23rd Feb 2023 -

What is tarpaulin?

Occasionally known as tarp, a tarpaulin sheet is durable yet lightweight and a key staple for construction and landscaping projects. Tarpaulin is widely used as a temporary solution for roof repairs to stop water from seeping inside your home or workplace. But if you are waiting for repairs over the course of weeks or maybe months, tarpaulin sheets are still a viable option. Also, tarpaulin is commonly used as a protective material from plaster and paint if you are working indoors and outdoors.

Grams per square metre (GSM) is the reference to the weight of the material to construct a sheet of tarpaulin. GSM is the typical grading system used by suppliers. As a guide, a 90 GSM sheet is a strong enough material for interior jobs, such as covering furniture when painting. But a 500 GSM sheet is the strongest one available - you will confidently be able to use this for all outdoor projects.

Where can you use tarpaulin?

Whether you are planning a construction or landscaping job, you can use tarpaulin for a variety of tasks and projects.

Keeping things dry

Simple and affordable, tarp is particularly handy for keeping anything dry. Without using a tarp sheet as protection, you could easily learn the hard way about how wet weather conditions can damage materials and tools. You can effectively use it to cover your car or work van, as a temporary solution to stop a leak on your shed roof, and even protect plants from a harsh storm.

Covering damages

It is devastating to find your window has been smashed. If you are not able to permanently fix a window straight away, using tarp sheets is an effective method to cover the damage in the meantime. Because of its strong and durable properties, it will help to temporarily protect your property from weather elements and insects.

Transporting materials

A popular use for tarp is to transport goods from one place to another. For example, a common type in the transportation industry is flatbed trailer tarps.
The flatbed trailer tarps protect goods and materials from general wear and tear as well as any weather damage. 

Garden landscaping

Instead of pulling weeds out yourself, you can use a tarpaulin sheet. The sheet covers weeds and adds pressure to them before you plant flowers and prevents future weeds from growing in a flower bed. For this to work, you need to use a dark-coloured tarp to warm the soil and absorb heat. Tarpaulin clips can be used to hold down the sheet. 

Different types of tarpaulin

The type of tarpaulin you buy will depend on how you plan to use it and the layout of the job. Below is a guide on the different tarpaulin types and their primary uses.

1. Mesh tarpaulin

This type allows sunlight, moisture and air to travel through and is a breathable material. Mesh tarpaulin is used for a varied range of reasons, from transporting goods at the back of lorries and vans to covering swimming pools during the winter months. Small holes are constructed in between the thread fabric which makes mesh tarpaulin less resistant to wind. 

2. Canvas tarpaulin

Created using a heavy material, canvas tarpaulin is generally wax-coated and provides some resistance to water. You will find canvas tarpaulin is primarily used for maintaining clean floors during painting and decorating, as well as to cover and protect food and other goods on lorries and vans. Because it is constructed with natural fibres and can resist high temperatures, canvas tarpaulin is an excellent choice for transporting materials such as asphalt.  

3. Heavy-duty tarpaulin

As a rule of thumb, if the tarpaulin is heavy, it will have better durability. With this in mind, it is strongly recommended to use heavy-duty tarpaulin whenever you can. Especially if you are building a tarpaulin roof to cover an area for a long period of time. But it is important to remember that if the surface is weak, the effectiveness of the tarpaulin could become an issue. Be sure to consider the heavy-duty type if the surface is suitable.  

4. Clear tarpaulin 

Produced either with heavy-duty or lightweight materials, clear tarp is manufactured to withstand mildew, chemicals, grease and wind. It is a popular choice in construction for protecting areas and surfaces while builders need a clear view of where they are working. Plus, clear tarpaulin is a common choice in residential settings for greenhouses - you can also use it to protect an outdoor porch area from severe weather conditions.

Advantages of using tarpaulin

Especially for building and construction jobs, the benefits of using tarpaulin sheets make it a viable material for a wide range of tasks. Here are some key advantages to consider. 

1. Heat-resistant

Some tarpaulin including heavy-duty vinyl tarps are produced from materials that can survive very high temperatures. They are suitable for use in garages and other similar environments. In addition to building and construction, tarp is well-suited for other industries and activities such as welding. 

2. Little maintenance

After you have finished using tarpaulin sheets for one purpose, you can reuse them for another job. If needed, they can easily be cleaned and allowed to dry before folding. Also, because the sheets easily fold, tarp is conveniently portable from one job to the next. They take up little room when stored. 

3. Durable properties

Ideal for building and construction jobs, tarpaulin sheets are made from a high-quality PVC material which makes them extremely strong and durable, despite being lightweight. Because of this, tarp is also tear-resistant and abrasion-proof, allowing you to repeatedly use the sheets for a long time. 

4. Mostly water-resistant

Although this will depend on the type of tarp material you choose, a majority of tarpaulin sheet types are water-resistant. Custom heavy-duty vinyl tarpaulin sheets are known to be completely waterproof. Whereas others which are created using PVC-coated polyester are only partly water-resistant. 

