Plastics can take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill. Untreated canvas takes up to a year. Add a treatment, and it extends the lifespan of that treated canvas tarp. The UV rays from the sun help speed up the rate of deterioration, but a tarp will get buried in a landfill, so sun exposure isn’t going to help break them down. Every time you throw away a tarp, you should consider the impact on the environment.
When buying a tarp, some consumers look at the longevity of the material for that very reason. They want to keep the number of tarps they’re throwing away to a minimum. Not only will this save money in the long run, but a more durable tarp will protect your materials or items better than a discount tarp. You’re looking for high-quality tarpaulins, as you want a tarp that won’t need to be replaced every year or two. How do you find a tarp that does what you need and doesn’t quickly wear out?
Tips for Purchasing a High-Quality Tarp
Several steps go into finding a high-quality tarp for your next product or purpose. To get started, consider why you need the tarp. While a coated canvas tarp is durable, it’s not waterproof. If you need waterproof tarps, you will do better with a vinyl tarp. If you need a strong tarp that doesn’t allow condensation to develop under the tarp, a vinyl tarp isn’t a good choice. These are the things you need to consider.
#1 – Materials Play an Important Role
Materials play an essential role in the strength and longevity of a tarp. Tarps can be made of cotton canvas or a variety of plastics.
Canvas tarps often come in a few options. You can have an untreated tarp, which won’t offer any protection from water. However, they can be tossed into the washing machine for quick clean-up, making them a popular drop cloth for painting and remodeling. A treated canvas tarp resists water, but the wax and oil coating that creates the water-resistant coating will stain items below it.
Plastic tarps may be made using polyethylene or vinyl. Polyethylene is a standard plastic that’s used to make everything from milk tarps to yogurt containers. A poly tarp is treated to prevent damage from UV rays. They resist water but are not waterproof. Poly tarps include heavy-duty tarps or the thinner, less durable blue tarps you often see in discount stores.
A vinyl tarp is the other type of plastic tarp. You start with a polyester tarp, but the material is coated in vinyl for durability. That vinyl coating also ensures the tarp is waterproof and unlikely to get damaged by exposure to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.
There’s also the Iron Horse tarp, that’s a blend of polyester and silicone. These tarps are designed to last and stand up with excessive use. The material breathes, preventing condensation from building up under the tarp. They’re also completely waterproof.
#2 – Do You Need Waterproof or Water-Resistant Tarps?
Would the items below your tarp become damaged or fail to work if water seeped through the tarp? If that’s a risk, you must choose a waterproof tarp. If they’d be okay with a bit of exposure to moisture, a water-resistant tarp would be suitable. What if you’re only using the tarp inside? Does the tarp have to protect against water at all if it’s inside? That’s another aspect to consider.
Waterproof tarps will resist mold and mildew. If a tarp gets moldy, it’s going to deteriorate. Keeping it clean and drying it thoroughly between uses is essential, but you also want to look for tarps that specify they resist mold and mildew.
#3 – What Are You Using the Tarp For?
You’ve narrowed your choices to waterproof, water-resistant, or neither. Now, you need to look at your intended purpose. The tarp you’d pick to cover your roof is different from the tarp you’d use to winterize your boat for storage. Some tarps can withstand frigid winter temperatures, but others can’t. You also have to consider how much time the tarp will be in strong winds, intense sun, and extremely high temperatures.
#4 – How Thick a Tarp Do You Want?
Knowing the intended use is important when it comes to choosing the tarp’s thickness. Tarps are measured in two ways. One comes down to ounces per square yard. You may find that two types of tarps suit your needs, but one is available in a 14-ounce weight while the other is 18 ounces. The heavier tarp is thicker and may better meet your needs.
Tarps are also measured in millimeters (100 millimeters equals 1 inch) of thickness. A 10 mil tarp is 0.010 inches thick, while a 20 mil tarp is 0.020 inches thick. Heavy-duty tarpaulins are often a minimum of 13 mils thick.
#5 – What Features Do You Need?
The final considerations are features that add to the durability. You want seams and hems to be heat-sealed or double-hemmed for durability. Grommets should be close together. Ideally, look for a tarp that has the grommets spaced at least 24 inches apart or closer.
Our Best High-Quality Tarp Options
Chicago Canvas & Supply offers a selection of high-quality tarpaulins for sale. We recommend these specific tarps.
We sell our water-resistant canvas tarps in 16 or 18-ounce weights. Choose 18 ounces when you want a high-quality tarp. The canvas material breathes to prevent the build-up of condensation on items stored under the tarp. Use it for:
- Campground covers
- Construction sites
- Covering cargo and building supplies
18-Ounce Vinyl Tarps
An 18-ounce vinyl tarp is 20 mils thick and resists abrasion and tears, making it one of our strongest tarps. It’s completely waterproof, and it repels mold and mildew. Seams are heat-sealed for strength, and the entire tarp is protected against UV rays. Use it in frigid temperatures or extreme heat with confidence. The best uses for 18-ounce vinyl tarps are:
- Construction projects
- Hauling freight or goods that must be protected from water
- Industrial and agricultural covers
- Outdoor awnings and canopies
The clear PVC tarp is a good contender in certain situations. It is 20 mils thick and has an 18-ounce weight. It’s one of the most popular tarps on a construction site as it allows natural light to pass, which helps keep winds and rain out without blocking light to the room or area under construction. It’s best for:
- Enclosing a porch or patio
- Camping sites/enclosures
- Construction sites
- Door and window openings
Iron Horse Polyester Tarps
Iron Horse tarps are even stronger than canvas tarps. The canvas/polyester tarp blend is covered in a silicone treatment for extreme waterproofing. Despite being waterproof, the material also allows air to pass. At 15 ounces, this isn’t the heaviest tarp out there, but it’s one of the most durable thanks to that silicone coating. Hems are double thick for durability. Use it for:
- Covering cars and boats
- Outdoor awnings, canopies, and shade structures
- Protecting outdoor furniture during the winter
When purchasing high-quality tarpaulins, don’t worry too much about sizing. While we offer a wide range of cut sizes, we’re also happy to provide custom sizes for many of our tarps. Reach out to us with the tarp size you need, and we’ll work with you to get the exact measurements required for the finish size tarp.
Fill out the online form at Chicago Canvas & Supply to get a quote. We’re also happy to talk to you about the different tarps we offer and how to choose the best tarp fabric and features for your needs.