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Roof Tarping: How to Tarp a Roof in an Emergency

roof covered with tarp securely
// 5-minutes Read

No matter what kind of property you own, there are few headaches more annoying than a sudden leak springing from your ceiling. Not only can seemingly minor roof leaks point to major structural damage, but they can also cause further damage to your ceiling, walls, and belongings every time it rains!

While roofing pros can step in to help you address your leak, you may not be able to reach them right away. How do you stop the constant flow of water in the meantime?

Knowing how to tarp a roof in an emergency can be a lifesaver. Though this project requires a few basic skills and some safety measures, it’s not hard for property owners to tackle. Let’s take a look at everything you should know about DIY roof tarping.

Stay Safe

missing shingles and damage on house roof covered with tarp

The conditions that cause storm damage can be dangerous for anyone on a roof. Strong winds and slick patches from rain can make it easy to lose your footing. Avoid climbing onto a roof until after stormy weather has passed.

If you’ve chosen not to leave your tarp job to a pro, make sure you’re being careful. Grab a pair of shoes with good traction, and practice ladder safety by having someone around to help spot you.

Assess the Damage

Once you’re on your ladder, start by assessing the damage. Look for torn or missing shingles, damaged flashing, and heavy debris.

If it seems like the damage is severe, stay off the roof and call a roofing contractor. The last thing you want to do is cause more damage to a roof with structural problems or, worse, put yourself at risk.

If the damage is superficial, climb up for a look. If you find that you need to clear leaves and branches from the roof to inspect it, be careful and maintain your footing.

Find the Roof Leak

Sometimes, it can be hard to figure out where a leak is coming from even while you’re on your roof. If that’s the case, go into your attic and look for wet spots on your rafters or sheathing.

If you still can’t find it, grab your garden hose and spray it across different sections of your roof. Recruit a friend to step into your home and tell you when signs of the leak appear.

Take Photos

close up to tarp on house roof

If you suspect storm damage, you’ll want to document the area before you put down a tarp.

This can be crucial if you decide to file a claim with your insurance company down the road. Having photos of your roof before you put emergency measures into place can give your agent an idea of the damage you’re trying to fix.

If the damage seems extensive, take photos from your ladder only.

Position Your Tarp

Use a tape measure to figure out the size of the area you’ll need to tarp. If you have more than one area of damage, you may need to see if you have a large enough tarp or grab more than one for the job. You’ll want a tarp that has a few extra feet on each side, which will allow you to secure it in place.

Make sure you’re choosing the right tarp for this project. A heavy-duty, weather- and UV-resistant outdoor tarp is your best bet for protecting your roof from the elements.

Position your tarp over the damaged area with care. Stretch it out as far as you can and make sure it’s laid flat without wrinkles.

Secure Your Tarp in Place

Once you have your tarp where you want it, it’s time to pin it down. This ensures that it won’t blow off your roof after a strong gust of wind.

There are a few ways you can do this. Your choice will depend on how long you need the tarp to stay in place.

Weighted Tarp

For emergency roof tarping, the easiest thing to do is lay down something heavy around the edges of the tarp. Sandbags, bricks, and similar materials are great options. This temporary solution will last for a short time while you’re waiting for professional roof repair services to tackle the damage beneath.

Adhesive Tarp

Another option is a self-adhesive tarp. These products, which you can find at many home improvement stores, remove the need for weighted materials or nails to keep the tarp in place. The instructions will vary from product to product, but you’ll often need to remove the backing before laying the tarp in place.

These tarps are easy and fast to install, but their adhesive wears down over time. If you’re looking for a long-lasting solution, you may want to choose another option.

Fixed Tarp

large roof covered with tarp from fire damage

If you’re hoping for a more long-lasting solution while you figure out the next steps for your roof, you can choose a more permanent method. Grab a few 2x4s or other wooden boards and lay them down around the edges of the tarp. Secure them in place with screws or roofing nails, and make sure those screws or nails are long enough to push through the board as well as the decking beneath.

Fixed tarps will often stay in place for several months at a time. Note that this method will damage your shingles, however, so you’ll want a contractor to look at them when they come to fix the rest of your roof.

Know How to Tarp a Roof

Knowing how to tarp a roof is an important skill for any property owner. A well-laid tarp can help protect your roof from further damage while buying you time to seek a professional inspection and repairs.

When you’re ready to get your roof back in top shape, be sure to contact our team of roofing professionals. Here at Tresnak Roofing, we’re proud to offer our expert services to home and business owners throughout the Royal Oak and Troy areas. Contact us today to get a free estimate.

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