How to Tarp a Flat Roof: A Step-by-Step Guide for Homeowners

If you live in a home with a flat roof, you know how important it is to maintain it to prevent leaks and water damage. One way to protect your roof from the elements is to use a tarp. Tarps can provide temporary protection until you can repair your roof or until a professional can come to assess the damage. In this guide, we will show you how to tarp a flat roof in a few easy steps.

Gather Materials and Equipment

Before you start tarping your flat roof, gather all the materials and equipment you will need. This includes:

  • A tarp that is at least two feet larger than the damaged area
  • A hammer
  • Nails
  • A ladder
  • Safety equipment such as a harness, helmet, and non-slip shoes

Prepare the Area

Before you climb onto your roof, it is essential to prepare the area. Clear any debris or objects that may cause you to slip, and make sure the area is dry. If you have algae or moss on your roof, remove it before applying the tarp. You can use a soft-bristled brush and a mixture of bleach and water to clean your roof.

Measure the Area

Measure the area of your roof that needs to be covered with a tarp. Add two feet to each side of the measurement to ensure the tarp will cover the entire area. This will give you the size of the tarp you need to purchase.

Position the Tarp

Place the tarp on the roof and position it so that it covers the damaged area. Make sure the tarp is centered and there is an equal amount of tarp on each side of the roof. If your roof has a pitch, make sure the tarp is positioned so that water will run off the roof and not pool on the tarp.


Secure the Tarp

Once the tarp is in position, you need to secure it to the roof. Fold the edges of the tarp over the sides of the roof and nail them in place. Make sure the nails are at least six inches apart and go through the tarp and into the roof. Hammer the nails in securely to prevent them from coming loose.

Check for Gaps

After you have secured the tarp, check for any gaps where water could seep through. If you find any gaps, use roofing cement to seal them. Apply a generous amount of cement to the gap and use a putty knife to spread it evenly. Make sure the cement covers the entire gap and extends at least two inches beyond the gap on each side.

Add Extra Support

If you live in an area with high winds or heavy rain, you may need to add extra support to the tarp. Use 2x4s or other sturdy materials to create a frame around the tarp. Nail the frame to the roof and use ropes or bungee cords to secure the tarp to the frame. This will provide extra support and prevent the tarp from blowing off the roof.


Monitor the Tarp

After you have installed the tarp, monitor it regularly to make sure it is holding up against the elements. Check for any tears or holes in the tarp and patch them immediately. If you notice the tarp is pulling away from the roof or becoming loose, add more nails or support to keep it in place.

Choosing the Right Tarp for Your Flat Roof

When it comes to tarping your flat roof, choosing the right tarp is crucial. Not all tarps are created equal, and selecting the wrong tarp can lead to more problems down the line. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right tarp for your flat roof:


Tarps come in various materials, including polyethylene, vinyl, and canvas. Polyethylene is a lightweight material and is often the most affordable option. Vinyl is heavier and more durable, making it a better choice for long-term use. Canvas is the most heavy-duty option, but it is also the most expensive.


As mentioned earlier, it is essential to choose a tarp that is at least two feet larger than the damaged area. Make sure to measure the area of your roof carefully to ensure you purchase the correct size.


The thickness of a tarp is measured in mils. The thicker the tarp, the more durable it will be. Look for a tarp that is at least six mils thick for temporary use.

UV resistance

If you live in an area with a lot of sunlight, choose a tarp with UV resistance. This will prevent the tarp from deteriorating due to exposure to the sun.


The color of a tarp can affect its performance. Dark-colored tarps absorb more heat, which can cause the roof to expand and contract, leading to damage. Light-colored tarps reflect heat and are a better choice for hot climates.

By considering these factors, you can choose the right tarp for your flat roof and ensure that it provides adequate protection from leaks and water damage.



How long can I leave a tarp on my flat roof?

Tarps are meant to be a temporary solution to protect your roof from water damage during a repair or replacement. You should not leave a tarp on your flat roof for an extended period of time, as it can cause further damage to your roof. It’s recommended to replace or repair your roof as soon as possible and remove the tarp once the repairs are completed.

Can I tarp my flat roof myself, or should I hire a professional?

Tarping a flat roof is a relatively simple process, and you can do it yourself with the right supplies and safety precautions. However, if you’re not comfortable working on a roof, it’s always best to hire a professional to ensure your safety and the quality of the repair.

What type of tarp should I use to cover my flat roof?

It’s recommended to use a heavy-duty tarp made of waterproof material, such as polyethylene or PVC. These materials are durable and can withstand exposure to the elements.

How do I secure the tarp to my flat roof?

To secure the tarp to your flat roof, you can use roofing nails or screws spaced about 6 inches apart. You can also use a hammer and roofing nails if you don’t have access to screws. Be sure to seal the edges with roofing cement or tape to prevent water from getting underneath the tarp.

Will tarping my flat roof prevent all water damage?

While tarping your flat roof can provide a temporary solution to prevent water damage, it’s not a permanent fix. Water can still seep through gaps or tears in the tarp, and it’s important to repair or replace your roof as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Can I tarp just a portion of my flat roof, or do I need to cover the entire roof?

You can tarp just a portion of your flat roof if that’s where the damage is located. However, if you’re tarping your roof as a temporary solution during a roof replacement, it’s recommended to cover the entire roof to prevent any potential water damage.

How often should I check the tarp on my flat roof?

It’s important to monitor the tarp on your flat roof regularly, especially after heavy rain or snow. Check for any signs of damage or wear and tear, and repair any damage immediately. It’s also recommended to remove the tarp once the repairs are completed to prevent any further damage to your roof.


Tarping a flat roof is a temporary solution to protect your home from leaks and water damage. It is important to note that tarping your roof is not a permanent solution, and you should schedule a professional inspection as soon as possible. A damaged roof can lead to more significant problems, and it is essential to address any issues as soon as possible.

In this guide, we have shown you how to tarp a flat roof in a few easy steps. Remember to take all the necessary safety precautions and gather all the materials and equipment before starting. Measure the area, position the tarp, secure it to the roof, and check for gaps. If needed, add extra support and monitor the tarp regularly.

We hope this guide has been helpful in showing you how to tarp a flat roof. Remember to schedule a professional inspection to address any issues with your roof and keep your home safe from leaks and water damage.

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