50 Tarpaulin Uses – What is a Tarpaulin?

One of the reasons we love tarps is because they’re so versatile. If you buy one for your home, we’re sure you’ll be bringing it out time and time again. Check out some of the creative uses for tarps!

Tarpaulin. What is it? You probably know it best under the abbreviated version “tarp.” You also probably think of the blue or silver plastic tarps you spot in home improvement stores or discount retailers. There’s more to a tarp than that.

Tarps come in vinyl, polyester, treated and untreated canvas, Iron Horse, and PVC. There are mesh tarps, drain tarps, waterproof tarps, fire retardant tarps, and water-resistant tarps. With so many types of tarps, the list of possible uses is endless. Chicago Canvas & Supply has a list of the top 50 ways customers are using the tarps they purchase.

Camping and Outdoor Recreation

#1 – Camping Supplies Cover

Keep your firewood, cooking supplies, and camp chairs dry by putting them up on a table and covering everything in a tarp. Treated canvas tarps are water-resistant and ideal for campground use as they’re light to carry and breathable. If you know there are heavy rains expected, a waterproof vinyl tarp is optimal.

#2 – Boat Cover

When your boat is tucked away for the winter, Silver UVR Heavy-Duty Poly Tarps are great for protection. The tarp protects against the weather and also prevents UV damage.

#3 – Tent Cover

Put a waterproof cover over your tent to keep rain from seeping in through the water-resistant canvas material. Drain tarps are especially helpful as you could use a hose to drain water away from your campsite or store it in buckets to boil and use as drinking water on an extended camping trip.

#4 – Campsite Flooring

Before setting up your tent, use a poly tarp to create a floor for your tent or shade structure. If you’re using padded tiles below the tent to make your tent floor softer for sleeping, you’ll keep the padded tiles clean.

#5 – Sports Field Covers

When a brief shower threatens to soak your playing field in the middle of a game, drag a waterproof tarp over the field for protection. The field stays dry and can quickly be pulled on and off the field as needed. You’ve likely seen MLB staff do this during downpours and thunderstorms. Vinyl-laminated polyester tarps are often used as field covers as they’re lighter and waterproof.

#6 – Hammocks

Are you looking to build your hammock for the backyard? While some people choose a ripstop fabric, untreated canvas tarp is great if you can bring the tarp inside on rainy days. Multiple layers of the canvas tarp make it strong enough to hold heavier adults.

#7 – Ice Skating Rinks

White heavy-duty poly tarps are a good choice for a backyard ice rink. Build a frame, lay the tarp over the frame, and add water slowly in stages to build up ice. The tarps flexibility in freezing temperatures makes it a good choice for a skating rink.


#8 – Car and Truck Covers

Storing a vehicle over the winter or during an extended tour of duty requires some care. With an Iron Horse tarp, the tarp material is breathable, but it’s also waterproof and heavy-duty.

#9 – Truck Bed Cover

You can also use Iron Horse to cover a truck bed when moving furniture, groceries, or equipment that must stay dry.

#10 – Truck Bed Liner

Before loading a truck bed with manure, mulch, sand, or gravel, protect the bed with a liner. The liner helps prevent scratches and makes cleaning up a breeze. Blue poly tarps work for materials like mulch, sand, or manure, but choose a heavier tarp for crushed stone or gravel. Green/Silver Heavy-Duty tarps are a better choice for stone.

#11 – Oil Change Mats

Before changing your oil, lay a sheet of an easy-to-clean tarp down to keep your clothing protected from the ground and to make clean-up a breeze. Vinyl-coated polyester is waterproof and abrasion-resistant, which makes it a good choice for easy cleaning.


#12 – Non-Slip Floor Covers

As builders work on a new home or handle renovations, having tarp down to protect furnishings and flooring is important. They’ll be working on ladders, so non-slip floor coverings are important. Vinyl-coated tarps offer non-slip floor covers that are ideal for construction sites.

#13 – Temporary Roof Coverings

Roof shingles only protect for so long. Exposure to sun, snow, ice, and rain all impact their longevity. Damage caused by strong wind gusts or a falling branch also impacts them. If you’re seeing water spots on your ceilings, there’s likely a leak somewhere on the roof. The roof has to be protected until the contract can come out and install a new roof or replace the damaged area. A waterproof 18-ounce vinyl-coated polyester tarp is one of your best options.

#14 – Welding Curtains

Keeping sparks from causing a fire is critical to welders. Protecting others’ eyes from the welding torch’s lighting is also a consideration. Vinyl-laminated polyester tarps are fire retardant and block views.

