Keep your ribs in their pockets!

Keep patio umbrella covers in place

Many patio umbrella covers have pockets sewn in the corners. These pockets go over the ends of the ribs to keep the cover in place. Sometimes the fabric stretches out a little bit so that pockets fall off the ribs when the umbrella is closed. You will know if this is happening to you because you have to put the pockets back on the ribs again as you open the umbrella to make it look right.

This post describes a simple modification you can make to your umbrella to keep the ribs in the pockets where they belong once and for all.

IMG_1916Visit your favorite hardware store

Find some simple materials for making this modification at your local hardware store. Buy a 7/64” drill bit to make pilot holes for the screws. Buy #6 stainless steel screws 1/2” long, #6 stainless washers and small rubber bib washers for fixing faucets. Use brass hardware if you can’t find stainless steel.

The photo shows you the sequence for putting the washers on the screws. The bib washer keeps the fabric from fraying.

Make the modification

The pilot hole goes in the underside of each rib about 1/2” from the end. Pull the fabric up tight on the rib so that it is where it will be when the canopy is open. Drill the pilot hole through the underside of the pocket fabric and the bottom of the rib.

Put in the screw. Be careful not to over tighten it. The rib has a thin aluminum wall that is weaker than the steel screw. Too much tightening will auger the wall completely away so that the screw will not hold. You can put something such as a pink school eraser inside the end of the rib to serve as an anchor if this should happen. Let the eraser stick out of the end of the rib a little to replace the original plastic insert.


Replace Worn Out Swivel Rocker Glides

The focus of my business is patio umbrella repair. This has not always been the case. I have made a good many repairs to patio furniture as well.

This article tells you how to replace worn out glides in the bottom of your swivel rocker base. Swivel rocker bases are typically made of cast aluminum. Casting creates the complex shape needed for the curves in the base without requiring a lot of assembly to put the parts together. The glide is the plastic button set into the bottom of the base. It  protects both your chair and patio surface from unwanted scratching.

Swivel Rocker Glide1

This photo shows a worn out glide. The scratches in the bottom of the chair are plain to see. Bare metal is capable of scratching flagstone and stamped concrete patio surfaces.

Getting started

Begin by placing a furniture blanket or an equivalent on the ground to keep from scratching your chair. Upend the chair on the blanket. Lay the chair down on its arms and back. Now you have ready access to the bottom of the base.

Tools: An electric drill, a 7/32″ drill bit and a 1/4″ drill bit

The standard diameter of the stem area of the glide is 1/4”. We will use a 7/32” drill bit to cut the worn of stem out of the base. A variable speed drill you can run slowly works best.

Tools: An awl

I like to put a guide dimple as close to the center of the hole I want to drill as possible. The notion here is simply that I want the hole to wind up where I expect it to be. If I leave the dimple step out then I might as well be happy to drill a hole wherever the bit will make it after it stops drifting away from my spot. Cast aluminum is a soft metal and drill bits are hardened steel. The bit could easily ruin the existing hole in the base if the bit drifts off to the side of nylon plug.

Put a dimple in the center of the nylon plug using an awl or scribe. A center punch will do, but those are typically used for metal and other harder materials. As a last resort you could use a nail or drywall screw for a punch.

The heart of the job

Slowly run the drill bit down the center of the plug. It will cut a neat spiral right to the bottom, and when you pull the bit out, it will take what’s left of the nylon post out with it.

Turn the base around in front of you as you work to drill out all eight glides.

Now replace the 7/32” bit with a 1/4” bit to clean up the holes. Carefully run the bit down into each hole. Be careful to hold the drill as straight as possible to keep from enlarging the hole.

Your new glides

I like to replace the glides with Tropitone® swivel rocker glides. They are very strong and durable. They really do wear like nobody’s business!

You can buy these glides from me. Visit the How to Order page to contact me.

Drive each replacement glide into its hole with a small hammer.

Swivel Rocker Glide2

This photo shows you the finished result.


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Secure Threaded Connections in Galtech Umbrellas


This article applies to Galtech 739DC and 787DC models. These umbrellas have components in the main pole assembly that screw together.

