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Tarp repairs

 
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I would *really* like to significantly reduce the numbers of tarps on my homestead, but with our constant winter wet, I don't expect to get my wish anytime soon.

So in the meantime, I've been working hard to try and at least improve how we use tarps, so that they last longer.

Tarps definitely keep things dry, but they're prone to:
1. pooling water, which stretches them, which makes them pool worse, which then breaks them.
2. having the grommets rip out.

Things I've done to help with problem 1:
A) try to create a solid ridgepole. A rope doesn't cut it!




The first picture is part way through installation. I have used Bamboo, but I don't tend to have any that's quite straight or strong enough for some applications.
B) Use *lots* of guy ropes. The less flapping the better the tarp will last.  
C) On one structure, I used some wide 4" webbing to support the tarp in between the metal "rafters" which are always too far apart to survive our weather.  Hubby insists it makes no difference, but it seems to make it a little easier to for me to get the snow to slide off.

Things I've done to help with problem 2:
A) I've made aluminum "tarp sandwiches" which can be bolted through the tarp and held together with stainless 1/4 20 hardware. They're expensive and time consuming to manufacture, but they can be used over and over again. Unfortunately, they're time consuming and frustrating to install, and covered in slime/moss by the time they need to come off. There are places for them, but not for quick repairs on a tarp that's already showing its age.
B) Many of the tarps we buy, have a "spare grommet" with fabric around it, through the plastic bag, so the shopkeepers can hang the bags of tarps on hooks. I've started salvaging and saving these "spares".  The image below shows one I installed recently along with 2 others on that particular tarp.



Another approach I try to do, is to have the tarp as steep a pitch as possible.

Other ideas are welcome!
 
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A very labour intensive option might be to reinforce the entire circumference by binding the edges with strips waxed duck canvas (like bias binding) and blanket stitch around the grommets having cut an x slit in the middle of each grommet as you work your way around.

Perhaps start with any new tarps that you purchase and then work your way through the older ones.

The older tarps could be cut into strips and stitched onto the older ones to reinforce them where ever they start to stretch before they actually tear.

The big half circle upholstery needles and linen thread would be good for sewing the tarps.



 
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I saw this video a while back that seemed pretty amazing (the channel does a lot of amazing stuff so it isn't unbelievable to me) that involves using a method for making your own tarps that are much better than typical plastic tarps. I realize working with this type of stuff isn't high on too many peoples Eco Scale, but I have seen many people leave tarps outside to degrade into billions of micro plastic particles in relatively short time frames which I can't see being any better.



You could use anything from old sheets to a heavy canvas tarp and make it both waterproof and much more long lasting. I realize this doesn't help to fix existing tarps, but it might be an option moving forward to avoid having to fix tarps as much in the future.  I haven't actually tested this one out for myself, but would love to hear feedback from other people if they try it.
 
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Jay, it looks like you are doing a lot of things to keep the tarps in good working order. I have the same complaint and I have taken my tarps out on to the driveway or deck to wash them off, repair and then use automobile convertible dressings to keep them supple, sealed and UV resistant. It has worked pretty well but is labor intensive as I do it twice in the Spring/Summer season when I have time. If you purchase good heavy-duty tarps to begin with, it pays off. I have to do both sides and flip them to keep wear equal on both sides. I also keep the older ones on over the new ones in some cases to prolong the life of the new ones. I hope you can succeed with you plan. Good Luck.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:I would *really* like to significantly reduce the numbers of tarps on my homestead, but with our constant winter wet, I don't expect to get my wish anytime soon.


Other ideas are welcome!



Jay, do you have a goal of a cost per sq ft/ year.    in other words, are  you expecting the cost of coverage to be at $0.40 cents per year or double that?  or way less.  

What I am getting at, is there are several green house options (hoops) That might cost 4-6 times more than a tarp, but last 10 times longer.  Thus costing less in the long run.

Likewise, the actual cost of the tarp, can vary with the quality of the tarp. Though this ratio may not change much when calculation of coverage cost/year gets involved.

Depending on your size, some very low cost hoop structures have worked well.  (of course snow load is also a factor)

The video info looked excellent.
 
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I have same issues with Poly tarps.    Also noticed after using those instant shelters my earlier $650 Cover-it brand shelter lasted close to 7 years until two back-to-back massive snowstorms did it in.   Later I purchased another from Cover-it but fabric was distinctly a lighter gauge poly tarp style without the heavy two-layer silver under and in my case tan top layer.  I did not get 5 years this time as Sun did its damage.

