To Cut, or Not to Cut…

Which Way to Go When It Comes to Your Tarps?


OK…you’ve ordered your new tarp. Whether it will be used as a tent or to cover equipment, you just KNOW it will be perfect for what it’s supposed to be used for. You open the tarp, unfold it, go to cover that pile of lumber and discover that your “perfect” tarp is too small!

You’re frustrated and can’t understand what happened? You’ve been taught to “measure twice and cut once”, but for some reason, your measurements were off! How could this have happened? Were there some gremlins packed in with your tarp that decided to do some alterations during the shipping? But how did they do this, then refold the tarp perfectly so no one will notice until the package is opened? This has to be a joke, right?

No, there are no gremlins and this isn’t a joke. What happened is that while you measured carefully and the tarp SHOULD have fit perfectly, you didn’t take into consideration the difference between the cut size and the finished size and didn’t order accordingly.

When ordering tarps, the descriptions will note if the specified measurements are for a finished or cut size. Taking these differences into consideration is important or you will end up with a tarp that is smaller than you expected. This is about the time you’ll be asking what the difference is between cut and finish size. The answer is what you fully need to understand before placing your order.

What does “Cut Size” mean?

When you measure for a tarp, and the measurements are 6’ by 8’, and this is what you order, the tarp will be cut to those measurements. These measurements don’t take the finishing into account. By the time the seams and hem are sewn, the actual tarp size will be around 5’6” by 7’6”, so the tarp will not fit to your specifications. You must keep in mind that a hem will take up about 3 inches of fabric and the seams needed for sewing panels together will take up even more. So, you would need to order your tarp at least 9 inches larger than what you anticipated, so when ordering a “Cut Size” tarp, you would need to add those extra inches to your order.

What is “Finish Size”?

Finish size is the size of the tarp after it’s finished. This means, all hems and panels are sewn, so no other alterations are needed. So, when a catalogue specifies “Finish Size”, they have already taken into consideration the extra material needed in order for the tarp to be the size needed. When you order a 6’ by 8’ tarp, that’s exactly what you’ll get since it was cut to a larger size by the manufacturer.


For the most part, when tarps are listed, they are usually listed as “Cut Size”. Please keep this in mind whenever you’re ordering.


Now you know that there are no gremlins out to get you by altering the size of the tarp you ordered. You will also know how you should calculate the size you need so that it’s cut larger to accommodate for that size after all seams and hems are sewn. Another option you have is that you can order a finish size tarp, but that may take a bit longer as it will be considered a custom order. The most important thing to remember is that your tarp needs to fit to do its job correctly.