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18 Different Types of Tarps (Plus Tips on Choosing One)

Discover the different types of tarps or also known as tarpaulins which will protect you from all kinds of rough weather and know the best tarp that suits your needs.

Tarp folded in square

A tarp or tarpaulin is a large sheet of flexible, strong, water-resistant, or water-proof material. It can be made from a cloth-like polyester or canvas, coated with polyurethane or from plastics like polyethylene. A tarp is one of the most useful and innovative inventions that are known to man. It can be used to provide protection from rough weather conditions such as rain, strong winds, and sunlight. The primary use of a tarp is to cover something from getting dirty or wet.

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History of Tarpaulin

The word tarpaulin has originated from words tar and palling. It refers to a tarred canvas pall that was used to cover objects on ships. Sailors often used their own over-clothes in some way to cover objects. Because they used to tar their own clothes, they became known as the ‘jack tars’. By the mid of 19th century, Paulin was used as a cloth for such purpose.

There are so many different types of tarps available that you may easily get confused and lost, as to which type is suitable for you. Before you select the type of tarp, consider the purpose you want to use the tarp for. Different types are used for different purposes and you wouldn’t want to invest in the wrong one.

Selection Criteria for Tarps

As mentioned earlier, you should know the purpose for which the tarp is needed. Once you know the purpose, you will be able to analyze specifications that are important to that particular application. Specifications of tarps are listed below, which may further help you to select the suitable tarp.


If you want to provide protection to something from moisture and rain, a water-resistant tarp would be suitable for you. Different types of water-resistant tarps provide a distinct level of protection, ranging from little resistance to being completely water-proof.


The strength of a tarp determines the ability of tarp to hold together under force. The strength depends upon the material used in the construction and the type of weaving method. A tarp with high strength would resist breakage or tear from fierce winds.

Corrosion Resistance

Considering how resistant a tarp is to corrosion from sunlight and other foreign materials like acids, oils, mildew, and greases. Special coatings can be used to offer resistance to different types of degradations.

Abrasion Resistance

It is the ability of a tarp to resist splitting and tearing due to sharp edges. Vinyl tarps and canvas tarps are highly resistant to abrasion as compared to the polyethylene tarps.


Before buying a tarp, you should always consider the features it has. Features include rope construction, grommets, special coatings, and accessories. In some tarps, ropes are sewn and sealed to borders for providing enhanced tear resistance and strength. Grommets are metal or plastic eyelets in a tarp that help in securing tie-downs. As for coating, tarps are usually coated with special materials such as flame-retardants, or corrosion resistant materials. Some tarps come with accessories such as anti-mildew treatments, replacement grommets, ropes, and tarp-tie downs.

A sound understanding of specifications can help you correlate them with the application they are needed for in a better way.

Types of Tarps

Tarps can be divided into different types on the basis of their construction material and the intended purpose.

Protective tarp

Tarps On the Basis of Construction Material

On the basis of material used to make a tarp, the traps are of following types:

1. Mesh Tarps

Windscreensupplyco Heavy Duty Black Knitted Mesh Tarp with Grommets 60-70% Shade (10 FT. X 12 FT.)

Mesh tarps are made of breathable materials which allow the passage of sunlight, air, and moisture. These types of tarps have grommets at their edges which enables you to tie them down. Mesh tarps have double stitched hems. They are available in many colors and sizes.

They block some of the UV rays from the sun. Vinyl coated colored mesh tarps do not block more than 55% of the rays from the sun. Polyethylene mesh tarps can block up to 90% of the sun’s rays. The most protection from the sun rays is provided by polypropylene mesh tarps that block as much as 95% of the UV rays from the sun.

Mesh tarps are constructed in such a way that they have small holes between the fabric threads. Hence, they have a lower resistance to wind as compared to other types of tarps. However, this is an advantage when mesh tarps are used for hauling gravel, sand, and other substances in a truck. They can be tied over the bed of a truck to secure the cargo underneath.