I have bought three more, this time Shelter Logic which I believe was formerly the Cover it Brand as all google searches redirect to shelter logic brand. The other thing I noticed was that the pipe gauge was considerably lighter.  To purchase a heavy longer lasting model is now 4 times price as my original 7 year cover it.    I had waited for sales on Garage-In-a-Box ($350) at my Local Trac(Farm Supply).
 Although I don't keep chickens, too many coincidences of late regarding feed and supply chain issues, I hesitate to patronize companies under influence of political expediency .  I also stopped buying cheap blue tarps because I simply don't get 6 months out of them.  I go straight for extra heavy-duty tarps and use older ones to go over tops just to keep damaging sun at bay.    I also purchase about three to four tarps each season to cover my camper and boats.

I met a fellow at local truck farm who has success using used vinyl sign fabric like the preprinted ones used on massive billboards along the highways.
He simply finds used heavy duty tent frames which can be obtained nearly free just for hauling away and covers it with one or more billboard vinyls.  He keeps his 16-wheeler dump truck inside it.  Oh and he turns his white side out and graphic looks cool from inside.
 
Jay Angler
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Scott Weinberg wrote:Jay, do you have a goal of a cost per sq ft/ year.    in other words, are  you expecting the cost of coverage to be at $0.40 cents per year or double that?  or way less.  

Hubby tends to buy the tarps on special. We have migrated to brands we've had better longevity with, but we have to watch when we stock up, as we've noticed a number of products that have "cheapened down" over the last 5 years. Unfortunately, the issue often comes down to lack of time to build something better, rather than the up-front cost issues.

And wrote:

Depending on your size, some very low cost hoop structures have worked well.  (of course snow load is also a factor)

Two of our current "tarped" structures are based on old car shelter frames. They still need to be covered with something!

One frame is pretty much as it came out of the factory. I'm pretty amazed that it hasn't collapsed from snow, but that's only because I'm pretty diligent about getting it cleared off. I'll try to get a picture today of how I "assisted" it with extra strapping.
However, at this stage it is covered with two layers of tarps and is still leaking as they've deteriorated and need replacing, but somehow there were other priorities last year.

The second one I cut each of the cross pieces in half, so a 20ft long frame became a 10 ft long frame. I use this one as shelter when I need to process poultry. This tarp's been damaged from wind and snow, however, the entire structure needs to be levelled better and fastened to Mother Earth more securely. The trouble is that it's sandwiched between a building that we use for storage and brooding chicks to the west, a very large cedar tree in the northeast corner, a farm road down a steep narrow slope to the east, and a parking area to the south. Using guy ropes to hold it down isn't very practical. Fastening it to the adjacent building is also not practical. Moving it further west and south might have potential, but there is less natural light there due to 2 more very large cedar trees. However, once I get that sorted, my plan is to put wood strapping on the "roof" and then put some light aluminium flashing material as "roofing". Not really the right material, but it was free to a good home and I think I can make an adequate roof out of it.  This would mean one less tarp - yes!!!

We have some portable hooped structures that our chickens live in - some people would call them chicken tractors, but they're a more complicated structure than most of those. They're covered with agricultural grade coroplast. We were sold one batch that we were *told* was ag grade, but alas it was not. It is desperate for replacing, but time is the limiting factor, and it gets higher priority than our tarped firewood shelters. Plastic may last longer than tarps, but it's still virtually impossible to recycle, and if not garbaged soon enough, starts to leave micro-plastic dust in the environment. Better quality *may* last longer, but I bought a supposedly UV stable, reinforced tarp for a greenhouse season extension, and it was a disaster. I've seen similar material on greenhouses, but this was clearly either accidentally below specs, or an illegal knock-off. I have my eye on some quality double wall greenhouse material that might replace some of our tarps, but 4'x10' panels were in the order of $150 several years ago. We have to go up-island to get them and they may not tolerate bending over a hoop - they may only work on straight structures, so more research is needed. They definitely wouldn't work on the chicken shelters as the poor girls would cook in the summer!

