Ten Things You’re Doing That Can Shorten Your Tarp’s Lifespan

Whether you purchase a vinyl tarp for a slip-and-slide or a heavy-duty poly tarp to cover firewood for the winter, you want to make sure it lasts. Are you making mistakes when you use or care for your new tarp? Here are ten things that people do that shorten their tarp’s lifespan.

  1. You Purchase the Wrong Tarp for Your Intended Use

One of the biggest mistakes people make is purchasing the wrong tarp for the intended use. While a poly tarp may be less expensive than an Iron Horse tarp, the Iron Horse tarp is waterproof, while a poly tarp is only water resistant. Iron Horse will do a better job of keeping items dry. Plus, Iron Horse is more durable, so you won’t have to replace it as often.

Say your roof develops a leak and you need to keep the water out of your attic and ceiling. A poly tarp is designed to protect the roof for around three months, but it may not do as well a job in heavy rain, snow, or ice. After three months, you could experience more leaking. If you invested in a waterproof tarp, you could have protection for upwards of two years.

Some tarps have UV protection and won’t degrade quickly when exposed to excessive sunlight. If you have a vinyl tarp that’s UV-treated, it will stand up to intense sun and heat better than a blue poly tarp.

An untreated canvas tarp can’t get wet or it may mold, mildew, and eventually rot. You cannot use it outside if it’s going to be exposed to rain. They’re usually paint or dust covers for indoor renovations and painting projects. A treated canvas tarp is water resistant, but it shouldn’t be used to cover cars, trucks, or furniture as the coating can stain items.

  1. You Improperly Secure the Tarp

Once you’ve chosen the correct tarp for your needs, it’s important to secure it properly. If you’ll only strapping it down in a few places, those grommets are taking the brunt of the force of wind or weight of water, snow, ice, etc. It’s going to lead to them wearing out faster. 

Regardless if it’s a vinyl tarp, poly tarp, Iron Horse tarp, or canvas tarp, most tarps have grommets placed every 18 to 24 inches. You can feed cable or braided poly theater cord through every grommet and securely tie the tarp down to stakes, eyelets, or hooks on a truck bed, wooden frame, deck, etc.

  1. You Don’t Repair Damage in a Timely Manner

Your tarp developed a hole or tear. It could be that a grommet tore out. You need to repair this damage quickly. The longer you let it go, the larger the hole or rip becomes. Eventually, it will be too large to repair.

Keep a grommet repair kit on hand. Extra grommets are also handy to have around. You also should have a patch kit and vinyl cement for vinyl tarps and a needle and heavy-duty thread if you have a canvas tarp. Patch and seal tape is also handy for quick repairs.

  1. You Secure It to an Uneven Frame

The framing you attach your tarp to has to be even or you end up putting extra pressure in certain areas. Abrasion can lead to damage that’s hard to repair.  Always make sure your tarp is on framing that is level and isn’t creating pressure points or uneven corners that can increase the risk of damage to the tarp.

  1. You Expose It to Too Much Wind or Weight

The tarp you’re purchasing is going to be exposed to a lot of wind, such as a truck bed cover for rocks or wood chips that you’re driving from one point to another. The force of that wind, even with a properly secured cover, is going to create friction. Make sure you’re using a tarp that stands up to abrasion caused by the force of the wind. 

For tarps that will be holding items, such as a roof over a patio that could collect snow, ice, or water, your framing and tarp must be able to support the weight. If you overload the tarp, it’s going to rip.

  1. You Ignore the Care Instructions

Pay attention to the tarp’s care instructions. For example, a canvas tarp that’s untreated can go into the washer and dryer. A fire-retardant tarp cannot get wet or it could wash away the chemicals that keep it from burning.

  1. You Let It Build Up Dirt and Grime

When a tarp is being used outside, don’t let it build up a lot of dirt and grime. The dirtier it gets, the harder it can be to get it clean. Plus, a lot of dirt could provide a loose seed with what it needs to grow. Things like tree roots can grow through a tarp if given the opportunity and that damage is hard to repair.

  1. You Forget to Let It Fully Dry Before Storing It

Always take care of your tarps. A general guideline is to clean them thoroughly, using a hose, dish soap, and push broom if necessary. Hang the tarp off the ground until it’s completely dry. It has to be dry before you store it. 

A damp tarp is more likely to develop mold or mildew, even if it’s mold or mildew-resistant. Remember that resistant means it’s less likely to, not that it won’t at all. After it dries, fold it up and store it in a sealed container that mice, squirrels, and chipmunks cannot get into.

  1. You Save Money by Choosing the Cheapest Tarp

We understand wanting to save money when groceries and gas prices are climbing. But, you have to think ahead. Saving money now could mean spending more in the future.

Suppose you pay less money for a blue poly tarp thinking it will be good enough. You put it on your shed roof until you can afford to have the shingles replaced next summer. After the winter, the tarp is starting to degrade and water is getting in during the spring rains. You still need to protect your mowers, power tools, etc. So, you purchase another blue poly tarp. You’ve now spent money on two tarps, which is 100% extra.

You could have spent 50% more initially and gotten a different UV-protected, heavy-duty tarp. Sure, you spent more at the time, but you’re saving money by having a tarp that will last years instead of months.

  1. You Skip Getting Expert Advice

When you work with a professional, you won’t end up buying the wrong tarp for the job. You cannot expect a canvas tarp to stand up with heavy snow and ice all winter, just as a blue poly tarp isn’t the best pool cover as it’s only water resistant and lacks UV protection. Before you purchase a tarp, talk to a tarp expert.

Not only are you wasting money purchasing the wrong tarp and ending up needing a new tarp in a year or two, but it also adds unnecessary waste to a landfill. With the right tarp, you save money in the long run and help the environment. Chicago Canvas can help you find the right tarp for your needs and ensure you have a tarp that will last a long time.