I can picture it now – sitting out in the heat of summer, shaded by your patio umbrella whilst sipping a glass of lemonade. Then suddenly the wind gets up and your umbrella starts spinning then flips over taking your table of drinks with it.
Patio umbrellas need a base that’s appropriately weighted for the diameter of the umbrella, with table center umbrellas needing less support. For example, a table center umbrella measuring 4.5 feet requires a 20 pound base, and a freestanding 4.5 foot umbrella needs a base weighing 40 pounds.
Let’s look at some tables showing what weight of base you need for which size of umbrella, and consider how to attach your umbrella to the base to stop it spinning or toppling over in the wind.
Can a Patio Umbrella Stand Without a Table?
Yes, with limits. Without the added support of a table, it depends on the diameter of your umbrella AND the weight of your umbrella base.
To support a freestanding umbrella, here’s the base that experts recommend:
- 40-pound base for a freestanding, center pole umbrella of not more than 4.5 feet in diameter.
- 50-pound base for a freestanding, center pole umbrella of not more than 7.5 feet in diameter.
- 70+ pound base for a freestanding, center pole umbrella of not more than 11 feet in diameter.
- 100-pound to 200-pound base will support a cantilever (aka side mount or offset) umbrella up to 13 feet in diameter.
But here’s the warning: not in high winds. Even cantilever umbrellas with a 200-pound base should be anchored in high wind areas.
An 11-foot umbrella, blowing wild, can do a lot of damage in your garden – and your garden to it.
What Kind of Umbrella Base Do I Need? (and What Size?)
The best way to protect your umbrella investment from damaging wind gusts is by using a table with an umbrella base. There are lots of umbrella bases to choose from: metal, plastic, cement, stone and wood. Some are just functional, but others are beautiful and stylish.
To decide what size of umbrella base you need – first, open your umbrella and measure the radius of the fabric part – from the pole to the edge of the fabric. Multiply times two and you have the total umbrella diameter. Then, measure the diameter of the pole or shaft.
Here’s what experts recommend for bases with tables:
- 20-pound base for up to 6 feet (total diameter) umbrellas.
- 30-pound base for up to 6.5 foot umbrellas.
- 40-pound base for up to 7.5 foot umbrellas.
- 50-pound base for up to 9 foot umbrellas.
- 70+ pound base for up to 11 foot umbrellas.
Umbrella bases have two parts: a base and a stand (or stem). The base is wide and heavy and sits on the ground or patio.
A stand (or stem) is the round, hollow, tube that sticks up in the air. The umbrella pole, or shaft, slides into the stand. The stand is important for two reasons: it adds stability for your umbrella, and it keeps your umbrella in place with a locking mechanism. Most base manufacturers include plastic inserts or adjustable pistons to allow for multiple pole sizes.
Here’s a great reference for sizes and weights of umbrellas, tables and bases.
Bases can be metal, wood, cement, plastic or stone. The key is that they need to be heavy and wide enough (the “footprint”) to prevent your umbrella from tipping over.
Some umbrella bases are hollow, so they can be filled with water, sand or something else heavy, like bricks. Bases can have wheels – which, hopefully, are lockable. For windy areas, some manufacturers offer add-on weight kits.
Metal bases may need a little spray-painting TLC, like your patio furniture. Some bases are also tables. Cement bases come in shapes like kneeling elephants. Who doesn’t want elephants on their patio?
Umbrella bases are an essential addition to patio tables for umbrella stability. But they can also be charming, whimsical or elegant.
How Do You Secure a Patio Umbrella To The Base?
You are sipping a lemonade on your back patio. You have an umbrella, a table to support it and a heavy base. Still, a sudden updraft of wind snatches your umbrella out of the base and launches it into the pool. You spill your drink. What to do?
An umbrella base has two parts, the base and the stand. In some models, the base and the stand are molded together, and in others the stand screws or snaps into the base. Most high-quality stands have at least one screw to hold the umbrella securely.
Screws or collars on the stand keep the umbrella locked down. In some models, there are two screws, one at the base of the stand and one near the top, for added strength.
If your stand doesn’t have screws, a DIY solution would be buying some thumb screws, drill holes in the stand, then tighten the screws into the pole. The worst-case scenario: anchor the umbrella pole to the base with a small length of cable.
Most umbrellas bases available today have mechanisms to make sure your umbrella doesn’t land in your neighbor’s yard – or spill your drink.
How Much Wind Can a Patio Umbrella Take?
Experts say that a 20-mile per hour wind will topple a patio umbrella. That’s like a stiff breeze. For more perspective: a 20-mile per hour wind can blow over a full glass of wine.
A high wind warning is for sustained 40-mile per hour winds. Microbursts can be up to 100 miles per hour. During a microburst, your umbrella could end up in the next county. Or as a pile of sticks with some ripped fabric.
Not all umbrellas are created equal. Wood ribs on an umbrella are the weakest, followed by fiberglass ribs, followed by aluminum ribs as the strongest. Reviewers say that another form of fiberglass ribs – flexible fiberglass ribs – are the strongest of all, withstanding wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour.
If you live in a windy area, the best offense is a good defense. Make a habit of closing your umbrella when you go inside. The umbrella should be securely tied close, and if your umbrella didn’t come with ties – get some!
Other tips for patio umbrellas in high wind areas: consider an umbrella with vents. Umbrellas with vents near the top allow wind to blow through (wind vents also let heat escape). Buy a mounting kit for your base. These anchors attach to your deck or patio permanently.
How Do I Keep My Patio Umbrella From Spinning?
Spinning umbrellas are annoying. To stop the spinning, first check the fit of the umbrella pole inside the stand. If the stand is bigger than the umbrella pole, the pole will spin, wobble, and even make irritating noises.
Most stands come with inserts to fix this problem, but you can DIY a solution as well. Find a hardware store that sells rubber cones, wedges or stabilizers, then jam one or two into the gap.
If your base has a stand with screws, give the screws a tightening. If your stand didn’t come with screws, DIY some as mentioned in the earlier section.
Your umbrella base might not have an upright piece (stand), but if you have a table, check that the table ring fits the umbrella pole. If your umbrella pole is smaller than the table hole, you can buy wedges or cones to correct the fit.
If all else fails, try the Popsicle stick method.
To stop a wind-powered flying patio umbrella from ruining your next drinks party or family meal, make sure you use the tables above to choose the right weight of base for the size of your umbrella.
Keep in mind that table center umbrellas require only half the base weight support than freestanding ones of the same size, and ensure you attach your umbrella pole securely to the base so it can’t start spinning or topple over (even in light winds).
Of course, none of us will be dining outside under the patio umbrella in strong winds, but if you take these precautions you should still be able to enjoy some time in the yard even when a light summer breeze picks up – without a kamikaze umbrella ruining your day 🙂