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How to Tarp a Roof

There is nothing worse than a leaking roof. It not only causes water damage to your home, but it makes you feel nervous and insecure in the place you are supposed to be the most comfortable. Tarping your roof is a good measure to protect your home until you can get a permanent fix in place. Moreover, it can provide protection for around three months, giving you the time and peace of mind you need.

There are three basic steps when you are tarping your roof. The first is to figure out how much damage has been done. Once you have done that, you can start positioning, getting everything unrolled and in place. Finally, you will secure it to your roof, finishing up the process until you can take care of the repairs.

Figure Out the Damage

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Step one, figuring out the damage done to the roof. This step is important for a few reasons. One, it informs you of the right tarp for your project. Secondly, you can use the information you get here when you are planning or contacting someone for the permanent fix. It starts with finding the source.

Find the Source of Damage

In order to figure out where the damage occurred, you will need to get on your roof. It might require a ladder, or you might have direct access. Either way, get up there and take a look, remaining on the ladder if you are not comfortable standing on top. If you have tiles, look for damage. You can also search for debris.

Keep in mind that there might be multiple points of damage. You might also have luck searching for damage inside, which can be detected by water stains or debris inside the house.

Take Precise Measurements

Proper measurements are important. You will want to try to go up and take a look if you can, kneeling beside the damage. Then use a tape measure to get exact measurements everywhere you see damage. Additionally, get some measurements of the roof as a whole since they will come in handy later.

Get Video and Photo Evidence

It does not matter what you use to do it — a phone will work — but get some evidence of the damage. Not only will it come in handy if you need to describe the damage to someone, but it will help with home insurance and making a plan. Moreover, once you have the tarp down, you will not have easy access to the damage.

Buy the Tarp

The photos and measurements will come in handy here. You want to get a tarp that is the right size for the damage. On the other hand, without proper images or measurements, you will have a difficult time finding one that is just the right size.

A good rule of thumb is to purchase a larger tarp than you need. That is especially important if you do not have precise measurements to estimate. You can always ask for help if you are in doubt.

Put Safety First

Anything that involves being on a roof can be perilous, which is why many people trust professionals to do roofing work. When doing it yourself, the right safety equipment is necessary to minimize the danger. Consider the following items when preparing to tarp your roof:

  • Boots or roofing shoes
  • Protective gloves
  • Stable ladder
  • Safety glasses
  • Hardhat or helmet

When it comes to roofing shoes or boots, you want to buy a pair with soft soles. That prevents damage from being done to the roof as you walk on it. Additionally, you might want to consider a vest, preferably one that makes you easier to see. When you have everything you need, it is time to set up the tarp.

Get the Tarp In Place

The next step is to get the tarp in place. That probably means finding some helpers since it will be an arduous task alone. Friends or family work fine, so long as everyone is careful. The more important aspect is to have an extra pair of hands to help with the process, which includes clearing the area, unrolling the tarp, and laying it out flat.

If you decide to go about things alone, try not to do it when you are home alone. If it is an absolute must, take further safety precautions in case of an emergency.

Clearing Away Debris

The tarp needs to go down flat, which means you need to clear the area. That includes branches, leaves, and anything else that might get in the way. You can do this with a brush. It is also a good idea to do so on a dry day since that will make things go more smoothly and increase safety.

If the damage was caused by a fallen limb, it might be heavy and difficult to move. Trying to lift it alone might cause you to lose your balance or damage the roof further. So, if that is the case, find someone to help.

Unroll the Tarp

It might sound like a simple step, but it is not something you want to take lightly. You will want to unroll the tarp on top of the roof. Moreover, make sure that you are careful since it can be difficult to deal with, especially if there is a lot of wind. While the actual unrolling or unfolding, depending on how it is gathered, is simple, do not force anything. Find a way to do it so that it unfolds naturally to make things easier and safer.

Place the Tarp Flatly on the Roof

To ensure the tarp is in a good position, you will want to get it down flatly on the surface of the roof. You also want to lay it down in such a way that around four or five feet are on the sloped portion of each side of the roof (peak). The remaining tarp should hang from the lower border overhanging the wall (eave).

When you are placing the tarp, it is best to go with a dry day to avoid any water being trapped between it and the roof. You also want to avoid windy days if possible and never risk putting it in place during a storm. Additionally, never walk on top of it.

Making Things Secure

Placing the tarp across the damaged roofing is a great start, but securing it in place is the most important step. Moreover, to do it properly, there is quite a lot of work involved. For starters, you need the right equipment, which will be discussed in each of the steps below.

Secure 2×4 Boards to the Tarp

Boards are a great way to secure things, and you will need four of them. The boards will be secured to the peak ends of the tarp. Here are the steps you can follow to properly secure the boards:

  • Place a board under a peak end.
  • Keep two feet sticking out on both sides.
  • Attach the board and tarp using a hammer and cap nails, hitting them through the tarp and into the wood below.

Once you have attached one peak end, move on and follow the same steps for each of the other three peak ends.

Wrap the Tarp Around the Boards

Just nailing them together is not enough to properly secure things. You will want to take things to the next level by wrapping the tarp around the board until it is covering every side. The best way to do this is picking it up while wearing gloves and turning it counter-clockwise. Once done, place it back down and do the same for the other boards.

Secure Boards and Tarp to the Roof with Screws

You will need a drill and two-inch screws for this step. What you want to do is pick six or so spaces on each board, with equal spacing. After that, drill through the tarp and board and into the roof, securing the board and tarp to the roof. Do the same for each board, and you will be closer to securing the tarp to withstand harsh weather.

Secure More 2×4 Boards Perpendicularly with Screws

You want to get four more boards, which you will place perpendicular to the boards already secured with screws. The difference here is that you want the boards to go on top of the tarp, with the short ends resting against the long side of the secured boards.

Once you have all the boards in place, follow the same procedure to screw them in. Remember, equal spacing. Also, it should go through every layer, from board to tarp to roof.

Use Additional 2×4 Boards with the Overhanging Tarp

The peak is firmly in place, but the overhanging portion of the tarp is still flapping in the wind. To fix that, you will use two more boards. To start, pull the overhanging tarp to the roof to give yourself a stable place to work. After, place the boards, leaving a few feet sticking out like before, and nail them together.

Once the tarp is secured to the board, let it hang over the eave. Once you have a good position, likely using a ladder, roll the tarp so it is wrapping the boards and place it firmly against the base of the eave. You will want to continue to wrap the boards until there is no slack. At that point, use your two-inch screws to connect the tarp and boards to the wall.

Use Your Judgment to Add Boards

While the above will cover many situations, you might need to add additional boards. The boards that attach the tarp to the roof are called “anchor boards,” and if you feel they are not enough to secure things properly, lay as many as you need and secure them with screws.

Lastly, make sure you do not leave the damage unattended for too long. While a tarp will protect you for months, it is not a permanent fix.

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