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What is the best patio umbrella for wind?

Like me, you love the outdoors. Sitting under the shade of that color-coordinated patio umbrella set, cocktail-in-hand, on a Sunday morning seemed the best reward at the end a busy week. I ducked indoors to replenish my drink only to find my patio umbrella taking a dip in the pool—a lame duck! We get these sudden gusts of wind but I hadn’t realized they’d do this!

So, I got down to a bit of research for the best patio umbrella for wind (wish I’d done this before I set up my patio) and this is what I have to share.

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A patio umbrella is like a large kite; it catches the wind under it. I mean, we’re familiar with what happens to a hand-held umbrella in a gust of wind—it just turns the other way and parts company with you. The best design, therefore, is an umbrella with a vent (like a flap) at the top. Depending on the wind factor, you buy a single wind vent umbrella or a double vent one. I strongly recommend an umbrella with spines of fiberglass material. You could just stop here and visit to order one for approx $300. Alternatively, you could shop at Amazon for the recommended one at approx. $130
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Yes, you could end your search here without reading any further and close your purchase. But, what if you have already invested in the patio umbrella and want to know how to secure it against gusts? Or, like me, you are an enthusiast and want to know everything else that impacts a good patio umbrella set-up? I would suggest you read on.

Check out your geography and weather conditions

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Wind velocity is the single most important factor impacting your choice so please check a reliable source for your geographical location. For the US, down to the closest 100 meters, this shows a map with average annual wind speed in meters per second. You might wish to convert meters per second to miles per hour using a factor of 2.236 to multiply. Hence, if you live in an area showing 10 m/s it means you’re exposed to 10×2.236 miles per hour i.e. 22.36 mph. As you read on, this would be an important determinant of how to secure your umbrella. If you don’t live in the US, you would check the weather site relevant to you.

As an aside, the umbrella also traps heat under it. You went under it to enjoy some shade in summer, didn’t you? Now, if you’re in the hot South-West it could feel like the tropics if you don’t have a double vented patio umbrella. The vents provide not just stability from wind but also comfort from hot air being allowed to escape, thus letting cool air take its place near you.

Single Wind Vent or Double Wind Vent: SWV or DWV?

@umbrella_double-wind-ventNow that you know the wind velocity and temperature conditions for your location, you are better informed in your choice. SWV is ideal for small patios (requiring a diameter within 9 feet) and places where the wind is not a big factor. Should you require a larger diameter for your garden furniture the kite-effect gets enhanced. Furthermore, if your geography is prone to gusts of high velocity it is best to buy a DWV umbrella. This is perfect for hot, windy areas.

This said the weather is such an unpredictable variable that reliance on maps alone is inadequate. As a resident (if you are new to the area, ask a neighbor) you would know the story better than what average velocity maps can tell you. Some locations, due to the surroundings, get a wind-tunnel effect. In that particular location—say your terrace—the velocity could be far higher than what prevails a hundred meters away. Similarly, some areas face wide variations in weather conditions. I’d suggest you give all this careful thought before deciding. Don’t attempt to save the additional few dollars in a lower specification umbrella.

Your second line of defense

You took the kite analogy and decided upon the type of umbrella. In this matter, what also makes a big difference is the material your umbrella canopy is tethered to. I mean the ribs. They need to be strong but not just in the metal kind of way. Think gusts of wind and what happens to that hand-held umbrella? It wants to flip over. Your patio umbrella is best secured to spines made of flexible, yet strong, material. We now get umbrellas with fiberglass ribs. This is 30 percent lighter than metal or wood yet four times stronger.

@umbrella_fiberglass-rib-1This is your second line of defense. Studies conducted at the University of Miami confirm a wind resistance as high as 50 mph for fiberglass umbrellas. Taking you back to the wind velocity map and your location: if it showed an average of 10 m/s (calculated to 22.36 mph), bear in mind an average always has its extremes too. You are far more secure with a 50 mph resistance of fiberglass.

As a bonus—if a freak gust of wind does bend it—fiberglass can be bent back into shape You know that metal, once deformed, won’t get back to the original. The same goes for wood—it will just crack.

What about aesthetics, you’d ask. You’ve got this nice wickerwork or wooden garden furniture that goes so well with all else in your natural surroundings. The family had set its heart on that wood-frame umbrella you saw in the when you went cushion shopping. Well, you could still go with that provided the umbrella attached is DWV. Wood is the second best, after fiberglass. You’d be okay as long as you’re not in a high-velocity area.

Your anchor

The patio umbrella you order will usually be sold without the base. That is to be selected separately.  

