Which Materials Make the Best Tarpaulin?

Tarpaulins, commonly referred to as “tarps,” are versatile, easy to set, and can last for a long time based on the quality of material they are made from. The market today has a variety of tarps in different styles that are meant to address different situations. These include waterproof, automatic, mesh, and traditional tarps that can be used for construction sites, loaded on flatbeds, and campgrounds among others. Tarps can be easily differentiated due to different features and weave patterns.

Traditional tarps are often made of polyester, canvas, nylon, polyethylene, and polypropylene. Tarps made mostly of polyethylene are more durable, stronger, and have a more waterproof ability as compared to other types of material like canvas. Nylon ground covers and polyethylene mesh tarps are more lightweight and allow shade from the sun while still being breathable.

History Behind Tarps

Tarps have been around for many years using different materials such as plastic, cotton, polyester, metal, canvas, and nylon. Throughout this period up to the present day, tarps have gone through numerous ups and downs. This has facilitated the changes and development of tarps. The following are the few stages that tarps have gone through;

  • Period between 1400-1600

During this time tarps were mostly used by sailors at sea. It was important to protect goods from water, salty spray, and debris during transit. Originally it was known as “tarpaulin” derived from the words “tar” and “pall.” Pall was a fabric used by sailors to cover themselves during sailing.

  • Period between 1600-1900

In this period, tarps were used inland by people during travel to ensure goods were protected. They were also used to cover wagons during trips or when moving. During the 1700s, tarps began being used as tents. They had a waterproof surface that ensured that the travelers stayed dry and warm.

  • Period between 1900-Present Day

The industrial revolution made major changes for tarp development, such as the introduction of more durable materials like rubber and plastic. Today tarps can be used for a variety of reasons, such as to cover floors during painting, protect items during transportation, provide shelter when camping, aid in construction, or prevent a roof from leaking.

Automatic tarps were developed relatively recently. They are protective and easier to set up than other types of other tarps. They are also cost-effective and highly durable for truck and trailer transportation. The materials used are mostly metallic and electric cabled for an easy and reliable automatic tarp system.


Types of Tarp Materials

Tarps are made of a variety of materials depending on their use. Their main use is for covering, but they often need special characteristics such as strength, flexibility, and water resistance. Sometimes they may need to protect against extreme weather conditions like heavy sun exposure, storms, or strong winds.

The materials present in tarps are the basis for selecting the type of tarp to use. Tarps are classified based on different specifications, and the best material will depend on your needs.

Water resistance

Tarps are used to protect goods or spaces from rain or moisture. A water-resistant tarp is useful when you want to protect your goods. Tarps have a range of levels of resistance. Some tarps are completely waterproof while others are only slightly water-resistant.


One of the most common materials in tarps is nylon, which has a very strong strength-to-weight ratio. Its elasticity is also a benefit for “stretching” in tarps and is extremely durable. Vinyl-laminated polyester tarps are fire retardant and waterproof, which makes them ideal for long-term outdoor use. 

Resistance to corrosion

Degradation easily results due to acids, oils, greases, mildew, and even sunlight. You should choose a tarp with a special resistance coating if you expect to use it in these conditions.


This is measured by the ability of a tarp to hold together when subjected to force. Materials used and the method used to weave play an important role in the strength of a tarp. Depending on where you will be using your tarp, it may need to be able to withstand strong winds without tearing or breaking.

Abrasive resistance

This refers to tarps resisting split from sharp edges. Canvas and vinyl are more abrasive resistant as compared to other types of tarps. 

Tarp features

Depending on what you plan to use your tarp for, you may need to look for special features. For example, if you need extra strength and protection from tears, you’ll want to choose a tarp with a sealant. Some tarps are even coated with materials that are flame-resistant or corrosion-resistant. You also may need a tarp with grommets, which are plastic eyelets or metal that are used to help ensure tie-downs are secured.

You can find accessories like replacement ropes, tarp-tie downs, grommets, and anti-mildew treatments. These features help you in the selection of the specific tarp that you need.

It’s easy to opt for the cheapest tarp - and sometimes that may be the best choice if you don’t necessarily need a durable tarp. However, more expensive tarps are more likely to be higher quality because of the materials used. They often will not not need constant maintenance or replacement, either. It usually ends up being more cost-effective to opt for a more expensive tarp since you won’t have to repurchase a new one for a longer period of time.


Types of tarps

  • Mesh tarps

This type of tarp is breathable; it allows moisture, air, and sunlight to pass through. In some cases, mesh tarps can even block UV rays. Vinyl can block up to 55% of the UV rays, while polyethylene and polypropylene can block up to 90% of the UV rays. They often have double-stitched hems and grommets on the edges that allow you to tie them down.

These are constructed to have small holes between thread fabrics. This makes them have a lower resistance to wind than other tarps. Mesh tarp is mostly used to secure and haul sand, gravel, and lightweight goods in the back of trucks.

