How to Tarp a Roof

When a storm hits and leaves your roof with damage, knowing how to properly tarp it can be a lifesaver. It’s not just about preventing further damage; it’s about giving you peace of mind while you wait for repairs. You might think it’s a challenging job, but with the right guidance, you’ll find it’s something you can handle on your own.

Tarping a roof isn’t just about throwing a piece of plastic over the problem area. It requires a bit of know-how to ensure it’s secure and effective. Whether you’re dealing with a few loose shingles or a significant leak, we’ve got you covered. Let’s jump into the essentials of tarping your roof, ensuring your home stays dry and protected until help arrives.

Key Takeaways

  • Assess Roof Damage Carefully: Before tarping, thoroughly assess your roof for damage, including missing shingles and leaks. This step ensures effective coverage and identifies the areas that need urgent attention.
  • Safety First: Prioritizing safety is crucial. Wear appropriate footwear, secure ladders and safety harnesses, and never work alone. If the roof’s stability is questionable, professional help should be sought.
  • Proper Tools and Materials: Choose the right tarp material for your situation and gather essential tools such as a sturdy ladder, utility knife, heavy-duty rope, and rubber-washed screws. This preparation is key to securing the tarp properly.
  • Effective Tarping Techniques: Clear the roof of debris and water, measure and cut the tarp with additional space for secure attachment, and anchor it using wooden boards for wind resistance. Ensure proper drainage to avoid water pooling.
  • Regular Tarp Maintenance: Inspect your tarp regularly for damages like tears or loose edges, and address water accumulation promptly to prevent further damage. Maintenance extends the tarp’s effectiveness and protects your home.
  • Know When to Call Professionals: Understand the limits of DIY efforts. Extensive damage, safety risks, or potential long-term roofing issues necessitate professional assessment and repairs, ensuring your home’s safety and compliance with insurance standards.

Assessing the Damage

Before you begin the task of tarping your roof, it’s crucial to assess the extent of the damage thoroughly. This assessment will guide you in identifying which areas of your roof require immediate attention and ensure your efforts are as effective as possible. The following sections will help you understand how to pinpoint the specific areas that need tarping and the safety measures you should consider before starting this important task.

Identifying Areas That Need Tarping

The first step in assessing your roof’s damage is to identify the areas that need tarping. Start by conducting a visual inspection from the ground. Look for missing shingles, damaged flashing, or any visible holes. But, some damage might not be visible from the ground. If it’s safe to do so, use a ladder to get a closer look at your roof. Pay special attention to areas around chimneys, vents, and skylights, as these spots are particularly susceptible to damage.

Signs of water leakage inside your home, such as water stains on the ceiling or walls, can also indicate where the roof is compromised. Keep a detailed list of the damage, noting the severity and specific location. This information will be invaluable when it comes time to place the tarp, ensuring you cover all critical areas effectively.

Safety Considerations Before Starting

Safety must be your top priority when assessing roof damage. Roof work can be dangerous, especially on wet or damaged surfaces. Here are a few key safety tips to consider:

  • Wear appropriate footwear with good traction to minimize the risk of slips and falls.
  • Use a sturdy ladder, and make sure it’s safely anchored before climbing up.
  • Consider using a safety harness, especially if your roof has a steep pitch or if the damage area is extensive.
  • Never assess your roof alone. Having someone with you not only improves safety but also helps in documenting the damage.

If the roof is severely damaged, or if you’re unsure about its stability, it’s best to call in professionals for an assessment. Walking on a compromised roof can lead to further damage or, worse, personal injury.

By carefully identifying the areas that need tarping and prioritizing safety, you’re taking vital first steps to protect your home from further damage. With this thorough assessment, you’ll be well-prepared to effectively tarp your roof, keeping your home dry and secure until professional repairs can be made.

Tools and Materials Required

To ensure your home remains safe and dry until professional repairs can be done, having the right tools and materials on hand for tarping a roof is essential. This section walks you through selecting the appropriate tarp and the essential tools you’ll need.

