When shopping for a Tarpaulin, the first choice you need to make is regarding the material. Tarps come in a variety of materials, each with their strengths and weaknesses.
Understanding Tarpaulin Materials and Properties
Now that we’ve covered the main types of tarpaulin materials, let’s do a deeper dive into how each one stands up to the elements:
PE tarps are lightweight and affordable, making them a top choice for temporary uses. However, prolonged sunlight exposure can cause PE to become brittle and fragile faster than other materials. It’s recommended that PE tarps be replaced every 1-3 years of regular outdoor use.
As a synthetic alternative to traditional materials, Heavy Duty Tarpaulin provides improved durability for longer-term jobs. Formulated to resist cracking from heat and extreme cold, vinyl maintains flexibility through varying temperatures. The tight weave also helps fend off punctures better than PE.
Woven from durable cotton or polyester fibers, canvas forms an exceptionally tough yet pliable fabric ideal for covers that need to withstand the harshest environments. Industrial-grade canvas is designed to take years of punishment from wind, rain, snow, and scorching sun with minimal signs of wear.
A synthesized alternative to cotton canvas, polyester tarps offer mechanical strength with less weight. Threads of polyester resist mildew, rot, and chemicals that degrade other materials. This makes poly tarps a smart choice for damp storage or corrosive settings.
Deciding Where Your Tarpaulin Will Be Used
The environment and conditions where a tarpaulin will be used are one of the most important factors to consider during selection. Answering a few key questions upfront can help narrow down which tarp material, weight, and features are best suited for the task.
How much time will the tarp be left unattended?
Tarps left for weeks at a time outside demand break strength resistant to flapping. Lighter tarps prone to tearing or punctures are best attended regularly like in open-sided shelters or during moving/hauling.
Will it be used outdoors or indoors?
Tarps intended for permanent indoor use need only shield from basic moisture or dust. Lighter polyethylene or polyester tarps may suffice indoors. For semi-permanent outdoor applications like covering boats or equipment through variable seasons, a more durable vinyl or canvas tarp is advisable.
What are the climate/weather conditions?
Harsh climates with extreme heat, cold, wind, or regular precipitation demand top-grade tarps. If covering objects in freezing weather, look for tarp materials that remain flexible down to -30°F like vinyl or heavyweight polyester. Coastal areas warrant rust-proof, UV-resistant materials like solution-dyed acrylic to withstand saltwater air.
Will exposure be long-term or short-term?
Temporary uses under a month may only require a basic polyethylene tarp. But tarps meant to shield boats through winter or construction sites for over a year need to withstand continuous sun, rain, and wind without degrading.
Choosing the Right Tarpaulin Weight
Once you’ve determined the intended use conditions for your tarpaulin, the next step is choosing the appropriate weight. As a general rule – the heavier and more durable the tarp material, the higher the weight.
Jim uses a basic 6oz polyethylene tarp occasionally in his backyard to cover furniture, children’s toys, and woodworking projects. Given the temporary nature and indoor/outdoor use, a lightweight tarp suits his needs.
Medium-Weight Tarp (10oz)
Josefina needs to keep her boat protected during winter storage. A 10oz vinyl tarp will withstand autumn rains and frigid temperatures without breaking the bank. Its balance of durability and packability also makes for easy seasonal installation and removal.
Heavy-Duty Tarp (14oz)
Logan runs a roofing company and prefers a heavy 14oz canvas tarp on job sites to shield equipment and materials over multiple months. The premium material withstands constant exposure to wind, dust, and falling debris without tearing or developing leaks.
Industrial-Grade Tarp (18oz)
Port Jackson relies on extra heavy 18oz vinyl tarps to waterproof cargo on vessels during long offshore hauls. Prolonged sun, sea spray, and rough conditions demand an industrial tarp that can handle extreme wear without compromising on the open ocean.
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