Expensive vs. Cheap Tarps – The Top Tarps For Your Money That Will Last

When you purchase a cheap tarp at a discount retailer, you’re getting a low-quality tarp that breaks down in a year or two. Even with the utmost care, it’s unlikely you’ll get more than five years of life out of the tarp. Exposure to UV rays, wind, ice, and abrasion all break down the material over time. Are you truly saving money if you’re replacing your tarp every couple of years? Say you’re replacing your 8 x 10′ cheap tarp every year or two. By the end of a decade, you’ve spent as much as $100. You could get a high-quality Iron Horse tarp of the same size for under $90. You’ve saved money.

There’s another factor that people don’t always stop to consider. When your tarp is ruined, you can’t recycle it. Tarps end up in the landfill where they do not break down easily. Plastics need UV rays to degrade the fastest. Australia’s Department of Environment and Conservation estimates that a plastic bag takes up to 20 years to break down while plastic bottles take up to 450 years. The longer a tarp lasts, the better it is for the environment. You don’t want to fill landfills with tarps that take decades to deteriorate. Do this by getting the best tarp for the money and choose one of these five tarps you need to choose.

#1 – 13 oz Vinyl Laminated Poly Tarp

If you need a tough tarp that’s also flame retardant, the vinyl laminated poly tarp is best. It’s a UV-treated polyester that resists ripping. It’s waterproof and resists mildew. It’s often chosen as a welding curtain, divider curtain, or salvage cover. Separate a large area like a gym into different areas by hanging it like curtains. You shouldn’t use a vinyl laminated poly tarp in freezing temperatures. Cold weather will cause the material to stiffen and crack.

Purchase vinyl laminated poly tarps in nine colors (black, blue, green, grey, red, tan, translucent, white, and yellow). It’s also sold in sizes ranging from 5 x 7′ to 20 x 30′. If you need a custom size, you can make the arrangements with a tarp specialist at Chicago Canvas.

#2 – 18 oz Canvas Tarpaulin

The 18 oz canvas tarpaulin is the heaviest of the 100% cotton tarps Chicago Canvas sells. It is water-resistant and also resists mildew as it is breathable. Because the material breathes, it doesn’t build up condensation when it is used as a cover. The tarp comes in two colors (black and gold) and sizes ranging from 5 x 7′ to 30 x 30′. Custom sizes are also available if you need one.

Canvas tarps are stronger than some polyester tarps. They are often the first choice in industrial settings due to that strength. They can stain, so they’re not meant to be used as vehicle or boat covers. Use them to protect outdoor equipment, cargo, and supplies. If you have a truck full of mulch to transport, the tarp will keep it from flying out in traffic. You can also use them on a construction site to keep lumber dry until it’s needed.

#3 – 18 oz Vinyl Coated Polyester Tarp

Vinyl coated polyester tarps are durable and waterproof. They don’t rip, tear, or wear down due to abrasion. They are thick and stand up to UV exposure no matter if it’s hot outside or brutally cold. It’s also one of the thickest tarps (20 mils) that you’ll find. Find it in 16 colors (black, brown, burgundy, camouflage, green, grey, kelly green, navy blue, orange, pink, purple, red, royal blue, tan, white, and yellow). They come in sizes ranging from 5 x 7′ to 20 x 30′ and custom sizes.

Choose the vinyl coated polyester tarp to cover farm equipment, hay/mulch, crops, and vehicles. You can also use it as a divider curtain, non-slip floor cover when painting, or for shade awnings and patio canopies. Vinyl coated polyester tarps are often used to cover baseball fields between rainstorms.

#4 – Heavy Duty UVR Poly Tarps

Heavy duty UVR poly tarps aren’t the heaviest tarp in this list, but they are 12 mils thick, which makes them strong and durable. They also have UV protection, which keeps UV rays from breaking down the tarp material. This tarp has rust-proof grommets spaced every two feet to make it easy to secure. It resists mildew and water. They are not likely to rip or tear with excessive use.

Choose heavy duty UVR poly tarps to cover firewood or wood pellet bags. Use it as a privacy screen on a deck or fence. Use them when camping, to cover lawn equipment or machinery, or cover a boat that’s not being used. You can cover cars with this tarp, too. Don’t worry about it staining the finish of your vehicle or boat. The tarps come in black or white and in sizes ranging from 6 x 8′ to 50 x 50′.

#5 – Iron Horse Polyester Tarps

The toughest tarp you’ll find is the Iron Horse polyester tarp. It comes in seven colors (black, blue, brown, green, grey, tan, and white). This tarp is twice as tough as a canvas tarp. It’s completely waterproof and doesn’t stain or smell of plastic. It’s also breathable, which helps prevent mildew and condensation.

Iron Horse polyester tarps are ideal for boat and vehicle covers, covers for patio and deck furniture, and awnings and canopies for shade. Purchase this tarp in sizes ranging from 5 x 7′ to 30 x 30′. If you need a custom size, Chicago Canvas & Supply sells this tarp in custom sizes, too.

How Do You Extend the Life of Your Tarp?

To be sure you get a tarp that will last, what should you be looking for? Make sure you match the tarp to your intended use. If you’re looking for a cover for your boat, you do not want a tarp that’s going to stain. You also want one that’s waterproof but breathable to prevent the development of mildew. If you’re adding temporary walls to a covered deck for the winter, you want a tarp that stands up to UV light and is durable in below-zero weather. When you’re using it, tie-downs and bungee cords help secure it in place to keep it from shifting in the wind. If it’s over a sharp edge or corner, put down some foam or old towels between the tarp and edge/corner to prevent damage.

Treat your tarp with care. Never put a tarp away when it’s still wet or damp. Don’t put it away when it’s dirty. It needs to be clean and dry before it’s folded and stored. To do this, use a cleaning agent recommended for the type of tarp, scrub any stuck-on debris, and rinse it with a hose after you’ve used it and need to put it away. Once it’s clean and rinsed, hang it on a clothesline in the sun for hours so that it has time to thoroughly dry. When it is dry, have others help you fold it. You don’t want to have it hit the damp ground or land in dirt or mud and have to start the process all over. It must be clean and dry before it’s stored.

Keep the tarp stored in an airtight container that mice can’t get into. If you’re keeping your tarp in a garage or shed and a mouse gets in, it can destroy the tarp while it’s making a nest. If it’s in a container, you don’t have to worry about losing a tarp to mouse damage. If it does get damaged, look for repair kits that can help fix rips or tears and extend the life of your tarp. If you don’t have room for a container, hang the tarp somewhere a mouse won’t get it. You could hang it from your garage rafters instead.

After plenty of use, a canvas tarp may need to be retreated with the preserving agent like Canvak. This helps refresh the canvas tarp’s water-resistant nature. You won’t need to do this to other types of tarps, so you may want to think about that when you’re choosing your tarp. Canvas tarps may require a little more care to maintain their water-resistant nature, which can require extra time before storing the tarp when it’s not needed.

Are you looking for a size that’s not shown above? Chicago Canvas provides custom sizes on many of the tarps we sell. Note that many of our tarps are cut size. When the hems and seams are finished, it can take a few inches off each size. Make sure you’re factoring this into the size you order. As an example, if you need a tarp to cover a 10 x 10′ patio, you’d want a cut size tarp that’s at least 10.5 x 10.5′ to allow for room for the hem. Giving that little bit extra and ordering an 11 x 11′ tarp is the safer route to take. If you have any questions or need help deciding what size is best for your project, contact us via phone, email, or live chat.