5. Flexibility

Because of their little maintenance, tarp sheets are very flexible and can be used to protect and cover all kinds of different shapes and sizes. Whether you wish to cover your car or garden furniture, tarp sheets will provide a strong layer of protection and security. 

Disadvantages of using tarpaulin 

Despite the clear advantages, there are some downsides to using tarp that you should be aware of. If you know the potential issues beforehand, you can prepare properly if anything was to happen. 

1. Condensation 

When the sun heats up the area underneath the tarpaulin, the ground moisture will evaporate. As a result, the water droplets on the tarp cover and underneath will fall onto the stored tools and materials. If water underneath the tarp is caused by rainfall or condensation, this is generally a bad sign. To combat condensation, canvas tarpaulin does resist condensation because it is made from a breathable material. But rainfall still could be an issue as it is not fully waterproof. 

2. Poor organisation

If you plan on using tarpaulin covers for all of your tools and materials for a period of time, it will prove difficult to organise everything in a constructive order. With a storage shed or unit, you can put up shelves to neatly store any materials - you can easily locate specific items without spending a long time. But if you are storing everything under a tarp cover, the storage options are limited to the ground or cardboard boxes. 

3. Potential rips

Rips in tarpaulin sheets are never a good outcome, particularly if they are large or in the middle of a sheet where rain can cause considerable damage. Not only will rips expose your items to rainfall, but also wind, sun and any roaming creatures. Depending on their size, rips can be difficult to identify. You may be able to fix them using tape or a plastic repair kit, but you might be too late when the damage has already been done. 

4. Possible leaks

When tarpaulin sheets are worn out over time, their waterproof qualities will weaken and tiny holes will begin to develop. Much like rainfall runs into ditches, it also runs along tarp wrinkles and into the small holes, directly affecting everything that is underneath. Some newer tarps are also at risk of leaking along the seams and loose grommets (rings). Also, if you are storing metal products, be prepared for the possibility of rust.  

5. Sun damage

After some time, because it is primarily made from plastic materials, tarpaulin sheets will break down due to ultraviolet light. With constant exposure to sunlight, the lifespan of a tarp sheet is predicted to be between 3-5 years. Although its appearance may still look the same, tarp material does deteriorate daily on a minuscule level. This makes them prone to rips and leaks as they age. Canvas sheets have more durability and hold up well in direct sunlight. 

What do different tarpaulin colours mean?

Although the most popular colour of tarpaulin is blue, other colours hold their own significance. There is no official guidance on which colour is used for certain projects, but different colours are well-suited for particular uses. 

1. Black tarpaulin

Used to cover cars, keep them cool and protect them from exposure to UV. Black is also a great option to cover anything outside that needs protection from ongoing outdoor exposure, such as garden furniture. This is because a black tarp is usually up to 3 times the strength of a regular tarp and provides a longer lifespan. 

2. Blue tarpaulin

Considered an all-purpose option, blue tarpaulin is the most common type for sale. It is affordable, durable and waterproof - the tarp is also resistant to UV rays, mildew, rot and abrasions. Blue tarp can be used as a garden tarpaulin for landscaping jobs, as well as all construction projects. 

3. Yellow tarpaulin

Evidently much easier to spot, yellow is primarily used as a sign of importance. Although it is not fluorescent, a yellow tarp sheet is preferred to highlight areas of danger. Farmers are known to use yellow tarpaulin as a way of controlling exposure to sunlight. Airports also fix yellow tarps on runways as closure markers for take-off and landing. 

4. Green tarpaulin  

You will find green tarp is mostly used for garden and outdoor projects. It is very durable and is also used as groundsheets for activities such as fishing and camping. Because of its extra tough and waterproof qualities, green tarp is a particularly good choice if you need to build a roof cover, create shelter for all kinds of building materials, and protect goods on lorries and vans.

5. White tarpaulin

Commonly used as canopy tops and covers on market stalls, white tarp allows light to come through and creates a picturesque environment, meanwhile protecting from any elements. It provides a good amount of shade without blocking any sunlight and is a durable covering material for construction equipment. 

6. Silver tarpaulin

Constructed to resist rips, shrinking, tears and UV rays, silver is less absorbent to light compared to darker colours. If it is used against reflective surfaces, opacity can be improved - it is also a waterproof tarpaulin and is a popular choice for its flexibility, strength and durability. In construction, silver tarp is widely installed as temporary roof patches. They can also be used as drop cloths over floors and furniture when painting.  

Tarpaulin for sale with quick UK delivery options

Whether you buy plastic tarpaulin sheets for a garden project or heavy-duty uses, Building Materials Nationwide supplies everything you need. Small tarpaulin and large tarpaulin sheets are available - browse our website and explore the different options. If you are a trade customer, you will benefit from opening a cash or credit trade account. With the help of a personal trade account manager, you can source the materials and tools you need without shopping around. Speedy deliveries - no matter the size of the order - are also arranged, giving you extra peace of mind before you start a job. Give us a call or sign up online.