Valance Tarps: How to Use Them

Valance Tarps: How to Use Them

Wedding tents, street fairs, and even tarp carports; they all use valance tarps. At first glance, these just seem like normal tarps until you learn what makes them tick and why they’re different.

Different tarps exist for different intended purposes, and valance tarps are no exception. You’re going to find that they’re often used in canopies for events, but they can also be permanently affixed for storefront canopies and to keep a shady spot in your backyard.

Let’s talk about what they’re made of, what you can use them for, and what type you should get for your own personal needs.


What Are Valance Tarps?

What Are Valance Tarps?

Valance tarps are basically standard canopies with a drop-off point.

On either side, there will be additional material that hangs down (usually about eight inches or more), giving water a place to run off of the roof. When it reaches the bottom of the additional material, it drops to the ground, protecting items stored underneath the tarp from rain ingress (for the most part).

Primarily used for impromptu car ports, event coverings, and shop canopies, valance tarps are definitely atypical compared to what most people are searching for in tarps, but they definitely do serve a purpose for a lot of things.

When you say valance tarp, it just means the tarp, often referred to as a tarp replacement.

When you say valance canopy, it includes the steel or powder-finished frame, which is where most of your cost is going to be. It’s important to pay attention to the details when you go to buy a new tarp and make sure you’re not getting the whole kit.

Valance Tarp Uses

1. Carport (Temporary or Permanent)


If you’re sick of that one tree in the front yard leaving debris all over your sedan while you’re sleeping, get on board: so is everyone else. It’s much less costly to just put up a valance tarp (that, and if there’s no real reason to cut down a tree, you shouldn’t).

If you make this temporary with small plastic footers at the bottom, just be sure to take it down if the wind picks up. As I’ll explain later, you can turn a valance tarp into a permanent carport if you really want to.

2. Backyard Canopy

It gets hot outside, so why not extend the shade provided by the house with a nice canopy?

Valance tarps look regal compared to a simple mesh tarp that’s just sort of hanging there, so they can be left up year-round as long as a hurricane doesn’t roll through and sweep the thing away.

Save for that, these are durable enough to last through rain and snow, so they’ll do you well through the summer months when the sun is bearing down on your head.

3. Camping

When you go camping, it’s important to have cover. Usually a tent or poncho can do the trick, but when you go in a big group, you need to have enough cover for you to all have a place to stay nice and dry.

To make your next campsite better on an overall scale, a valance tarp can provide that little bit of cover that you’ve been waiting for. Thanks to valance tarps being fairly weather resistant when you tie down the curtain flaps, they’ll hold off the wind and rain with relative ease.

4. Setting up a Temporary Shop

You can host tents at sidewalk fairs and festivals, but if you’ve ever been to one, you know that people congregate underneath the tents for some relief from the head. It gets hot in the city, especially in crowds of thousands of people.

If you’re using a valance tarp to cover your tent, you’re going to be a popular table.

5. Above Ground Pool Roof

Inground pools partially stay cold because of the way heat is dispersed in the ground. Heat from sunlight doesn’t travel far down in the water; the reason your above ground swimming pool is hot is because sunlight heats up the sides, which transfers and heats up the water.

It’s like the edges of your pool are water heaters. A tarp over the top can keep the sun from coming down on your pool, but a tarp this size is going to be costly.

6. Lemonade Stand for Kids

Lemonade Stand for Kids

It gets hot, and when it does, entrepreneurial kids try to set up a lemonade stand.

That should be encouraged, but they also shouldn’t be left to suffer in the heat just to try this out (it’s not exactly good for the product, either). You can set up a temporary valance tarp to give them a hand, whether they’re doing this in the front yard or down the street.

7. Day at the Beach

You’re supposed to be bathing in the sun, so why hide from it?

Because the beach has so many different phases to it: you swim in the morning, tan in the afternoon, and chill by a fire around friends when the sun goes down.

If you want to be able to do all of these things, you’re going to need shelter from the rain, or at least have a spot to relax when it gets too hot out. After you come out of the water, you’ll burn in the sun if you don’t have a spot to go to and dry off.

8. Tailgating

Another event that heats up[ fairly quickly is tailgating. If you’ve ever been, then you know just how difficult things can get when noontime hits. You already have enough heat coming up from the grill, you don’t need the sun beating down on your neck at the same time.

While valance tarps do have a good amount of coverage with the side flaps, they’re not going to incubate you and the heat from the grill; it will ventilate outwards.

9. Outdoor Covers w/ Mosquito Nets

For a semi-permanent summer retreat in your own backyard, you can set up a valance tarp, and then attach mosquito nets to the hanging side flaps.

This is going to be a very DIY-heavy project to attach the nets, but it’s going to pay off in the long haul. If those pesky bugs are bothering you at night, a net with a magnetic clasp entrance is going to do wonders for your outdoor enjoyment.

10. Event Canopy

Hosting a wedding reception in the yard?

It’s not easy being the party planner, but you can make everyone’s comfort an easier task by putting up a few valance tarps.

If you don’t want to spring for the super-sized ones (they are expensive when you get into full-scale tarps), you can just buy two frames and two tarps, and put them end-to-end. It’ll all work out the same.

How to Set up a Valance Tarp?

How to Set up a Valance Tarp?

Setting up your valance tarp is definitely very involved, but if you follow the right steps, then it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Start by setting up the frame. If you didn’t buy one, you can make one out of PVC pipes as the most cost-effective solution. Most frames will come with their canopy dimensions specifications if you purchase them, which could help out.