Choosing the Right Tarp

Selecting the proper tarp is the first crucial step in the process. Tarps come in various sizes and materials, and choosing the right one depends on the size of the area you need to cover and the duration it will need to remain in place.

  • Polyethylene Tarps: These are the most common and affordable. They’re water-resistant and perfect for short-term use. A heavy-duty polyethylene tarp is ideal if you expect the tarp to be in place for several months.
  • Canvas Tarps: If breathability is a concern, canvas tarps are a great option. They’re less common for roof tarping due to their higher cost and water-absorbent nature but can be used for protecting areas that need airflow.

Consider the weight and durability of the tarp. A heavier tarp is more resistant to wind and is less likely to tear, making it a better option for long-term coverage.

Essential Tools for Tarping a Roof

After choosing the right tarp, gathering the necessary tools is your next step. The following list covers the essentials for most tarping jobs:

  • Ladder: Ensure it’s sturdy and tall enough to safely reach your roof.
  • Utility Knife: For cutting the tarp to size.
  • Measuring Tape: To measure the roof area and ensure your tarp covers it adequately.
  • Heavy-Duty Rope: You’ll use this to secure the tarp to the roof.
  • Rubber-Washed Screws and Washers: These are for attaching the tarp to the roof without causing further damage.
  • Hammer: To secure any necessary boards used in anchoring the tarp.
  • Work Gloves: Protect your hands during the process.

Plus to these tools, wearing safety gear, such as non-slip footwear and a safety harness, is crucial, especially when working on steep roofs or in less than ideal weather conditions.

Gathering these tools and materials before beginning the tarping process ensures you’re prepared to effectively cover any damaged areas of your roof. By choosing the right tarp and having the essential tools at hand, you can protect your home from further damage following a storm.

Preparing the Roof for Tarping

After a storm has passed, ensuring your roof is properly tarped can be a critical step in preventing further damage. Once you’ve assessed the damage and gathered the necessary tools and materials, preparing the roof for tarping is your next priority. This preparation involves clearing debris and water and making temporary repairs if needed. These steps are essential for effective roof coverage and protection.

Clearing Debris and Water

Before laying a tarp, removing any debris and standing water from the roof is crucial. Not only does this allow for a smoother tarp application, but it also reduces the risk of further damage. Start by using a broom or a leaf blower to remove loose debris such as leaves, twigs, and any broken shingles. In cases of water accumulation, a push broom or squeegee can move standing water towards the roof edges. For water that’s trapped or pooled in areas, consider using a wet-dry vacuum to suck up the moisture. Ensuring the roof is as clean and dry as possible will enhance the tarp’s adherence and minimize slipping hazards during installation. Remember, safety is paramount, so wear shoes with good traction and secure any loose clothing or equipment before beginning.

Making Temporary Repairs

Sometimes, you may encounter minor damage that needs addressing before tarping. For holes or small areas of missing shingles, temporary repairs can provide additional protection. Using roofing cement or a suitable adhesive, seal any gaps or punctures to create a smoother surface for the tarp. Also, fix or replace any dislodged or broken shingles you might encounter. These temporary repairs prevent water from seeping through new entry points under the tarp, offering a double layer of protection until professional repairs can be made. When applying roofing cement, use a putty knife for even distribution, ensuring all edges are sealed properly.

By taking these preparatory steps, you ensure the roof is ready for a tarp, maximizing its effectiveness in protecting your home from further damage. Clearing debris and water not only prepares the surface but also gives you a better understanding of the damage extent. Making temporary repairs reinforces vulnerable areas, reducing the risk of water intrusion. Together, these actions set the stage for a well-secured, properly functioning tarp.

The Tarping Process

Following the preparatory steps, including assessing damage and ensuring the roof surface is clean and dry, you’re now ready to proceed with the tarping process. This part of the guide focuses on the practical steps of measuring and cutting the tarp, securely attaching it to your roof, and applying techniques that ensure the tarp remains weatherproof.

