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Tips for Recognising Commercial Quality of Outdoor Umbrella

12th November 2020

When considering an outdoor umbrella, there are many options out there. But how do you know which will work best for your business or property?

A major point to consider here is durability. Different types of umbrellas will feature varying levels of resilience, with commercial-grade quality being the most durable. Depending on the setting, you can choose the best model for your specfic needs. 

So how do you know what makes something commercial grade? And in what situations would you need it to be commercial grade? 

With so many umbrellas on the market, it can be difficult to distinguish which ones are commercial quality. We've put this guide together to help you know what to look for.

Different Types of Outdoor Umbrellas

When you are shopping for an outdoor umbrella for your business, there are different types you may encounter. Depending on the use you need from them, some will be a better fit than others.

Market Umbrellas

Market umbrellas are great for business settings where they will be closed up and put away regularly, including during inclement weather conditions. These usually have vented tops and aren't always a waterproof outdoor umbrella.

You may see these umbrellas on the patio of a cafe or a small restaurant, and they will work well for these situations. These will typically only be outside for limited business hours and are put away while not in use. For those looking to keep their outdoor umbrella out on a permanent basis, you may need to consider something more durable.

Cantilever Umbrellas

Cantilever umbrellas are most popular in residential settings, as their offset design allows for shade without a centre pole. This creates a more open space for outdoor entertaining.

Depending on their wind rating, frame construction, and fabric covering, a cantilever umbrella can be commercial-grade quality. These are excellent for outdoor lounge areas, pools, hotels, and more. 

Commercial-Grade Umbrellas

Commercial-grade umbrellas are suitable in heavy wind conditions. They can feature a basic centre pole or an offset cantilever design.

What distinguishes these from the other types of outdoor umbrellas is their durable construction, as well as their longevity. They should be constructed with a high-quality aluminium or steel frame that resists rust and breakage. They should also feature a solid frame construction and fabric material to ensure lasting quality for your business

Cantilever umbrella in backyard

Why is Choosing a Commercial-Grade Outdoor Umbrella Important?

Choosing an outdoor umbrella for a commercial setting is very different than choosing one for a private residential setting. Whether you're purchasing for a cafe, restaurant, commercial swimming pool, school, childcare facility, or any other type of business, one thing remains constant: you have to choose something safe and durable.

Umbrella with two table

A commercial-grade outdoor umbrella ensures you're providing quality and safety. Plus, with a durable construction, you won't need to repurchase new ones very often. If you're looking for something durable and low-maintenance, then a commercial-grade outdoor umbrella is the ideal choice for your business.


A commercial-grade outdoor umbrella has the highest durability available, ensuring that it lasts long for your business while still maintaining a great look. A commercial-quality outdoor umbrella will resist deteriorating, tearing, rusting, fading, or breakage. From its frame construction to its fabric quality, this type of umbrella is built to last.


Non-commercial umbrellas often use plastic or cheaper metals that may rust or break, creating a dangerous situation for your employees and guests. Commercial-grade umbrellas are much less likely to malfunction or break, helping ensure a safer environment for anyone who attends your business.

Commercial-grade quality umbrellas are also suitable as heavy-wind umbrellas, meaning they can withstand strong gusts of wind without falling over. If you aim to leave your umbrella open more frequently, a high wind rating is a good feature to have.

Better Protection

Australia sees around 16,000 new cases of melanoma per year. The sun's UV rays are a major contributor to a person's risk factor for skin cancer. Umbrellas were originally created to block out the sun, and they remain a highly effective way of doing so.

A commercial-grade quality outdoor umbrella offers 100% UV protection for your outdoor guests, helping them stay safe from the sun's harmful rays.

Less Maintenance

Managers and business owners have a lot of things to worry about on a daily basis, and replacing an outdoor umbrella shouldn't have to be one of them. A commercial-grade, waterproof outdoor umbrella is built for durability, meaning there are far fewer instances of having to clean it, replace the canopy, or perform any other time-consuming maintenance.

Ensures Compliance

If you're purchasing an outdoor umbrella for a school, daycare, or government facility, you might have different regulations and standards to meet. A commercial-grade outdoor umbrella ensures the safest and highest quality available, meaning you can purchase with confidence in these scenarios.

Looking at Wind Ratings

Outdoor umbrella wind rating refers to an umbrella's ability to withstand high winds when it is in the "open" position. All umbrellas should be completely wind-rated when they are closed, but only commercial-grade umbrellas are highly wind-rated when open. If you plan to keep the umbrella open and outside on a permanent basis, you'll need a commercial-grade option with a high wind rating.

Wind ratings will vary based on the speed of the surrounding winds while the umbrella is open. For example, we offer umbrellas that are wind rated up to 160km/hr. This means that, in the open position, these commercial-grade umbrellas will safely withstand winds up to 160km per hour.

Many business owners will not be able to tend to their outdoor umbrellas in the event of sudden, high winds. By selecting a commercial-grade outdoor umbrella, you can be confident that your outdoor umbrella will stay put, even on a windy day.

Choosing the Best Frame Construction

White metal base

Another key thing to look for when selecting a commercial-grade outdoor umbrella is its frame construction. This relates to the post, pole, or column that the umbrella sits on, as well as the bolts and hardware that hold it together. Commercial-quality umbrellas should have an aluminium or steel frame rather than a cheaper metal or plastic one.

The strongest material used in most commercial-quality umbrellas is steel. This is ideal for very large umbrellas but is also quite heavy and can rust over time.

Structural Aluminium

While steel is the strongest material, it often isn't the best option. In most cases, structural aluminium will be the best choice.

