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How to Replace a Patio Umbrella Canopy

As I gaze at my backyard, my patio doesn’t look as good as it did the last season. Looks jaded—actually faded. While the rest of the furniture has retained its look, the canopy is sticking out like a sore thumb. Summer is approaching, and I see us using the outdoors much more, having hunkered down this unusually harsh winter.

wornCanopyIt is that umbrella canopy. I had selected the set with such care. Fiberglass ribs, sturdy base and all. Looks like the vendor did not give me the right grade of fabric for the canopy. Anyway, I think I’ll just go ahead and replace my patio umbrella canopy. My neighbor did that last summer, and I had walked across to see how he went about it. Like him, I’d instead do a canopy replacement having put down $300 plus just last season for the full patio umbrella set. It doesn’t hurt to refurbish.

The act of umbrella canopy cover replacement is not that complicated. On a still, clear day crank your umbrella down and tie a cord around it so that it is easier to handle. Now remove the pole from its mooring and carry the umbrella set over to a suitable table. Lay it down and proceed to unscrew the ferrule (the ring or cap)  from the top. This will enable taking the canopy off the final hole once you have unhitched it from the ribs.

Before you do that, check to see if there are ties inside around the individual ribs holding the canvas in place. Once untied, you can proceed to the slightly tricky part. so it would be best If you have somebody available to help you. Otherwise, just be patient and gradually pull the cup off the first rib. A bit of bending might help, but you cannot overdo it, otherwise, you will end up having a cracked umbrella rib! Once this first one is done, the others will come off easier. You’re now ready to place the new canopy in the reverse of this process.

Where would I buy a canopy replacement from? Visit Amazon or another reputed online vendor. Prices start at $15, depending on the size of your umbrella and fabric specification. We could stop here, but I urge you to read on if you want to get everything right.

What material for the canopy?

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have to go through the disappointment of the canopy looking faded again. After doing some research I came to know what the issues with the canopy’s cloth are. Normally, color fades because the fabric is not made of solution-dyed fiber. Imparting a dye to the finished material does not make for colorfastness compared to the thread itself being dyed. You must have heard of the phrase dyed-in-the-wool. The same concept applies here.

You should check for color-fastness; this is certified by SGS or by a European Standard Level (ESL). Grade 4 is recommended. Another characteristic you should look for is UV protection. A bit of care while ordering would save you the bother of spraying on a UV protector onto the entire canopy. The third quality a good canopy has is water resistance. My research recommends the following materials.

Spun Polyester

This fabric has a cotton-like feel because the fabric bits are spun together. To give you an idea of what a canopy of this material would cost, Amazon sells a 9’ diameter 8 ribs one for $35. We will need to talk dimensions—and I will do that soon—as you can’t proceed without knowing what would fit your existing umbrella frame.

Olefin

This is another polyester-based fabric that is particularly good for a moist or wet climate. Olefin is mildew resistant apart from being quite color-fast, and UV resistant too. It is durable enough for mud, water and snow which is why Olefin fabric even goes into car mats. Availability could be a bit of an issue as most online sites don’t offer this option. We will address this issue as we go along, as it might be important if your geography is like Washington state.

Acrylic

This is the most superior option, though also the most expensive. Brands like Sunbrella, Oatdura, and Spuncrylic carry this.

What measurements are needed?

To be able to place your order online, you need to know your umbrella and its specifications.

  • Count the number of ribs your umbrella has. Typically, it would be six or eight.
  • Confirm how many wind vents at the top. Usually, it is a single vent unless you live in a particularly windy area, and had gone for a double wind vent canopy. What is the best patio umbrella for wind—this is a full subject to be studied and gone into. We can help with this.
  • Now please proceed to measure the following:
  1. Measure from the tip to the final hole. Since you already have the ferrule off, use a measuring tape and measure from the center of the hole to the tip of any rib. Note down in inches.
  2. Measure from the tip to tip. From one rib tip to the next adjacent tip, tip-center to tip-center.
  3. Measure from the diameter of the final hole.
  4. The cross section of the strut of the rib. This is required to right-size the pocket that will house the new canopy at each of its tips. Measure the width as well as the height of the strut; most likely, this will be in fractions of inches.
  5. Some sites ask for the diameter of the umbrella. Simply put, this is measurement number one, doubled. Measurement number one was the radius of the canopy, you see. As an aside, if you are a DIY enthusiast and wish to tailor a custom-made canopy, bear in mind that the diameter is effectively a bit more than this since an umbrella canopy doesn’t lie flat; it curves a little at the tips.

What if I want to custom-design and tailor?

repairtoolsWell, this is not as hare-brained an idea as it may sound. There are a couple of good reasons for doing so. One, you have decided to go for a specific fabric that suits your weather conditions well. Let’s say you wish to go for olefin fabric. Quite likely, it is not available online in your required specs.

