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Comparison: Canopy Awnings vs Parasol Umbrellas

Whether it's to provide shade from the sun or shelter from the wind, a revenue stream for your business or a splash of colour above your patio - any outdoor area will benefit from shade solutions. The classic options are large parasol umbrellas or (retractable) awnings. But which product is better? We have put together a list of pros and cons on important points to consider to help you easily make a well-informed decision.

Weather Protection

For protection from the elements, parasol umbrellas like the Summit Umbrella are winners due to their versatility. While retractable awnings offer great sun protection as well as some shelter from rain and wind, an outdoor umbrella can be transformed into an entire outdoor room. Add retractable outdoor walls to the sides and you have a cosy area that is entirely sun-, wind- and weather-proof.


One of the most important factors to consider in an umbrella vs awning comparison is price. While domestic outdoor umbrellas are cheaper than a retractable awning, prices for top-of-the-range commercial parasols such as the Summit (which can be used in domestic areas as well) are very similar to those of quality awnings. It all depends on your needs and size of shade product.


If cared for properly, both our awnings and umbrellas will last many, many years due to their superior materials and manufacturing. However, even though our Summit Umbrella is one of NZ's strongest parasols, retractable awnings hold up better in storms and rough weather due to the simple fact that they are retracted when the weather turns nasty. Our Cabriolet Awning even retracts into a fully enclosed housing to protect your investment. On the other hand, our Summit Umbrellas are made with PVC which lasts longer than the canvas used for awnings. That said, both products can be re-covered.


Want to bask in the evening sun or enjoy partial shade? In that case retractable awnings are the clear winners. Of course outdoor umbrellas can be closed, but as soon as you choose a more permanent structure with walls this isn't really an option. With a retractable awning you have control over sun and shade at the touch of a button.

Mounting Options

It's obvious: a retractable awning needs to be mounted to a building (unless you choose our exclusive Plaza Awning), while an outdoor umbrella can be put up pretty much anywhere you like. However, a substantial outdoor umbrella like the Summit needs to be concreted in.

Curb Appeal & Advertising

If you like a traditional look, a retractable awning would be the clear winner when it comes to curb appeal. They're simply more 'historic' looking. On the other hand, if you are needing sign-written shade options, an umbrella is the more popular choice. They offer a more permanent space to sport your business logo. That said, fixed frame awnings offer the same great advertising potential. When it comes to colour and design, you have almost unlimited options for both products. How about a stripy awning or a frosted-glass-look umbrella?!


If you think you'll only use your awning in summer, think again! A retractable awning can help keep blinding winter sun out of your house even if you're not outside and it will offer some wind protection as well. A parasol umbrella, on the other hand, can be used 365 days a year. Paired with PVC outdoor walls and outdoor heaters you can dine alfresco all year round.

We hope that our awnings vs umbrellas comparison has helped you make a decision. If you still need help determining what's best for your individual outdoor space, simply give us a call to organise a free measure and quote. One of our experienced shade team will come out to meet you at your property and talk you through your options and customisation ideas.