Waterproof tarp roof cover on flat, leaking, damaged roof as an emergency repair after learning how to tarp a roof
Posted on: December 10, 2021

After a big storm or a windy day that causes significant damage to your roof, it’s crucial that your home gets the care it needs from a professional roof repair team. But before you can get the damage repaired, it may be essential to tarp the roof in preparation for rain or other severe weather before the damage can be fixed.

If you find yourself in this situation, we’ve laid out a step-by-step guide on how to tarp a roof so that you don’t have to worry about further damage to your home.

Let’s get started!

Materials You’ll Need for Tarping the Roof

One thing that will help you with any project is having all the materials you need before starting the project. If you wait to buy materials until you think you’ll need them, then you’re going to be left scrambling with a job half done and a run to the hardware store. The list below will serve as an excellent guide to everything you’re going to need.

  • 2×4 lumber
  • Tarps (purchase the size that best fits your damage)
  • Roofing nails
  • Ladder
  • Utility knife
  • Screws
  • Roofing Cement (optional)
  • Plywood (optional to cover large holes)

Getting Started

It’s vital that you understand the risks of being up on the roof. For example, some homeowners might have a low slope, a simple roof that’s easy to walk and work on, while others might have a more complex roofing system that requires more caution.

If you don’t feel comfortable working on your roof, don’t be afraid to call a professional crew like WISA.

Here are the steps to successfully tarping roofing.

Assess the Damage

First up, you’ll need to take a walk around your home to start assessing any potential damage to your roof. In doing this, you’ll be able to determine how much of a priority it is for you to get your roof patched up and how quickly the repairs can be made. You’ll also know if you need to tarp the roof in more than one area or if you’ll be able to just use one tarp.

You’ll likely be able to assess some damage from the ground, but be sure to get up on a ladder to see the roof better if you’re not confident in your assessment.

man on top of a damaged roof to assess the damage

Measure the Damage

Next, you’ll need to measure the damage to know how many tarps or how large the tarps will need to be. Getting a tarp that’s around two feet larger than the damaged area will help to keep your roof free of any water if it’s raining. That excess tarp allows for a successful watershed to be made.

Prepare the Tarp

When it comes to working with tarps on top of a roof, there’s no good way to do it. No matter what the weatherman says, there’s bound to be a gust of wind that comes through and sends the tarp flying if you’re not prepared for it. Depending on the wind direction, start on the upwind side and work towards the downwind side. You’ll want it to be around 2 feet past the damaged area. Roll the edge with a 2×4 and place the 2×4 against the roof deck with the tarp spread as best you can.

Next, you’ll be able to nail the tarp to your roof deck. You can use either nails or screws, but be careful how you put them into your roof. We recommend using screws and aiming for a roof truss. When you purchase screws, look for something that’s around 3 inches long so that you’ll make it through the tarp and 2×4 while still having a good amount to drive into the roof.

Secure All Sides

After you’ve got the first side of the tarp secure, you can stretch the rest of the tarp out over the damage and continue the process. It’s not too long of a process, but the thing to best keep in mind is that you need to be sure no water can get under the tarp. Roofing cement or another type of caulking adhesive can help with this. To install it correctly, simply use it on all three of the high sides of the damage. Then, on the lowest side closest to the damage, leave it off to ensure that any water that might make it under can still travel out and down the roof.

Another thing to keep in mind while you’re securing the sides is that you’re using plenty of screws throughout. The last thing you want is for the tarp to come loose or tear off your roof. So use a new screw every 6-8 inches.

Place Weights in the Center (Optional)

This step is optional, and it’s recommended that you don’t take action in this way unless you’re entirely confident that your roof hasn’t sustained any structural damage. The weights will help keep the tarp down in the middle if it’s large, but they can also place strain on your already damaged roof system.

If you think you need these weights and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with your roof’s structure, use 5-10 pound sandbags in one to three locations throughout the center of the tarp.

blue house with blue tarp on top with weights

Tips for Tarping Your Roof

Tarping a roof successfully isn’t easy, but it’s not too difficult either. You should be able to complete the job in less than a few hours, but having help will make everything go a bit faster as well. So here are a few tips!

Get the Help You Need

It’s not easy tarping a roof on your own, which is why you should take advantage of all the help that you can get. Friends and family can be a huge hand if you need to keep the tarp in place or hold it from blowing off the roof altogether. Recruit as many as you need.

two men working to tarp a damaged roof together

Don’t Buy a Cheap Tarp

No one wants to spend a ton of money on the tarp, but it is important that you buy one with some durability. Hopefully, the tarp won’t need to be on your roof for too long, but if it does, then you’ll be wishing you wouldn’t have skimped out on cost.

Carefully Follow These Steps

Tarping a roof isn’t something you want to take on with little experience. We hope this how-to guide helps but don’t be afraid to look for more resources such as this great YouTube explainer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXWMj_TbDp4

Know when to Call the Pros

Tarping a roof isn’t something that should be taken lightly. There’s always the possibility of further damage, so if you don’t have experience or don’t feel comfortable learning and performing the work yourself, then be sure to call a pro.


Contact the WISA solutions team for a free estimate on your roof’s damage, and we’ll quickly take any measures needed to ensure the roof continues functioning properly until all of the work is completed.