Short answer, yes, the more support you can give a structure, the longer a tarp is likely to last. The more you can give tarps some "shade", the longer they'll last unless that "shade" drops a branch through them. This is where patching and grommet replacement come in! Trying to design our lives to not need tarps is a wonderful goal, but alas, I'm not there yet. I would love to have a properly designed wood shed with a permanent roof on it. The "Jay" version of that, was semi-permanent and doing well until.... not just a branch, but a bloody tree fell on it! Sigh... There are reasons Hubby doesn't want me to just rebuild what we had although if he hasn't come up with a viable plan by the time the now finished wood shed in the first picture is in need of retirement, he may loose his veto rights. Yep, I'm *really* tired of tarps!

woodshed-rehab-complete.jpg
This should hold a couple of cords of wood from trees that came down last fall.
This should hold a couple of cords of wood from trees that came down last fall.
 
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Salut,
So many things requiring repair, inc tarps.
Here, They start off covering vehicles, tools, saws, woodpiles; as they wear out, which they do too quickly for my liking, I use them to haul wood and organic materials around the place.
I load, on the ground, and pull stuff, more than could possibly fit in a wheelbarrow to its destination.
The only tarps that have stood the test of time are the heavy lorry(in English) or truck tarps.
They were sold by weight and not cheap.

Recently, I have moved to linoleum, floor covering. I came across rolls of the stuff at the recycling centre where I contribute time and effort.
The items are remaindered stock and it comes in different thicknesses and widths.
We offer free prices, whatever you deem right and can afford.
Not all linos lend themselves to all tarp type uses but the stuff is remarkably sturdy.
I was lucky to find a roll of pond liner which I mistook for lino. It is fabulous with its reinforcements, jolly solid yet will fall around a pile of whatever.

Fixing is worthy. I have a a pile of I’ll fix that when I have a moment.
In the meantime, I try to make better choices, gain experience, make mistakes, read permies input, thank you thank you.
May we have a wonderful week. Monday, it was nearly shorts abd t-shirtbweather.
Today, it’s snowing, the plum blossom is complaining.
Blessings to all
M-H
 
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Things I've done to help with problem 1:
A) try to create a solid ridgepole. A rope doesn't cut it!

 I totally agree, but had to laugh.  Figuratively this is true, yes, but a rope actually literally cuts it, because all its imperfections, seen or unseen, add friction, acting as knives as the tarp shifts and flexes.  

But the other crucial point about a rope center ridge is that it offers a surface area that is too small to support the fragile fabric of the tarp.  The gentle curve of the bamboo, or PVC, or other larger diameter material supports a much larger bit of the tarp's surface area, spreading that tension out.  Similar to my first point, a smooth object, even a smoother type of rope-if that's all you have, will be a lot less prone to tearing the tarp than a rope with an uneven surface.  Multiple support structure pieces can spread the load and tension out further but can be more prone to allowing snow or water to be trapped.

I've had some success running a rope through the grommets on one side of the tarp, and then pulling on that rope with my tie down ropes.  This spreads out the tension to all of the grommets on that side at once, rather than a point force on one grommet.

Another option is the stone method.  Rather than use grommets at all, take a stone or even a smooth spruce cone or another object (I've used short sticks), put it in the bottom side of the tarp, and scrunch the upper surface of the tarp over the object.  Tie your tie-down rope around the scrunched upper surface so that the object is trapped.  This method, in comparison to a grommet, creates many more points of tension in the tarp fabric.  This will lose you some of the available tarp coverage, and is best initiated on the ground before the tarp has been put up.

The sturdiest method I've found is to put a board along the edge of the tarp, and then roll the tarp, trapping the wood.   At this point you have a wooden edge that you can fasten hooks, rings, or screws into and use them to pull the tarp tight with your tie-down straps.  Of course this uses up some available tarp surface in the rolling.  Alternatively, two boards can be placed on opposite sids, sandwiching the tarp edge.  This allows you to use the entire tarp's surface for shedding water.

None of these methods will serve you perfectly in a windy location.  The windier that a place is, the more prone the tarp will be to flapping.  No matter how tight you think you've made a tarp structure, it will have wind movement in a windy spot.  Although UV will eventually mess with all of these non-resistant plastics, wind can destroy them in minutes.  A few years ago, I had a fresh medium-duty tarp guyed down solidly and evenly that was totally destroyed by a single storm because of it's location.  In other locations, protected by trees from most U.V. and wind, I've had tarps last a really long time.