Galtech 739 and 787 umbrella crank housing connections

Galtech 739 and 787 umbrella crank housing connections

It was a surprise to me to learn that an open umbrella could actually spin apart under certain windy conditions. Sometimes the effects are cumulative. A little turn now and then may eventually lead to a crash. Tightening the screws in the umbrella base prevents the umbrella from sailing up in the air, but it also prevents the umbrella pole from turning freely. Sometimes this feature is a nuisance when you want to tilt your umbrella and then turn it yourself to follow the Sun.

The whole umbrella tends to turn in place when the wind is stronger on one side than the other. Vibration and joint corrosion can cause threaded connections to loosen so that they may gradually come apart. Ordinary weather conditions can cause this to happen. The wind is likely to shake an umbrella from side to side, and temperature changes can cause threaded joints to expand and contract. A force on the umbrella that is stronger on the left side than the right will tend to unscrew the weakest joint. The result is that these joints sometimes come apart all by themselves.

Check your umbrella periodically to make sure threaded joints are tight.

You might have to tighten and secure the threaded connections built into the Galtech 739 and 787 umbrella models. I believe most people would not know that threads hold this Galtech crank housing together. It takes eight turns to take the casting apart and ten turns to remove the whole umbrella from the bottom pole.

The photo in this article shows the crank housing Galtech uses on its 739 and 787 models. This assembly is made of three metal castings. The arrows pointing to the brass bands show you where the joints that hold the castings together are. The bottom arrow shows you where the bottom pole screws into the housing.

Preventive maintenance

Check your umbrella by taking it down. Lay it on its side on a table, and then try to unscrew the parts by hand. The bottom pole should be the only part that will turn. This is not a problem if it does. Use Loctite® Threadlocker Red 271® or another thread locking product to glue the other two joints together if they are loose. Follow the directions on the package of the product you buy.

Albert Richardson

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What makes Auto-Tilt umbrellas work?

The auto-tilt umbrella has become popular in recent years. There is no button in the middle of the hinge in the pole to push to make it tilt. In fact, it is not obvious at all to someone seeing this umbrella for the first time what to do to engage the tilt. All you do to make these umbrellas tilt is to crank the umbrella some more once they are all the way open.

The heart of the auto-tilt umbrella is a spring-loaded rod. This rod has one end attached to the hinge in the middle of the pole. It is a little over a foot long. In some models it extends into the pole above the hinge, and in others it lies inside the pole below the hinge. The Galtech International hinge, and I believe the Basta Sole hinge have a sequence of angled plates fastened inside so that the rod can push the umbrella top over when the spring is compressed enough to take the tension off of it. This design reminds me of the scissor arm design found in some cabinet hardware that allows a door with a hinge mounted from behind instead of on the side as would be customary to close flush in its frame.

I have repaired umbrellas with three different designs for the mechanism to make them tilt. There must be others as well. Two designs compress the spring from the top of the pole above the hinge, and the third pulls the rod toward the hinge from below. The lift cord is the “engine” that provides the energy for tilting. Galtech International and Basta Sole both use a stainless steel lift cord in their umbrellas to insure that it is strong enough to provide the pull needed to compress the strong tilt spring. Fiberbuilt uses a braided synthetic cord in its design. The Fiberbuilt design pulls the rod down from the top. It uses a simple hinge with an angled slot in it for a pin in the tilt rod to ride in to force the umbrella to tilt.

All of the designs share the idea that the lift cord must pull the runner hub as far as it will go before the umbrella can tilt. The additional pull more cranking provides once the runner hub has stopped serves to compress the tilt spring so the tilt rod pushes the top go over to one side. I have never seen a tilt mechanism in a market style umbrella that is capable of making the unit tilt in more than one direction.

Albert Richardson

About your umbrella cover

Choose genuine solution-dyed acrylic cloth

Galtech Grade ‘A’ and Grade ‘B’ umbrella covers are made from genuine Sunbrella® brand upholstery cloth from Glen Raven Mills, Inc. Sunbrella® fabrics are solution-dyed acrylics that withstand the effects of sunlight and weathering for many years. Colored fibers are used to spin the thread to be woven into cloth. The color you see in the finished cloth is literally built into it. Careful process controls virtually eliminate dye lot differences altogether.

