It always feels like hurricane season begins just as quickly as it ends.
When we’re in the off-season, we need to prepare for come-what-may, and the first line of defense you have is by using hurricane tarps.
Developed to be completely waterproof and withstand impact from high winds, a hurricane tarp could be what saves you thousands of dollars in home repairs when you come back after the storm has settled.
They’re a necessity, but few people know how to use them effectively. Let’s show you everything you need to know about securing your hurricane tarp for the best defense possible.
What Exactly Are Hurricane Tarps?
Hurricane tarps are, in fact, used for hurricanes. They’re different from your standard poly tarp in design and construction, because they’re built thicker than most polyethylene tarps out there.
There’s a rating system of how thick tarps are, and in many instances, a thicker tarp doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be stronger.
Many hurricane tarps are around the 0.026mm range, which is actually fairly thick in terms of tarps. The seams are generally two or three times as thick, since they’re parts of the material that are folded over and stitched together.
Hurricane tarps have an extra thick layer of chemical compound on the exterior, and this is by design. You want your tarp to be wind resistant, waterproof, mildew-proof, and have heat-sealed seams. Basically, you want to be prepared for Armageddon with this thing.
Last but not least, some tarps will end up only having two grommets per side even if they’re about ten feet long. With most hurricane tarps, you’re going to see heavy duty grommets being used every 24” up to 36” on average.
This is so you have additional tie-down points to secure your tarp to whatever you want, while ensuring that the wind isn’t going to be as much of a problem. That’s extra resistance that you need.
Average Hurricane Tarp Size
On average, you’re going to see hurricane tarps at about eight feet by ten feet.
This doesn’t sound all too big, but they’re designed this way for a reason: cutting down on the power that wind has over your tarps. If you put four separate tarps over one area, you have all those additional tie-downs, and only so much wind power that can get underneath each tarp.
If a crazy-strong gust comes along underneath a twenty foot by thirty foot tarp, all that wind power is going to pull it from its place (most likely), since there’s more force due to the higher surface area.
You’re going to use the same tie-downs, whether they’re bungee cables, stakes, ropes, or ball bungees, that you would use with a smaller tarp.
These tarp sizes work great for a number of reasons, including:
One of the biggest threats that hurricanes have is against your windows. They’re frail pieces of glass that can’t even handle a baseball going through them – do you think fierce winds have the same force as a baseball?
Yes, they do, and then some. If you can pull a hurricane tarp nice and taut over your window, it will repel most wind force, and any debris that might come its way. If all goes well, the debris will bounce off of it.
Shed and Garage Covers
You can use a hurricane tarp to cover the entire exterior of your shed, and pull it down over all sides. You use ball bungees and curtain ties to keep it in place when it’s at the bottom, hooking it onto the underside of your shed doors or foundation.
This will work wonders for keeping wind off of your windows and doors, and keeping debris from smashing through. For garages, you’d be using this to cover the entire exterior of your door, any windows, and potentially the roof.
If enough wind power goes against your garage door – which isn’t suspended by all too much – it can send it barreling inward. Then the wind has more power and can destroy your home.
Securing Large Items in the Yard
Firepits, ride-on mowers (if you don’t have a shed or garage), tables, things of that sort, can all huddle up underneath a good tarp.
These tarps should be secured to a structure as well as stakes in the ground, so long as those stakes are rated for hurricane use as well. This can save you a lot of time if the storm is fast approaching. It’s a good measure, though it’s not perfect.
Standard Hurricane Tarp Materials
These tarps are made out of polyethylene, but they also require a few other materials to really get the best use out of them. A tarp on its own isn’t good unless you have the means to tie it down. You could use the following.
These have to be able to go into the ground pretty deep to work, but they very well might.
These stakes are generally weighted to give additional wind resistance, and keep the tarp on the ground. You would have to use a lot of these to keep a tarp down, because if one ends up being weak, it will rely on the others.
