single floor house with tarp on the roof

How to Tarp a Roof for Temporary Roof Repair

You’ve come home from a long workday, and you discover that a tree limb has fallen on your roof, puncturing it. Just what you wanted to come home to. You’re thinking through the steps you have to take: getting photographs, contacting your insurance agent or landlord, checking for other damage. Then you look at the weather forecast: rain is on the way tonight. Beautiful. When it rains, it pours, they say.

You need to get your roof covered fast to prevent further damage. You can call a professional like Advanced Roofing & Siding Inc.—and you know you will once you get past this immediate crisis. But right now you need an emergency roof repair to hold you over until the professionals can deal with the problem. 

You don’t want to add water damage to the problems you already have, and neither does your insurance company. In fact, they’ll be asking you how quickly you can get a temporary roof repair in place. So what’s the solution?

This may be an extreme situation, but in truth, there are many reasons why you would need to make a temporary roof repair. Roof leaks can develop at any time when flashing or the seal around a vent fails. Your roofing specialist may need to wait a few days or even weeks for materials to arrive, especially if they are custom shingles. 

A storm may have damaged a lot of roofs in the area, and all roofing contractors are booked for weeks out. Or it may be that you experience this spate of roofing bad luck before a holiday weekend. One of the main reasons for needing temporary roof repair is for you to get your finances in order to afford the major roof repairs you may need. Whatever the reason, learning to tarp a roof is an important skill to have.

Temporary roof repair is a must if you find yourself with a breached roof and incoming precipitation of any sort. Luckily, it isn’t that difficult if you follow these handy steps.

Identify the Damage

You’ll need to determine what parts of your roof are damaged, and how much you need to cover. Your tarp should extend beyond the damage by 3’ or more on all sides.

Gather Your Tools

You’ll need:

  • A tarp large enough to extend beyond the damaged area, or more than one tarp for large areas
  • Several pieces of lumber, such as 2” x 4” or 1” x 4” or 1” x 3”
  • A reliable ladder
  • A utility knife
  • Optional: hurricane tape or another waterproof tape
  • Optional: roofing cement
  • Optional: plywood or sheet metal to cover a hole, if necessary
  • Optional: cordless drill and deck screws, unless using the no-nails method

What Makes a Good Tarp

Let’s face it. If you’re working in the pelting rain or trying to finish before a storm arrives, you won’t have time to be choosy about your tarp. Any covering is better than none. But if you get the chance to shop for the tarp that will do the job most effectively look for:

  • Size: A tarp that will extend past the damaged area by a good 3’ on all sides, including the bottom and the ridge.
  • Interior or exterior: make sure you get a tarp that is meant to be used outside.
  • Thickness: the thicker the tarp, the better.
  • UV Protection: if the fabric of the tarp has UV inhibitors, it will help the tarp last longer while it takes the punishment from the sun.


Tarps can be slippery, even when they are not wet. Try not to walk on the tarp, but to roll it out while standing on the roof or the ladder. Do as much of the work from the ladder as possible, and follow your ladder safety rules. Make sure your ladder is working properly, and that its feet have anti-slip pads. Never stand on the top of a ladder. If possible, have a helper who can hold the ladder and assist you with the repair. Do not attempt to go on the rooftop in the middle of a strong storm with high winds.

Steps for Repair—Nailing Method

  1. Identify if you have a puncture through the roof’s shingles and plywood. If so, you will need to cover that hole with a piece of plywood or sheet metal that extends beyond the hole itself on all sides. Place the plywood or sheet metal over the hole and use roofing nails and a hammer or decking screws and a cordless drill to secure the plywood to the roof.
  2. Roll the tarp over the damaged area, taking care that it extends at least 3’ on all sides.
  3. Pull the tarp tight and smooth out wrinkles.
  4. Nail the tarp to the fascia board over the edge of the roof, or along the ridge. If you have it, cover the nail heads with roofing cement to keep it watertight.
  5. If you had to cover an air vent, carefully cut a small hole to allow the shaft to escape the tarp. Use hurricane or waterproof tape around the vent to ensure it does not allow moisture to get underneath.

How to Tarp a Roof Without Nails (The No Nails Method)

Follow the steps as above, but instead of nailing the tarp to your fascia board, lay the 2” x 4” pieces of lumber along the tarp at intervals to hold the tarp down. Wrap one of your boards around the tarp three times at the edges, then place another board adjacent. This will keep the edges down and keep a wind gust from lifting it.

Also Read: Roofing and Siding Underlayment Benefits

If you’ve done it correctly and depending on the strength of your tarp, you’ll have a repair that will last from a few weeks to a few months.

Call the Professionals and Get it Fixed Properly

Of course, temporary repair is just that—temporary—and you’ll have to go for a long-term or permanent fix later. An emergency roof repair can help you prevent thousands of dollars worth of water damage, or mold and mildew growth to your home. It’s important to catch problems early, get an inspection right away, and make the necessary roof repairs to hold you over until a roofing specialist can help.Your insurance company may tell you that you are liable if you don’t do these necessary emergency repairs and further damage occurs. While it is true that you must work to mitigate additional damage, that does not mean that you personally have to get on your roof if you are not comfortable doing so.

Contact Advanced Roofing & Siding Inc. today to help you with these emergency repairs and the long-term solution to protect your home.

Share This Article

Your Twin Cities Roofing Partner

Get Started Today
Share to...