#15 – Divider Curtains

You can also use the vinyl-laminated polyester tarps to divide a large space to keep the noise down on a large construction site. They’re useful at setting up makeshift a makeshift trauma center during a catastrophe or pandemic, too. Untreated canvas is also possible, but vinyl-laminated is easier to clean.

#16 – Temporary Doors and Windows

Keep rain and cool winds out when doors or windows haven’t been installed on new construction or are broken and need replacing. Clear PVC tarps allow the light in without allowing the rain and colder temperatures inside.

#17 – Painting Drop Clothes

Use tarps to protect furniture, counters, appliances, and floors when you’re repainting. Untreated canvas tarps are a popular choice as they absorb paint and can be tossed in the washer to clean.


#18 – Umbrellas

You love your patio umbrella, but the fabric is starting to rip. Instead of trashing the umbrella, you could use treated canvas tarp to replace or cover the worn tarp on the frame that’s still in good condition.

#19 – Face Masks

Untreated canvas tarp is a good choice for a breathable fabric for homemade face masks. DIY instructions make it possible to make your own masks with just a little bit of sewing. Some masks don’t require any sewing.

#20 – Outdoor Apparel

Vinyl-laminated tarps are also great for waterproof outdoor apparel. Use these tarps to make rain ponchos. Making your own allows you to create a custom length so that you keep your pant legs dry, too.

#21 – Tote Bags

An untreated cotton tarp is perfect for homemade tote bags. Keep plastic grocery bags out of the trash with reusable tote bags that you can wash weekly.

Outdoor Living

#22 – Patio Furniture Cushions

Make pillows and cushions for your patio chairs and rockers from a waterproof tarp that’s durable and breathable. Iron Horse tarps check those boxes.

#23 – Shade Structure

Construct a shade structure over a deck, patio, or sandbox. You want a material that will not let light through and stands up to water. For that reason, choose Iron Horse tarps.

#24 – Lawn Protection

When you’re laying mulch in gardens, keep the grass clean with a blue poly tarp. Pile the mulch on that tarp and remove what you need from that pile. When you’re done, spray the tarp with a hose and let it dry before storing it.

#25 – Air Conditioner Covers

During the winter, protect your outdoor air conditioner units with a waterproof, breathable tarp. Iron Horse tarps are also perfect for this.

#26 – Wind Protectors

Block out winds so that you can use your covered porch or deck through cooler weather. Heavy-Duty Poly tarps block winds, resist UV damage, and are also water-resistant.

#27 – Outdoor Movie Screens

White heavy-duty poly tarps are water-resistant and UV-treated to protect from sun damage. It’s a great choice for your outdoor movie theater.

#28 – Plant Covers

Protect your shrubs and gardens from salt and snow in the winter by covering them with waterproof, durable tarps. Iron Horse is your best choice for plant covers as it is breathable but won’t deteriorate over time as burlap does.

#29 – Pool Cover

Pool care doesn’t have to be hard to manage. If you’re looking for a pool cover for winterizing your pool, a vinyl-coated poly tarp is heavy-duty and waterproof. Snowmelt and leaves won’t get through this material. If you want a cover in the summer to keep leaves and bugs out overnight, look at mesh tarps.

#30 – Awning

Put an awning over a deck or door to offer some protection from sun and rain. Iron Horse is a durable, breathable material that’s suitable for awnings.

#31 – Outdoor Pet Beds

Does your dog spend time outside when you’re using the deck or patio? Why not cover the dog’s bed with a waterproof material like Iron Horse to have a pet bed for the time you spend outside.

#32 – Privacy Screens

UVR poly tarps are a good choice for adding a privacy wall to a deck or yard. If you want the wind to be able to pass through, look at mesh tarps instead.

#33 – Rain Barrels

Conserve and reuse water by collecting rainwater in barrels. Drain tarps make easy work of collecting rain into rain barrels. Use that water to water your gardens and outdoor plants.

#34 – Patio Door Curtains

Untreated canvas in its natural color is a must-have if you are going for earth colors in your living or dining room. The canvas makes durable curtains that can be washed as needed.

#35 – Pet Mats

Vinyl-laminated or vinyl-coated polyester tarps make great pet mats. If you have a sloppy eater or drinker, these waterproof tarps can be cut down to make extra-large placemats for your pet’s water and food dish. It’s handy for protecting wood floors.

#36 – Reupholstering Furniture

Reupholster your older furniture with new foam pads and a durable tarp such as untreated canvas. You could also use Iron Horse if you wanted something waterproof.

#37 – Beanbags

Make your own beanbag chair or sofa using foam beads. You’ll want untreated canvas tarp for the outer shell. Iron Horse could also work if you want a waterproof material.

#38 – Screened Porch or Deck

Use vinyl-coated mesh tarp to screen in your porch or deck. Enjoy time outside without bugs bothering you. The grommets make it easy to take the tarp down for the winter.