Uses of Mesh Tarps

The mesh tarps are used for many purposes such as:

  • They are used for keeping debris contained
  • They make wonderful pool covers
  • They are used to cover trucks that are carrying lightweight materials that may blow away by wind such as wood shavings.
  • They are used to cover dump trucks that are carrying sand, small rocks, and gravel
  • Mesh tarps are used to protect plants from sunlight in a nursery.
  • They can be used in the backyards to provide protection from harsh sunlight.

2. Canvas Tarps

Canvas tarp used as colorful tents.

Canvas is a heavy and robust material. It is usually given a wax coating to establish a water-resistant layer. They need periodic recoating to maintain its water-resistant character.

Canvas tarps are constructed using highly breathable materials that allow the passage of air through individual fibers. Canvas tarps can be treated or untreated. Treated canvas tarps offer resistance to water, mildew, and UV rays while untreated canvas tarps do not offer complete waterproofing.

They provide a great cover to items that are kept outdoors. Canvas traps are dyed using a specific dye to make the tarps water-repellant. However, it is possible that the color stains the items placed under its protection. It is best to use it for things on which you can afford getting a stain. Canvas tarps may have an unpleasant smell in the beginning but it fades after some time.

Uses of Canvas Tarps

  • They are used to provide protection to furniture and carpets during the indoor painting
  • They are used to cover flatbed loads like fruits and vegetable that are sensitive to moisture
  • They can be used in agricultural applications and construction industry because of their versatility.
  • Canvas tarps are used as ground covers
  • Since canvas tarps are made from natural fibers, they are highly unlikely to damage under high temperature. Therefore, they are suitable to be used as tarmacadam cover or when transporting asphalt at a temperature of over 120

3. Poly Tarps

Construction worker spreading a blue poly tarp on the floor inside a construction site.

Poly tarps are made from polyethylene, which is a plastic material. it can be made from high-density forms or from low-density forms. A poly tarp that is light duty is lighter in weight, has a lower poly coating, and a lower mesh count. A high duty poly tarp is heavier and has more poly coating and a higher mesh count. Light duty poly tarp is used to cover items for shorter periods of time while for a long-term use high duty poly tarps are preferred.

They are ideal for covering materials that are placed outdoors in the hot sun. They are made from high-quality materials to last for an extended period. Poly tarps are not suitable for covering items that require breathability because poly tarps do not have enough space between its particles to allow the passage of air.

Poly tarps are usually cheap, water-proof, and lightweight. However, they are not the most robust of all tarps. They are not appropriate to be used extensively for hard wearing purposes.

Uses of Poly Tarps

  • They are used as truck bed liners. They prevent soil or gravel from seeping through the truck bed.
  • They can be used to protect wood flooring in gymnasiums
  • You can use a silver poly tarp to seal a leak in your roof
  • They can be used as a temporary shelter

4. Vinyl Tarps

Heavy Duty Waterproof Camo Tarp - Reversible Camouflage/Green Vinyl Tarp - 10x12 with UV Protection for Outdoor Camping RV Truck and Trailers

These are poly tarps laminated, coated, or tempered with vinyl. Vinyl tarps have high strength and they resist tearing. Hence, they are suitable for industrial use. They can withstand several years in severe conditions such as snow, heavy rain, heat, or very cold temperatures.

As compared to other tarps, vinyl tarps are thicker and have a higher resistance to abrasion. They can resist mildew, grease, and even acids! They are suitable for high duty purposes because of their tough nature.

Uses of Vinyl Tarps

  • Clear vinyl tarps are usually used as windscreens in marine because of their visibility. They are also used as marine fabrics to make marine covers and divider curtains
  • They are used in awning
  • Heavy-duty vinyl tarps are used as salvage covers
  • Vinyl tarps are used as roof leak diverters
  • They can be used in an emergency as they are weather resistant
  • They are most commonly used as truck bed covers
  • Heavy-duty PVC vinyl tarp is used as for anti-scratch purposes.

5. Heavy-Duty Traps

A tarp protecting a damaged roof during a storm.

Heavy-duty tarps are not meant for household purposes. They are made from high-grade materials. They are more commonly used in the agricultural and industrial sector. They are made from fiber material that is durable and can withstand harsh and tough conditions.