@umbrella_Base-guidelineYour patio set is insecure without a firm anchor to it. If your umbrella is to be freestanding on the terrace or garden floor, it needs a base in proportion to its size. This weight acts as a ballast, keeping it erect and secure from wind conditions. The following guideline applies to the base weight:

  • 65-75 lbs base for umbrellas up to 9’ diameter and not very windy conditions
  • 100 lbs and more for larger umbrellas and very windy conditions

What if your patio furniture design incorporates a table with a hole to take the umbrella in? The good news is: you don’t need to rethink the entire set design. This provides some stability to your patio umbrella but only some. It still needs a ballast to secure it from gusts of wind. The guideline for hole-in-table umbrellas is:

  • 35 lbs or less base weight for a 6’-7.5’ diameter umbrella
  • 40-45 lbs for 7.5’-9’
  • 65-75 lbs for 9’-11’

Inadequate base

What do you do if you already have invested in the base, too? After all, you did take a few tips before buying the entire set. Now, you read my article and find that the base does not meet these specifications!

Fret not. To your existing base, you can add extra weight by placing a bag specially designed for such situations. They are made of canvas with a convenient Velcro opening to fill in the required ballast. This is best done by gravel or sand being filled to make up the required weight. Say, your recommended weight is 75 lbs as per the guideline but the base that came in your set says it is only 30 lbs. You fill in the balance 45 lbs ballast. There are bags that can take as much as 85 lbs. These come in an 18’ diameter and have a hole so that you can fit it around the existing pole and base. You could order the Gravipod base for approximately $27 on Amazon.

With this, you are all set. You have covered all the steps:

  1. Checked weather conditions for your geography
  2. Selected the right type of vent—SWV or DMV
  3. Bought a fiberglass-spine make of umbrella
  4. Bought the recommended weight of the base

Your aesthetics as well as the functionality of wind-resistance taken care of, you can look forward to your cocktail and siesta (if alone) or an afternoon outdoors with the family.

Just anticipating some unasked questions

Do these outdoor sets require maintenance?

@umbrella_Fold-downWhile your fiberglass ribs are corrosion resistant to pretty much last forever, the umbrella fabric could do with reduced exposure to the elements. When not in use, fold it down and tie a cord around. Anyway, if it is getting too windy for you on a particular day just as you’d retire indoors, close down the umbrella too.

Secondly, keep an eye on the metal surface of the base. Ideally, patio umbrella bases come with a design that channels water away. It pays to keep checking though. If you see signs of rust, get a DIY all-weather Rustoleum paint and surface-treat the base with it.  

What about chilly weather?

Now, we didn’t just set up the patio for summer, did we? I mean, that’s a long wait. What about autumn afternoons and spring mornings? The outdoor beckons on your precious weekends but it really is too chilly. I don’t know about you, but where I live, the weather takes turns quite unpredictably—doesn’t even spare the summer.

This is where the patio heater comes in. It can be tucked away on an eave or mounted closer by, on the floor. There are portable options too, enabling you to wheel them around to where it suits best (and then put away in hot weather). Some operate on electricity, while others do so on propane or bottled butane. For a completely natural look, you could go for a fire pit. You get easy-to-set-up modular ones which can be arranged in sync with your landscaping.

I got the wind-resistance argument, but what about weather-resistance?

Rather than wait for you to ask this very relevant question, let me give you my opinion up front. After all, apart from the money you are putting up for the patio umbrella set, there is likely that much, if not more, to be spent. The entire set of chairs and the table doesn’t come cheap. What about rust, mold on that chaise longue? You want the entire set to last, after all.

You might just love the look of that wrought iron set you saw in the catalog but it won’t take the moist conditions outdoor very well. A few years on and it will look old—older than the patio umbrella set. There are better options in chemically-treated wood or wicker which can withstand exposure due to the chemicals bonded to the surface.

@umbrella_windyMy vote goes for cast aluminum. Aluminum is inert to corrosion, meaning it doesn’t react like iron to form those unsightly ferrous oxides. Moreover, being malleable, aluminum lends itself wonderfully to casting in molds. Think all those statues made by master sculptors. While most of them used metal-alloys like bronze, aluminum is commercially far more viable for garden furniture. You can meet your aesthetic standards in cast aluminum garden furniture without having to worry about weather-resistance.

I am told there are surviving examples of such in the gardens of Pompeii!

 

Check out our Patio Umbrella Reviews And Buying Guide which will help you to buy the best patio umbrella for your yard 

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