How to Build Makeshift Room Dividers to Help With COVID-19

Worldwide, more than 2.2 million people have become infected with COVID-19 as of April 4th. More than 310,000 people in the U.S. alone have the virus. There have also been more than 66,500 deaths in the world and close to 8,500 in the U.S. Hospitals in many regions are full. Makeshift medical centers are going up in tents, ships, colleges, and other buildings.

If you’re helping set up a makeshift medical ward, room dividers are a must. Beds need to be separated from each other to stop the spread. These room dividers need to block the flow of air, be easy to clean, and cover from the ceiling to the floor. This guide to building a makeshift room divider makes the job easy.

The Materials That Are Best for Coronavirus Room Dividers

If you’re making room dividers for a COVID-19 ward, we have three materials to recommend you use. You want a material that is easy to wipe down. It should have coatings that resist the growth of microbes and fungi like mildew. You don’t want a breathable fabric. These are the three tarps you should consider.

#1 – Clear PVC Tarps

Clear PVC tarps are  great as room dividers and curtains. The waterproof, antifungal tarps wipe clean and at 18 ounces are thick and protective. Whether this is a good choice for you depends on the situation. They’re clear, which eliminates some of the privacy patients may want. On the other hand, they allow nurses and doctors to monitor patients without having to leave a spot. They can look around the room and see if anyone seems to be in distress. Clear PVC tarps come in sizes up to 10′ x 12′.

As you’re looking for durable room dividers and curtains, you may come across commando cloth curtains. They are durable and flame retardant, but they’re not going to wipe clean as the vinyl-coated or vinyl-laminated tarps do. You would have to wash the curtains in between patients, which is not ideal. We say stick with the vinyl or PVC tarps for the ease of cleaning and assurance that the curtains do not absorb any body fluids.

#2 – 13-Ounce Vinyl Laminated Polyester Tarps

One of our preferred choices for COVID-19 room dividers is the 13-ounce vinyl laminated polyester tarps. The coated polyester tarps are waterproof. If the patient’s cough produces sputum, the vinyl tarp wipes down with ease. The body fluid is not going to soak into the makeshift wall. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Most important, it is a fire retardant tarp, which meets many guidelines for treating airborne infectious diseases. You can get the 13-ounce vinyl laminated tarps in nine sizes up to 20′ x 30′. These tarps come in nine colors, which makes it easy to color-code areas for quick identification.

#3 – 18-Ounce Vinyl Coated Polyester Tarps

If you want something heavier than the 13-ounce tarps, 18-ounce vinyl coated polyester tarps are even more durable and offer the same fire retardant qualities as the 13-ounce tarps. They are thicker and offer the best abrasion and tear resistance properties of these two options. Again, they are antifungal and waterproof. Get these tarps in 10 sizes (up to 20′ x 30′) and 16 colors. As they are heavier, you need to make sure the system you use for hanging them can handle the extra weight.

Sizing the Tarps for Your Makeshift Room Dividers

Getting the right size is critical for makeshift medical rooms. The tarp you use for a medical cubicle should reach from ceiling to floor without leaving gaps. Gaps allow germs to pass through when a patient coughs or sneezes. You don’t want that to happen, so you need to find out if the tarp you’re about to order is the cut size or finish size. If you need a 10′ x 10′ tarp and don’t see it’s cut size before finishing your order, you could end up a few inches short. Cut size tarps are measured before the seams and grommets are installed.

When the seams are added, it takes around three inches per side away from the tarp. The extra material is folded over and heat-sealed to form the seam. Grommets are then added into that seam. A 10′ x 10′ tarp that’s cut size would be more like 9.5′ by 9.5′ when the seams and grommets are added. Ask for a custom quote for finish size tarps if you want to be certain you have the correct vinyl tarp to form the walls in your temporary facility. Our customer support team is happy to answer questions and ensure you purchase the correct size.

How to Form the Walls With the Tarps

How do you hang these room dividers in a temporary medical facility? The answer depends on where you’re forming that makeshift medical ward. If you’re in a building with solid walls and ceilings, curtain tracks work well. The roller tracks have hooks on curtain trolleys that make it easy to hang the curtains and open and close them as needed. Chicago Canvas has roller track sections, ceiling supports, wall mounts, and curtain trolleys.

If you’re in a tent, you will need tall poles with weighted bases to hold the tarps. Search for pipe and drape room divider kits for temporary walls. These are your best options when you have no hard surface to hang the tarps from. Secure the tarps to the room divider framing using 550 paracord or rubber tie-downs with “S” hooks. Paracord is easiest to work with and is designed for heavy use.

Vinyl tarps come with grommets spaced about two feet apart. Hang the tarp from the top bar of your room divider kit or a curtain track. Pull the sides taut to secure to a vertical pole or wall. Do the same on the other side. If you don’t have a way to secure the sides of the temporary room dividers to the walls, be creative. You could use heavy-duty waterproof duct tape or weigh the bottom of the tarp with small sandbags or other weights to prevent the walls from shifting as people walk around.

Chicago Canvas & Supply is an essential business and is shipping orders during the pandemic. If you need tarps for makeshift room dividers, call us. We’ll help you choose the right tarps and help you select the correct size to ensure there are no gaps to help stop the spread. If you need ways to hang the room dividers we have suggestions to help. Reach us at 1-866-389-2218.