The disintegrated plastic tarp is the bane of many a homestead.  Mine included.

Tarp comes from the word Tarpaulin, which seems to come from the idea of impregnating a fabric with tar.  It seems there is a bit of planned obsolescence, or just general ignorance on the part of industry and the consumer world on the creation and use of plastic tarps.  The almost ubiquitous nature really bothers me but I haven't really done anything about this gripe!  Plastic tarps are a part of the convenience culture that we probably should be trying to find alternatives to, like making real tarps.  That is a good video posted earlier.  There are lots of videos on making fabrics waterproof that a person can check out.  The natural way would be to apply some kind of oil base with beeswax melted into it.  Heat is beneficial to get such oil mixes to penetrate and soak into the fibers of the fabric.  
 
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Tarps are definitely on my love/hate list. I need them but I hate how fast they fall apart (and my geese love removing the grommets). One thing I've found works really well is incorporating cattle panels into the support structure. I anchor them with t-posts and throw the tarp on and tie it at the grommets but also throw rope or bailing twine over it to keep the wind from getting under it. Some of my goat shelters are made this way, with pallets forming walls. The other option that works really well is to buy a billboard sign. I've got one that I threw over my milk parlor (which is just a cheapo greenhouse) and it has held up marvelously going on 5 years now. It protects the plastic that came with the greenhouse and it's white so it helps keep it cooler in summer. I also got one and covered my shelter logic (which is my hay storage). It holds up far longer than a tarp and reduces the weathering of the covers that come with these structures, I would say at least doubling their lifespans!
Buck-shelter.png
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big-shelter.png
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I have given up on the poly tarps of any kind. The sun destroys them quickly. I have found that (more expensive than poly) canvas tarps are cheaper over their lifetime due to the longer life.
 
Jay Angler
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Tom Millican wrote:I have given up on the poly tarps of any kind. The sun destroys them quickly. I have found that (more expensive than poly) canvas tarps are cheaper over their lifetime due to the longer life.

Do you find they grow moss all winter?
 
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Jay, if you have any swimming pool companies in your area, they would probably gladly give use some used liners. You can mend any holes with Gorilla tape. I used one liner for almost 10 years to cover my firewood stacks before it got too brittle to use. They are usually a 2 person job because they are heavy. Give one a try
 
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Due to living in a place where the ground freezes, there are a lot of people around here with above ground pools. One thing that often gets thrown out in this area are the heavy duty vinyl pool liners and the bubble wrap type pool covers. They are usually quite large. I use those a lot for covering wood piles and things. They're already on their way to the dump if I don't reuse them so even though they are plastic, at least I'm saving them from the landfill for as long as I can continue using them. They seem to hold up well against the sun, probably because they are meant to live their lives outside.

Now that I've seen that video on creating a silicone dip for cloth, I am excited to try that. Someone gave me a ton of sheets a while back but I no longer have a bed that fits them so I'm thinking there are a lot of silicone coated tarps in my future.
 
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Discount tarps fall to pieces pretty quickly. The ones I use are made by a Canadian company called Inland Plastics. They are a pleasant green outside, white underneath, and hold up for many, many years. You won't find them in standard big box stores. I get mine from a farm supply store.

I've noticed that heavy grade translucent tarps seem to hold up much better than coloured ones. It may be the UV treatment, but I also think they don't get as hot in the sun.

Some of the 'tarps' I use are not woven tarps at all, but heavy construction grade vapour barrier -- the kind certified for house construction. I think it's 8 mil (but maybe it's 6 mil?). I get it in rolls that unfold to 9 feet wide and as long as you want. It's ugly because it has all the certification inked onto it, but it's good for the better part of a decade in the sun. It doesn't have grommets (which are overrated IMO) so I put 2x2s on either side, double up the plastic, and zap in drywall screws to hold everything together.
 
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Here, in farming country, we use a lot of tarps to cover haystacks.  You will never see a Harbor Freight, big box or other blue tarp performing the duty. They won't make it through the winter.  The ones covering the stacks are FAR heavier.

You can buy the tarps from hay storage companies after they pull them from stacks when they suffer wind damage. It's too expensive to repair (patch-sew) them, so they replace them. The pieces make great covers for cars and everything else under the sun.  They will last several years, baring damage from winds.
 
