Water damage is the mortal enemy of contractors, roofes, and homeowners alike – it’s a silent killer. When your roof is under siege from the elements, there’s one thing that can fortify your defenses.
Tarp roofing. Strategically laying down, nailing, and weighing down tarps into place to protect your roof with a perfect seal when the rain comes through.
From start to finish, we’re going to discuss the costs and longevity of a tarped roof, as well as a step-by-step guide to do it yourself. You’re here for a reason; let’s dive in.
What Exactly is Tarp Roofing?
Tarp roofing is when you temporarily have a tarp in place of asphalt shingles. Shingles can become damaged or weathered with time, especially if you live in the hurricane circuit.
Wind can get beneath them, expose certain defenses, and pool water that eventually leaks into your house. Tarp roofing is a temporary solution that covers this area to prevent wind, rain, and debris from entering your home or damaging your roof further.
Tarp roofing is never meant to be a permanent solution, but it can last longer than you think
Tarps are generally no thicker than 0.043mm, though this is very thick and unnecessarily tough for roof applications. With some DIY know-how, tarp roofing can be an effective barrier that can save you money in repairs.
When you tarp your roof, you’re putting a bandaid on a much bigger problem in the hopes that it doesn’t get any bigger. Tarps cover weak points in the roof, which can mitigate ongoing damage and make it less expensive than it normally would be to repair your roof when the time comes.
One other form of tarp roofing in the same spirit is tarping up areas of an exposed roof during a construction project.
If you’re in the middle of building your dream home, or you plan on working in construction anytime soon, you’re going to need to tarp up your roof when the storm clouds start rolling in.
Utilizing wooden planks, a sturdy tarp, and some outdoor screws, a tarp roof can be an easy-to-install, do-it-yourself project that prolongs the life of your roof until you can get a proper repair.
How Long Will a Tarp Last on a Roof?
There are two ways to look at this: temporary leak covers, and complete tarp covers. Sometimes, we go to build our home and the funds run out.
It’s an ambitious project, and when the coffers run dry, you have to cover it up to the best of your ability until you can spend more money (and time) continuing it.
You could tarp up a roof that’s literally just a wooden frame, and have it last for one to two years. With proper house wrap, installation, and attention to detail, a tarp really can last that long on average.
Debris, hail, continuous rain and wind are all going to wear it down, which is why you need to keep an eye on it and monitor the situation.
The other end of the spectrum is a temporary fix for a leak, as we’re going to explain later and give you a full tutorial for. This is a temporary thing that you should only use during a rough season, or in the meantime while you build up the money to actually fix the roof the right way.
These temp fixes can last for about three months, but should not be used longer than six months, especially in heavy rain seasons.
One thing that you need to keep in mind is what type of tarp you use. If you have one that’s extremely thin (blue tarps on the US color scheme), they’re going to last for a shorter amount of time, or might tear from heavy duty rain and debris falling.
Heavier tarps and those with UV protection will also be a big help, because UV rays can seriously break down tarp materials (and any plastics, for that matter) in a short amount of time. It’s why a market for UV resistant tarps exists.
The higher grade your tarp is, the better off you’re going to be if longevity is your concern. Shelling out the money for a high-quality tarp can save you a bunch in the long haul, but you have to be smart about it.
It’s better to have more than not enough, so if you notice you have a roof leak, you should grab a tarp right away.
If you don’t know the impact area of the leak, but things don’t look like they’re in disarray if you’re just glancing at your roof, you could order a 10’ x 10’ tarp and probably be okay, but if you notice multiple spots, you might need to go for a larger tarp, like a 50’ x 50’ or something along those lines.
How Much Does Tarp Roofing Cost?
There are two different ways that you can look at tarp roofing costs, and those fall into the categories of DIY versus a professional repair. Prices can vary, but then again, the time that it takes you is also going to be a factor.
Let’s compare the two and drum up the average cost to do it yourself.
Despite major contractors having access to bulk deals and better pricing on individual tarps, they use that to turn a profit.
Any business needs to make a profit, and we understand that, but oftentimes you’re going to get charged more on material cost for tarps than you would if you bought it yourself.
Since the average rooftop is about 1,500 square feet, you can expect to spend approximately $180 – $320 to cover your entire roof yourself, whereas a contractor doesn’t give direct costs for these materials.
However, if you’re just patching up a few small areas on your roof after a storm, it might not even run you $100 in total.
Tarp roofing isn’t something you just pull off in about ten minutes. Depending on your experience and the wind conditions, it can take about one to two hours to tarp up a damaged roof. If it’s the entire roof and you need to secure the tarps alone the edges, more like three hours.
When you’re paying professional roofers to handle this task, you’re paying more than one person’s wage for the hour, for about two hours or so. You just have to ask yourself if your time is really worth it.
For some of us, the cost isn’t the object, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, factoring in your time and the labor costs against each other is a reality for a lot of people.
You’re paying from one to three people to tarp your roof on average, meaning you could spend $60+ every hour on that roofing job outside of the material cost.
