There are many different tarps on the market, all made with various types of materials. It would be normal to ask yourself “Are all tarps waterproof?"

Since tarps are generally used as a protective material, they will mostly be produced with water-resistant features. 

However, not all tarps are waterproof!

Given the different uses for tarps, it’s essential to find out if the tarp you own, or are eyeing to buy, is really waterproof or simply water-resistant. In this guide, we've got you covered with showing you the ideal materials to look for and everything else you need to consider before choosing the best waterproof tarps. Let’s dive into it!

Waterproof Tarps Complete Guide

The Importance of Waterproof Tarps

A tarpaulin, now commonly referred to as a tarp, is an inventive use of flexible materials to shield and protect against inclement weather conditions like rain, fog, heavy winds, and direct sunlight. A tarp's primary purpose is to protect anything kept outside from getting dirty, wet, or faded. Because protection is the main purpose, the material can be further enhanced with chemical coatings to make the surface more waterproof or water-resistant, depending on the type of tarp and what it will be used for.

Are All Tarps Waterproof or Simply Water-Resistant? The Key Differences

Waterproof tarps provide total water and moisture protection and the properties of its materials do not change even when submerged in water. It also has an impenetrable surface that prevents moisture from seeping through. This may also mean that this surface is not breathable since neither water nor air can pass through it.

On the other hand, water-resistant tarps will only keep water out for a certain amount of time. The type of material will get saturated if exposed to heavy rain or if it’s submerged in water. You can expect that this material will eventually get wet and moisture will seep through the tarp. 

After questioning if “are tarps waterproof or water-resistant?”, it’s now time to determine each of their respective pros and cons, depending on what you’ll need to use it for.

In general, waterproof tarps are ideal if your main purpose is to keep your valuables dry amidst any type of weather condition. Meanwhile, water-resistant tarps provide a more breathable option if the condition only requires protection from sunlight and light rains.

Let’s take a closer look at Waterproof Tarps vs Water-Resistant Tarps.

Waterproof Tarps: Is this the Right Choice for Me?

There are several advantages that come with investing in a waterproof tarp. Indeed, they are appealing due to their waterproof design. Unless the surface of the tarp is scratched, punctured, or otherwise damaged, whatever is contained underneath it will remain dry. 

First, waterproof tarps are available in a variety of colors, which is essential if you want to build a canopy or tent that suits the exterior colors of your home or business. Moreover, this kind of tarp is resistant to rips, tears, impact, and abrasion.

The fact that a good deal of these waterproof tarps are UV-protected is also a bonus. Since a tarp can be damaged by prolonged exposure to the sun, getting one with a UV protective coating can significantly extend the life of your tarp. 

Where can I use Waterproof Tarps?

  • Covers for vehicles such as boats and cars
  • Sports, construction, industrial and military tents
  • Cover for fields and open spaces
  • Container coverings for heavy-duty trucks
  • Wide tenting and roofing covers

How To Maintain Waterproof Tarps

Are tarps waterproof enough to last a long time? The answer relies on how well you maintain them. These tarps are resistant to mildew, acid, grease, and other natural elements, so it’s not much work to maintain their integrity. 

To make these tarps last, you need to observe proper aftercare: before folding and storing  your tarp, make sure to wipe the material clean, rinse it, and allow it to dry completely after each use.

Best Waterproof Tarps: The Different Types

  • Vinyl Laminated Polyester
  • A vinyl laminated waterproof tarp is one versatile choice with great heat-resistant properties. If you're looking for a waterproof tarp for school gymnasiums, construction zones, or storage warehouses, this is an ideal choice for a tarp. When used indoors, they can be used for partitioning, salvage covers, space dividers, and even welding curtains.

  • Vinyl Coated Polyester
  • A vinyl-coated tarp is a heavy type of waterproof tarp due to its thickness and heavy-duty materials. It does not, however, possess the fire-resistant properties of its laminated counterpart. 

    This tarp is ideal for covering crops and hay, building awnings or canopies, and installing non-slip floor coverings for interior renovations and construction projects. Consider choosing the vinyl-coated polyester tarp if you need protection for those mentioned above or if you need coverings for your farmhouse or freight.

  • Clear PVC
  • This is the best outdoor waterproof tarp option if you need protection from natural elements but still need a considerable amount of sunlight. Before the installation of windows and doors, they are ideal for covering window and door frames.