Measuring and Cutting the Tarp

Begin by assessing the area of the roof that needs coverage. Measure the length and width of the damaged area, then add an additional 3 to 4 feet on each side. This extra space is crucial for adequately securing the tarp to the roof. After determining the necessary size, unroll your tarp on a flat, clean surface. Using a utility knife or scissors, cut the tarp to your measurements. If the damaged area is particularly large, consider using multiple tarps, ensuring each overlaps by at least 3 feet to prevent water from seeping through the seams.

Securing the Tarp to the Roof

Once your tarp is cut to size, it’s time to secure it to your roof. Start at the bottom edge of the roof, and roll out the tarp over the damaged area, ensuring it extends over the roof’s peak and down the other side. Secure the tarp’s edges using 1×2 inch wooden boards. Wrap one edge of the tarp around a board, then screw the board to the roof with 3-inch decking screws. This method not only holds the tarp in place but also prevents wind from lifting it. Ensure you secure all four sides of the tarp in this manner, pulling it tight to avoid any sagging that could collect water.

Techniques for Weatherproofing

To ensure your tarp withstands the elements, paying attention to how it’s anchored is key. Beyond securing the tarp’s edges, you can enhance its resistance to wind and rain through strategic placement and additional securing techniques. For high-wind areas, consider using sandbags along the tarp’s edges inside the perimeter of the roof. These add weight and reduce the chances of the tarp billowing. Also, applying a waterproof sealant along the seams where tarps overlap can prevent water ingress, further protecting your home till permanent repairs are made.

During the tarping process, remember that safety is paramount. Always work with a partner, use proper safety gear like gloves and non-slip boots, and avoid working on the roof in adverse weather conditions. Through careful measurement, precise cutting, secure attachment, and attention to weatherproofing, your roof tarp will serve as an effective temporary barrier against the elements, safeguarding your home against further damage.

Aftercare and Maintenance

After successfully tarping your roof, the next steps are crucial for ensuring the tarp continues to protect your home from the elements. Proper aftercare and maintenance can make a significant difference in the effectiveness and longevity of your roof tarp.

Inspecting the Tarp Regularly

Inspecting the tarp regularly is essential to ensure it remains secure and in good condition. Look for tears, rips, or areas where the tarp may have come loose. High winds, heavy rains, and even exposure to the sun can damage the tarp over time. It’s advisable to perform a thorough inspection after any significant weather event and at least once a month during prolonged use.

  • Check the Edges: Ensure the edges of the tarp, where it’s secured by wooden boards and screws, haven’t lifted or frayed.
  • Look for Punctures: Small punctures can turn into bigger problems, allowing water to seep through. Use waterproof tape or patches designed for tarps to repair these issues immediately.
  • Assess the Fasteners: Make sure all screws and fasteners are tight and haven’t corroded or become loose.

Handling Water Accumulation

Water pooling can be a significant issue with tarped roofs, as it not only adds weight but can lead to further water penetration and damage. To prevent water accumulation:

  • Design for Drainage: When installing the tarp, ensure it is sloped in a manner that encourages water to run off. Avoid creating low points where water can pool.
  • Remove Standing Water: After heavy rain, check for areas of standing water. If safe, use a broom or mop to gently push water off the tarp.
  • Inspect for Sagging: Regularly inspect the tarp for any signs of sagging or stretching that could indicate water accumulation. If you notice sagging, re-secure or adjust the tarp as necessary to restore proper tension and drainage.

By regularly inspecting your tarp and addressing water accumulation swiftly, you can extend the life of your temporary roof cover and keep your home protected. Remember, a well-maintained tarp is a critical component of your home’s defense against weather damage until permanent repairs can be made.

When to Call a Professional

After a storm damages your roof, it’s crucial to act swiftly to minimize further harm to your home. While tarping a roof is an effective temporary solution, some scenarios necessitate the expertise of a professional. Understanding when to tackle the job yourself and when to call in the experts can save you time, money, and ensure your home remains safe and dry.

