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How Outdoor Umbrellas Are Measured And Made

24th February 2021

Did you know that, according to the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, the highest temperature recorded in Australia was 50.7 degrees? Even though this happened back in the summer of 1960, the heat has continued to be extreme in our country.

If you want to enjoy the Australian summer, then there’s no better way to do it than beneath the shade of outdoor umbrellas.

If you’re in the market for outdoor umbrellas, then it is probable you are asking yourself questions such as:

“How are umbrellas measured?”

“What is the process of manufacturing umbrellas?”

“How can I tell if an outdoor umbrella is high-quality?”

“How do I choose the right umbrella for me?”

If you don’t have the answers to these questions, then you may feel confused about how to choose the right umbrella for your home. Additionally, you may feel stressed if you want to save money without having to sacrifice quality.

That’s why we’ve put together this article. Once you have all the information you need about how outdoor umbrellas are measured and made, you can find the right one for you. Read on to learn more.

How Are Umbrellas Measured?

To find the right outdoor umbrella for you, you first need to understand how shade umbrellas are measured. This way, you can understand which size you need to buy for your patio or garden. When you measure an outdoor umbrella, there are two factors you need to consider: the size of the canopy and the size of the frame.

Note that, depending on the shape of the umbrella, it is measured differently. For example, octagonal umbrellas are measured across their diameter. When it comes to square umbrellas, on the other hand, they are measured across their width.

How Canopies are Measured

Outdoor umbrella models are usually referred to by both their size and shape. So, for example, one model could be a 4-metre square umbrella, whilst another could be a 3-metre octagonal umbrella.

When it comes to the measure in metres given, it is equal to the diameter of the umbrella canopy when it is open.

Keep in mind that, though the octagonal and square are the most common shapes outdoor umbrellas come in, other shapes are available. These additional shapes include hexagonal, round, and even rectangular.

Square canopies can be measured from any side, as all lengths are the same. However, when the shape has sides that are not equal to each other, then it is measured along the longer side.

You would do this, for example, with the canopy of an octagon outdoor umbrella. This is shown in the diagram below.

Graphic showing how outdoor umbrella canopies are measured

On rare occasions, some suppliers or manufacturers of outdoor umbrellas will refer to the circumference of the umbrella as well as the diameter. Be aware of this so you don’t accidentally buy the wrong size of your favourite umbrella!

The Right Measurement for You

To decide which measurement is best for you, you should think about your landscape. What size umbrella will work best for your patio or garden? You don’t want it to touch the roof of your home. Additionally, if it’s too close to your grill, you may end up causing a fire.

Make these considerations when choosing the right size canopy for your outdoor umbrella.

Whatever size table you need to cover, go one size up to ensure it's protected.

For example, if your table's area is 1 metre by 1 metre, go for a 2-metre umbrella. Just make sure that it will still fit within the space. 

How Frames are Measured

Now that we’ve reviewed how the canopy of an outdoor umbrella is measured, we’ll review how the frames are measured. The first thing to know is that the size of the frame is not usually depicted in the name as it is with the canopy size.

For this reason, once you have found the canopy size you want for your patio or garden, you will have to then find out if the frame is available in a size that suits you.

Additionally, the way the frame is measured depends on the type of outdoor umbrella you are buying.

There are many types of umbrellas available—such as centre-post and cantilever—so, depending on which one you choose, you will have to do your frame measurement differently.

Typical frame measurements include the overall height, the clearance of closed arms, the pole width, and the weight.

Certain manufacturers, such as UltraShade or Flexshade, provide made-to-order products. This means that you may be able to adjust these sizes as needed during the manufacturing process.

What is the Process of Manufacturing Umbrellas?

Now that we have reviewed how umbrellas are measured, we will review the process of manufacturing umbrellas. This is important to do because, whilst outdoor umbrellas all look quite similar to each other, the differences in the manufacturing process can make a difference when it comes to the quality and longevity of the final product.

A lot of cheaper outdoor umbrellas on the market are made overseas, in places like China and Taiwan.

Whilst this isn’t in itself a bad thing since it allows retailers to provide great value-for-money, budget-friendly outdoor umbrella options, it is something to watch out for.

This is because, cheaper umbrellas, when compared to more expensive products such as the outdoor umbrellas offered by Project Shade, don’t stack up in terms of quality and longevity.

When it comes to the manufacturing process itself, umbrella frames and canopies are often made separately.

Umbrella Frame Manufacturing

The material of the frame can vary from timber to plastic, to aluminium. Sometimes, the frame is even made from steel! The right material depends on what you are using the umbrella for and what environment it will be in.

For example, if you live in a particularly windy area where you host many parties, you may want to spend a bit more and buy an umbrella frame made of steel.

We will discuss this more in-depth further down in this article.