Fabric grades shown in umbrella company catalogs are a way to group fabrics by price. Each company establishes its own grading system based on what the cloth they buy costs them. Galtech seems to follow the grading standards used in the agricultural commodities industries where ‘A’ is the best produce of all, but the rest of the outdoor furnishings manufacturers label their fabrics the other way around. The outdoor furniture industry standard practice is to label the least expensive fabric ‘A’ and the most expensive can run up to ‘E’ or ‘F’.

Galtech ‘A’ grade fabrics have patterns and light textures woven into them. Grade ‘B’ fabrics are smooth upholstery available mostly in solid color an stripes. Sunbrella® ‘A’ and ‘B’ grade upholstery fabrics all work equally well for umbrella covers. They are all colorfast and durable in normal use.

As a practical matter smooth and lightly textured fabrics work best for umbrella covers. Heavier smooth fabrics made for awnings and marine applications also work well. Plush and heavily textured upholstery fabrics catch too much dirt out of the air to make satisfactory umbrella covers.

Laundering your Sunbrella® umbrella cover

You may remove the cover from your center pole umbrella simply by closing it and then laying it on its side on a table or other convenient surface. Remove the ornamental knob (finial) from the top. Next, pull the corner pockets off the ribs.

Launder your cover just as you would any other acrylic, but don’t put it in the dryer. You may use chlorine bleach in the wash to help remove mildew stains, etc. Visit to find manufacturer instructions for general cleaning and removing stains.

Put your clean damp cover back on the umbrella.

It is easy to put the cover back on your umbrella. Begin by holding it by the grommet at the top to shake it out to loosen and separate the cloth. It should hang freely like a full skirt. Lay the cover over a table and then put the frame up inside it all the way to the grommet. Do not put the finial back on yet. Now line up a seam in the cover with a rib underneath it and pull the pocket over the end of the rib. I like to start with the shortest rib for the oval umbrella because it seems like the hardest one to find. Move to the next pocket and rib and put that one on. Just pull any fabric free that may bunch up under the frame. Continue this way until all the pockets have been put back on. You should find that you have not skipped anything this way when you’re done. Finally put the finial back on the top.

Albert Richardson

Reinforce your bottom pole

I’ve been getting a lot of calls lately for new bottom poles for Galtech aluminum umbrellas. Replacements aren’t expensive, and in the case where one goes missing you have no other choice but to buy another one. I will gladly help you with this.

Note: The following information applies to aluminum umbrellas made with a 1 1/2″ diameter thin wall pole.

Some people need new bottom poles to replace ones that bent when a strong wind blew their umbrella over. While it is not possible to insure that this will never happen again, it is possible to reinforce a bottom pole ahead of time to make it stronger.

This post tells you how to insert a piece of 1” Schedule 40 PVC pipe inside the bottom part of your main umbrella pole. This reinforcement helps to prevent the side wall of the original aluminum tube from collapsing on the downwind side when a strong force pushes the top of the umbrella sideways above it. You should always close your umbrella when the wind is too strong for your comfort. Take it down altogether when the wind approached gale force. Very strong winds can break umbrella poles even in closed umbrellas.

This procedure is not recommended for Galtech 936 and 986 LED umbrellas. These umbrellas have fittings and wires in their bottom poles that give you no room for adding a pipe inside.

Take down your umbrella and remove the bottom pole.

Galtech 736 Standard Auto-Tilt® model:

The 736 model has fiberglass ribs, one pulley at the top of the pole and a plastic crank housing. The bottom pole slips over a smaller pole below the crank housing and two buttons hold it in place.

Find a piece of 1” Schedule 40 PVC pipe at least 42” long. Remove the bottom pole from your umbrella, and put the PVC pipe inside it making sure it goes all the way to the bottom. Put a piece of blue painter’s tape on the PVC pipe to mark the location of the top of your bottom pole on it. Remove the PVC pipe from inside the pole.

Now mark a new location on the side of the PVC pipe 3 15/16” closer to the bottom of the pipe from the previous mark you just made. This shortens the PVC pipe to allow for the tube that goes inside the bottom pole to hold it in place on your umbrella.

Cut off the PVC pipe at the second mark you made, and push it all the way down to the bottom of the pole.

Your reinforced bottom pole should now fit back where it belongs on your umbrella.

Galtech 727 737 779 789 Deluxe Auto-Tilt® models:

These umbrellas have aluminum ribs, two pulleys at the top of the pole and a metal crank housing. A variation in the same family has a shiny chrome crank housing with two brass bands around it. The bottom pole screws into the bottom of the crank housing in these models.

