How to Repair a Tarp

Any tarp is going to degrade over time. Heavy-duty tarps tend to last much longer than a poly tarp. Eventually, a vinyl tarp reaches its end-of-life. An Iron Horse tarp is going to last longer than most tarps, but only if you use it correctly and take care of it.

Cleaning a tarp after use is important. Making sure it’s dry before you fold it and put it into storage is also crucial. If a tarp is damaged, fix it as quickly as you can. A small rip can be easily fixed, but it gets harder to properly repair it if it extends to a foot-long tear. Missing grommets leave holes that can expand. Fix a missing grommet quickly and prevent further damage.

Different types of tarps require different repairs. You won’t repair a clear PVC tarp the same way you’d repair a canvas tarp. Learn more about how to repair tarps to ensure they last a long time.

Techniques for Repairing Different Types of Tarps

What are the best methods for fixing a tarp? The repairs you make depend on the tarp itself. Most tarps are poly, mesh, Iron Horse, vinyl, or canvas.

#1 – Canvas Tarp Repairs

What kind of canvas tarp is being repaired? An indoor canvas tarp that’s used as a drop cloth for painting or when doing interior renovations can quickly have a rip or tear sew by hand. A canvas tarp is the only tarp that you can sew, but you need to have a heavy-duty thread for mending rips in canvas. The thread needs to stand up to water, sun, and temperature changes. You don’t want to use a thin thread that will break down quickly. UV-treated polyester and marine thread are your best choices.

A heavy-duty sewing machine will help with canvas tarp repairs. You can sew the rip or tear by hand, preferably with a sailmaker’s needle, but you need to keep your stitches close. The best stitch to use is a flat felled seam. You’ll know this stitch best from a pair of jeans where you get two rows of stitching along the seam.

You may need a canvas tarp repair kit. This kit includes a piece of canvas that’s glued securely over a hole or uneven tear using an all-purpose tarp cement. If you’re dealing with punctures or holes, look for a patch kit instead of leaving an uneven seam in the tarp.

Once you’ve repaired a canvas tarp, use Canvak to add a new coating of water-resistant wax preservative on tarps that are used outside. That helps ensure its water-repellent qualities. Make sure the Canvak coating is over the thread to help the thread repel water, too.

#2 – Mesh, Vinyl, and Poly Tarp Repairs

Duct tape isn’t ideal, so avoid the temptation to use duct tape to fix your poly tarp. Duct tape is waterproof, but it doesn’t always stand up to months of rain, snow, and ice. Only very specific brands are UV resistant. Duct tape is usually only water-resistant versus waterproof.

Instead, look into tarp tape. Tarp tape is an 18-ounce vinyl tape that’s coated with a strong adhesive that stands up to the weather. Tarp tape is also treated to be UV resistant to stand up to the sun’s intense rays. For the best bond, use tarp tape on the front and back of the tarp where there’s a rip or hole.

Tarp tape will also help with repairs on a clear PVC or mesh tarp. It is important to realize though that the repair will be visible. If you won’t be able to tolerate having a solid piece of tape over a hole in a mesh tarp or on a clear tarp, you may need to replace the tarp instead.

Your other option is vinyl cement. HH-66 Vinyl Cement is designed to patch tears and holes in vinyl coated and vinyl laminated tarps with a waterproof, weather-resistant bond. This vinyl cement is fast setting and dries within two or three minutes.

Repairs made with vinyl cement stand up to extreme cold and hot days. Brush it around a hole or rip and place a patch over it. Check the bond after a couple of minutes to ensure the patch has adhered correctly. You can also use vinyl cement to seal a seam that’s opening up.

#3 – Repairs for Missing or Loose Grommets

If a grommet has loosened or is missing, a grommet repair kit is essential. Cut a hole in the fabric using the hole cutter and hammer. Place the wood block to have a hard surface that won’t damage your table or workbench. Position this hole away from the hole from the missing grommet to ensure the strength of the replaced grommet.

Once the hole is cut, place the included anvil behind the hole you’ve created. Fit the back part of the grommet through the back of the hole. Place the front side of the grommet over it on the other side of the tarp.

Place the grommet setting tool over the front of the new grommet and use the hammer to secure the two parts together. To prevent mistakes, take your time and make sure the grommet pieces are properly aligned. Consider practicing on a scrap piece of old tarp first to learn how to position the grommet parts together.

When Do You Replace a Tarp?

A lot of factors go into the longevity of a tarp. How do you use it? What type of tarp did you buy? A tarp that’s used to cover loads of stone during trucking needs to be tough enough to stand up to the wind and sharp stone edges. Too many rips and tears, even if repaired, will impact the integrity of the tarp.

The quality of any repairs also matters. If you do a quick repair job with a piece of duct tape, the repair is only going to be as strong as the tape. When you don’t take time and care, the repair may not hold as well as a professional-level repair.

How large are the tarp’s rips and tears? When they’re too large, it may be hard to effectively repair a tarp. It’s often better to purchase new. If the tarp is showing any signs of rotting, it’s time for the tarp to be retired. Most tarps won’t rot, but a canvas tarp can deteriorate if it’s allowed to get wet and sit that way for an extended period.

What do you do with your old tarp? Most districts want you to throw them into the trash. Before you do, see if any companies want used tarps. Some recycle them into new items. Why not save your old tarp? The sections that are still in great condition can be used to repair other tarps.

Make sure your new tarp matches your needs. If you need a strong tarp for covering a roof during heavy rain, a blue poly tarp isn’t your best option. Look for a waterproof tarp that extends past the damaged area to best keep water out.

Talk to the tarp experts at Chicago Canvas about your needs. We offer a wide range of tarps in different weights and sizes. We also offer custom sizes if you require a tarp that isn’t a standard size.