We all know that tarps can be used across a wide range of uses, from keeping our roof protected during a storm, to covering our RV roof to maintain the paint while it sits in the backyard.
However, we have different tarp materials for different purposes. A mesh tarp allows a small amount of moisture and light to penetrate it, ruling it out as a roof cover, but making it viable for many other purposes.
If you’re trying to decide on the best mesh tarp out there, there are a few factors you should consider. We’ve made this guide to help you in selecting the perfect mesh tarp, but also to answer all your questions surrounding them.
What Are Mesh Tarps?
Mesh tarps are large, full-cover canopies made out of mesh. These are not waterproof and often allow up to 45% of UV rays through sunlight to penetrate. Mesh tarps are inexpensive compared to other tarp materials and types, though they still have their utility in numerous applications.
A mesh tarp is commonly used in construction to tie down materials to prevent them from moving during transit, as you might have seen on the back of a dump truck while driving behind one on the highway.
Mesh tarps can also provide a good amount of shade and cool areas by up to ten degrees, making them useful for homemade canopies in your own backyard.
What is the Best Material for Mesh Tarps?
While the simple answer would just be “mesh”, that doesn’t really cover it.
Most mesh tarps are made from strands of polyethylene, which are cut like pieces of fabric that you would normally find woven together. These polyethylene strips are composed over one another, creating a mesh canopy.
The reason that poly mesh tarps are so great is that you can put more stress on them than a cotton canvas mesh tarp. Cotton is good, don’t get me wrong, but it just doesn’t hold up to the same levels of stress that a poly tarp can.
10 Mesh Tarp Uses
1. Canopy for Backyards and Events
The most common theme you’re going to see with mesh tarps is their application in providing shade. Canopies aren’t just a clear cut-and-dry thing: they can be made out of any tarp type, but mesh tarp is a particularly popular option.
It’s inexpensive, doesn’t require a lot of time to set up like a valance tarp does, and it can be positioned on poles or built into the edge of your roof.
You can use this just for some shade in the backyard, or use it as a tent cover during a sidewalk festival, camping trip, or even a wedding reception that you’re hosting.
If you’re doing something outdoors, there’s almost always an excuse to pull out the mesh tarp.
2. Truck Cover
Mesh tarps are specifically chosen as truck covers that haul materials around. I wouldn’t cover your entire truck with this like a slip cover to keep it safe from the elements, but I would use it if I were hauling items from point A to point B.
Raw materials like stone, rocks, dirt, and anything else that could potentially escape through the top, should all be tied down with a mesh tarp.
Outside of a job in construction or contractor work, this might not be of the greatest use, but it’s one of the most common reasons someone gets a mesh tarp.
3. Agricultural Facilities
These tarps are used all the time in agricultural work, because they do allow some levels of moisture and sunlight to come through. That’s different from a polyethylene tarp, which is good for providing a shield between plantlife and the sun/rain.
Mesh tarps can be used for mushroom growth, greenhouses, sustaining plant life in adverse weather conditions, and a lot more. It’s really amazing when you see how mesh is used to produce and protect the fruits and vegetables that we have every single day.
4. Protecting Raised Garden Beds
If you have a raised garden bed, it’s fantastic, but it’s probably because you live in a climate that usually kills plants because of the beating sun. You can still get sunlight to your plants, you just can’t let them burn in the heat and wither away.
Mesh tarps provide that cover, and if you’re able to, you can set it up so that your tarp just comes down off a couple of hooks when you need the sunlight, and back up when you need to protect your plants. It’s a good solution.
5. Trunk Liners
Hauling something that could make a huge mess in the back of your SUV?
It could cost hundreds to get your cast detailed after the fact, or a small percentage of that money to just get a mesh tarp and keep it in the trunk. Fold it up when you aren’t using it, and stick it in the backing of one of the seats.
This liner protects you when you’re hauling bags of soil, groceries, wet clothes from the beach, and so on. If you care about resale value and having as much selling power for your vehicle as possible, you should be protecting it with a mesh tarp.
6. Rain Protection
If you want to make a poncho out of a mesh tarp, you can do that. You want a deck cover?
You can do that. When I mention that these tarps allow moisture in, that doesn’t mean bullets of rain just come pouring through. Mesh tarps are treated with chemicals that help seal those spaces in between the mesh lining, and make them waterproof.
But those materials fade, and the mesh material itself takes on the brunt of the rain. Mesh is able to transfer moisture, which is why you see it used in athletic apparel and socks all the time: it’s breathable.
Trace moisture will get in, but not enough to make it drip down on you. That’s when you have a problem with the tarp.
7. Patch Repair
If you have an awning that you paid a lot of money for, you’re probably already aware of the fact that they can tear just as easily as anything else. Using similarly colored mesh to make a patch in the top is the best way to cover up a tear or damage without taking away the aesthetic appeal.
Mesh is going to be your cheapest option, and will hold up against the test of time for years to come.
8. Debris Net
Working on a project in the garage? Wood shavings getting everywhere?
Cleaning that stuff up is always a mess, plus sweeping it puts all the sawdust into the air, making it hard to breathe. Instead of doing all that, you could just have a mesh tarp on the floor while you work, catching everything that falls.
It saves time and makes the cleanup a lot less messy and toxic. Just pick up the tarp from either end, and carry it to a garbage can. Tilt it into the can, and let all the debris run free. It’s the easiest cleanup in the world.
9. Dog Kennel Cover
Have you thought about making a DIY dog kennel for Fido over there?
They could sure use it in the backyard. They still need to do their business in the yard even if it’s raining, and a covered dog kennel is the perfect solution.
