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

Photo collage of tarps

Quicklist: Types of Tarpaulin

  1. Mesh Tarps
  2. Canvas Tarps
  3. Poly Tarps
  4. Vinyl Tarps
  5. Heavy-Duty Tarps
  6. Clear PVC Tarps
  7. Iron Horse Polyester Tarps
  8. Polyester Tarps
  9. Cotton-Poly Canvas or Rip-Stop Tarps
  10. UV Protected Tarps
  11. Flame Retardant Tarps
  12. Blue Tarps
  13. Black Mesh Tarps
  14. Truck Tarps
  15. Fence Tarps
  16. Insulated Tarps
  17. Pool Tarps
  18. Sports Tarps

What are Tarps Made of?

A tarp or tarpaulin is a large sheet of flexible, strong, water-resistant or waterproof material. It can be made from a cloth-like polyester or canvas, coated with polyurethane, or from plastics like polyethylene. 

Tarps can be used to provide protection from rough weather conditions such as rain, strong winds, and sunlight. Bottom line the primary job of a tarp is to cover something from getting dirty or wet.

History of Tarpaulin

The word tarpaulin originated from the 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 purposes.

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. 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.

Water-resistance

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.

Strength

The strength of a tarp determines the ability of the 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 polyethylene tarps.

Features

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.

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

1. Mesh Tarps

A close up photo of a black mesh tarp isoalted in white background.

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 so 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 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 their 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 for 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 to get 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 indoor painting
  • They are used to cover flatbed loads like fruits and vegetables that are sensitive to moisture
  • They can be used in agricultural applications and the 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 temperatures. 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 has a lower mesh count.

A high-duty poly tarp is heavier and has more poly coating and a higher mesh count. The light-duty poly tarp is used to cover items for shorter periods of time while for 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 their particles to allow the passage of air.

Poly tarps are usually cheap, waterproof, and lightweight. However, they are not the most robust of 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

A red vinyl tarp isolated in a white background.

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 harsh nature.

Uses of Vinyl Tarps

  • Clear vinyl tarps are usually used as windscreens in marine because of their visibility. They are also used as 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 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 sectors. 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

Close up photo of a clear pvc tarp with plants in the background.

These tarps are made to be used as curtains. They are made using a sheer material that allows the passage of light. People can see through them.

They are waterproof and can withstand winds. This makes them suitable for covering a door during winter. They can also be used to cover a patio or deck as the temperature gets colder. They are long-lasting, owing to their 20 millimeter 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 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 mainly 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 the benefits of both 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 only 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 for Various 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

A dark brown UV protected tarps isolated in a white background.

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

2. Flame Retardant Tarps

A pile of flame retardant tarp isolated in a white background.

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. 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 the 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.

9. Boats

Boats on the beach in the fishing village of Manarola, in Liguria, Italy.

When using a tarp on a boat, selecting one specifically designed for water applications is essential. A vinyl tarp is a good option because it is 100% waterproof and will not corrode in salt water. Choosing a tarp with a UV inhibitor to protect the boat from the sun’s harmful rays is also important. You should also secure the tarp properly with ropes or bungee cords to keep it in place.

10. Camping

A tarp erected as a camping tent.

When camping, it is essential to choose a tarp that is durable and can handle heavy loads. A canvas tarp is ideal for this application because it is strong and can resist tearing. Selecting a high wind-rating tarp is also essential to keep it from being blown away in gusty conditions. Be sure to use stakes to secure the tarp to the ground in windy conditions. Consider buying a tarp with grommets to make attaching it to trees or poles easier.

11. Pool Protection

Tarps used to cover pools.

When using a pool tarp, selecting one made of heavy-duty materials with ties or grommets around the edges is essential to secure it. Choosing a tarp with a UV inhibitor to protect the pool from the sun’s harmful rays is also important. The tarp should also have a water-resistant finish to keep it from becoming saturated and heavy.

12. Landscaping

Tarp used for catching debris.

When landscaping, select a large tarp to cover the entire area. Choose a tarp with grommets around the edges for easy installation and securement. Also, consider selecting a translucent or opaque tarp depending on the desired visibility of the landscape elements underneath. Finally, ensure the tarp has a UV inhibitor to protect the landscape from sun damage.

