How to Use a Tarp to Make a Shade Canopy

May 24th 2022

Everyone loves the sun. But like practically everything else in life, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

If you're seeking a quick, inexpensive and effective way to get some protection from the sun's searing heat and harmful ultraviolet rays, a tarp shade canopy offers a perfect solution. Whether you're looking for a long-term shelter for guests in your backyard, a temporary area at a campsite for cover or a permanent place to protect a vehicle or other possessions, a simple tarp, a few other supplies and a little labor are all you need.

Besides providing shade, a good canopy can protect you, your friends, family and possessions from rain and debris. Read on to learn how to use a tarp to make a shade canopy.

First, you'll need to select a tarp, of course. Look for a high-quality tarp that will resist tears and stand up to the sun's damaging UV rays as well as whatever else Mother Nature may decide to dish out. Many people like to use standard blue tarps or silver tarps. Whichever type you choose, make sure to get a tarp with grommets so you can tie it down easily and securely.

The size you'll need will depend on the area you want to protect, of course, as well as what you want to keep under your canopy. A Mini Cooper or Smart Car, for instance, wouldn't require nearly as large a tarp as a Chevy Tahoe or a Ford Super Duty F250 pickup truck. Blue tarps generally are available in sizes ranging from 5' x 7' to 30' x 40'. It's easy to find silver tarps in sizes running from 8' x 10' to 20' x 30'. Custom sizes may be available too.

You'll also need some supporting members to create your shady refuge. For the corners of your shade tarp, use four tent poles. Sizes of 7' or 8' should work nicely. A center tent pole about 8' to 10' tall will be necessary as well as about 40' of nylon or polyethylene rope. Finally, assemble some tent stakes for attaching your tarp shade and poles securely to the ground so you don't have to worry about wind.

Erecting your tent is simple. Start by selecting the place where you want it to stand - preferably on a flat, level and clean area. When you've found your spot, remove all debris. Then, with the tarp lying on the ground, put a pole into each of its corners. Attach each pole firmly to a grommet with a piece of rope.

With some helpers, lift the poles to a standing position with the tarp forming a roof. Now, attach a rope to the top of one of the corner poles. Run the rope away from the tarp, attach it to one of your tent stakes and hammer the stake into the ground. Do the same with the other three corner poles.

Now you're ready to install your center pole, which will provide extra stability, strength and shape for your canopy. Push this extra tent pole as close to the center of the tarp as possible and position it to get the height you want. Then work the other end of the pole into the ground as deep as you can get it for the best support and the right height.

Finally, walk around your tarp shade shelter and adjust the tarp as necessary. You want it to be as smooth and taut as possible. This will help ensure that rain and debris run off it and will help your shelter withstand wind gusts too.

You're now ready to use your tarp. You can keep it simple, straightforward and unadorned as a shelter for camping or your vehicles and possessions at home. Some folks like to decorate their shade shelters inside and out as a place to entertain family and friends while enjoying an outdoor lifestyle. Whatever you choose, you'll enjoy cool protection from the sun.