More from: lumber tarp

The Importance of Lumber Tarps

At first thought, it may seem that applying tarps to lumber loads is a waste of time. We just assume lumber is durable enough to handle a trip up the interstate without too many problems. However, that isn’t the case. There is one silent villain of lumber that could cause monstrous levels of damage and ruin the entire load long before it reaches its destination. And that enemy is – moisture. Keeping lumber dry is the primary reason for using lumber tarps.

To be clear, hauling lumber is normally associated with carrying cut wood from the harvest location to the processing location. Nevertheless, hauling lumber can also mean carrying finished products, such as 2x4s, to a construction site. Regardless of the stage of production, all lumber is still susceptible to moisture.

Fungal Growth Equals Worthless Wood

Wood is a pretty durable product, capable of taking a lot of punishment. Nonetheless, under the right conditions, fungus can grow within a load of lumber. Substantial fungal growth can make an entire load worthless. This is why flatbed truckers have to be very careful about protecting lumber on the road.


In order for fungus to grow, three things need to be present in just the right proportions: moisture, warm temperatures, and air. Any two can be just right and you will still not get fungus if the third is not. This is why rough cut lumber can sit in the bottom of a river for hundreds of years without ever growing fungus or decaying. There is simply not enough oxygen to sustain fungal growth.

On the back of a flatbed trailer however, it is not difficult at all to reach optimum conditions for fungal growth. There is obviously plenty of air, and a fairly warm day with sunshine satisfies the temperature requirements. Add a little moisture from a short rainstorm and you have the perfect conditions for fungus.

The main problem with lumber loads is that any water managing to seep through open spaces can then become trapped between individual pieces of lumber. If allowed to sit long enough in this condition, fungus can grow. Therefore, the best way to avoid the risk is to cover the load with lumber tarps. Tarps keep away moisture and, in the case of finished lumber, prevent any damage from flying debris and insects.

Tarp Quality Important

Providing maximum protection for a lumber load is a matter of using a high-quality lumber tarp. A good tarp will be large enough to cover the top and sides of the load, with flaps on the front and back to completely encase the lumber. Vinyl or poly are the two most common fabric choices, though it’s not unheard of for some truckers to use canvas.

We recommend a high-quality tarp from a reputable manufacturer. The driver will pay a little more for quality, but the higher price is worth it over the long term. A quality tarp will offer maximum protection and last longer than a cheaper alternative. Moreover, given that lumber tarps are one of the most important tools of the trade for the timber hauler, there is no point in doing business on the cheap.

Protecting lumber from moisture is an important part of the job. This makes lumber work the most labor-intensive and time-consuming in all of the industry. Truckers should consider what is involved in order to make sure they are getting paid well enough to make the work worth their while. Considering that the pay is good, applying those lumber tarps is no big deal.

Tarping and Un-Tarping with Canvas Tarps

A brief perusal of a few online trucker forums suggests that tarping loads is the least appreciated aspect of flatbed hauling. Tarping takes time, the weather does not always cooperate, and, in some cases, it can even be a bit dangerous. In such cases, canvas tarps can be a lot easier to work with than vinyl or poly.

Truckers use different kind of tarps for different jobs. For example, a lumber tarp with flaps might be chosen for a tall load requiring protection down the sides. A small smoke tarp is a good choice when the driver only needs to protect the front of the load from exhaust. When weather and height are a concern, canvas could be the way to go.


Tarping with Canvas

One of the first things you notice about canvas is that it is a bit heavier than vinyl. This makes it a better material choice when you are trying to tarp in windy conditions. The key is placing the folded tarp in the right position on the load so that it can be gradually secured as it is unfolded. A gradual unfolding and securement is not 100% foolproof, but it does reduce the chances of wind gusts posing a problem.

Truckers also find canvas more forgiving in cold weather. Why? Because canvas does not get stiff and brittle in cold temperatures like vinyl does. It will unfold just as easily during the winter as it does in the summer, so you will have less to deal with when you are trying to secure your load in bad weather. The same properties that keep canvas pliable during cold temperatures also mean fewer adjustments as a result of changing weather conditions and temperatures.

