How to Tarp a Roof

By Amanda Lutz Updated March 22, 2024

Homeowners with damaged roofs should call for professional roof repair services as soon as possible. In the meantime, though, tarping a roof is a useful strategy to keep your roof, attic, and home dry as you wait for a fix. In this article, we’ll offer a step-by-step guide to tarping a roof, explain cost breakdowns, and point out potential hazards of do-it-yourself (DIY) roof work.

Reasons to Tarp a Roof

Homeowners should tarp roofs if a home improvement project exposes roof damages, if hailstorms or hurricanes damage shingles, or if there’s a long wait until roofers can finish a job. Here are a few reasons why tarping a roof is worth the extra work: 

Cost to Tarp a Roof

The average cost of tarping a roof ranges from $175 to $700, depending on your needed materials and whether you hire a pro or do it yourself. Expect to pay for the materials below if you make tarping your roof a DIY project:

You’ll also need a ladder and high-quality fall protection equipment. If you don’t already have these tools, it may be in your best interest to hire professionals.

*Cost data in this article sourced from HomeGuide.

Process for Tarping a Roof

Tarping a roof isn’t complicated but can be dangerous for those who are uncomfortable going on a roof. Start by observing roof damage from the ground and make sure that you’re fine with accessing your roof. Wear safety equipment such as work boots, gloves, and protection gear. Then proceed with the following steps:

1. Assess the Damage

Climb a ladder onto your roof, and measure damaged areas, but don’t step directly on damaged spots. Have a friend or family member follow you up the ladder with the supplies you need, including tarps.

2. Place the Tarp

Carefully unfold the tarp, and lay it across the damaged surface. Ask friends or family members to help so that the tarp remains as close to the roof as possible. If the tarp lifts too far off the roof’s surface, wind could catch it and knock you off-balance.

3. Fasten the Tarps Down

You can temporarily fasten tarps down with sandbags for a quick break or overnight, if you only need to cover the damaged area. If the tarp will be in place for over a week, then fasten it down with two-by-fours by following the steps below:

  1. Make sure that the tarp is in the right position.
  2. Place a two-by-four parallel to the tarp’s edge. Use a hammer and roofing nails to connect the tarp to the wood.
  3. Roll the wood tightly in the tarp one or two times. Then fasten the tarp-covered post into the roof using screws long enough to reach the roof decking below the shingles. This ensures that moderate winds can’t rip the tarp free.
  4. Repeat the third step along the opposite edge of the tarp or damaged area.
  5. Screw down additional two-by-fours along the remaining perimeter of the tarp.

Repeat these steps until you’ve covered all damaged parts of your roof. If tarp corners overhang the roof, then cut the tarp and secure new edges with a two-by-four. You can also thread the tarp behind the gutters and nail corners taut against the underside of the eaves.

4. Continually Inspect the Tarped Area

A tarp is only a temporary fix, even if it’s applied with expert precision. Thoroughly inspect all tarps at regular intervals to make sure that each one remains taut and flat against the roof. You can also inspect for potential water damage inside your attic after major storms.

Roof Tarp Longevity

How long your roof tarp will hold depends on how well it’s secured, current weather patterns, and the damaged location. You shouldn’t use a tarp for longer than is absolutely necessary.

Life Span of Roof Tarps

Use a tarp for no more than 90 days. If you keep a tarp on your roof for longer than that, you’ll risk water damages, pest infestations, or the issue spreading. Keep the tarp on for no more than 45 days if it’s a particularly rainy season or if you live in a windy area.

When you’re ready for permanent roof repair or need to replace the old tarp with a new one, pull the tarp away from the roof and thoroughly inspect the area below.

Signs It’s Time to Replace a Tarp

A tarp will likely become less secure over time, so check for these signs that your roof tarp needs replacement:

Potential Risks of Using Roof Tarps

Tarping a roof is better than no coverage, but you’re still risking additional damages:

Tarping your roof is also risky. You could fall from the roof, injure yourself while climbing on it, or get knocked down by a strong wind gust.

Additional Cost Factors

Tarping a roof will inevitably cost money, but you could face these unexpected expenses too: 

Our Recommendation

Tarping a roof isn’t ideal but could be unavoidable after severe weather, roof repair delays, or other unforeseen circumstances. When you know how to tarp a roof, you’re in a better position to protect your home as you await formal repairs. We recommend having all necessary equipment to tarp a roof ready in your garage in case your roof incurs sudden damage.

Roof Tarping FAQ

Why tarp a roof?

Tarping a roof could keep your roof, attic, and home safe from water damage and pests. While roof tarps aren’t permanent repairs, they can be useful after unexpected roof damages.

Does insurance cover tarping a roof?

A homeowners insurance company may cover tarping a roof if you’re tarping over damage from a covered incident. Review your coverage, or ask an agent for more details about what your insurance policy will cover.

How long can a roof stay tarped?

A roof can stay tarped for up to 90 days as a temporary solution. The longer your emergency roof tarping stays in place, the greater the risk of further damages.

What is the cheapest way to cover a roof?

The cheapest way to cover a roof is with DIY tarping. Secure a heavy-duty tarp with screws on two-by-fours or extra wooden boards from around your home.

What is the alternative to tarping a roof?

The alternative to tarping a roof is installing a roof seal. This shrink-wrap covering stays tight against the surface of your roof to minimize the leaky roofs or further water damage.