Structural aluminium offers roughly the same strength as steel, but with a much lighter weight. Plus, it won't rust, creating the perfect balance of commercial strength and functionality.

Quality Powder Coating

An aluminium or steel frame is durable, but it might not have the professional look that works best for your business. For enhanced protection and a more refined look, our commercial-grade umbrellas have an added powder coating to the frame.

Marine-Grade Stainless Steel Bolts and Hardware

For a truly commercial-grade and waterproof outdoor umbrella, you should make sure you're getting marine-grade stainless steel bolts and hardware. Cheaper non-commercial umbrellas may use plastic and other low-grade materials, which can easily break or rust.

Marine-grade stainless steel hardware is waterproof and weatherproof to avoid rust, even in the wettest conditions. Project Shade offers this feature on our commercial-grade outdoor umbrellas, making them ideal for those looking to keep them outside in all weather conditions.

Fixed Versus Retractable Umbrellas

When you're shopping for a commercial-quality outdoor umbrella, you can get either a fixed or a retractable design. Retractable designs can be opened and closed, while fixed will stay in the "open" position. Fixed designs are generally stronger and require less maintenance.

Selecting Fabric Materials

The fabric material of an outdoor umbrella relates to the umbrella's canopy. The majority of non-commercial umbrellas will use polyester canopies, which are not as durable and tend to fade quicker than other materials.

For the best quality, the top choice for fabric material is acrylic or PVC. While these are generally more expensive, they offer better weather protection and won't fade as quickly as polyester. They can also be made completely waterproof by adding a side curtain to shield from side-ways rain and wind.

If you do choose a polyester fabric for your outdoor umbrella, try to find one that is solution-dyed, as this improves the quality of the canopy and reduces fading.

Other Things to Look For

While aluminium or steel frame construction and high-quality waterproof fabrics are both key items to look for in a commercial-grade outdoor umbrella, there are a few other things to look for. These factors will tell you even more about the quality of the outdoor umbrella.

General Design

An outdoor umbrella can be made of the finest materials, but poor construction will leave it falling apart nonetheless. Project Shade's commercial-grade umbrellas have been designed by engineers to maximise their strength and longevity, ensuring a superior product.

Longer Warranty

A warranty can tell you a lot about a manufacturer's confidence in its product. To ensure you're getting a top-rate, commercial-quality outdoor umbrella, look for a longer warranty. For example, our Flexshade Tension Membrane umbrellas have a 10-year warranty on both the canopy and the frame.

Locally Produced

For the best quality, make sure you're purchasing your commercial-grade outdoor umbrella locally.

Products from China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and other mass-producing overseas countries may cost less, but they are almost always of poor quality. While you might save money initially, replacement costs will add up over time.

For the best quality, look for products made locally in Australia or New Zealand. These will have greater attention to detail and higher quality in general. 

Base Design

The base you choose for your outdoor umbrella will also have a major impact on the quality. Even the highest-quality umbrella might fall over or blow away if it's not secured with the right base.

Limited-use outdoor umbrellas for business or residential settings can have a variety of bases. If you plan to close them up when they aren't in use, then a portable base will be a great option. However, for commercial-grade quality umbrellas, you'll need a base that can hold the umbrella when it's open, despite any weather conditions.

The best base options for commercial-quality umbrellas are:

Bolt-down (or surface plates)
Meaning the base will be bolted down to a surface such as
concrete or decking

Bolt-Down Base (or surface plate)

In-ground anchors (or in-ground sleeves)
Which are typically concreted into the ground

In-ground anchors (or in-ground sleeves)

Choosing a bolt-down or in-ground anchor base helps ensure that your outdoor umbrella will stay put, even during harsh weather conditions.

If needed, it's also possible to have mobile bases that are commercial-grade quality. However, these will not be as secure as bolt-down or in-ground anchor bases.

Key Takeaways

When shopping for an outdoor umbrella, one of the most important things to remember is this: cheaper options will end up costing you more.

What you save in initial cost will quickly add up when it comes to time, stress, and replacement costs. Commercial-quality umbrellas will cost more upfront, but they'll still end up saving you money down the line.

It's also important to choose high-quality materials that have proven to be durable in Australian weather conditions. This is why you should always purchase your outdoor umbrella locally if you're looking for the best quality.

Finally, with a commercial-grade umbrella, there should come a commercial-grade warranty. If you spend your money on a cheaper model, you might end up having to buy a whole new one before you know it.

If you will be regularly closing up your outdoor umbrella, or if you don't need it to be out all day, there are plenty of non-commercial options that will still work great in a business setting.

Project Shade's Commercial-Grade Umbrellas

Here at Project Shade, we know the importance of quality and durability. Our shade solutions ensure that you can buy with confidence for your business, no matter what level of durability you need.

For commercial-grade options, we recommend:

Shadowspecs SU10, which has a commercial-grade centre-pole that looks amazing and can have custom branding printed on the canopy.

Flexshade Tension membrane umbrellas, which carry a high wind rating and are highly durable for your business.

The Pacific Shades Master Shade, which is an Australian-made, commercial-quality cantilever umbrella 

Shadowspec SU10 umbrella
Flexshade umbrella in resort
Pacific master shade umbrella

Choosing the Best Commercial-Grade Outdoor Umbrella

Not all outdoor umbrellas will deliver the quality, durability, and dependability necessary for your business. Only a commercial-grade outdoor umbrella will work in a business setting that requires heavier use. Now that you know what to look for, you'll be ready to choose the best option for your business.

Contact us today to help you find a top-quality commercial umbrella that perfectly suits your business.

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.

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