A Pocket Guide to Tarpaulin Construction Materials for Novices

If you are considering buying a tarp for the first time, you will likely find the sheer choice of materials overwhelming. Some popular types of tarps based on the kind of construction material you should know about:

Canvas Tarps

It is the most common type of tarpaulin material and is known for being strong and heavy. Canvas is a highly breathable material, which is why it finds widespread use in covering perishable things from dust and dirt. However, it is not water resistant, so if you want it to protect your stuff from rain and snow, you should get one coated with wax. The treated canvas can resist water and sunshine, and since it does not absorb moisture, it is mildew-proof as well. Canvas tarps treated with a special dye to make them waterproof may, however; cause staining. Common uses of canvas tarps include covering the ground, flatbed loads of agricultural produce, in fields and farms, and general protection from spills and dust. They can resist very high temperatures, making them suitable for covering asphalt during transport.

Poly Tarps

The main constituent of poly tarps is polythene. A lightweight poly tarp has a lower mesh count and a thinner poly coating compared to a heavy-duty poly tarp. A poly tarp that is light-duty is lighter in weight, has a lower poly coating, and has a lower mesh count, whereas a heavy-duty outdoor tarp is heavier and stronger, making them more suitable for extended use even in challenging conditions. While poly tarps are inexpensive, lightweight, and waterproof, you should not use them to cover things that need to breathe since the material does not permit air to pass through. Typical uses of poly tarps include covering gym floors, truck bed liners, sealing roof leaks, constructing temporary shelters, etc.

Vinyl Tarps

Poly tarps coated with vinyl are called vinyl tarps. These tarps are versatile, possess high strength, and resist tearing, making them suitable for heavy-duty use. These tarps possess greater resistance to abrasion, acids, corrosive chemicals, grease, oils, and even mold. These characteristics make them suitable for use in challenging conditions like heavy rain, snow, and extremes of temperature.

Vinyl tarps find diverse uses. Some of the most common are salvage covers, roof covers to stop leaks, emergency shelters, awnings, marine covers, flatbed covers, etc. Many people use clear vinyl tarps as dividers on decks and patios.

Mesh Tarps

Mesh tarps are specifically manufactured to have a loose weave with perforations to allow air, sunlight, and moisture. These tarps find use in applications that require the material to be breathable. According to Street Directory, mesh tarps offer less wind resistance. While vinyl-coated mesh tarps can block 55% of the sun’s rays at best, you can block up to 90% of the radiation using polyethylene mesh tarps.

Mesh tarps find use in containing debris, covering pools, covering lightweight materials, protecting plants from sunlight, etc.


As is evident, you can buy tarps in different materials, depending on your intended application. Across the entire range, you will find manufacturers offering lightweight and heavy-duty versions. While the heavy-duty ones are stronger and last longer, they are also more difficult to handle. 

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