If your roof is damaged during a storm, one temporary fix is to tarp it to mitigate further water damage. But it’s not as easy as you might think. It can also be dangerous without the proper safety equipment. So we’re here to help you act fast when the unthinkable happens—and the tarp is your first defense against roof leaks.

Heed the following steps to properly tarp your roof before calling a roofing professional to take care of your emergency repairs.

how to tarp roof

Step 1: Assess The Roof Damage

When the bad weather has settled, you’ll want to assess the damage to your roof or home’s exterior to see if a tarp is necessary. Signs of roof damage may include:

  • Missing shingles
  • Loose shingles
  • Discoloration
  • Granule loss
  • Interior water leaks
  • Sagging areas of the roof
  • Large debris damage

If you notice any of the above roofing issues, you may be at risk of water leaks. You’ll want to act fast to mitigate any additional damage, and tarping can take care of it immediately. While we don’t recommend this as a permanent solution, it can help buy you time while you schedule a professional roof repair.

Some tips for assessing the damage to your roof include:

  • Avoid working on a windy or rainy day
  • If you get up on a ladder, wear the proper safety gear (helmet, gloves, boots, harness)
  • Ask a friend or family member to monitor/hold the ladder
  • Don’t step on steeply pitched roofs
  • Carefully clear debris with a broom or gloved hands

After assessing the damage, you may also want to schedule an inspection and start filing an insurance claim. Insurance claims can be tough to navigate, so reach out to a local company like Impact Roofing to help guide you through the process.

Step 2: Measure the Area You Need to Tarp

Grab your tape measure or other measuring tool and measure a large area that goes well beyond the edges of any damage. This is the area you’ll want to tarp over this area to avoid any water being close to the damage and making its way inside.

Now that you know the size of the area you need to cover, it’s time to purchase a tarp. Be sure to get one larger than the area you need—you don’t want it to be too tight or too loose.

Standard tarps can come in a wide array of sizes: from a small 5 x 7-foot tarp to one that covers your entire roof. But for minor damages, you could get by with something closer to 20 x 20 feet. A good rule of thumb is that the tarp should cover your damages, plus 4 feet of excess tarp. Any additional tarp can hang over the roof’s edge.

This ensures it covers the entire damaged area but has enough excess to secure it tightly. You can always cut it smaller if you need to—but you can never add more.

Step 3: Gather Your Materials

In addition to the tarp, you’ll need a few other key materials or tools to get the job done right. Materials needed are:

  • Tarp
  • Sandbags
  • 2 x 4s
  • Hammer + nails
  • Screws + screw gun
  • Tape measure or a laser level
  • Ladder
  • Broom or shop vacuum
  • Safety Gear (Helmet, Gloves, Boots, Harness)

Depending on how you want to secure the tarp, you may use just sandbags—but for a more secure, long-term tarp, you will want to use the 2x4s and screws or nails to adhere it securely to the roof.

This method does damage shingles, and you’ll need to replace those when you do remove the tarp. This is much more applicable to roofers trying to cover a roof due to weather, but this will create more need for repairs.

Step 4: Position the Tarp and Secure It in Place

Before you secure any portion of the tarp, you’ll want to position it perfectly to avoid any blow-offs or revealing any damage underneath. There are a few different ways to place your tarp, but here are some critical tips to make sure you do it right.

  1. For a temporary tarp job (1-2 days), sandbags are the perfect way to secure it in place and prevent it from blowing away. Lay your tarp covering the damage, plus a few feet of excess, and line the edges with sandbags heavy enough to weigh it down but not put added weight on the damaged area.
  2. For long-term coverage (up to 90 days), you can secure the tarp using 2×4 boards and screws or nails to keep it in place. Roll a board inside the tarp’s peak-end, and adhere it to the roof with nails long enough to penetrate through the shingles and roof decking. These holes will need to be repaired when the time comes.
  3. Continue that process on all sides of the peak ends of your tarp, and then sandwich another board over the top, securing that in place so that the tarp is pulled taught and won’t lift up.

Note: This is at least a two-person job—do not go it alone.

Underside of fascia on a house with wood and insulation dropping through with the roof covered with a blue tarp in the winter.

Tarps Buy Time, But Repairs Make an Investment

A properly installed tarp can buy you some time until you make the necessary repairs to your roof. But keep in mind, a tarp is not a permanent fix. If the damage is more extensive, or if there’s significant water damage, it’s best to call in a professional to take a look right away or to handle any tarping for you.

However, tarps can also be an extra layer of protection for your home in bad weather. If you have a tarp installed and a storm is coming, secure it well and check on it regularly. Heavy winds or rain can quickly tear a tarp off a roof, leading to more damage.

In the end, the best thing you can do to mitigate water damage from roof leaks is to call Impact Roofing right away. Our expert team of roofers can inspect your roof, pinpoint the issue, and get your repairs done as quickly as possible. The longer you put off roofing issues with a tarp, the worse off they can get. So when disaster strikes, contact Impact Roofing.