a good send. It is hard work to get the mould off, but it is do-able!

In terms of colour, that is personal taste. A yellow canopy gives a beautiful warm light. Another colour might fit better with your house. What is sure is that 80% of people play safe and go for natural or “Ecru”.