The Complete Tarpaulin Buying Guide

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The Complete Tarpaulin Buying Guide

When the weather turns bad or an item needs protection from sun exposure, the use of a tarpaulin provides the easiest way to secure and protect these items. Made of strong, often waterproof materials, tarps can cover anything from a load on a flatbed to piles of lumber stored outside of a home or at a job site. Another use for a tarpaulin is as a cover to protect items within or around a business or home while performing renovations. The tarp helps keep dust, dirt, and even paint off of items, such as furniture or floors.

When buying a tarpaulin, shoppers need to determine the thickness, size, material, and function of the tarp. They also need to know as much about the different tarp types available as possible, including truck, fence, pool, and insulated tarps. This allows shoppers to pick the right tarp, out of the many available, that fits their specific needs.

Tarpaulin Terms

The sections below contain terms most used when referring to tarpaulins. Shoppers should make themselves familiar with the following terms to make a more informed selection for the tarp best suited for their needs.


Measured in millimetres, the thickness of a tarpaulin ranges from 0.10 to 0.40 mm. The thicker the tarpaulin, the more heavy duty the application. Light tarpaulins find use indoors where they do not see much exposure to the weather, while items that see outdoor use and exposure to the elements require a heavy-duty tarp.

Mesh Count

Mesh size provides another indicator of tarpaulin strength, with a higher mesh count equalling a stronger tarp. This provides a general indication of the thickness of the tarp material, which in turn affects weight and the amount of protection that a particular tarp provides.

Cut Size and Finish Size

When purchasing a tarpaulin, shoppers need to know the difference between a tarp's cut size and its finish size. Cut size equates to the initial size of a tarp when first manufactured. This gives the tarp maker enough room to fold over the material of the tarp edge. This in turn helps reinforce it and prevents tears and overall wear of the tarp. This can lead to a finish size being around 7.6 to 15.2 centimetres shorter than the cut size. When buying a tarpaulin, shoppers need to remember this distinction and make sure they purchase the properly sized tarp for their needs.

Types of Tarpaulins

In addition to tarpaulin thickness, strength, and size, shoppers can find tarps keyed for specific purposes. The table below details some of the more common types of tarpaulins, such as black mesh, insulated, and flame retardant tarps.

Tarpaulin Types


UV Protected Tarpaulin

Available in a variety of colours; protects from the sun's harmful UV rays

Flame Retardant Tarpaulin

Treated with a special chemical, tarpaulins resist or slow down fire; comes in various colours

Blue Tarpaulin

Affordable tarpaulins; durable; available in various sizes; water resistant with reinforced edges

Black Mesh Tarpaulin

Ideal for patios and other outdoor structures; also useful for protecting gardens and nurseries from wind, sun, and frost damage

Truck Tarpaulin

Heavy-duty waterproof tarpaulins for use on flatbed trailers; uses reinforced D rings

Fence Tarpaulin

Used at construction sites and other areas for privacy; typically comes in black or green

Insulated Tarpaulin

Used to insulate areas from the heat or cold; manufactured of insulating material on one side and a polyethylene exterior

Pool Tarpaulin

Helps keeps leaves and other debris out of the pool; 100 per cent waterproof

Sports Tarpaulin

Used by various sports to cover the field for protection from the elements; large-sized tarps

When purchasing a tarpaulin, shoppers should determine the type and size of tarp that they need to make sure a return is not necessary after purchase. This includes various sports tarps, which can differ from sport to sport.

Tarpaulin Materials

Shoppers must also determine the type of material that they want in a tarpaulin. The following table contains the various tarpaulin material types, including mesh and canvas.

Material Types


Polyethylene Tarpaulin

A plastic-based synthetic polymer material; inexpensive, tough, and flexible material; waterproof

Canvas Tarpaulin

Closely woven fabric made of natural or synthetic fibres; can soak up spilled liquids such as paint

Mesh Tarpaulin

Manufactured from nylon threading to allow wind and water to flow through; great for reducing the flow of wind through an area

When choosing a tarpaulin material, shoppers should tailor their tarp of choice to what they need it for. This includes water resistance, the ability of the tarp to protect a surface such as a wood floor from paint, or whether they need a tarp to act as a wind buffer.

Other Uses for Tarpaulins

In addition to providing protection for items stored outdoors or cover from the sun for individuals and groups, tarpaulins also have other, not so apparent, uses. The sections below detail some of the other uses for tarpaulins.


A camouflage tarp can serve as an outside covering for blinds or other areas where hunters hide from the game they seek. They serve the dual purpose of hiding people and as protection from the elements.

Ground Cover

Tarpaulins also find use as ground cover for campers. Placing the tarp down first helps protect the bottom of a tent from damaging rocks and tree roots when putting the tent up. It can also keep the bottom of the tent somewhat cleaner than if the bottom was directly on the ground.

Emergency Use

Tarps also find use in emergency situations. They can work as a temporary cover for a damaged roof in a storm or as a makeshift shelter from the elements if stuck in the great outdoors without a shelter. Smart shoppers keep a tarp handy in their vehicle, bug-out bag, or within the home.

Tarpaulin Grommets

When manufacturing a tarpaulin, manufacturers fold over the outside edge of the tarp to reinforce it. Tarp makers then insert metal or plastic grommets at the corners and along the sides of the tarp. Tarp grommets allow tarp users to hook tarp straps or rope to secure the tarp in place. They come in various materials from stainless steel and steel to plastic.

Various-sized grommets allow installation in various-sized holes, including sizes from half of a centimetre to 2 centimetres. Consisting of two pieces, replacement grommets fit into pre-punched holes, with users pounding the two halves of the grommet together with a hammer.

Tarpaulin Straps, Clips, and Rope

After applying a tarpaulin on top of an item, users need some way to secure the tarp. A few choices exist, such as ropes and straps. Tarp straps, typically made of rubber or some other stretchy material, allow for the most versatility when securing a tarp. Rope on the other hand generally comes in longer lengths, usually from about 1 to almost 2 metres, that allow users to secure tarps to tie downs that straps may not reach. Tarp clips make it easier to tie down using straps and ropes in hard-to-reach areas.

Find Tarpaulins on eBay

If you have decided to purchase a tarp online, visit the eBay marketplace for a large selection of product options. To find the product of your choice, search the marketplace by entering keywords into the search box on any eBay page. Use terms like "extra heavy duty waterproof tarpaulin" or "camouflage tarpaulin", for example, to begin your search.

The list of results could be lengthy, so to narrow your choices down, click on the categories options to display the listings that detail only the specific items you are interested in, for example. eBay's search tips page also offers more help on searching for tarps. Moreover, eBay Shops provide a great variety of product options.

To make sure you are confident with a seller, review their feedback ratings. These ratings provide an insight into other shoppers' opinions about the seller based on their shopping history. Finally, once satisfied with the product specifications and seller history, complete your purchase.


Tarpaulins allow individuals to protect items from the elements, including rain, snow, or sleet. They also provide protection from dirt and debris and offer shade from the sun while outdoors. When purchasing tarps, shoppers need to first determine what type and size tarpaulin they need. After determining this, the next step includes determining the appropriate materials for the task at hand. The thickness of the tarp must likewise come under consideration, as items that expect exposure to the elements need a heavier tarp to protect them.

Another consideration when purchasing a tarpaulin involves the method for securing the tarp. The various methods include straps and rope. When securing a tarp, users should make sure that all grommets work properly. If not, replace them promptly. And finally, if necessary, shoppers should purchase clips that allow them to tie down or secure a tarp in place in hard-to-reach areas. Shoppers can find tarps and related accessories at local retail shops or online at such sites as eBay.

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