arial view of how to tarp a roof

How to Tarp a Roof (Step-By-Step Guide)

Bondoc Team

Posted By: Bondoc Team

Posted Date


Severe storms and other weather events wreak havoc on many homes every year in a variety of ways:

  • Broken windows
  • Flooding
  • Damaged roofs
  • And more

A damaged roof, left untreated, can cause some of the most long-lasting damage to a home. Leaks allow water to soak into the walls, ceilings, and foundation of your home, causing structural damage that can take months and a lot of cash to fix.

When you have a leaky roof, it’s time for some simple emergency repairs before your roofing contractor can provide a long-term solution. Once such fix is covering the hole in your roof with a tarp.

If you’ve never done this before, the process might seem daunting. Here, we break down the steps homeowners need to take to know how to tarp a roof properly.

1. Stay Safe 🦺

Above all, only attempt to tarp your roof once it is safe to do so. Wait for the bad weather to end before doing any of the other steps on this list.

When you get up on the roof, use appropriate safety equipment, like a ladder and harness. Wear protective clothing, such as long pants, gloves, and eye protection. Always wait to climb the ladder until your friend is there to help you.

homeowner uses ladder to get on roof and show how to tarp a roof safely

2. Document Everything 📷

Before you touch anything, take a few minutes to get as many pictures of the damage and debris as possible. Your insurance company will need to see proof of the storm damage before they can make decisions about any claims you submit to them. Without pictures and notes, it’ll be much harder to prove to them the extent of the damage that occurred.

As much as you can, assess the roof damage while standing on the ladder. Avoid walking on the roof if at all possible. You don’t know if the damage is superficial or deep, and even if part of the roof looks secure, it might not be able to hold your weight.

3. Clear the Roof 🧹

Once you have your pictures, begin by clearing the roof of tree branches and other debris. Use a broom or other long-handled instrument to clear the debris while remaining standing on the ladder.

4. Measure the Damaged Area 📏

Next, use a tape measure to figure out the size of the hole that you need to cover. If there are multiple damaged areas, measure all of them together to get the total area that you’ll need to cover on your roof.

5. Purchase a Tarp 💳

Buy a tarp at least large enough to cover the area you measured, plus a few extra feet on each side. It’s better to purchase too big rather than too small, as it’s fine if the excess tarp hangs over the roof slightly.

Get a heavy-duty tarp for this project. Thinner tarps won’t provide enough protection from wind and rain until your contractor is able to come to your home and permanently repair your roof.

6. Lay Down the Tarp 🏠

Place the tarp over the affected areas of your roof. Make sure part of it hangs over the peak of your roof in addition to covering the damage. Lay the tarp flat without wrinkles.

7. Secure the Tarp 🔨

emergency tarping an adhesive tarp to a damaged roof

When you tarp a roof, you need a way to hold down the tarp to your roof so that it doesn’t blow away with a gust of wind. It’s also important to get a strong seal around all the edges of the tarp so that water doesn’t get into the roof via the hole.

A great temporary way to do this is to weigh down each edge of the tarp with a few sandbags. Your local hardware store should have these available if you don’t already have them on hand. This should only be considered a very temporary fix, however, as this solution does little to help you get your tarp to be watertight against the roof.

A much better way to weigh down the tarp is to use wood planks on the edges of the tarp. Roll the 2x4s or other wooden boards into the edge of the roof tarp and use either roofing nails or screws to secure them down. Make sure the nails or screws go all the way through the anchor board and into the roofing shingles and decking.

Adhesive Tarps

Using anchor boards will thoroughly secure the tarp to your roof, but it will also damage your shingles. You’ll need to replace them when you get the rest of your roof looked at. If you want to secure a tarp to your roof without nails, you’ll need to use an adhesive tarp, and you’ll likely need the help of a roofing professional to do so.

If your roof is wet, dry the surface where you’ll be placing the tarp. Unroll the tarp with the adhesive side down. Remove the adhesive backing and secure the tarp to your shingles.

Keep in mind that adhesive tarps are generally less secure than tarps that use anchor boards. Additionally, the adhesive may wear out over time, leaving your damaged roof exposed to the elements.

8. Schedule Your Roof Repair 🗓️

Once the hole in your roof is successfully covered, call your roofing contractor as soon as you can to schedule a permanent roof repair. Avoid tarping for more than 90 days, as a tarp is likely to lose its efficacy once this time frame has passed.

Get Roof Tarping Help

Knowing how to tarp a roof is an incredibly useful skill in case an emergency happens. When widespread damage occurs in your area, your usual roofing contractor may not be able to get to you right away. Being able to cover your home’s roof and prevent water damage inside your home will save you tons of money and stress in the long run.

However, understanding what is involved in tarping your roof is different than actually being able to complete the task. Unless you have the proper safety equipment and at least one other person to help you, attempting to tarp your roof on your own can be quite dangerous, and you might cause further damage to your roof as well as to yourself.

If you’re at all unsure of how to temporarily cover up your damaged roof, save yourself the trouble and give us a call at Bondoc Roofing. We’re well-versed in many of the roofing repairs required after severe weather, and with a 24-hour answering service, we’re able to get back to you right away to help you cover your roof and assess the damage.

Got a roof leak or other issue in need of repair? Reach out to us today, and we’ll follow up shortly to schedule your free inspection!

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homeowner happily relaxes in home during full roof replacement by Bondoc roofing