Uses of heavy-duty Tarps

  • Heavy-duty tarp can be used to protect the roof temporarily after a storm
  • They can be used to protect a construction site or a building from elements
  • They are used to protect boats and vehicles
  • Heavy-duty tarps are used to protect outdoor equipment
  • They are used to protect heavy-duty cargo during its transport

6. Clear PVC Tarps

Tarps SUBBYE Clear Waterproof, Multi-Purpose Thick PVC Transparent Tarpaulin with Grommets, 0.45kg/m² (Size : 1.8×2M)

These tarps are made to be used as curtains. They are made using a sheer material that allows passage of light. People can see through them. They are water-proof and can withstand winds. This makes them suitable for covering a door during winters. They can also be used to cover a patio or deck as the temperature gets colder. They are long lasting, owing to its 20 mils thickness.

7. Iron Horse Polyester Tarps

Iron Horse Polyester Tarp

Iron horse polyester tarps last a very long time. They are stronger than canvas tarps. They are waterproof. These tarps can rip if they are not taken care of properly. However, with proper care, they can last for many years.

8. Polyester Tarps

Docked boat covered in a pink polyester tarp.

Polyester can be used to make tarps. Polyester tarps are usually coated with a polyurethane layer. Coated polyester tarps are waterproof. They can provide shelter from the sun. However, they produce a lot of noise in the windy season. A polyester tarp is majorly used for forming a temporary shelter.

9. Cotton-Poly Canvas or Rip-Stop Tarps

Tents GJ@ Heavy Duty Tarp,Cotton Thick Polyester Fiber Canvas Tarpaulin,with Metal Grommets, for Contractors, Campers, Painters, Farmers, Boats, Motorcycles (Color: Green)

These tarps are a hybrid between polyester and natural fibers of cotton. They are synthetic tarps, which carry benefits of both the materials. They are fully waterproof. They get this property from plastic. Along with being completely waterproof, they are also breathable, getting the property from the canvas. Not just are they waterproof and breathable, but they are also rip-proof. As they are breathable, they won’t allow moisture to accumulate, hence, reducing the chances of rotting.

The only disadvantage of Cotton Poly-Canvas or Rip-Stop Tarps is that if dyed, they leave color on items. They are used to cover steel.

Tarps On the Basis of Specific Purposes

As we discussed above, the specifications of a tarp can help in determining which purpose they will be most suited for. The types of tarps on the basis of specific purposes are listed below:

1. UV Protected Tarps

White 16x30 Heavy Duty UV Protected Treated Canopy Sun Shade Boat Cover Tarp

They provide protection from the harmful UV rays of the sun. They are available in many colors.

2. Flame Retardant Tarps

5 ft. X 5 ft. Heavy Duty Drain Tarp - Flame Retardant

Flame retardant tarps are treated with special chemicals that make them resistant to fire. They can even slow down the fire.

3. Blue Tarps

Boats of different sizes covered in blue tarp.

They are durable, water-resistant, and affordable. They have reinforced edges and are available in many sizes.

4. Black Mesh Tarps

Two greenhouses made of black mesh tarps.

Black mesh tarps are ideal for outdoor structures like patios. They are used to protect gardens and nurseries from sun, wind, and frost.

5. Truck Tarps

Truck with its flatbed trailer covered in vinyl tarp.

They are heavy-duty tarps that are waterproof and are used on flatbed trailers.

6. Fence Tarps

Green fence trap protecting a garden.

These tarps are used on construction sites and other areas as well to provide privacy.

7. Insulated Tarps

Building covered in orange insulated tarp.

Insulated tarps are used to insulate areas from cold and heat. They are manufactured using insulating material on one side. Their exterior is made from polyurethane.

8. Pool Tarps

Rectangular pool covered in a blue pool tarp.

Pool tarps keep the pools clean but preventing leaves and debris from getting into the poof. They are completely waterproof.

9. Sports Tarps

Crew covering infield with tarp as it starts to rain during a game.

They are large and used to cover sports fields to keep them protected from elements.


Tarps are extremely useful items that protect objects from rain, wind, sunlight, and other harsh conditions. They can greatly enhance the lifespan of objects. With so many types of tarps available, you should always choose wisely. As mentioned above, you should be clear about the intended purpose of the tarp which will make selection easier.