How To Use Tarps As a Patio Enclosure

Summer’s here, but it’s tough to spend as much time as you want outside. Between the wasps and hornets, biting flies and mosquitoes, and damaging UVA and UVB rays, you limit time spent outside. Did you know that tarps are the perfect solution to these summertime annoyances?

Tarps turn your deck, patio, or balcony area into a gorgeous screened-in space that bugs can’t get into and that limits your exposure to the sun. On rainy days, your porch or deck is screened in, so you can still use it. Imagine sitting outside on your deck on a rainy afternoon and not having to rush back inside.

The basic design is:

  1. Create four vertical posts at each corner of your deck or patio.
  2. Across those four posts will be crossbeams that support a roof, if needed, and allow you the structure to hang the tarps from.
  3. Stretch a tarp over the cross beams to form a roof to keep out rain and too much sun.
  4. Hang a mesh tarp from each side to block some UV rays and keep bugs away.

Why not just screen in a patio or deck? You could, but once you’ve built permanent walls, your town or city may consider that permanently screened area as additional square footage and increase your property taxes. Plus, you’ll be replacing screening every few years due to winter weather and sun exposure. Tarps can be taken down once fall arrives and stored until the next year.

Building a temporary enclosure is not hard to do. Start by getting measurements. You need to know what size frame and tarps to order. Measure twice to ensure you didn’t make a mistake. If the measurements differ on the second try, start over. You could have someone else measure the area to verify you get it right. Our guide helps you understand how to build the frame and use tarps as a patio enclosure.

Build Your Frame

If you have a balcony, you likely already have another structure above you. You can hang a tarp from the structure above you that goes to the floor. If that doesn’t look possible, you could use a length of PVC piping and hang that horizontally across to form a rod to hang a mesh tarp insect screen.

For a covered deck, you also won’t need much framing. You already have a roof in place from the roof, which makes it easy to add the screening you need and consider how to block insects from coming in from underneath.

This leaves an uncovered deck or patio. If you want to install a wooden frame, it’s a bit more costly, but it’s a durable option. You’d want the vertical posts and horizontal posts to frame in the area you’re going to screen in. Use concrete or foam concrete to affix the posts in the ground, preventing the tarp enclosure from blowing over in strong winds.

Another option is a frame you make from PVC pipes and elbows to form the corners and crossbeams. PVC pipe primer and cement help form a strong bond between the pipes and the elbows.  Again, you should consider affixing the posts to the ground to keep them from blowing over.

Do you need another option? If you need a ready-made kit for the pergola, you can find them online. Many are around $200 to $300 and include all of the posts and cross beams in a DIY kit. This can be a great solution if you’re short on time or equipment to build your own.

Consider the Flooring

If you’re working with a deck, insects can come in through the slats on the floor. Prevent that by putting down a heavy-duty tarp. It will be slippery when it’s wet, so make sure you consider safety and have towels to sop up any rainwater that gets in.

You could put down a mesh tarp for flooring, too. It will drain and be less slippery, but you need to be careful walking on it as it’s not as durable. That’s why we prefer heavy-duty poly tarps.


  • Durable at 8 mils thick
  • Resist water and mildew
  • Come in a variety of colors, including white, green, brown, and silver
  • UV treated
  • Available in sizes up to 40′ x 60′, depending on the color

No matter what you use, pull it taut. You don’t want it to shift around when people are walking on it. Keeping some rubberized flip-flops near the deck or patio that have good traction is helpful in preventing a slip and fall.

A Waterproof Tarp Is Important for the Roof

If you’re not working with a covered deck, you need to add a roof to the frame you built. You want a tarp that is waterproof, durable, and stands up to wind. Our pick is Iron Horse as it matches all three requirements.

Iron Horse tarps are polyester tarps that are treated with silicone. It’s stronger than canvas and is waterproof. It’s often used to make shade structures, canopies, and awnings. That makes it our first choice for creating a roof on an outdoor screened-in patio or deck.


  • Breathable, so it won’t build up condensation
  • Twice as strong as canvas
  • Not extremely heavy at 15 oz per square yard
  • Sizes up to 20′ x 20′ and even custom sizing if you need it
  • Matches your home décor with six color options
  • No odor

Use Vinyl-Coated Mesh Tarps for the Sides

Once the framework is in place, use vinyl-coated mesh tarps for the sides of your outdoor enclosure. Install hooks from the wood or PVC framing. It takes little more than a drill, ladder, and hooks for hanging the tarps. Once the hooks are installed, hang the mesh tarp from the grommets.

After the sides are in place, use bricks or sandbags to weigh down the side on windy days. That holds the sides from blowing in on you, even if you want to sit outside when it’s breezy.


  • Lightweight at 10 oz per square yard
  • Provides 55% shade
  • Waterproof
  • Fine mesh keeps out even small black flies
  • Available in sizes of up to 10′ x 18′
  • Black or multicolor available

Other Considerations

If you really want to get a lot of use from your deck or patio all summer long, you could also invest in some clear PVC curtains. If it’s breezy and raining, the clear curtain keeps the rain out. Put it up in the rain and take it back down on sunny days. Clear PVC curtains come in sizes up to 10′ x 12′ or 8′ x 20′. Again, sandbags or bricks keep them from blowing in on you.

Create ambient lighting using solar or battery-powered string fairy lights. LED lights last and provide the lighting you’d need for outdoor drinks or a late evening dinner outside.

Talk to an Expert

Make sure you have everything you need when it comes to your tarp roof, walls, and floor. The experts at Chicago Canvas are happy to help you order the right size and kind of tarp.

All of our tarps are on sale at Chicago Canvas. Enclose your balcony, deck, or patio and spend hours outside this summer while enjoying savings of more than 15% off the tarps you need. Send us a message today.