Tarpaulin: From Etymology to Practical Applications

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 16, 2022
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Tarpaulins are strong, waterproof canvas materials used to protect equipment, cargo, and construction sites from the elements. They are commonly known as tarps and are highly versatile.

In this article, I’ll provide you with all the information you need to know about tarpaulins.

What is tarp

What Exactly is a Tarpaulin?

Tarpaulins, also known as tarps, are large sheets of strong, flexible, and waterproof material that are commonly used to cover and protect equipment, cargo, and construction sites from dirt, weather, and other external factors. They are available in different types, sizes, and materials, making them a widely used option in the market.

Common Uses of Tarpaulins

Tarpaulins are commonly used to:

  • Provide cover and protection for equipment, cargo, and construction sites.
  • Block or pass light, depending on the needs of the user.
  • Help in making temporary shelters and tents.
  • Protect against weather conditions such as rain, snow, and wind.

Related Materials and Equipment

Tarpaulins are commonly related to equipment such as excavators, bulldozers, and engines, which are used in construction sites. They are also related to materials such as green tarps, which are used for gardening and landscaping purposes.

Choosing the Best Tarpaulin

When choosing the best tarpaulin for your needs, consider the following factors:

  • The size and weight of the tarpaulin.
  • The type of material used in making the tarpaulin.
  • The level of waterproofing and resistance to dirt and weather conditions.
  • The affordability of the tarpaulin.

In conclusion, tarpaulins are a commonly used material in the construction and cargo industries due to their ability to provide cover and protection against external factors. With different types and options available in the market, it is important to choose the best tarpaulin that meets your needs.

The Origins of the Word Tarpaulin: A Seafaring Tale

In the early days of seafaring, sailors needed a way to protect themselves and their belongings from the harsh elements of the sea. They used a strong fabric that was waterproofed with tar to cover themselves and their objects on deck. This fabric was known as a tarpaulin.

The Compound Word

The word tarpaulin is a compound word that originated from two words: tar and pall. Pall was another 17th-century word that referred to sheets used to cover objects on ships. When combined, these two words formed the word tarpaulin.

The Use of Tar in Tarpaulins

Tar was used to waterproof the canvas fabric that was used to make tarpaulins. The tarred canvas was strong and durable, making it ideal for use on ships.

The Evolution of the Word Tarpaulin

Over time, the word tarpaulin came to refer to any strong, waterproof fabric that was used to cover objects. Today, tarpaulins are used in a variety of settings, from construction sites to camping trips.

The Manner of Referring to Sailors as Tarpaulins

Sailors were often referred to as tarpaulins because they slept on deck under these strong, waterproof fabrics. The term tarpaulin was used to describe a sailor who was tough and resilient, just like the fabric that they slept under.

Overall, the word tarpaulin has a rich history that is deeply intertwined with the seafaring community. From its origins as a compound word to its evolution into a term used to describe any strong, waterproof fabric, the word tarpaulin has come a long way since its early days on the high seas.

Why Tarpaulins Are the Ultimate Covering Product: Uses and Benefits

Tarpaulins are commonly used in construction and woodworking to protect partially built or damaged structures, tools, and supplies from the elements. They are also perfect for preventing mess during painting and similar activities. Tarpaulins can effectively cover large areas and contain and collect debris, making them highly versatile.

Features and Benefits of Tarpaulins

Tarpaulins come in a range of types, from simple and thin to large and heavy-duty. They are usually made of strong, waterproof materials and equipped with eyelets for easy tying and carrying. Some tarpaulins even include extra features, such as being highly sensitive to plants or being highly grounded to prevent bad weather from affecting your supplies.

Why Tarpaulins Are Essential for Your Supplies

Tarpaulins are the ultimate covering product for your supplies because they:

  • Allow you to stock up on materials without worrying about them getting wet or damaged
  • Enable you to carry your supplies with ease
  • Ensure that your supplies are dry and protected in case of bad weather
  • Are equipped with solid eyelets that can be grounded to the ground for extra security
  • Are commonly used and related to a wide range of industries, making them a reliable choice

The Difference Between Tarpaulins and Other Covering Products

Tarpaulins are similar to other covering products, such as drop cloths and covers, but they have some key differences:

  • Tarpaulins are usually made of thicker and stronger material than drop cloths
  • Tarpaulins are more versatile than covers because they can be used for a wider range of purposes
  • Tarpaulins are equipped with eyelets for easy tying and carrying, while covers usually require additional equipment to secure them

Tip: How to Buy the Right Tarpaulin

When buying a tarpaulin, make sure to consider the following factors:

  • The size and weight of the tarpaulin
  • The material and quality of the tarpaulin
  • The number and placement of eyelets
  • The intended use of the tarpaulin

In conclusion, tarpaulins are the ultimate covering product for protecting your work and supplies. With their versatility, features, and benefits, they are sure to be a wonder for any user.

The Diversity of Tarpaulin Types

When it comes to tarpaulins, there are a variety of materials that can be used. Some of the most common traditional materials include:

  • Canvas: This is a heavy and durable material that has been used for years in the making of tarps. It is known for its strength and resistance to tearing, making it ideal for heavy-duty applications.
  • Polyethylene: This is a lightweight and low-cost material that is commonly used for temporary coverings. It is also waterproof, making it ideal for use in construction and building sites.

Actual Types of Tarpaulin Material

There are different types of tarpaulin material that manufacturers use to make tarps. Some of the actual types of tarpaulin material include:

  • Bonded: This is a material that is made by bonding two or more layers of polyethylene together. This method is used to increase the strength and resistance of the tarp.
  • Perforated: This is a type of tarpaulin that has small holes in it. This allows air to flow through the tarp, making it ideal for use in tents or temporary structures.
  • Silver: This is a type of tarpaulin that is coated with a silver-colored material. This helps to reflect sunlight and heat, making it ideal for use in hot climates.

Proper Tarpaulin Material for Your Needs

Choosing the proper tarpaulin material for your needs is important to ensure that it can resist the elements and stand up to the job at hand. Some factors to consider when choosing tarpaulin material include:

  • Resistance: Consider the resistance of the tarpaulin material to tearing, exposure, and other factors that may affect its durability.
  • Color: Some tarpaulin materials come in different colors, which can affect their ability to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Size: Consider the size of the tarpaulin material you need, as well as the number and size of grommets required for your application.


Tarps and tarpaulins are useful for protecting equipment and cargo, making temporary shelters, and protecting against weather conditions. 

A tarpaulin is a strong, flexible, waterproof material commonly used in construction, landscaping, and gardening. 

So, if you’re looking for a way to cover something, a tarpaulin is a great choice.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.