For years serving customers with patio umbrellas, many try to describe what they want in an umbrella or what has broken and need a replacement part. This article is being published as part of the conversations we have with our customers in teaching them the proper names or terms of outdoor umbrella parts.
Outdoor Patio Umbrellas consist of parts that have common names irrespective of the manufacturer. There can however, be a major difference in the quality and construction of the parts that result in the same size umbrella selling for between one hundred dollars to a thousand major components of an Umbrella frame would be, starting from the top, the Finial, Ribs, Hub, Tilt mechanism, Pole and Crank or Crank Housing. The frame would then support the fabric canopy or covering.
Generally manufactured from Plastic, Wood or Aluminum. Its purpose is twofold. It provides an aesthetic finish to the top of the umbrella and also assists in holding the canopy in place on the framework.
Often referred to as the rib assembly, the purpose of the ribs is to support the canopy and provide attachment for the canopy at the extremities. The ribs are manufactured from Fiberglass, wood or aluminum. Many of the umbrellas that are imported and distributed on a seasonal basis do not offer the ability to replace the ribs. It is therefore recommended to look for a retailer that carries umbrella brands that offer the ability to change out a broken rib. When caught in a wind gust or having fallen for whatever reason, the ribs and the pole are the most common parts that will be damaged. Fiberglass ribs have the ability to flex in the wind and return to their original shape. This does not however guarantee that the rest of the umbrella will not be damaged if caught in a strong wind.
As its name infers, the hub provides a central connection point for the ribs and allows for the rib assembly to move up and down the pole when opening or closing the shade structure.
The Tilt Mechanism
The tilt mechanism is generally manufactured from aluminum or a cast metal. There are different types of tilt mechanisms available, but they are all designed with the intention of allowing the rib assembly to be tilted to one side. The benefit of this is that one can tilt the umbrella to block out the sun if it is low on the horizon or to provide a wind break against a soft breeze. Tilt mechanisms are operated manually or by a pulley system. More about the pulley systems can be viewed under the section: – Cranks.
The pole is manufactured from Fiberglass, wood or aluminum and in limited instances from mild steel.
Outdoor patio umbrellas are available in two basic configurations. With or without a crank. When an umbrella does not have a crank it will require that the rib assembly and canopy be lifted and opened manually. Umbrellas that have a crank, allow you to raise (open) or lower (close) the umbrella by turning the crank. Umbrellas making use of a crank have a pulley system running up the inside of the pole the rope or cable generally being manufactured from steel, or nylon. Wood umbrellas also will offer a manual pulley system that allows you to raise or lower the umbrella by pulling a rope or cord on a pulley. The crank is housed in a crank housing and is generally located at a height that will place it just above a table surface when mounted through a table. The crank housing is manufactured from aluminum or cast metal casing.
The Fabric Canopy
The frame and rib assembly is covered by a fabric, which provides the shade component of the umbrella. The fabrics used for this purpose all have varying degrees of ultraviolet ray resistance. This will have a direct bearing on the longevity of the fabric. The time the umbrella is exposed to the elements will also affect this. It is always best practice to store the umbrella indoors when not in use. Different finishes are also available. Today you can purchase an umbrella with a thatch finish, which although it is a synthetic fabric , has a very realistic thatch effect. The coverings are also offered in two different finishes, with or without a valance. The valance is the portion of fabric that hangs down the side of the canopy. Traditionally this was the most popular type but today most people choose the market umbrella style which has removed the valance flap and the fabric is clean cut at the end of the rib.