Health & Conditions
Most roofers that do this are insured, which is safety for you. If you’re not in good health or the weather conditions are harsh and you don’t feel safe doing it, you can hire someone to do it.
This is definitely a cause for concern for a lot of people, but it does mean you get left with the more expensive option.
After a storm, all these roofing companies are on call, and you might have to wait for two or three days before they can even come out. What if it rains again during that time?
Because of their inability to provide service in a timely manner or lack of urgency, you could suffer additional expenses from water damage. If it’s urgent and you have a big repair to do, you run a lower risk of further damage by doing it yourself.
Hiring a roofing company to carry out the task for a full, 1,500 square foot roof tarping can cost you about $1,000 up to roughly $1,300.
This accounts for the tarps, the 2” x 4”’s, the labor, and the time it takes. Smaller repairs, such as patch roofing under 500 square feet might only run you around $300 to $450.
1,500 square feet on your own, with tools and 2” x 4”’s to secure everything, isn’t going to cost you more than $400 (so long as you know what wood to buy). Smaller repairs under 500 feet might run you less than $100.
The consensus is that it’s always going to be cheaper to do it on your own, but it takes time and you’re likely not insured if you fall off of your own roof while repairing it, so there are pros and cons.
Do Insurance Companies Cover the Cost of Tarping Your Roof?
You have to read the fine print, but a lot of insurance companies that are located in the hurricane circuit of the country (Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, etc.) will offer roof tarping reimbursement as part of your insurance costs.
Basically, this means that your insurance company hires an army of roofers after a hurricane to send out to all of their insurance claims and clean things up nice and fast. You don’t have to just rely on one or two roofing companies that are giving not-so-competitive quotes.
This can save you over a thousand dollars if it’s included in your insurance. Keep in mind, this is only going to cover tarping as a temporary solution.
If you somehow have home insurance that’s absolutely fantastic and offers roof replacement due to a natural disaster, they may cover tarping for a few weeks until they can arrange contractors to come out and actually repair the roof instead.
What Kind of Tarp is Used for Roofing?
More often than not, you’re going to see poly tarps being used. This is because they’re inexpensive to manufacture and purchase in larger sizes, and because they work well for the short-term.
On the US color scheme, these are usually blue, meaning they’re about 0.006mm thin. That’s not a problem; they’re built ultra strong so this thinness doesn’t pose an issue. These poly tarps are used for short-term solutions that generally don’t outlive about six months.
When you’re DIY tarping your roof, you want to keep things as cheap as possible without skimping on quality. Poly tarps are the way to go. They’re easier to weigh down and screw in. Just be sure to get a UV resistant poly tarp.
The only times you’re going to find yourself using a thicker tarp is if you’re planning on sealing up the roof for one year or longer. This is common in DIY home building projects when funds need to be allocated.
A 0.006mm poly tarp won’t last a whole year, so be sure to go with something a little thicker if it’s for the long haul.
How do You Tarp a Leaking Roof?
Well, step one is finding the source of the leak. Just because you have a leaking roof doesn’t mean that where the water is coming down is directly beneath the source of the leak.
This is perhaps the hardest part to figure out. First, we’re going to need to diagnose it before we work towards a solution.
Go up on the roof while it’s raining outside. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but it’s going to help you out.
Rain is supposed to run off of your shingles in a specific way and act as a shield for the frame of your house, so if you pay close enough attention, you can see where water isn’t draining the right way.
Or maybe it’s moving in a different manner. Take a look at where the water is running to know what you have to do.
2. Use a Hose
If it isn’t raining, that’s okay. You might need a second set of hands for this one, though. Use a hose and spray up on the roof while watching where water lingers. When your roof has a leak, there’s generally a soft spot where water can pool right on your asphalt tiles.
If not, when your roof starts to dry, the spot with the leak will remain wet for longer, giving you time to see where the low points or pooling spots are in the roof area. That could be where your leak is.
3. Rusty Nails
This one is pretty straightforward. If you go up on your roof and all the nails are rusty, well, your roof might not be doing so hot. More often than not, if you go up there, you’re going to be able to see dulled but non-rusty looking nails throughout all the shingles.
When you spot those that have seriously rusted out, this could indicate water is pooling in this spot. It could be the entry point.
Peel back asphalt tiles to look for mildew, mold, or water that’s found its way underneath the tiles. You have to do this carefully to confirm it without ripping the tiles up, otherwise you’ll end up doing more harm than good.
Are Self-Adhesive Tarps Any Good?
They’re perfect for a short-term solution where you don’t want to put any holes in your existing roof shingles, but not for a long-term solution. The adhesive material will last through temperature changes and rain, but UV light is a different story.
Most poly tarps are not UV-rated for a long time, so the adhesive will most likely deteriorate and render the bond useless. If you’re looking for a solution to get you through a couple of weeks, self-adhesive tarps could be a good solution in the meantime.
So, How do You Patch it Up?
Once you’ve found the total area that needs to be patched up, you need to get a tarp, a drill, screws, and some long 2” x 4”s.
