How to Tarp a Roof like a Pro

How to Tarp a Roof like a Pro

Maybe a nasty storm blew off a couple of shingles, or your roof has an active leak that needs attention. Either way, monsoon season is upon us here in Phoenix and both scenarios are familiar.

You'll need to find a roofer to fix the problem quickly, but unless you keep a local residential roofing company on retainer, finding a roofer can be challenging in the aftermath of a storm. It may take you several days, if not weeks, to find one to perform the necessary roof repairs. If you don't take action right away, the leaks will grow worse and you could be staring at a roofing disaster down the line.

What's the solution? Tarp the roof.

Installing a tarp on your home's roof is much easier than you think!

Done correctly, roof tarp can hold out until your local roofer comes to fix the leak. The experts here at The Phoenix Roof Company suggest you follow the simple steps below to tarp a roof after a monsoon or haboob.


 A residential asphalt roof against a blue sky.


Basic requirements:

  • Woven poly tarp (preferably thick)

  • 2 x 4 wooden planks and/or boards

  • Nails, about 3 1/4 inches long

  • Strong, non-slip ladder

  • Hammer

  • Utility knife

  • Screw gun

  • Safety goggles

  • Hand gloves


1. Safety first

Climbing the roof without safety harnesses or toe boards in place is a huge gamble considering roofing is fraught with risks. For your safety, make sure you wear rubber-soled work boots, safety glasses, a helmet, long pants, and fall protection gear. It helps to have a spotter and another person to help you get the materials and tarpaulin in place.

Safety tip: Never walk on the tarp as it is easy to slip and fall.

2. Safety first

See above. We cannot emphasize safety enough. Please be careful.

3. Assess the roof damage

After taking the necessary safety measures, set up the ladder and climb up the roof to inspect the damaged area. A tape measure will come in handy in determining the size of the roofing area that needs tarping and emergency roof repair. Once you examine the roof, climb down and prepare the 2x4 boards to anchor the roof tarp in place. Four to five pieces are enough. Make sure the boards are long enough and can extend out from the roof's edges by two feet.

House with roof tarping

4. Clean the debris

Next, remove all debris and dirt from your roof. Cleaning helps you locate the source of the leak. Keep an eye out for torn and/or missing shingles, broken panels, misplaced tiles, and dents in your vents. After collecting the tarp and 2x4s, grab a broom and climb back onto your roof. Clear broken shingles and other forms of debris. These can damage the tarp during or after installation.

While it's possible to tarp the roof alone, it's advisable to have a helping hand as the tarp can be caught in the wind and drag you off the roof or into a dangerous position. Plus, it is a lot easier to keep the entire tarp flat when there's someone else to hold it down.

5. Measure the area that needs tarping

Use a tape measure to measure the size of the roofing area that needs covering for upcoming repairs. From the area, you can determine how much tarpaulin you need to cover the areas that are potentially leaking. Tarps are available in different sizes from 12x16ft tarps to the larger 20x30 ft tarps.


6. Unfurl the tarp

Ask your helper to climb up the roof to help safely lay the tarp over the affected area, then wrap the board until there isn't any slack left. Unroll the tarp to cover the damaged section of the roof and spread it so that it pulls taut. Ensure the tarp extend at least 4 feet over the roof's peak to prevent rainwater from running underneath the tarpaulin material.

7. Nail or screw down anchor boards

Once you position the 2x4s, use cap nails and a hammer or a drill and screws to secure the tarp to the boards. Make sure the nails and screws are long enough to penetrate the wooden boards, shingles, and decking. Roll the boards three-sixty degrees so that tarp wraps fully around the wooden board. Wrapping around boards prevents nails from piercing through the tarp in high winds and rough weather.

Again, nail the other side of the tarp to 2 x 4s ensuring the wooden boards are properly lined up, nailed, wrapped and properly secured. Boards should be 2 feet longer than the tarp's width and nails at least 10 inches apart.

8. Extend the top edge of the tarp over the roof

Sometimes the tarp won't extend over the roof's edge. If your tarp does, ensure the has a tight fit on the underside of the eaves. Cut off the excess tarp from the edge and leave a 4-foot overhang. Ask your helper to lower down the boards so you can line them properly below the eaves. Wrap the tarp around the board, pulling it tight then attach it to the eave with a screw gun. Or nail the wooden boards to the tarp's edge that overhangs the roof.

Asphalt roof shingles closeup

9. Secure the tarp

While the initial board installation ensures the tarp stays in place, it is advisable to use extra 2x4s on unsecured edges of the tarp. Position additional boards on top of the wrapped but unsecured sides of the tarp then use a screwdriver to fasten screws until all four sides of the tarp are fully secured.

There should be some tarp hanging over the roof's edge. Attach extra 2x4s below the roof's edge to secure the overhanging roof tarp to the boards to stop water from blowing underneath the tarp. Sandwiching the tarp between the new boards and the existing 2x4s can help hold down the tarp in heavy rains or high winds.

How To Tarp a Roof Without Nails

Roofers typically use nails/screws to attach the anchor board to your roof. However, you can use an adhesive roof tarp to avoid puncturing your roof. This type of tarp has a glue-like resin that allows you to stick it to your roof's shingles. if you decide to use an adhesive roof tarp, you may remove the backing on the adhesive to secure the tarp.

Check on your tarpaulin regularly to ensure it's still in place. On the flip side, an adhesive tarp isn't as effective as nails and can pose problems when securing it to wooden boards. Not to mention removing adhesive roof tarps may require extra effort. When replacing shingles, the adhesive could up some granules that have already adhered to the tarp.

Man with roof leak in his Phoenix home

Call in the roofing experts

Emergency roof tarping can protect your Phoenix home from the elements for up to 90 days as you wait for expert roof repairs. If you can tarp the roof, well and good. But if you don't have the right tool or safety equipment, ask a local roofer to tarp the damaged area for you. Take a wrong step and you could damage the roof or even hurt yourself.

The roofing experts at The Phoenix Roofing Company can help with your residential roofing quotes and work. We are a locally owned company with over 10 years of residential roofing experience.
By working with an expert, you not only avoid harming the roof but comprising your homeowner's insurance. We back all our roofing services with a solid labor guarantee. Call us today for a free estimate or book online