The most common tarp out there is probably the kind made from polyethylene. Poly tarps are real workhorses, and show up in gardens, while camping, on roofs and in industrial sites. We mostly think of the standard blue poly tarp, but there are actually lots of colors, grades, and thicknesses. The basic blue tarp works fine for some things, but there are lots of other options out there. Poly tarps are incredibly useful and versatile.
The type you’re going to need will vary according to what you want to do with it. Some are just plastic sheets while others are much more carefully made to be long lasting, strong, and durable. Look for high quality tarps that’ll weather well and last a long time for the best value. Good quality tarps will be well hemmed, reasonably heavy, UV protected and resistant to mildew, rot and fire. The heavier and thicker the tarp, the more reinforcement it’ll need to tolerate stress heavy duty tarpaulin.
That means that heavier tarps should have closer set grommets, heavier threads and a tighter weave. More grommets mean less stress on the edges, and this a lower likelihood of tearing. Heavier poly tarps are often green, but not always. This is the kind of poly tarp you want to look for for rough use outside. For lighter use, where a cheap tarp is desirable, you can stick with the old standard blue tarp.
Of course, even poly tarps, while low cost and light, have their downsides and maintenance requirements. You’ll need to make sure that you take good care of your tarp to extend its lifespan. For instance, always securely tie your tarp to prevent it from flapping while it’s being used. This will prevent a lot of stress and damage, since loose tarps tear and sag.
Wash tarps immediately after use – just hosing them down works for most types. Allow the tarp to dry (ideally out of the sun) and fold it carefully once all the moisture is removed. Don’t leave your tarp in really hot places, or let it stay folded up for a long time. All you have to do is open it up and shake it out from time to time. And if your tarp starts to get a hole in it, either replace the tarp or repair the hole right away before it can get much bigger. You’ll be glad you did, since holes can open back up pretty fast and cause rips and catastrophic tarp failures.
Choosing the right poly tarp for the job and making sure you treat it well are an important part of getting the job done. You’ll be surprised at what a difference it can make if you just take a little time to do things right. If you need a new tarp, take the time to look around and get the one that will work best for your needs, then be sure you take care of it. If you look after your poly tarp, it’ll serve you well for many years and help you save a lot of money.