Some umbrellas in this series may have an optional Bar Height Pole attached to them. Start with a piece of 1” Schedule 40 PVC pipe at least 48” long.

You have to put the reinforcement PVC pipe into the bottom pole from the bottom for this series. The bottom pole has a threaded fitting pressed into the top. The hole through the center of the fitting is too small for the PVC pipe to go through.

Remove the cap from the bottom of the bottom pole. The easiest way to do this is to drive it out from the inside. Put a broomstick or piece of PVC, etc. through the hole at the top of the pole in order to do this. Turn the bottom pole upside down over the stick you select and tap the end cap out. It will come out pretty easily.

Now put your 1” PVC up into the pole as far as it will go and mark the bottom location of the pole on it. Pull it out to make another mark on the PVC ¾” closer to the top to make the finished piece. This makes it short enough to allow you to put the end cap back where it belongs.

Cut the PVC on the second mark you made and assemble your reinforced bottom pole.

You may wonder about the effect the pipe will have on the four holes cut into the lower portion of your bottom pole. The fact is that no one quite knows why those holes are in the pole in the first place. They don’t line up with the thumb screws on any umbrella base I’ve ever seen. I can see no value in providing a way for water to get into the pole. They are too high up to be an effective way to drain excess water out of the pole…

Perhaps the engineers who designed the poles thought it appropriate to leave a mystery the likes of Sherlock Holmes might enjoy!

It is possible to over-tighten the screws on your umbrella base crushing the sidewall of the pole. Your new reinforcement will help prevent this from happening. Remember to stop tightening these screws when they are tight enough to keep the pole from turning.

Albert Richardson

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It just vanished into thin air!

How many times have you heard this old saw? Great, isn’t it? It brings to mind the magician’s amazing bag of tricks. But what if there were an element of truth in it? I can think of an everyday object we should tie up securely because it really can get away into thin air. It’s something that protects us from the Sun and can fly like a sail. Can you imagine what I mean? The patio umbrella is exactly right! This article will help you prevent patio umbrella wind damage.

I feel fortunate that in the five years I’ve been repairing patio umbrellas I’ve never heard of one actually injuring anyone after breaking loose in the wind. The property damage resulting from a wind borne umbrella seems to be mostly confined to the umbrella itself and glass table tops. Even so, I cannot overstate the danger inherent in this situation!

I have yet to find a patio umbrella maker who will honor a warranty claim for an umbrella that has been damaged in the wind. Every warranty declaration I have read has a specific exclusion for any and all patio umbrella wind damage.

Prevention is always the best cure!

It is good practice to close your patio umbrellas at night, whenever no one is at home, and when you get bad weather reports. Close your umbrellas when the wind starts to come up. For example, if you live in an area that gets frequent afternoon thunderstorms close your umbrellas when you feel the air change. Tie something around your umbrella to prevent the wind from blowing up underneath it. All patio umbrellas should be closed during storms.

Cantilever umbrellas are vulnerable to lateral motion. Although some models have a way to allow you to tilt an open canopy sideways, none of them is designed to take the twisting sideways motion the wind can produce just by blowing the canopy around. This is equally as true for closed and open umbrellas.

Unattended open cantilever umbrellas can be dangerous. Never leave a cantilever open when the wind is blowing hard enough to annoy you! Secure your umbrella whenever you are not actually enjoying the comfort and outdoor pleasure it can give to you. Do this by pulling the canopy all the way back to the main mast and then tying the canopy to the mast.

Know your umbrella. 

TUUCI®, Basta Sole® and Shademaker® are three companies that make umbrellas that are built to withstand winds that are too strong for casual comfort. These umbrellas have thick walls in their main masts and ribs, and many of them feature Sunbrella® awning grade fabric canopies. They are made for commercial applications and for locations where strong winds can be expected such as on the decks of large moving power boats. Galtech® makes very good commercial umbrellas for customers looking for quality on a smaller budget.

Sun Garden® is an example of a company that makes a product to help you protect its cantilever umbrellas from the weather. It calls its weather cover a “Sun Cape.”

Please feel free to contact me if you own a Sun Garden® umbrella and you would like more information about the Sun Cape.

Albert Richardson

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