If you’re only using this as a solution for the weekend or less than thirty days, you can use 1” x 2”s in their place since they’re cheaper. You need your pieces of wood to be cut to the size that you need; you cannot use multiple pieces of wood for one side.
Lay your tarp down over the top of your roof, ensuring that the source of the leak is in the direct center. Ideally, you’ll have at least sixteen inches of clearance from the edge of the leak to the edge of your tarp.
Once your tarp is laid out, take three pieces of your preferred wood, and place one on the top (nearing the point of the roof). Place the left and right pieces, pulling the tarp so that it’s taut. Leave the bottom area empty for now.
Starting with the top, take your wood and roll it into the tarp. Your tarp should wrap around it at least once so that the wood is no longer visible.
Once this feels nice and tight, and you know it’s in a good spot, use your drill and screws and drill this down into your roof. Follow suit with the left and right pieces.
Once these three are all wrapped up, you should have a tarp with three small walls, as it were, and the loose piece flapping on the bottom. You’re going to do the same to the bottom area, but you’re going to roll the wood underneath the remaining bit of tarp instead.
This creates a small angle near the bottom so water doesn’t just pool up; it’ll run down and off the bottom of the tarped area.
Step-by-Step Guide to Tarping Your Roof
It would be nice if you could just do the leak patch job we mentioned before across your entire roof, but it’s not possible. It’s not sustainable even if you were to replicate it properly.
We’re going to go down a full list of the steps you need to do if you want to tarp up your roof for the long haul, such as a full year, or if you’re in the middle of replacing your roof and the money runs out. We want a tight, long-lasting seal, so that’s what we’re going to do.
1. Clean Off Your Roof
It sounds simple, but before you tarp your roof, you need to clear off all the debris. Whether that’s going to be simple twigs and leaves that have fallen down from the trees, or if it’s going to be debris that’s left over from when the storm destroyed your roof, it’s time to clean everything off.
Bring a brush up with you to scrub down the existing shingles to get splinters and dust out of the way.
2. Measure the Total Available Area
Your tarp needs to be bigger than the area you’re planning on covering, so you need to measure exactly where you need to cover, and then think bigger.
One common mistake that a lot of people have when buying tarps to secure their own roof is that they need multiple tarps for multiple holes. Not at all.
You can literally drag one big tarp along the entire roof like a big blanket.
It’s not necessarily going to be cheaper to buy multiple, smaller tarps and patch them up one at a time. It’s going to cost more time and materials, too.
When you scale up the size of the tarp you need, it doesn’t bump up the cost quite as much as you’d think. Opt for a larger tarp and cover those areas in between holes or problem areas on your rooftop.
3. Ready Your Materials
We’re going to use segmented 2” x 4”s for this, unlike the leaky roof patch. We can’t have 20’ long pieces of flimsy wood up on the roof, so stick to 4’ long pieces. Get a powerful drill that’s at least 18V with over 100 inch pounds of torque, as well as decent screws.
You want no. 9 screws, which are about 2 ½ inches long in total, and can go through your boards into your roof without going so deep that they cause more problems.
4. Lay Your Tarp Down
Now comes the moment of truth. You know where your tarp needs to go, so it’s time to get it over the right area. If it’s a windy day, this is going to be tricky, but you’ve got this. While you’re laying it down, periodically use your 4’ long pieces of wood to weigh it down periodically.
Once your tarp is completely laid out, you have to make it nice and taut. To do this, start in one corner, gradually moving the pieces of wood around and pulling on that tarp beneath them.
Once you have one secured in place and the tarp is nice and tight, move on to the next. These aren’t going to stay in a perfect spot, but you want a nice taut tarp to start with.
Inspect the total tarp surface area. Is it covering enough? Is it doing what you want it to do?
Good. Start by screwing in a 2” x 4” in the top right corner, and work your way inward, reinspecting each board along the way.
You should end up with boards along the edges, holding the corners and key points in between against the roof (this depends on your total project size, of course), as well as a few in the middle to help weigh it down and keep wind from getting underneath.
For each 4’ long board, you can use three screws to keep it in place: top, middle, and bottom.
We did all this work, so we don’t want to leave it without ensuring it’s the best job we could have possibly done. Go along the tarp’s edges and make sure everything looks good and creates a tight seal. If it doesn’t, don’t go ripping boards up left and right – just add new ones.
You can use an additional board in areas that seem to have some extra give, and tighten up these loose spots. This works for the edges as well as any spots in the middle of your tarp. You’re done.
The Best Roofing Solution You Have at Your Disposal
Your roof needs to stay secure before and after a hurricane rolls in, on the rainy weekends in between construction projects, and patched up long enough for a contractor to come and re-shingle it.
There’s a lot of reasons to tarp your roof, and now that you know how to take care of business, what will you do for your next project?
Tarping doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. We have numerous tarps in a wide array of materials available for you right now. Whether you’re patching up the garage roof or building your dream home, our tarps will hold up to the test, and be ready for your next project on the list.