Don’t Come up Short with Cut Size Tarps

The Difference of Cut Size vs. Finish Size for Tarps

What a frustrating feeling when you go to use your recently ordered tarp to cover your equipment, gym floor, or use for a tent…whatever the use, the tarp is just a few inches too short!  But you measured, right?  Of course you did.  You are sure of it. So unless some mythical creature lurking inside the box trimmed that heavy duty tarp exactly even while in transit, re-hemmed the tarp and carefully refolded the tarp as a practical joke, something went awry.  Well, what likely happened is you ordered a cut size tarp. What does that mean? Let us break it down for you.

When ordering a tarp, it is important to note if the dimensions specified are cut size or finish size. Not accounting for the variance in these can leave you with a tarp that is smaller than anticipated. So what exactly is the difference between cut size and finish size? This is a question that is often asked and definitely needs to be understood prior to ordering.


Cut Size

Cut Size refers to the size of a tarp before sewing of seams and hems.  As an example, for a 6’ x 8’ Cut Size tarp, the material will start at 6’ x 8’.  After sewing, it will finish approximately 5’6” x 7’6”.  Generally, you will lose 6-9” per dimension depending on the size of the piece and the number of seams needed to fabricate the piece.  3” of fabric is needed to make a hem, plus additional material is needed to sew the panels together.


Finish Size

Conversely, Finish Size refers to the size of a tarpaulin after sewing (hem) has been completed.  This means that if the Finish Size is specified when ordering, the extra fabric that is necessary to create hems and seams has already been accounted for and the actual end product will be 6’ x 8’. As such, a 6’ x 8’ Finish Size tarp will finish at 6’ x 8’ after sewing is completed.  In other words, the material will start larger, approximately 6’6” x 8’8” and then after the hems and seams are made, the piece will be 6’ x 8’ when completed.


 Tip: Tarps are typically listed as Cut Size,

so keep this in mind when ordering your tarps or covers.


While we can’t do anything about that mythical creature with a vendetta, we can rest assured that when you are ready to purchase your heavy duty tarps, you will know the exact dimensions you should be considering when ordering either a cut size or finish size tarp.  Remember, if you need a tarp to finish at a specific size it is important to take into account what size the tarp will be when completed.  When ordering a tarp, it is best to either order a Finish Size tarp, which will take longer to fabricate because it is a custom size, or add 6-9” for Cut Size which will likely mean ordering the next larger size to accommodate the loss of material in the sewing process.


Chicago Canvas & Supply’s tarps are listed as Cut Size. With competitive prices and short lead times, we invite you to explore our diverse offering of canvas, vinyl, pvc, mesh, and poly tarps.



8 thoughts on “Don’t Come up Short with Cut Size Tarps

  1. Cheryl Schimmel says:

    Very interesting and definitely helpful. I appreciate the clear explanation. Thank you

  2. Felice Morin says:

    This makes a lot of sense. This same thing happened to me once before a camping trip. Luckily when it comes to rain-proofing, it’s better to have a tarp that’s too small than a tarp that’s too big. The last thing you want is water between your tarp and your tent floor. Thanks for this clear explanation!

  3. Dale Edwards says:

    When I buy a tarp I want it to be an even foot size. If I want to buy a 10 x 12 tarp I want it to be 10 x 12, not 9.6 x 11.4. Who builds things shorter than a foot scale? I have just recently tried to cover an area that was 12 x 16 and added another 12 x 16 area beside it. After buying two tarps that were 12 x 16 I find that I’m very short on both sides. I have tried to buy many tarps for things and have found they are just not big enough and the next size up is too large. This should be regulated and they should be forced to make them an even foot size.

    • Thanks for your comment. The size discrepancy is the difference between cut size and finish size tarps. As the post mentions, “Generally, you will lose 6-9” per dimension depending on the size of the piece and the number of seams needed to fabricate the piece.” What we would suggest is ordering a custom size: Keep in mind that ordering a custom size doesn’t mean it will be more expensive. Provide us with what you need the finish size to be to ensure you have a tarp that meets your specifications.

  4. Bryan Caldwell says:

    Can you add eyelets in every 12 inches along the 8ft side, top and bottom?

  5. Peter says:

    I need 8×24 finished size white canvas drop cloth which will be use to hyde imperfections on a patio ceiling. Let me know if you have and costs. thx

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