Second, your decision to refurbish the umbrella canopy extends to the cushions and accessories. The family has set its heart on a shade or a specific pattern—say, checks—that has you wondering where on earth would you source this canopy ready-made? Not every umbrella replacement can happen online.

So, here we go. I would recommend you watch a DIY video on how to cut, pattern and stitch a new one, starting with the replacement patio umbrella fabric.

What if you changed your mind and the family says, “Let’s just time the canopy with the redoing the backyard that we were planning for summer. There’s just this little rip on one side. Can we patch that up till we order the new backyard furniture and all?” The answer is, “yes”. Just get a matching patch of canvas and watch this simple video on how to repair the tear neatly

Let me share another tip with you. On an earlier occasion, the canopy replacement that landed up in delivery turned out just a bit too big. I mean, once installed, the canopy wasn’t taut enough to look smart. Sounds familiar? What do you do? Go through the hassle of product replacement by the vendor? No, just walk over to the nearby home store and look for rubber leg tips—the kind you fix on the legs of furniture—which are the right size to slip on to your umbrella ribs. Fix these on all the tips to increase their effective length. Now your canopy will come on taut.

So, we are done with learning how to replace a patio umbrella canopy. To recapitulate the steps:

  • You checked your umbrella specifications and measurements
  • You went on to select the right kind of fabric for weather resistance and color-fastness
  • You took a call on ordering ready-to-use or custom fabricating the canopy
  • You went step by step through the process of dismantling the old canopy and fixing the new

Some more tips on maintenance

When you are going through dismantling the old awning, check on the umbrella pole for rust. Might as well scrape and finish with a rust-proofing treatment. Do take the trouble of checking-out the umbrella cord. If it shows signs of wear and tear, now is the time to replace it. A frayed rope could give way soon after you have refurbished your umbrella, calling for bringing it down all over again!

It is worth investing in an umbrella cover to protect the canopy from the elements. It is a small price to pay for extending the canopy’s life and maintaining its appearance.

Anticipating some possible questions

How to replace a frayed or broken cord?

I am afraid this is quite a complicated process. You will need a big dose of perseverance, along with standard nose-pliers, a screwdriver set, and nylon cord of the required thickness and length. The steps:

  1. Having taken the umbrella down, untie and remove the fabric from the ribs
  2. Remove the crank handle housing, using the screwdriver
  3. Now look for the Cotter pin, straighten it out and remove it using the nose pliers
  4. Unscrew the hub that holds all the ribs in
  5. Now get to the broken cord and pull it out
  6. Insert the new rope and take it all the way up to the pulley at the top of the umbrella, and right back through the umbrella shaft
  7. Thread it through the eyelet in the crank handle. Knot it, so it doesn’t slip through
  8. Reassemble the crank handle. You are now ready to fix the canopy to crank up the umbrella

I would strongly urge you to watch this video on “How to replace an umbrella string” once before you attempt this complicated process.

How to repair a bent or broken pole?

In short, you need to approach this issue with the concept of fusing together two joints at either end of the broken pole. If it is bent and not made of a material that can be straightened out again, you will need to cut away the angled portion (say, of a hollow metal pipe pole) and re-fix the same way. A brief trip to the local ski-store will give you the required candles to burn and fuse the joints together.

A short video illustrates this simple process. Of course, if your set is of fiberglass, you can take the liberty to bend it back in shape with a firm hand. Other metals won’t allow you to reshape.

What do I do about a broken umbrella rib?

The canopy is alright; it is just that the umbrella is flapping with a rib broken. You don’t have to worry about ordering a new umbrella set. If all else is okay with the crank mechanism, condition of metal and canopy there is no need to consider a replacement in toto. Just proceed to repair the rib and the set will be as good as new again.

repairRIB

Crank down the umbrella set and take it to your DIY table. If you don’t have a piece of copper tubing approximately six inches long, please procure it in a diameter matching the strut of the rib. Why only a copper tubing and not something else available in your garage? For the reason that copper is malleable and can be hammered into shape for your particular need.

With a hammer flatten the tubing to match the profile of the rib. Now, drill a hole right in the middle of this six-inch tubing. On the two broken sections of the rib mark out a three-inch distance from each end. Once you slip the molded tube on, each extremity will slide three inches onto the (separated) ribs. In all likelihood, a bit of hammering on would be required to get the copper tubing three inches on one rib, and then pushed the same distance on the other.

Now that your rib is in one piece again take the pivoting part of the strut assembly and affix it to the repaired rod using a nut and bolt through the center hole (we had drilled a hole in the first step for this). One last step to prevent the jointed pieces from slipping out of the tubing: machine a hole at each extremity of the joint and hammer in a rivet each. There is no way this joint will now give way.

Now you are ready to crank up your injured umbrella and have it not flapping, but taut and proud.

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