If you do a full wraparound dog kennel with mesh tarps, it gives them an enclosure that can supply some level of heat insulation, while giving them a small area to play around in if the rain is too much.
10. Keeping Firewood Dry
If you chop your own firewood, you know how detrimental it is when moisture seeps inside. It can ruin the entire stack, and lead to wood rot. You spend time collecting it, so opening up the cover against the side of the house and spotting rotted wood is not a surprise you want.
Mesh tarps do allow moisture in, which is why they shouldn’t be laid directly against the firewood, but it can be used as a canopy over where you store your firewood.
How to Set Up a Mesh Tarp in Your Backyard?
Need some shade? Mesh is a good way to go, so long as you don’t mind the moisture coming through the top a little bit if it turns to rain. This is a simple, fast setup to put a mesh tarp practically anywhere. So long as you have the right dimensions on your tarp for the given area, this can work.
1. Open Up the Tarp
Simply lay the tarp out, and make sure it’s in the area you want it to be in. Once it’s fully opened, make sure the grommets are all secure and there is no fraying (it happens with mesh sometimes).
2. Attach Bungees
The fastest way to get your mesh tarp set up is with ball bungees or bungee cables. When you have the right amount based on the number of grommets you’ll be anchoring down, attach them to the tarp.
3. Anchor Down
Whether it’s poles that you’ve set up beforehand or spots along the back of your house, attach your bungees to the proper areas to suspend the tarp. If you don’t have poles, the tarp will have to be suspended and kept taut from multiple points on at least two sides.
How Strong Are Mesh Tarps?
It depends on what you’re talking about. If you’re wondering how much rainwater it could hold, not much. Moisture is allowed to travel through anyway, but if you pooled up rainwater inside of a mesh tarp, it would eventually buckle at its weakest point.
In terms of lugging around goods, like in the back of a pickup truck, they’re not very durable. Materials will cut through them if they move around too much, and using it for this purpose would probably shorten its life expectancy by a considerable amount.
Mesh tarps are best suited for covering materials from the top down instead of being used to carry them.
Mesh tarps could hold a small amount of weight for debris and discarded materials during a renovation project, or be used in a yard sale to hold onto a pile of items without tearing. Smaller tasks like that.
If you want your mesh tarp to last, don’t put it through hell and back; it can only handle so much. There’s a reason that they’re a more inexpensive tarp variant, and it’s not because they aren’t useful, but you have to apply them to the right situations to get the most out of them.
How Long do Mesh Tarps Last?
Mesh tarps are one of the most inexpensive tarp variants, and for a reason: they’re one of the least sturdy. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a mesh tarp last you for up to five years, but they rarely last beyond that.
This is because they’re not built like polyethylene; they’re not inherently flame retardant, and they don’t come with the same water resistance.
They’re a woven fabric; there are holes located throughout it by design. If you want your mesh tarp to last a little bit longer, you can do these few simple methods to maintain them.
- Weather: If you live in an area where you’re constantly facing a lot of rainy weather, then your mesh tarp is going to be put through the ringer a lot faster. Harsher climates will tear through mesh in half the time that they would normally take to degrade. Put them away when they’re not necessary, such as if they’re being used as a canopy but you aren’t going outside all that often anymore.
- Stress: Are you tying these down with ball bungees? Are you storing items on your tarp and dragging them from one place to another? Think of the physical stress that it’s going through, and find ways to reduce it to prevent abrasions and eventual tears in the fabric.
- Coating: Is your mesh tarp coated for UV protection? Even though a mesh tarp allows a lot of light to come through, per design, ultraviolet rays are still going to take their toll on the exterior of your mesh tarp. This is when the materials start to break down, and the mesh comes loose: coat them once a year to keep them efficient and to prevent breakage.
Are Mesh Tarps UV Resistant?
UV resistant? Yes.
Do they block 100% of UV rays like a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses?
No. Mesh isn’t a super material. It is designed to let some levels of light through, which can actually be a great thing depending on what you’re using your tarp for.
UV resistance simply means that it resists a certain amount of UV rays. It’s unlikely that you’ll find anything, from tarps to sunglasses, bragging about only being 80% effective against US rays.
At the end of the day, these tend to block more than 90% depending on the brand, and for many of us, that’s good enough.
If you’re going to spend half the day outside, and most of it is going to be under a DIY tarp made out of mesh, then you’re going to be okay. We actually need a certain amount of sunlight – which includes UV rays – on a day-to-day basis.
Completely blocking ourselves from UV rays at all costs isn’t something that needs to be done as of right now.
Is It the Same Mesh Used in Clothes?
For the most part, yes. Mesh is often used in athletic clothing, as well as the internal lining of winter gear to provide a breathable atmosphere. While that’s a good thing for clothing, being “breathable” isn’t always going to be the best for your tarps.
Mesh is crafted by these fabrics and materials being woven together, which means it’s not going to be good for insulation. You won’t find any usable insulated tarp made out of mesh, even if it’s laid with closed foam cells in the middle.
Using mesh is great, and it’s generally very affordable to do so. If you don’t want to get bogged down in a full enclosure canopy, you would make the sides out of mesh. You would do best with a roof lining made of poly to ensure its waterproof, though.
Multifaceted Uses of a Mesh Tarp
Mesh tarps are right up there with poly and canvas when it comes to usability, but they offer some versatility in greenhouses, truck covers, and canopies that are designed for aesthetic looks on the front of a store or shop.
When people think of mesh, they think of those dollar store mesh laundry bags and the material being very frail, when in reality mesh is used to create extremely durable, commercial-grade tarps like these.