To many people, "tarp" conjures an image of a crumpled canvas in the corner of the garage, or maybe that shiny blue plastic sheet in the hardware store.
But tarps are the beneficiary of some of the best technology in textile and chemical treatments. And so they have been adapted to many uses, whether at home, in the garden, on a camping trip, in the workshop, in the industrial yard, or on the construction site.
The workhorse of all tarpaulins, there are more color, material, construction, and size combinations in poly tarps than for any other. They are readily available. And as long as you select the right one for the job, tarps provide good protection for almost anything that needs shelter from the elements.
It's no wonder that the common tarp is one of the most versatile of all 'tools'.
Basic Poly Tarps
Blue or green poly tarps are, overall, the least expensive of all tarps. The cheapest ones are little more than a thin sheet of plastic. And like anything else, the cheaper they are, the less durability you'll have.
Basic(but good quality) poly tarps are made using a weave of nylon chord, with a laminate of polyethylene on both sides. Thread size is typically 700-800 denier, and the fabric weight will be between 2- 4 ounces per square yard.
They are waterproof, as well as resistant to rot and mildew. And they provide a good multi-purpose covering that provides basic protection from the elements.
But don't make the same mistake that so many people do: Do not use a poly tarp as a cheap way to cover your vehicle. Polyethylene does not breathe, and the resulting condensation under the tarp is guaranteed to cause you problems. On our web site, you can find much better ways to protect your car, boat or RV.
Heavy-Duty Poly Tarps
In addition to the basic version, there are some much tougher, heavy-duty polyethylene tarps. These heavy-duty tarps are less prone to tears and punctures, and do not get brittle as quickly.
Their strength comes from using a heavier denier nylon thread, and usually with a much tighter weave. This makes the tarp thicker ? almost twice as thick - and therefore much longer lasting.
One example is the silver tarp, which is often preferred for its' UV resistance and heat reflective properties. With heavier thread and lamination, these premium silver tarps can be 2-3 times thicker than the standard hardware store variety.
Hems are the greatest point of stress, so the strongest tarps will also have heat-sealed hems, sometimes with a reinforcing rope inside. And there will be more grommets, spaced closer together, to spread the stress more effectively over the entire tarp.
In addition to basic and heavy duty versions, there is a size to meet almost any need. Small 6x8 sheets are available for just a few dollars. At the other end of the spectrum are the over-sized or very large athletic field covers and hay tarps. Need something in between ? Custom sizes are also available.
So the next time you look at that crumpled canvas or shiny blue sheet, you'll know there is more potential there than meets the eye.
John Bri is a regular contributor to That Covers It!, a collection of helpful information on a variety of shelters and protective coverings. You'll find tips and sources for tarps, pop-up and garden canopies, garage kits, and covers for your car, truck, boat, and RV.
You can get more information about poly tarps at http://www.that-covers-it.com