Guide written by:
Jennifer, Self-taught DIY enthusiast, Manchester
Whether crafted in classic wood or modern aluminium, parasols are perfect for creating a spot of shade in the garden. But there are many different types of parasol to consider from round and rectangular models to upright and cantilever designs. Read on to find the perfect parasol for your outdoor space!
How to choose a parasol
There are five basic criteria to consider when picking a parasol:
- Type: upright, tilting or cantilever... your choice will depend on your needs and the amount of free space you have.
- Shape: parasols are usually round or rectangular; bear in mind that the latter will offer more shade. More original forms such as square or octagonal canopies can also be found.
- Canopy: the higher the density of the fabric, the better the quality and protection against UV rays. In terms of material, choose between acrylic for the best quality and polyester for a cheaper option (but be prepared for it to fade). Other materials such as raffia and banana leaves are available for more decorative options. In terms of design, you can decide whether of not you want a pelmet and choose between patterns or block colours.
- Pole material: wood (eco-friendly option; needs to be treated once a year), aluminium (hardwearing and rust-resistant) or steel (less expensive; covered with a powder coating).
- Opening system: push or push pull (like an umbrella), crank (best for those with reduced mobility) or pulley.
Here are a few parasol accessories to think about:
- Parasol base: this will depend on the size of the parasol, its weight and how exposed it is to the wind. Parasol bases are either weighted or designed to be held down with weights. They are usually made of materials like cast iron, concrete, granite or resin. Cross feet are best for concrete patios and it's possible to anchor larger parasols to the ground.
- LED lighting, base cover, parasol clamp and of course a parasol cover.
Pay close attention to quality of the parasol skeleton and number of ribs as this will determine how well your parasol stands up to the wind. Some parasols feature an air-vented top to prevent inflation in the wind and most can be adjusted in height.
Different types of parasols
The classic upright parasol features a round, square or rectangular canopy mounted on a fixed straight pole made from aluminium or wood. This type of model comes in various colours and sizes, and can be brought to the beach or kept on the patio! Polyester is generally the material of choice for the canopy which is held in place by spokes made from steel, aluminium or wood.
Tilting parasols are similar to upright parasols with the addition of a tilting canopy and an adjustable pole. Equipped with a swivel joint, the canopy of this parasol can be shifted as the sun moves across the sky. Just a quick adjustment to the tilt mechanism and you’ll be in the shade all day long!
The most recent addition to the parasol family, cantilever-style parasols are mounted to the side of the table rather than in the centre. Supplied with a sliding handle and crank, this type of parasol can be adjusted (tilted and swivelled) and can accommodate a canopy spanning up to three to four metres. In terms of materials, the options are the same as for tilting models (although aluminium is generally chosen for its weather-resistant properties).The canopy – usually made from polyester – is held up by six to eight steel spokes.
Choosing the right canopy for your parasol
When choosing a parasol canopy, you must pay special attention to the type and density of the material.
Density or grams/m²
The density of a material is indicated in grams per m². There are no specific standards in place but the thicker the fabric, the better the protection from the sun's rays. Aim for around 200 to 300 gr/m².
In addition to weight, the product specifications should provide the UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) of the parasol:
- low protection: 10 to 19;
- high protection: 20 to 29;
- very high protection: 30 to 49;
- maximum protection: 50+.
Parasol canopy materials
Your choice of material is very important as it will determine the properties of the parasol.
- Polyester is the most common material and it is usually waterproof. Dark colours tend to fade, so remember to fold away your parasol when it is not in use or shield it using a protective cover;
- Acrylic is more expensive to purchase but it offers superior quality and stays cooler. Acrylic is stain-resistant, water-repellent, oil-repellent, mould-resistant and its colours tend to last longer.
What other types of parasol are there?
For those who don’t like to follow the crowd, there are some quirkier parasols out there – although these may be trickier to find!
- Wall-mounted parasols are perfect if you only have a small patio space to fill.
- You can also get specially designed balcony parasols which can be fixed to the floor and ceiling using a suction-held bar.
There's no end of exciting options when it comes to selecting your canopy. From imitation raffia to banana leaves and octagonal canopies made of exotic wood, your parasol can be used set off the rest of your garden furniture!
Choosing your parasol base
There are two basic criteria to bear in mind when picking a base for your parasol:
- The diameter of the base must be large enough to be able to support the weight of the parasol;
- Its weight must be sufficient to counterbalance the parasol while open.
Once you know what kind of weight and size you need, you should choose a material to match:
- stone: usually granite, natural and clean look;
- concrete: more contemporary in style;
- cast iron: for a vintage effect;
- plastic: resin, polyester, etc.; will need to be weighted by sand or water.
For an extra-large rectangular or cantilever parasol, you’ll be safer with a concrete, cast iron or granite base. Cantilever parasols are generally designed with a cross base to ensure stability. In this case you can weigh down all four feet with concrete or stone slabs, or weighted resin. Holes are provided for fixings if you wish to secure the base using plugs or bolts.
In terms of accessories, there are four main options on offer:
- Parasol covers: ideal for keeping your parasol safe over winter or any other time it is not in use.
- LED lighting: connected to the pole of the parasol.
- Parasol clamps: to secure the pole to a table, railing or balcony balustrade.
- Parasol base cover: to cover up unattractive bases.
Final tips for choosing a parasol
Parasols with round canopies will only cover small areas making them a great option for patios and balconies.
Rectangular canopies will protect a larger surface area while also offering greater stability against the wind thanks to their sturdy poles.
Parasols can be real decorative feature for your outdoor space so they should be chosen to match your garden furniture, decking and so on.
An essential spot in the summer months, your patio or garden should be designed with comfort and practicality in mind. Don't think a parasol will cut it? Endless options are available including shade sails or even a pergola. Make your garden a haven of peace and tranquillity... starting with a few minutes in the shade!
Guide written by:
Jennifer, Self-taught DIY enthusiast, Manchester, 13 guides
I didn’t receive any special training, I learned everything on the job as it came up. And what a joy it is to be able to do little jobs around the house that we love so much. That is, until the moment we decided to move and had to do everything; from the floor to the ceiling, from the kitchen to the bathroom...In short, you become as good as a pros. So today, my friends don’t hesitate to call me when they need help. And when you dip your toe in, there’s no turning back. It’s a true passion that drives us to take on the challenges, to have an idea in mind and see it come alive with just a few tools. And a passion is even better when you can share it. So, whenever I can give you a little advice, it’s with great pleasure that I do it.