How to Repair a Tarp: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Repair a Tarp: A Step-by-Step Guide

You rely on your tarps for shade, to keep debris off your RV roof, to act as a weather barrier for your dog’s outdoor kennel, so what happens when they break?

A tarp with some weathering or holes in them isn’t useless; it’s just some patchwork that needs to be done. That’s something you can do, even if you’ve never done anything like it before.

We’re going to go over how to repair tarp holes and damage without spending a crazy amount of money. Do this right, and your tarp will last for a heck of a lot longer, and keep the cash in your pocket where it belongs. Let’s take a look.


Does Flex Seal Work on Tarps?

Does Flex Seal Work on Tarps?

We’ve all seen Phil Swift and the infamous boat scene in the Flex Seal commercials.

While Flex Seal does work to help repel water and create a bond, it’s not as powerful as you think. Not by a long shot. Flex seal can’t dry and then be pressed against itself or a similar material. That’s when you run into problems.

If you went to wrap up your tarp afterwards, you’ll find that it sticks to itself pretty badly. Then when you go to store it, it ends up bonding together ever so slightly. It’s enough to potentially undo the seal or rip the tarp in the area that you sealed.

How to Repair Holes in a Tarp?

You have a few options at your disposal, but chief among them is going to be implementing a total patch on the exterior side of the tarp. If you use this tarp for more than just a canopy or for shade, you might have to repeat the steps we’re going to provide to you on both sides of the tarp.

You can patch the tears by first securing the tear so it doesn’t spread, and then patching the outside. We should also secure the patch a second time by its center to the actual tarp to keep everything in place. Your patch might just end up being the most secure part of your tarp.

Step-by-Step Guide

I want to break this down into two sections: multifaceted tarps that you can use for anything, and tarps that are being used for canopy covers and awnings. There’s a shortcut you can take with awnings and canopies, so we’ll get into that and help save you some time in the process.

All-Purpose Tarp

YouTube video

We need that perfect seal on both sides, so we’re not going to just do a patch job here. We will be patching both sides evenly, and sewing the two patches together through the portion of tarp.

1. Start With Tarp Repair Tape

Sounds like a simple fix, but it’s considered a temporary patch. You can buy tarp repair tape, which comes with an adhesive on one side that’s specific to polyethylene, canvas, and other materials used in tarps. Just be sure that you got the right repair tape for the job.

2. Patch the Hole

Whatever the tear was, patch it up with that tape on both sides separately. Make sure that you’re using your hands to smooth out any creases along the way, and keep everything nice and flat.

This is not a permanent solution; we’re going to house this tape in place after letting it dry for about eight hours. The adhesive bond should be protected by the patches we’re going to make.

3. Measure and Cut Patches

Using a tarp of the same material as the one we’re repairing, cut yourself two identical patches. You can use an older tarp that’s no longer usable, but still has a few good areas on it that can be salvaged.

Bonus points if they’re all the same color to make this as seamless as possible. It’s best if you make your patches square. Make sure they’re the same size by comparing at the end. We want an extra inch of fabric along all of the sides.

4. Create One Inch Seams

Along the interior of our patches, you’re going to make one inch seams so that the material isn’t just flapping about when we sew it down to the actual tarp. At the end of this, you’re basically going to have a double-stitched patch on both sides.

When you’re done, you should have two slightly smaller square patches ready to go.

5. Sew Them Into Place

Now comes the moment of truth. You’ve taken your tarp underneath the needle of the sewing machine, and you have your first patch in place. Run it through the machine and get a good, tight sew on it.

Move slow and check your work as you go. Simply rotate to the next side, and carry on with doing that until the patch is completely sewn in.

Now you have to flip the tarp over on the other side, and do the same with the second patch. There’s going to be a lot of thread here, but that’s a good thing; we’re going to make this better than new so it doesn’t happen again.

6. Inspect Your Work

Are all the threads in place properly? Are your patches loose?

Inspect any issues and find a solution for them. You don’t want much air trapped in between the tape and the patch, so make sure it’s nice and flat and the patches are taut. You only have one step left.

7. Seam Sealer

I trust that you’ve done a fantastic job at sewing these patches into place, but nobody is perfect. Even if we can’t see it, there is likely a spot for moisture to get in.

We don’t need rain from the next big storm finding its way into this double patch, and then filling up the space. Use seam sealer on the outside of both patches and let it dry appropriately. You may have to seal one side first, then flip the tarp over and do the other separately.

Tarp Canopy

YouTube video

This is going to be far less irritating than doing two separate patches. You will see some similarity in the steps, but sealing the canopy is going to go a little bit differently. We don’t really have to worry about the underside as much.

1. Sew the Tear Shut

Instead of using tarp repair tape, just go ahead and sew that tear completely shut. Whether you use a sewing machine or a needle and thread, try to make the fabric overlay as little as possible.

We don’t want it to be super bunched up and mess with how we stretch the tarp out, we just don’t want any opportunity for the tear to get any bigger.

2. Measure and Cut Patches

Just like before, you’re going to get a patch of the same canopy material, and create a square cutout from that tarp. I still recommend finding an old tarp, but locating a section of it that is considered viable.

This is the best way to use something that’s broken, and not have to spend money on a smaller tarp just to cut it into pieces.

3. Create One Inch Seams

Along each edge, create one inch seams by sewing them into place. This is the same step as we saw in the previous guide. Take it slow and make sure your stitches are as close to perfect as they can be.

4. Seam Sealer

Before we continue, we’re going to use seam sealer on the top and bottom of this canopy. Go over the tear that we sewed up earlier, and simply seal it off. This helps create a chemical bond through the threads and strengthen everything. Plus, if the patch ever leaks, this will help protect it.

5. Sew the Patch Into Place

You only have to run through this once. Using a sewing machine, take it nice and slow, and apply the patch directly over the previous tear. Make sure there’s little to no air trapped underneath the patch, and that it’s taut so we get a good seal.

6. Inspection and Seam Sealing

Make sure everything is in its place and nothing is out of whack, and then apply more seam sealer on top of this patch. Allow for the curing time on the sealant container, and you’re good to go.

Tarp Repair: Easy as Can be

Once you do it once, it becomes second nature. Your tarps are used to bearing the weather and stress to protect your assets, but every now and again, it needs a bit of a touch-up.

The only time you’ll have to revisit the steps to repairing a tarp are when you’re dealing with mesh vs. canvas, or if you need to repair an insulated tarp with foam cell replacement. Other than that, you should not be able to consider yourself a tarp repair pro.