    They are also suitable for use as temporary walls on covered, but open, patios, decks or porches. They shield you from the elements and act as a windbreak, allowing you to make the most of your balcony, porch, or patio.

    Lastly, these make for great shading, partitioning, and temporary roofing for gardens and greenhouses.

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    Water-Resistant Tarps: Is It Worth It?

    How can you determine whether “tarps are waterproof or water-resistant”? Water-resistant tarps can be differentiated with how breathable and water-penetrable the material is compared to waterproof tarps.

    When it comes to reduced humidity and enhanced breathability, water-resistant tarps are the better option to invest in. They are also cheaper, as compared to waterproof tarps. They have slightly more ventilation, which can help prevent heavy humidity or condensation formations under the tarp. They can be used in situations where there is a chance of light rain or drizzle. However, it won’t be able to withstand storms or torrential downpours.

    Where can I use Water-Resistant Tarps?

    • Protective covering from mild natural elements
    • Camping tents
    • Covers for lumber and firewood
    • Container and equipment covers
    • Privacy and partition screening

    Best Types of Water-Resistant Tarps

  • Canvas Tarps
  • Canvas tarps are resistant to moisture seepage, mildew, and mould growth. Since canvas tarps are coated with oil and wax, this type of tarp is greatly reliable for the water resistance needed when you’re outdoors. 

    The best use for these water-resistant, canvas tarps would be for camping and traveling. It’s the perfect material if you’re looking for a lightweight tarp that you can easily carry anywhere you go. You may also use it if you’re planning to simply cover firewood, equipment used in camping, or other light equipment.

    When it gets wet or exposed to rain, water just easily flows off the canvas tarp due to its special coating. However, just be careful not to let water pool on its surface for a long period of time in order to avoid letting water seep through the material. 

  • UVR Poly Tarps
  • UVR poly tarps are particularly used for heavy-duty uses and covering requirements. It’s an all-around tarp that you can rely on if you’re looking for something lightweight yet very durable for long-term use. This water-resistant tarp can be used for protecting any machinery or large equipment.

    You will also appreciate that most of these tarps deflect UV rays to protect your valuables from the damaging effects of sunlight. It can also serve as your protective cover for separating open spaces, especially if you’re outdoors and exposed to environmental factors. 

  • Poly Tarps
  • Another great option for heavy-duty covering needs is a poly tarp. This type of water-resistant tarp is best for landscaping purposes. It’s thick enough to protect any gardening materials or equipment. 

    Given its UV-treated materials, poly tarps offer more protection in the outdoors. This is why many people also use it to cover their lawn, garage, or anything that’s going to be exposed to sunlight regularly.

    For recreational purposes, you may also consider poly tarps for camping and picnics to ensure that you’re protected from any unwanted moisture from the ground.

    Other Features to Consider in Waterproof Tarps

  • Strength
  • Aside from asking “are tarps waterproof?”, it’s highly essential to inspect the quality of your tarp before buying one. The resilience of a tarp is what defines its ability to remain intact in the face of force.

    The strength of the weave is determined by the material used in its construction and the technique used to weave it. A tarp with high tensile strength will avoid breaking or tearing in the face of strong winds. This is an essential feature to consider since it is relevant in determining the overall durability of your waterproof tarp.

  • Corrosion Resistance
  • Consider the resistance of a tarp to corrosion caused by sunlight and other foreign substances such as mildew, grease, oils, and acids. Special coatings may be used to protect a variety of degradation processes. While we may usually attribute corrosion to metals, this can manifest in fabric and plastics as it slowly deteriorates the quality of your tarp. 

  • Abrasion Resistance
  • This refers to a tarp's resistance to splitting and tearing caused by sharp edges. This also includes the capacity of the surface to withstand further impact once it is already punctured or scratched. Mesh types tend to be more fragile than tarp plastics or fabrics in this case. In comparison to polyethylene tarps, vinyl and canvas tarps are incredibly resistant to abrasion. This means that when heavy rains come, and water accumulates over your tarp tents, there is a reduced chance of your canopy caving in.


    Hopefully, this guide answers your question, “are tarps waterproof or water-resistant?” What you need in a tarp will be the main factor that will determine the best tarp for you. While you may want to invest in something multi-purpose, you should also consider your main purpose of its usage. This way, you can make your purchase based on more guided choices.

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