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I always look for discarded awnings. The store-bought stuff is criminally weak and  starts disintegrating into microplastic after two seasons max. Haven't found anything better so far.
 
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After building a poly tunnel in the garden and covering with UV resistant plastic sheeting, we were disappointed to find that it only lasted 2 years. We completely redesigned the frame to accommodate polycarbonate roof panels. So our curved tunnel became an A- frame. The panels are corrugated, 2' wide, and 10' or 12' long, also clear rather than opaque so lots of sun in the winter.

They attach to the wood frame with screws and my husband removes them for summer gardening. The ones at the orange big box store have a pretty good warranty and claim to be unbreakable. Three years (or 4?) in and so far we are very pleased.

I know this won't work for all applications but it can be great for a lot of things. It doesn't curve like a tarp, so you really have to rethink the frame. As for firewood covering, we used a mash-up of old tin roofing and new metal roof leftovers, screwed to a frame of scrounged 2x4s stuck on the back of the garage.

I wonder how easy it is to get your hands on discarded highway signs from the DOT. Never tried, myself. But I just saw a smoking shed (fish, not cigarettes) roofed with them.

It seems like if you have a structure that you intend to use for years, best to think of something besides a tarp. Costly up front, yes. But way less headache and waste in the long run.
 
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I've used (something similar to) these in very windy Hong Kong.  Not perfect, but they definitely extended the life of a weak / low quality tarp.  I as some else mentioned, you can fold tarp over a board (I used wooden chop sticks with these) and it extends the tension out from the jaw quite a bit.  I haven't used these exact ones (these actually look pretty cheap) and just picked as an example.  The ones I purchased had the saw teeth and clamp opening was adjustable and appeared to be a good be more robust.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HN7KR5P/ref=sspa_dk_detail_0?pd_rd_i=B08HN7KR5P&pd_rd_w=e0jmT&content-id=amzn1.sym.386c274b-4bfe-4421-9052-a1a56db557ab&pf_rd_p=386c274b-4bfe-4421-9052-a1a56db557ab&pf_rd_r=T7TXWJS2JX92T636JXHK&pd_rd_wg=qIF5d&pd_rd_r=ad44e873-19cb-4a65-92b2-a39fe6c570a3&s=hi&sp_csd=d2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9kZXRhaWxfdGhlbWF0aWM&th=1
 
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Another idea for tarp material. This time of year, at least in the northern climes, you'll start seeing boats removing their shrinkwrapped boat covers. We used to live on a boat, and every spring we'd see dumpsters filled to overflowing with heavy duty plastic shrinkwrap. Grab those suckers. They're often already preformed into a large (30+ ft) curved boat-shaped covering. Sometimes there's a bit of extra shrinkage left in them, which you could wrap around your frame and apply heat to finish off the forming.

And for those of you concerned with the serious damage from wind on tarps. Yup. Friction is no joke. But even in really rough winter storms (in Canada, we stay moored to the dock for the season) that shrinkwrapped plastic on the boat sustained no damage from the wind.

You can be proactive and ask someone before they remove theirs if you could help with the removal, or even do it for them (which they'd really appreciate), which enables you to cut it into the size of chunks best suited for your project. Just make sure you wear shoes with light-coloured soles before you prance around their decks making black marks all over...

Please, go out and visit your local marina! Now's the time.  It broke my heart seeing those huge masses of plastic going straight into the garbage. Also in the fall you'll find unused offcuts from the shrinkwrapping process, which you can then use on smaller project for perfectly formed, shrunk-to-fit covers. The stuff is quite durable and handles UV pretty well.
Shrinkwrapped-boat.jpg
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Douglas Alpenstock
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K Rawlings wrote:Another idea for tarp material. This time of year, at least in the northern climes, you'll start seeing boats removing their shrinkwrapped boat covers. ... The stuff is quite durable and handles UV pretty well.


Brilliant scrounge -  great idea K_R! Give that stuff a second life!
 
Daniel Schmidt
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As an update to the previous video I posted, there was some testing of the tarps as well as a cheaper and less toxic method of waterproofing. It's always nice to see update videos like this.

 
Gina Jeffries
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That was a fantastic video! I can't wait to try this for my horse blankets next fall. Plus, now I'll be raiding all the thrift stores around for sturdy sheets to make tarps that don't shred into micro-plastic after a couple seasons. Terrific!
 
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