13. Wind Resistance

When using a tarp outdoors, it is essential to consider wind resistance. This is especially important in coastal regions where strong winds are more common. Look for tarps with a high wind rating that can handle gusty conditions. Also, make sure the tarp has grommets or ties around the edges so it can be secured.

14. Temporary Roofing

Tarps used to cover temporary roofing.

When using a tarp for temporary roofing, select one that is strong and durable. A heavy-duty polyethylene tarp is ideal because it can withstand the elements and won’t tear or rip easily. Also, choose a tarp with UV inhibitors and a waterproof finish to protect against water damage.

Top Brands of Tarps

1. CustomFab USA

CustomFab USA is a household name when it comes to sewing and soft goods. The company, founded in 1990, manufactures all its products in America. Since its inception, CustomFab USA has built quite the reputation — which is evident, seeing that it has worked with some of the leading brands in the medical, military, sporting goods, aerospace and luggage industry.

The manufacturing company has a facility with state-of-the-art technology. The premises occupy 77,000 square feet, where over 2,000 products are produced yearly. The company also boasts a dedicated workforce of over 300 people. Besides industry expertise, CustomeFab USA is known for excellent customer service. 

2. Landes USA

Tarp used for dessert tents.

Landes USA is a family-owned company based in Houston, TX. It has been in the sewing business for about five decades and has continued to prove itself as a trusted contractor. The company is known for excellent quality — and it’s a good choice if you like a wide variety of colors. You can either shop for a standard tarp or get a fully customized, made-to-order one. Landes USA also prides itself on a quick turnaround time.  

3. Carolina CoverTech

 Carolina CoverTech has been manufacturing products since 1858. That is over 160 years of experience. It engineers durable and weather-resistant products, so you can be sure to get value for your money.

Even if you have custom needs for your tarp, you can reach out to Carolina CoverTech. They have industrial sewing machines that produce various stitches, including zigzag, overcasting and blind hem stitches. The machines are incredibly efficient, making it easy to meet the high demand.

4. SeamCraft, Inc.

Military truck covered with tarp.

SeamCraft is an American sewing contractor with over 50 years of experience. The company manufactures custom-sewn products. SeamCraft serves over 30 industries, supplies over 50 multinational corporations, and works with over 80 fabrics. It offers 98% on-time delivery and a 99% customer satisfaction rate.

During its early years, SteamCraft went by the name Ajax Canvas Products. The company manufactured custom canvas bags used by newspaper carriers in the Midwest. Several years later, the company has changed ownership and grown tremendously to become an ISO 9001-certified manufacturer known for exemplary products.

5. Fabri-Tech Inc.

Fabri-Tech Inc. was founded in Fortville, Indiana, back in 1971. This family-owned business has seen tough times but still stood tall. For instance, the company faced a fire on the Christmas Day of 1998.

Yet despite the hard times, Fabri-Tech remained true to the course — manufacturing high-quality products. The team focuses heavily on craftsmanship to ensure you get the tarp you’re looking for. All products are made with the latest industry techniques to guarantee durability.

6. Sea Converting Inc.

Sea Converting is a woman-owned custom converter that operates from Wood Dale, IL. The company, founded in 1987, pays close attention to custom design, efficient, high-quality production, and meeting commitments.

The company has a product engineering support team to help you choose the suitable material for your tarp. Sea Converting has access to unlimited materials. The company offers fast turnaround samples and prototypes so that production can start as soon as possible.

7. Anchor Industries Inc.

For over 100 years, Anchor Industries has continued manufacturing high-quality sewn, heat-sealed products in canvas and synthetic fabrics. Today, the business has over 300 skilled workers and over 362,000 square feet of production capacity in Evansville, Indiana.

Throughout its history, Anchor Industries has pioneered numerous industry-changing innovations, which explains why it’s among the leading producers of tarps in the world. Some of the products Anchor Industries manufactures include outdoor shade solutions, framing and military products.

Where to Buy Tarps

Tarp Supply

Different kinds of tarps on sale in a store.