#39 – Window/Door Weatherizing

When winter is about to arrive, use clear PVC tarps to cover windows and patio doors from the outside to keep cold drafts out. The waterproof material keeps rain and snow away from wood trim, too.

#40 – Shower Curtains

Clear PVC tarps are a heavy-duty shower liner that you can wipe clean. Pair them with a shower curtain if privacy is a concern.

#41 – Window Screening

Choose polyethylene mesh tarp for heavy-duty window screening on a porch door. It blocks out some light while allowing air to pass.

#42 – Table Covers

Protect an outdoor table from water, snow, and ice with a waterproof table cover. Make it out of vinyl-coated tarp. Pollen and dust can be wiped off with a wet cloth for easy cleaning.

#43 – Slip and Slides

Beat the heat with a slip and slide. On a hot day, kids and adults will love being outside without overheating thanks to their damp clothes. Lay out a waterproof vinyl-coated polyester tarp and soak it down with a hose. Leave the hose at a trickle at the top of the slide to keep the surface slick. These tarps come in multiple sizes up to 10 by 100 feet at Chicago Canvas & Supply.

Schools, Towns, and Businesses

#44 – Playground Shade Structures

Turn a school playground into a safe place for kids to play. With shade structures creating shade, teachers don’t have to worry as much about sunburns. Iron Horse tarps are the best choice to fill this need.

#45 – Sandbox Covers

Community playgrounds may have sandboxes for kids. Keep them covered at night with blue poly tarps. By covering them, you keep stray cats from using them as litter boxes.

#46 – Gym Dividers

On test days or to create more space for classrooms, use canvas tarps to create room divider curtains. Canvas works well, but vinyl-laminated tarp is flame retardant.


#47 – Firewood Cover

Heavy-duty poly tarps are a favorite for covering firewood during the winter. Keeping snow and ice off the wood is a must or it won’t burn as well.

#48 – Patio Furniture Covers

Iron Horse’s ability to protect from water while also allowing air to pass is a must for patio furniture that is susceptible to mildew. Use it when you’re storing patio furniture outside for the winter.

#49 – Equipment Covers

Cover equipment on a farm of industrial setting with several types of tarps. If you’re covering items inside, untreated canvas may work. If you’re covering hay or straw outside, vinyl-coated polyester tarps are best.

#50 – Storage Lockers

Renting a storage locker for your furnishings until you find a new home? If the units are not climate controlled, you don’t want humidity and moisture to damage your personal belongings. Lay some skids on the floor and protect everything with Iron Horse tarps to protect from water damage and prevent condensation from forming when the temperatures change.

Shop online for the tarps you need. Chicago Canvas & Supply has a range of sizes available, and we welcome custom orders on many of our tarps.

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3 thoughts on “50 Tarpaulin Uses – What is a Tarpaulin?

  1. I am looking for a new cover for my barbecue on our patio. It will remain outdoors in sun , rain, when we have rain (we are in Southern California) and whatever falls from the sky (hopefully some sort of money, so the liberals in Sacramento can wrongfully usurp it). The dimensions are: 54″W x 21 “D x 48″H. It would be great if you could quote me a price! Another thought came to my mind. How big of a single finished piece of canvas would it take to cover the barbecue mentioned previously. Growing up, my father used canvas drop cloths for a lot of household jobs!

    Thank You,
    R J Campbell

    • Chicago Canvas & Supply says:

      Hi RJ,

      Thanks for your comment! If you’re looking for an outside barbecue cover, try an 18 oz Vinyl Coated Polyester Box Cover in 54″ L x 21″ W x 48″ H size ($123): https://www.chicagocanvas.com/product/18oz-vinyl-coated-polyester-tarpaulins/

      We actually have this item on sale through 8/2; if you use code VCP20 at checkout, you’ll receive 20% off!

      Your father was a smart man–canvas drop cloths are a customer favorite for a reason. In this scenario, a vinyl tarp (we wouldn’t advise using a single piece of canvas to cover a bbq) would be more ideal because it’s treated for outdoor weather and is super strong. A heavy-duty canvas drop cloth is ideal for protecting things like your outdoor patio or grass for a short period of time (while painting or doing some sort of project).

      When it comes to making your tarp withstand time and various conditions, check out our tarp maintenance manual: https://www.chicagocanvas.com/blog/tarp-repair-maintenance-tips/

      Good luck!

      -Chicago Canvas & Supply

  2. Oliver Ray says:

    I like how you suggested the fun section and water slide for the kiddos during the summer. I might even look to see if it is cheaper to get a good tarpaulin cover made just for that perhaps. It will be a lot of fun for the kiddos during this hot summer we’ve been having here.

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