Typically, aluminium is the best. Steel is more expensive and it's also heavier. Because it's heavier, it's more difficult to move. If you want an umbrella that you can move around, then you shouldn't go for a steel umbrella.

Umbrella Canopy Manufacturing

The material of the umbrella canopy can vary. It can be made from polyester, acrylic, and even tensile structure fabric (PVC). Cheaper umbrellas are usually made with polyester. However, keep in mind that not all polyester is created equal.

For example, the polyester canopy of the Shadowspec SU2 is high-quality. Because it is made with the solution-dying process instead of the stock-dying process, it is less likely to fade or tear than other polyester options.

Let’s review these two types of processes.

Stock-Dying Versus Solution-Dying

Polyester, when it is first being created, exists in liquid form. Then, it is put through the process of polymerization so that it is split up into threads. Once these threads have been made, they are wound around each other so that you end up with a durable, strong material.

When you use the stock-dying process, you dye the polyester after it has already been made into the durable, strong material that you see stretched out over the umbrella frame.

Because the colour is applied after the process, it is not actually part of the polyester itself.

As a result, the canopy is more likely to fade or tear if you use the stock-dying process. This process is used in most cheap umbrella canopies, which explains the low price.

When you use the solution-dying process, you are dying the polyester before it has been split up into threads. You put the colour in when it is still liquid. As a result, the colour is part of the material you have when you finally create the durable, strong material.

Because the colour is applied during the process, it is part of the polyester itself.

As a result, the strength and colour are retained longer if you have used the stock-dying process. When the canopy is exposed to extreme weather conditions and intense sunlight, it will not fade. It is also less likely to stain.

Another positive when it comes to solution-dyed polyester is that it is eco-friendly. Water isn’t used in the process, and there is a lower energy output. As for stock-dyed material, the process can use one to three gallons per water. This is per every metre of material produced.

So, if you still want to save money by buying a polyester outdoor umbrella, but you want quality, then we recommend buying one made from solution-dyed polyester.

Additional Material Options

Other than polyester, which is most common, your options are acrylic and tensile structure fabric (PVC). Acrylic is often used for higher-end canopies. Premium outdoor umbrellas, such as the Commercial Centre Pole, are made from acrylic.

As a result, they look better and last longer than polyester canopies.

Additionally, tensile structure fabric or PVC are often used in shade structures such as the Flexshade. These are long-lasting, but they do come at a higher price tag.

Aluminium or Steel Frame

Outdoor umbrella manufacturing, aluminium or steel frame, can vary. Which one you choose depends on what your needs are. In terms of what’s most common, most umbrella frames are made from aluminium. The advantages of aluminium are that it corrodes (rusts) at much slower rates than alternatives, is much lighter than steel, and is cheaper.

However, some very heavy-duty outdoor umbrellas—such as tension membrane structures—need to use steel as it is a stronger material.

Because steel can be prone to rust, it is usually zinc-plated or galvanised, after which it is powder-coated before being put on the market.

Australian-Made Outdoor Umbrellas

If you want to buy Australian-made outdoor umbrellas, there are many options available. These include Made in the Shade, Pacific Shade and Flexshade. Let’s review each of these in detail now so that you can decide which Australian-made outdoor umbrella brand is best for you.

Made in the Shade

Made in the Shade is a boutique Australian manufacturer that hand-makes their umbrellas in Victoria. To make their umbrellas, they use locally-sourced Victorian Ash Timber. Many of the products offered by Project Shade come from this manufacturer.

Made in the shade umbrella
Hand pulley system

Pacific Shades

Another option when it comes to buying Australian-made outdoor umbrellas is Pacific Shades. This manufacturer, which is located in Queensland, designed and manufactured the Master Shade from powder-coated, structural aluminium.

Pacific shade


Flexshade, like Pacific Shades, is also located in Queensland. They take an architectural engineering approach, creating structures from galvanised and powder-coated steel and using tension membrane PVC for the canopies.

These umbrellas, of course, cost a lot more than alternatives because they are designed to be permanent structures that stand the test of time.

However, if you plan on using your outdoor umbrella or live in a particularly windy area, it is worth the cost.

Flexshade umbrella

Do You Need More Information?

Now that you’ve learned about how outdoor umbrellas are measured and made, you might need more information. Maybe you’re interested in Australian-made outdoor umbrellas, but you aren’t sure which brand is best for you. Or, perhaps, you need help deciding which type of canopy is best for your home.

Whatever information you need, we’re here to help. At Project Shade, we’re experts when it comes to outdoor umbrellas. We also provide shade solutions, if you need them. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us here.

Please note the contents of this post is information only and general in nature.
If you require advice it is best to contact one of our shade specialists who can review your particular circumstances and then provide tailored advice according to your needs.