Difference Between Polyester & Vinyl Tarps

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Tarps cover and protect materials from the elements.

Tarps are useful in building, construction, painting and transportation. Items that need to be stored outside of a shed or building for a short time or moved from place to place need protection from the elements. Covering material with a tarp and securing it with a rope and stakes is the easiest way to keep building materials, wood, tools or other objects protected from rain, snow and wind. Canvas used to be the material of choice for tarps, but with the development of polymers, vinyl and polyester have become the material of choice for tarp manufacturers.

Using Tarps

Tarps are made from large amounts of fabric that act as a protective buffer between the items stored under the tarp and the elements or as a temporary shelter during a disaster if there are no tents available. Secure the tarp by using stakes with ropes or bungees or fasten it to the bed of a pickup. Your climate, the length of time that you are storing the material for and how sensitive the material is to weather determines the material of the tarp that you should use for each job.

Polyester Tarps

Before the invention of polyester, canvas was the only material used to make tarps. Soon after the first tarps were made from polyester, they proved to be more protective and cheaper than canvas and could be used in extreme climates. Polyester tarps come in many colors, and are inexpensive and very flexible. Normally, polyester tarps are coated with a UV coating material to protect them from the sun, as sunlight can degrade polyester and form fissures in the material.

Vinyl Tarps

Vinyl tarps look similar to polyester tarps. However, vinyl, made from salt and ethylene, is stronger, sturdier and more water-resistant than polyester. Vinyl is also more environmentally friendly than polyester. Some vinyl tarps are also coated with polyester for added strength and resistance to the elements.

Choosing The Proper Type

If you are using a tarp on a short-term or limited basis or only for temporary shelter from the weather and the material being covered is not that sensitive to moisture, then a polyester tarp should be sufficient. Also, a polyester tarp could be used to cover material being transported in good weather in a pickup truck. But if you need long-term protection from the elements, know that the weather conditions will affect the material under the tarp or have delicate, sensitive material that needs to be covered, then you should use a vinyl tarp as they offer the most protection from all of the elements.


Scott Fendley

Beginning his writing career in 1987, Scott Fendley is a development operations professional and consultant who was published in "Advancement Services, A Foundation of Fundraising," published by CASE. He has also written articles for "The Paper of Montgomery County" and the "Crawfordsville Journal-Review." Fendley graduated from Wabash College with a B.A. in Mathematics and has an M.B.A. from Indiana University.