Mesh tarps are also used as pool covers during the winter, as well as sunlight protectors for plant nurseries and backyards.

  • Canvas tarps

Canvas tarps are made from a heavy material, and they are usually coated with wax that offers some water-resistance. A specific dye can also be used to make it more water-repellant. Treated canvas offer water-resistance quality and sun rays protection, while untreated canvas offers minimal protection against these characteristics.

Canvas tarps are used in many ways, such as to protect flat loads of vegetables and fruits on trucks or keep floors and carpets clean during painting. Because of its versatility, they are also often used in construction companies. They are also made of natural fibers that can withstand high temperatures, making it a great option for transporting materials like asphalt in brutally hot weather. 

  • Clear tarps

These tarps can be made from either heavy-duty or lightweight materials, and are made to resist wind, grease, mildew, and chemicals. They are used in construction sites where workers need a clear view of the area while being protected from outside conditions.

They are also common for household uses because of their ability to allow light through. This factor makes them good for greenhouses or even in residential areas to enclose an outdoor porch during harsh weather conditions.

  • Ratchet side roll tarps

These tarps are well designed and waterproof to accommodate bulk heaped loads that are above bows. Therefore, they are also commonly referred to as Side Rolls. This tarp manually rolls out to cover the load area. It is installed with a master bow and fabric cap that eliminates bulkhead strapping.

  • Automatic tarp systems

The automatic tarp system is one of the latest advancements in tarp technology. This tarp system enhances driver security and safety as well as the goods during transportation. The chances of getting an injury while loading your truck are greatly reduced. Automated systems offer variations in open trucks, detachable containers, and the bodies for trailers and trucks.

The quality of this system and performance is guaranteed. It has all the power you could need for each tarp application. This shows how reliable the system is. It is important to ensure the effective, safe and efficient transportation of goods.

It also has a durable lightweight system. This enhances safety during operations and loading of cargo in trucks.

Maintenance costs are highly reduced due to the replacement parts that are readily available. The wireless operation on an automatic system, whether it is an external or in-cable switch is easily maintained.

Trucks and trailers have roll-off tarp systems. It is 26 feet of the tarp. However, there are different types of automatic tarp systems. Trailers may also have front-to-back tarp systems ranging anywhere from 28-44 feet. Each is designed to cover specific goals. The tarps are different based on the speed, pick up hooks, among other features that make these systems unique.


Importance of colors on tarps

The most common color of tarp is blue, and they are often seen on construction sites and trucks transporting corn or other food products. However, there are other colors of tarps; these colors sometimes have significance but it often depends on the company producing them. For example, one company might use red to signify dangerous materials while another company could use red to mean more visibility. There are no government regulations on specifications on the type of colors or their meaning on tarps, but companies generally follow similar color schemes.

  • Yellow, orange, and red

Red is mostly used to show visual importance for materials or dangerous places in construction sites. It reduces the risks of getting into an accident as it warns workers to use extra caution in these areas. You can also use the different colors to show different stages of construction. For instance, orange for the first stage, yellow second stage, and red third stage.

Most companies use these colors for heavy-duty tarps. They absorb sunlight rather than reflect it. They are ideal to transport asphalt that requires high temperatures.

  • White and silver

These tarps reflect sun rays and are mostly used to offer shade. They are applicable for tent canopies since they give a cool environment. White is most preferred for hot weather conditions since it is the best color that reflects sunlight and heat.

  • Brown, blue and green

This is one of the basic color tarps. Usually, it is used for basic and general-purpose tarps. It is meant for light industrial activities and consumer goods. Used for construction, contractors, farmers, and roofers.

The tarp color should be considered before you make a purchase. However, consult with the company before making any purchase to make sure the colors do not have different properties or uses.

Materials that make the best tarpaulin are based on different materials and coatings. The best tarpaulin should be based on its ability to cover all your needs. These needs are based on color, water resistance, or waterproof tarp characteristics. Tarpaulin has completely advanced into the technological era. Automatic tarpaulin is the latest in the market with amazing features.

What Are Tarpaulins Used For?

Thanks to their durability, tarps are often used in the trucking and farming industries to protect products while in transport. Depending on the tarp's water resistance level, it may be used to secure farm equipment in harsh weather. Tarps can also provide reliable protection against dirt and other abrasive materials due to their high tensile strength and tear resistance.

What Types of Tarpaulins Are Available?

Tarps are commonly available as flat sheets of protective fabric in a variety of sizes, working for general use, such as protecting garden furniture. However, there are also more custom tarpaulins specifically designed for industrial applications. These tarp systems feature ropes and custom hole spacing, allowing users to secure trailer loads during transit. Additionally, some tarpaulins are compatible with roll systems for grain trailers and farm trucks, providing protection for loads against the elements.