If you enjoy entertaining friends and family by the pool, pool umbrellas are this season's must-have patio accessory. A pool umbrella serves many functions, some more obvious than others. Perhaps the most common purpose of a pool umbrella is to make a pool area more comfortable and inviting by creating shade.

In these days of increased awareness of the need to protect the skin against the sun's UV rays, a pool umbrella can add significantly to that protection by providing a shady respite from the sun. A person who feels as though he is getting too much sun can still enjoy the pool area by relaxing under the shade created by a pool umbrella. And, a young child or infant can be protected from the sun by the shade provided by a pool umbrella. A pool umbrella's shade can also provide some relief from the heat of the sun.

In many areas of the country, such as the south, summer temperatures can soar into the 90's and higher. A pool umbrella provides a spot that does not feel as hot. In fact, many owners of pool umbrellas find that the shade created by an umbrella is a wonderful spot for an al fresco lunch, or sunset cocktails, for that matter. And, on the issue of food and drinks, a cooler or drink that is kept (or bowl of ice cream that is eaten) under the shade of a pool umbrella will maintain its temperature much longer than if it is placed in an unshaded area of the patio. Pool umbrellas also serve an important decorative function.

Pool umbrellas are available in virtually any combination of colors, fabrics, shapes and sizes. If one wishes to create a tropical ambiance for a pool area, there are pool umbrellas available that are designed from fabric that is reminiscent of the islands. If one's taste tends more toward the subdued, solid colors, stripes and more muted patterns are available. Typically, the fabric used in the construction of a pool umbrella contains a special coating to prevent mold and mildew. This specially-treated fabric allows the owner of a pool umbrella to leave the umbrella installed outside throughout the season so that the umbrella's décor value may be enjoyed even when the umbrella is not in use.

Often, pool umbrellas are installed through a hole that is constructed in the center of many commercially available patio tables. Of course, such pool umbrellas are easily uninstalled, which is important in climates that experience severe tropical storms and hurricanes. Other types of pool umbrellas are constructed in such a way that they rest on a portable base and may be moved among lounge chairs in a pool deck area. Some pool umbrellas are elaborately constructed in a canopy style and are large enough to cover a significant portion of a patio or pool deck. Of course, cost can vary widely, from extremely economical for commercially available umbrellas to somewhat expensive for the custom made, larger canopy styles.

There are numerous sellers of pool umbrellas on the internet and in brick and mortar stores, so it is possible to browse in a store and purchase on line, or vice versa. Obviously, when purchasing an umbrella, it is important to ensure that the style you purchase can be installed in the setting you have. Reputable vendors will provide measurements and specifications of pool umbrellas available for sale, and some may be able to provide a fabric swatch upon request of more unusual or custom fabrics. Finally, as with any device that contains sliding or moving parts, always read and heed the directions before installing or uninstalling pool umbrellas.