Aluminum vs. Steel Patio Umbrella. Which is Better?

Aluminum cantilever patio umbrella

When you hear aluminum or steel in patio umbrellas, it is the material used to make the umbrella frame. Several materials like steel, aluminum, wood, and fiberglass are used to make patio umbrella frames. Here I am going to compare the two giant metals worldwide which are aluminum and steel. 

There are several determining factors that help you to draw a conclusion. Examples of determining factors are weather resistance, weight, general outlook, strength, corrosion resistance, and cost.

Remember you can easily change the canopy but not the frame of a patio umbrella.

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Aluminum Umbrella Frame vs. Steel Umbrella Frame 

  1. Strength 

A steel umbrella frame is stronger/harder than an aluminum umbrella frame. Steel frames do not bend due to excess weight or heat while aluminum can warp under force. Steel frames can become much stronger in cold weather while aluminum cannot. Aluminum is vulnerable to dents and scratches hence it needs careful handling. 

The above properties make steel a more durable umbrella frame than aluminum. Research shows that the tensile strength of steel is 505MPa while that of aluminum is 276MPa, making steel stronger than aluminum.

  1. Weight 

The steel umbrella frame is twice as heavy as the aluminum umbrella frame. The weight of the frame affects the portability of the umbrella. So, a heavy umbrella is less portable. The aluminum frame is lightweight and can be used on many occasions like on the beach or as a market stall. 

A lightweight umbrella gives you a chance to enjoy different sections of your home. 

The aluminum frame has a structural rigidity same to steel at half the weight. If you are hiking in the desert aluminum umbrella is the best option because it is light. But be careful not to apply excess force on an aluminum frame because it can easily bend or warp. 

  1. Cost 

When you use weight to compare, aluminum frames are more expensive than steel frames on all global markets. But if you use the size of the frame or the volume of the frame, steel is more expensive than aluminum by about thirty percent. 

  1. Corrosion resistance (rust resistance)

An aluminum frame is more resistant to corrosion than a steel frame. Aluminum oxidizes like iron but it creates aluminum oxide that sticks on the metal protecting it from decay. This means that aluminum does not need any paint or coat to protect it from rusting. On the other hand, paint steel (not stainless) immediately after spinning to prevent rust and corrosion. 

An aluminum patio umbrella will stay longer without painting than a steel patio umbrella. Escape the painting maintenance expense by having an aluminum patio umbrella. In summary, aluminum is more resistant to moisture and other corrosive agents like chlorine than steel. 

  1. Shape and design 

Aluminum is more malleable and elastic metal than steel. This means that aluminum frames can have many shapes and designs than steel frames. Aluminum can be bent into curves and shapes than steel because it is rigid.. 

Aluminum produces umbrella frames that are unique and will stand out on your patio space. Steel is strong and tough but cannot bend or curve like aluminum. If you want a patio umbrella with a complex design then aluminum is the best option. 

Other Materials Used to Make Patio Umbrella Frames

Steel and aluminum are the only metals used to make patio umbrella frames. But there is wood and fiberglass which are other materials that make patio umbrella frames. 

Wood frame

This is the oldest type of patio umbrella frame. Treated hardwoods and some softwoods like teak are used to make this type of frame. Wooden frames have an elegant natural look that attracts most homeowners. Insect-resistant trees have natural oils that are used to make waterproof wooden frames. However, wooden frames can lose their colors if left untreated. 

Always keep your wooden umbrella frame clean dry to prevent mold and mildew from developing. Also, stain and paint the frame to prevent the wood from absorbing water and to avoid termite attacks. Do not use a hose or a lot of water to clean the wooden frame because it can absorb moisture. Use a wet piece of cloth and wipe the frame. 

Nowadays, wooden frames can tilt the canopy or have a crank mechanism that makes them close to aluminum and steel in functionality. Wooden frames are rigid hence not suitable during windy weather or a storm. Still, Wooden frames are not as strong as steel or aluminum frames.

Fiberglass frame

This is a strong plastic that is combined with some glass fibers. The glass fibers are embedded in the resin leading to a stronger material. It is a very bendy material that is best for windy environments. 

The umbrella ribs are very flexible and cannot snap in rough weather conditions like a storm. It is a very light type of umbrella than all other types. It can also be folded down into a very compact piece of load. 

Nowadays, you will find many patio umbrellas that have aluminum poles but fiberglass ribs. This combination gives your patio umbrella the durability of aluminum and the flexibility of the fiberglass ribs. The downside of this umbrella frame is that it is very expensive and is only found in China, Japan, and Europe. 

This umbrella frame has a tilt canopy that allows you to enjoy the shade as the sun moves in the sky. It also has an adjustable pole that allows you to change the canopy height. Lower the height when it becomes too windy. 

How to Clean Aluminum or Steel Umbrella Frame 

Unlike wooden umbrella frames, you can use a lot of water or a hose to clean steel and aluminum frames.

What you need 

  • Two gallons of clean water
  • A soft brush 
  • Ordinary detergent 
  • Chlorine/ethanol/alcohol for stubborn stains 
  • Spray paint 

Step 1

Close the patio umbrella and unhook the canopy fabric. 

Step 2 

Open up the frame then hose it down with water. Doing this removes dust particles and small debris that accumulate on the frame. 

Step 3

Add ordinary detergent in a bucket of water then shake vigorously until bubbles form. Start from one side to pour the soapy solution on the frame while scrubbing with a soft brush. 

Step 4

Pour ethanol or chlorine on the stubborn stain and add some ordinary detergent to the frame then scrub gently. Do not use a knife or any sharp object to scratch the stain because it will weaken the frame. 

Step 5 

Rinse the soap with clean water. Make sure there is no soap on the frame because it can leave stains when it is dry. Wipe the water droplets with a soft dry piece of cloth. Then allow the frame to air-dry. 

Step 6 

Spray paint your aluminum or steel frame to protect it from rust. Or only spray paint areas that show signs of rust. Allow the paint to dry.

Step 7

Close the frame and place back the canopy fabric. Open up your patio umbrella and you are done. 


From the above-determining factors, we can conclude that an aluminum umbrella frame is better than a steel frame. Clearly aluminum is less corrosive than steel. It has less weight than steel, costs less than steel, and can be molded into many designs than steel. Steel is only strong but not malleable. Wood and fiberglass are other materials that can make an umbrella frame.