Set your anchors for the tarp frame, and make sure everything is in position.

With the top of the rame ready, pull the tarp over the top of it until it’s loosely in place. At this point, you can go around and use ball bungees to attach the grommets to the poles on either side. Your tarp should now be suspended over the center of the frame.

After this point, til the frame up slightly, and attach your poles as needed.

You can then lean one size of this canopy up on its poles while you attach the other side. It sounds ineffective, but it’s much easier than setting up the poles with weights on the bottom, and then trying to drop the finished canopy over the top.

Last, use some form of weight to keep the poles in place so they aren’t putting additional stress on the tarp itself or the rest of the frame. You can do something simple like bungee cabling a large rock to each leg.

What Size do You Need?

What Size do You Need?

This is where people often make a mistake when purchasing a new valance tarp. If you measure an area that you want to host an event, and it’s say 50’ x 80’, then you need a tarp that’s bigger than those areas. A valance tarp sits on a metal frame, and because it bends, you need more width than you first thought.

You can’t stretch 50’ worth of a tarp over a 50’ gap unless it’s being laid completely flat. The quickest way from A to B is via a straight line, which your valance tarp will not be positioned in.

But with a valance tarp, the frame is absolutely everything. Since people use valance tarps to cover large areas, that frame helps to keep it down when the wind starts to hit. The larger your tarp, the easier it is for it to blow away.

Always account for extra room. You want to buy a tarp for the frame more than you do for the space. When you construct a frame on your own, getting the measurements can be a little tricky.

You have to measure the slope going up, starting at the tie-down point where you can attach your grommets, right up to the top of the center, then down the other side.

It’s difficult to go ahead and give you an exact answer here, because there are a lot of valance tarp frame manufacturers out there. Not every one of them is going to be the average 30° angle going upwards; some will be a smaller angle, some will go as much as a straight 45° angle.

What About the Materials?

What About the Materials?

The primary material in valance tarps is polyethylene fabric, and you will rarely see it made out of anything else. Cotton canvas or mesh would both be disasters for what a valance tarp is truly useful for.

Polyethylene fabric is naturally waterproof, and can be treated to be flame resistant as well, making it perfect for just about every canopy need you could imagine.

Apart from that, you will encounter steel grommets and eyelets, depending on how thick the tarp is. Most valance tarps come in at 12-mil size, which equates to less than 0.002 inches thick. This is often a concern for people, but that’s the size they’re supposed to be; they’ll hold up just fine.

Can You Make a Permanent Fixture for a Valance Tarp?

Yes, you absolutely can.

If you really wanted, you could use concrete to permanently embed frame poles in the ground and make a permanent carport or canopy.

The main thing here is to just keep in mind that tarps can break, and while PVC pipes can last for cades without issues, the tarps won’t. You will have to replace them at some point.

When you do, you don’t want to run into a problem finding a replacement. If you plan on making a permanent valance tarp over your driveway or in the backyard, I recommend getting one or two replacement tarps to store away for later.

I also recommend not getting a custom-made tarp or custom dimensions on a valance tarp, unless you can find plenty of replacement tarps for those specific dimensions.

You just don’t want to make it harder on yourself to find replacement tarps in the future. If you really want custom dimensions, you can go through with it, if you don’t mind altering a tarp in the future to meet those dimensions in the event that your size is no longer available.

How Long do Valance Tarps Last?

What About the Materials?

Valance tarps are made out of polyethylene fabric, which actually positions you to have this last for a long time.

A lot of the time when we talk about how long a tarp lasts on average, it’s not because the tarp gets thin and withered on its own. It just comes down to the way that people use them, and how often the average person goes to replace their tarps.

Keeping that in mind, valance tarps last for about five years on average before they’ve become worn and tattered through consistent use. There are a few ways we can make valance tarps last longer, though, such as:

Store When Not in Use

Valance tarps are great for outdoor canopies, but they shouldn’t be left up when not in use. If it’s the middle of the summer and you’re using them for that, or it’s the middle of the rainy season and your valance tarp is a critical piece of equipment that helps you stay dry, keep it up.

There’s no point in taking it down if it’s getting daily use. But when winter comes, take it down. Polyethylene fabric is very durable, but the weight of snow building on the canopy is going to destroy it.

Check the Frame

Valance tarp frames are different, and if they’re in perfect working order, then everything is right as rain.

But if the frame is rusting, has small splits and is starting to dig into the tarp itself, all it takes is some wind to wiggle it down on a broken piece of pipe to send a tear through it. Then all it takes is a strong gust of wind to make that tear bigger. Check your frames.

Refinish Every Year

All tarps, regardless of how UV-resistant they are, have to be touched up from time to time to maintain their resistance against the sun. Chemical coatings can be applied time after time to maintain your tarps, and on average, you’ll be doing it about once a year.

Curing times can vary depending on which UV resistant chemicals you purchase, but in the long run, it’s not a lot of work to maintain them. A valance tarp replacement can cost a few hundred (in the range of 30’ x 40’ and the likes), but the chemicals could be 10% or less of the cost.

If you really need the shade in the middle of summer and want to ensure your valance tarp remains sturdy throughout the season, it’s worth it to fix them up.

If you don’t really have the time to reapply chemicals to them because you lead a busy life, replacements should happen about once every three years.

Valance Tarps in a Nutshell

You now know what a valance tarp is and how it can be used.

If you don’t already own a valance tarp, we have a wide selection available for you to choose from. Whether it’s a baby shower in the backyard or a wedding reception in the church field, we have exactly what you need to provide shade and shelter from the rain.