 Tarp Supply is one of the largest tarp providers in the country. They specialize in tarp making and have been in the game for over half a century. The company has two primary brands: Tarpwise and Duramost. They are equally popular and offer custom tarps in the United States in all shapes and sizes possible. Tarp options include:

  • Polyester tarps
  • Vinyl tarps
  • Canvas tarps
  • Clear tarps
  • Flame retardant tarps
  • Mesh tarps
  • Truck tarps

In addition to this wide variety, they offer all types and colors of covers for machines, pallets, logs, and even AC. From ball bungees to repair kits, they also provide a rich selection of tarp accessories, meaning you can shop everything tarp-related from their brands.

The cherry on top of the cake is their Tarpwise University page. Here you will find nearly all the info you need about tarps in the form of webinars, industry news, YouTube videos, FAQs and buying guides.

For ease of delivery and customer convenience, the US-based company has a centralized distribution center in Chicago and several warehouses around the country. The brand has a proven record from numerous clients globally, so check their reviews for quality assurance.

US Tarp 

US Tarp is another leading manufacturer of quality tarps in the US. Based in South Haven, this company specializes in manufacturing and distributing tarping systems for custom applications in the construction, landscaping, agriculture, recycling and solid waste markets. Still, you may also order a custom tarp for your specific needs. Their options include:

  • Mesh tarps: From the industry-standard cargo control mesh, a tightly woven mesh for cleanup applications, a medium-weight woven mesh with excellent airflow to a lightweight, polypropylene mesh ideal for medium applications
  • Vinyl and canvas tarps: Options include a lightweight, water-resistant tarp made from polypropylene for asphalt hauling to a tightly-woven, severe-duty tarp perfect for use in cold weather
  • Custom tarps: Need a tarping system for a specific application? US Tarp Inc can make you a custom one

Suppose you need an accessory or replacement part; US Tarps also offers replacement parts, from external mounts to spring arms and under-mount spring components.

Tarp Manufacturing Inc

Tarp Manufacturing Inc has been in the tarp industry since 1925. They are a subsidiary of Illinois Road Contractors and a private, family-owned business. They offer tarps in materials like polypropylene, vinyl, to dense nylon. Options include:

  • Containment tarps: Tarping systems typically used to contain debris, overspray and blasting
  • Agricultural tarps: For grain or equipment covers, made in different sizes
  • Trucking tarps: These roll tarp systems often feature a side-to-side operating system controlled on the ground level via a handle. Roll tarps for trucking systems also feature heavy-duty straps and ratchets for seamless installation. They’re also often waterproof and ideal for trucks, wagons, and trailers, but you may also use them in any application you deem fit due to their incredible durability

While construction, trucking and agricultural tarps define the company’s output, they offer specialized tarp products, meaning you can always request custom options. 

The Tarps Wholesaler

Another great place to buy tarps is from The Tarps Wholesaler. As both an importer and retailer, this New York-based company has an incredible selection of tarps. They stock:

  • Polyester tarps: From five-mil general tarps, eight-10 mil heavy duty, 12-mil, extra heavy, and 16-mil super heavy-duty tarps
  • Mesh tarps: Available options include black mesh, truck mesh, to green mesh tarps ideal for landscaping
  • Specialty tarps: This category includes tarp cover-ups for various uses such as clear vinyl, fire retardant, canvas, drainage, and heavy-duty tarps

In addition to tarps, this company also offers a wide variety of tarp accessories, from ball bungees, and bungee kits, to twine and tarp clips; all your tarping system needs are sure to be covered. You can filter your search based on color, thickness, weight, width, and even specialty uses.

Amazon

Inside the amazon store.

Amazon is one of the most popular online shopping platforms for one key reason; they liaise with stores and suppliers to provide their customer base with anything and everything, including tarps.

Tarps on Amazon come in price ranges between $25 and $200 and above, depending on your desired quality. Color options include green tarps to black, grey, red, orange, yellow, and even multicolored tarps so you can find the right fit for your needs.

Tarps brands offered on Amazon are also pretty varied and include big players in the industry, such as Xpose safety, Kotap, Guard Shield, and Cartman.

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