Recognizing Jobs Too Big to DIY

Tackling roof repairs yourself might seem cost-effective, but certain situations are best left to professionals. Here are key indicators that the job is too big to DIY:

  • Extent of Damage: If the damage spans large areas or involves structural harm, professional roofers have the necessary tools and expertise to handle these complex issues safely.
  • Steep or High Roofs: Steeply pitched or high roofs present significant safety risks. Professionals have the proper equipment and training to navigate these challenges effectively.
  • Underlying Issues: Sometimes, what seems like a straightforward tarping job can unveil more serious problems, such as water damage to the roof’s structure. A professional can assess and address these issues comprehensively.
  • Insurance Claims: If you’re planning to file an insurance claim, hiring a professional can ensure the repair meets your policy’s standards. Also, professional repairs often come with warranties, providing an extra layer of protection for your home.

Don’t underestimate the complexity of the task. If you’re unsure about the extent of the damage or your ability to safely complete the repairs, it’s wise to consult with a professional.

Long-Term Roofing Solutions

While tarping is a great temporary fix, it’s essential to think about long-term roofing solutions to prevent future damage. Here are practical steps to consider:

  • Professional Inspection: Schedule regular professional inspections to catch potential issues early, reducing the likelihood of unexpected repairs.
  • Quality Materials: When it’s time for a repair or replacement, invest in high-quality roofing materials. Durable materials might be more expensive initially, but they can withstand harsh weather conditions better and last longer.
  • Proper Maintenance: Keep your roof in top condition with regular maintenance. This includes cleaning gutters, trimming overhanging branches, and promptly addressing minor damages before they escalate.
  • Upgrade: Consider upgrading your roofing system with features designed to enhance durability and weather resistance, such as impact-resistant shingles or a water shield.

Eventually, engaging a professional for a thorough inspection and long-term planning can provide peace of mind, knowing your home is protected against future storms. By recognizing when a job is too challenging to handle on your own and investing in long-term solutions, you ensure your home remains safe and secure for years to come.


Tackling roof damage with a timely tarp job is your first line of defense after a storm. It’s about keeping your home safe while you plan for more permanent repairs. Remember, it’s not just about throwing a tarp over the damage; it’s about doing it safely and effectively. Regular checks and maintenance post-tarping play a crucial role in keeping further damage at bay. And when the task seems beyond your reach, don’t hesitate to call in the professionals. Investing in your roof’s long-term health not only secures your home against future storms but also gives you peace of mind. So take these steps seriously and ensure your roof is always in top shape.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to tarp a damaged roof promptly after a storm?

Tarping a damaged roof quickly prevents further damage to the home from water, animals, and debris. It serves as a temporary solution until professional repairs can be done.

How do you prepare a roof for tarping?

Before tarping, safely remove debris and clean the affected area. Assess the roof for damage, ensuring it’s safe to walk on. Gather necessary tools and materials such as a sturdy ladder, protective gear, and the tarp.

What are the key safety measures when tarping a roof?

Prioritize wearing protective gear, use a sturdy ladder, and work with a partner if possible. Be cautious of slippery surfaces, especially on sloped roofs, and avoid working in adverse weather conditions.

What should be done after tarping the roof?

Inspect the tarp regularly for signs of wear or water accumulation. Ensure it’s securely anchored. Schedule a professional inspection and repair to address the underlying roof damage as soon as possible.

When should you call professionals for roof damage?

Call professionals if the damage is extensive, beyond the scope of simple tarping, or if there are safety concerns. Also, professional help is crucial for thorough inspections, quality repairs, and long-term roofing solutions.

What are the benefits of investing in long-term roofing solutions?

Investing in quality materials, professional inspections, proper maintenance, and timely upgrades increases your roof’s durability and your home’s safety. Long-term solutions help avoid repeated damage, reducing overall repair costs.

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