Un-Tarping with Canvas

Tarping your load in windy conditions is not only made easier by canvas – so is tarp removal. Again, the heavier weight of canvas makes it less likely to flap in the breeze. Canvas is also less likely to become stuck on edges or corners, making it more forgiving when you are uncovering your load.

When it comes to folding your tarps, the benefits of canvas are immediately observable. Canvas folds easier, is more likely to stay in place during subsequent fold-overs, and less likely to move in the breeze during the folding process. This makes canvas a lot easier to be folded into a tight, neat package that fits into your utility box as it’s supposed to.

It should be obvious that removing a canvas tarp in cold weather is easier as well. Just like tarping, uncovering a load using a vinyl or poly tarp can be a real hassle when the temperatures dip below freezing. Truckers have to be more concerned about rips and tears as well, due to cold temperatures making poly and vinyl more brittle. There are fewer such worries with canvas.

Of course, canvas is not the right material for every job. There are times when poly or vinyl tarps are a better fit. This is why truckers typically have several different kinds of tarps stored in their boxes. One thing we will say is that canvas should be part of every truck driver’s collection. There are times when tarping and un-tarping with canvas is safer, faster, and more efficient.

What to Look for When Buying a Lumber Tarp

Truckers know how important it is to protect the load, even if the load is a lumber only load. So, choosing the right product for the right load is essential. When buying your tarp, you can choose between being solely cost conscious or considering quality and functionality before you make your decision. Moreover, as with most purchasing decisions, getting the best possible quality might involve spending a little more than the intended budget for it.

Another thing to consider about lumber, is the fact that, a load can be very hard on the tarp that covers it. A light-duty tarp may weigh and cost less, but it will probably not last as long as you would like it to. Always go with heavy-duty tarps that can withstand the punishment of the load it covers.

lumber tarp

Here are three things you should look for when buying lumber tarps:

1. Material Weight

It can be tempting to choose a lightweight product to make applying and tying down a tarp as easy as possible. However, this could be a costly mistake if a new tarp is damaged after just a few loads. This scenario can be avoided by purchasing an 18 oz. vinyl tarp. Vinyl is lighter than canvas, 100% waterproof, and incredibly tough.

It is possible to choose three-piece parts that use a heavier vinyl on the top and a lighter vinyl on the sides. This sort of arrangement reduces the overall weight while providing the heaviest protection where you need it most – at the top of the load. As a side note, pay attention to the seams and hems. Heat-sealed seams and reinforced hems are best.

2. Drop

The amount of drop a tarp offers is an important part of protecting the lumber load. Not enough drop can leave too much of the load exposed to the elements; too much drop may mean an excess amount of fabric to be secured. Neither situation is ideal. Having said that, lumber loads are such that finding a tarp that fits perfectly, every time, is nearly impossible.

Most truckers will need tarps with multiple drops to account for different kinds of loads. You will soon enough know the specific tarps that are needed for the loads you tend to carry most frequently.

3. D-Rings and Grommets

D-rings and grommets make it possible for you to tie down your tarps in order to protect your load. First and foremost, any lumber tarp you purchase should have enough of both to make securing the tarp easy regardless of the size and shape of the road.

The second thing to pay attention to is how D-rings and grommets are attached to the tarp. Heavy-duty construction is important. D-rings should be attached with heavy-duty webbing, back stitched for maximum strength. They should also include a heavy-duty protection flap underneath. As for the grommets, these should be attached with heavy-duty webbing that are at least 2 inches in width.

When buying a lumber tarp the key is quality, in both construction and materials. It might be worth it to spend more on a high quality product that will last longer than to try to get by with a cheaper alternative. Remember, protecting your load appropriately will only be good for business. A high-quality tarp will pay for itself over time as it used to cover more loads.