These bungee cords are pulled through a plastic ball to make a look, and then work perfectly to slip through grommets, and around poles or structures for support.
While ball bungees have an incredible pain tolerance, you still need one for every grommet or eyelet during a hurricane. This also applies for bungee cables.
This is something that’s just always good to have around. If you8 see that your tarp doesn’t have as many tie-down spots as you would like, that’s okay. You can use heavy-duty rope to use like a big belt.
Have one end tied to a structure, like your home, and the other to a detached garage or cemented-in valance tarp pole. Make sure it’s tight, and bring it down over the top of your hurricane tarp. It will help keep it close to the ground when the wind is blowing.
How to Use Hurricane Tarps: a Step-by-Step Guide
You can use hurricane tarps that are eight by ten, like the ones we mentioned, or you can go a step above. You can get tarps that cover your entire home, from the peak of your roof down to the ground. These are obviously custom and very expensive, but it’s doable.
If you wanted, you could also use multiple 100’ x 100’ tarps and secure them together on your own to make a house cover. It’s all up to you.
For this guide, we’re going to operate on smaller tarps so you can get a feel for how you should individually tarp up your home from the windows to the doors and more.
1. Measure Windows, Doors, and Potential Problem Areas
Before you even order your tarps, you need to know what you’re tarping. Measure the distance between tie-down points at your windows, doors, and anywhere else that you might be tarping.
This can include your air conditioner units (if they’re in fenced-in enclosures), and things of the sort. Keep in mind that tarps are usually four to six inches smaller than they are fitted for, because those measurements include before the seams are stitched. Account for that in your plans.
2. Identify Tie-Downs
Find your tie-down points for every tarp. It’s not going to look seamless or flawless, but wherever you can secure a ball bungee or bungee cord hook will be an optimal tie-down point.
If you have the option, consider installing heavy-duty hooks into the sides of your window sills or door frames on the outside, just so that you have somewhere to hook your tarp to.
3. Drape Your Tarp
Pull your tarp over the identified areas. Before you attach them, make sure they’re not too small. Look for where the corners meet your tie-down points. We want to avoid having wind creep in here at all, and if it’s too small, it’s just not going to do a good job.
4. Time to Secure It
Using your securing method of choice, once your tarps are in place, you have to actually tie them down. This seems like the easy part, but we’re not out of the woods yet.
Sometimes we do a good job with something, then realize it wasn’t as good as we thought. If your tarps are too loose, they’re not going to help you out too much. Make sure the means of securing them and the tarps themselves are taut.
How Long do Hurricane Tarps Last?
Hopefully, through more than one hurricane. These are very niche, specific tarps that should just be used for emergencies. Hurricane tarps have an indefinite life expectancy, so long as they’re still intact after a storm and you don’t encounter too many storms in your life.
But storms are going to happen. There’s no clear way to tell if your tarp is going to last through it, or if it’s going to be torn and ripped to pieces.
Hurricane tarps are designed for hurricanes because of their extreme waterproofing and durability, which is why you get them in the first place, but it’s not always a surefire thing.
There’s no way to 100% perfectly predict how devastating a hurricane is going to be, or if it’s even going to hit your home.
For many people, they’re in the safe zone and those would-be 80 MPH winds come through, only to unveil that they were actually 110 MPH, and the destruction left behind is far more severe than anyone thought it was going to be.
For reasons like that, you can just prepare for the worst-case scenario, and have comfort in knowing that you’re doing everything that you possibly can.
You can’t prepare for every situation, but you can prepare your reaction for every situation, and in this instance it should be something along the lines of “I’ve done all I can, let’s hope it sticks.”
Protecting Yourself Against Hurricanes
Hurricanes are unpredictable. You never know when the wind is going to tear tiles from your roof, or send a lawn chair through the living room window.
Hurricane tarps ensure you’re prepared against the elements, and now that you know how to use them effectively, you’ll be ready for the next big storm.