1.Take your choice - patio umbrellas can stand alone or top a table built for their pole to slide through. Table umbrellas set a shady table, but freestanding styles can go anywhere.
2.Find the perfect place for your umbrella. A flat spot that needs shade to be comfortable works for both kinds, but put table models between the kitchen door and the outdoor cooking area for convenience.
3.Measure your available space to decide what size and height umbrella suits you. Check that there's room for the table and chairs and that the open canopy clears nearby trees and structures.
4.Balance the size of the umbrella and its base, especially if you purchase them separately. Don't put a 4-foot umbrella over a table 6 feet in diameter if you want to dine in the shade (besides, it looks funny).
5.Be aware that single canopy umbrellas in solid sheet vinyl can topple in a stiff breeze and trap heat, too. Check out double canopy designs made from porous weaves.
6.Choose a pole made in one piece if you can, but in any case be sure the pole can support your umbrella, opens and closes easily and fits your table. Go for a taller pole, if space permits, to cast a bigger shadow.
7.Pick a heavy-duty base weighted with sand or water to make installing your patio umbrella a breeze - just put it in place and fill. If you choose a flatiron base, be sure its fittings fit your pole.
8.Look for canopy fabrics that resist mildew and rot. Fringes can be especially difficult to keep clean.
9.Think cool colors that reflect heat - avoid navy, black and deep purple for the canopy.
10.Get a friend to help you put the umbrella up - the contraption can be heavy and unwieldy. Put the filled base in place, connect the closed umbrella to its pole, insert securely into its base, open the umbrella and thank your friend.
Clean canopy and repaint poles and bases as needed, but at least annually. Replacement canopy patterns let you customize the look to suit your style.
Fill vases that attach to poles with fragrant flowers and string twinkling lights in the canopy to set a party mood.
Umbrellas range widely in price and quality - expect to pay between $100 and $300 for a quality patio umbrella.