All You Need to Know About PE Tarpaulins and PVC tarpaulins

Pieter Zhang
Hello, I am Pieter Zhang, founder of APAC. I have been in the site safety products business for 14 years and the purpose of this article is to share with you the knowledge about site safety products from the perspective of a Chinese supplier.



During construction, PE tarpaulin and PVC tarpaulin are frequently used. For example, PE tarpaulin can be used with scaffolding to ensure that workers are not affected by wind and rain, or can be made into a fence cover to slow down temporary fence corrosion, and in some other cold and snowy countries will also use temporary roofs or snow tarps, which is all made of PVC tarpaulin, to reduce the impact of heavy snow on construction.

The two materials are common in industry, so what is the difference between them? How can I choose the most suitable material for my project? I believe this blog will give you the answer.

Part 1 : What are they?

1、 PE Tarpaulin

PE tarpaulin is a double-coated PE film with a loosely woven polyethylene plastic strip in the middle, and its production process is: drawing round-weaving-double side film.

pe raw material

Polyethylene(PE) is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic material that is divided into high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE).

Among them, HDPE is the raw material for making PE tarpaulin, it appears as white powder, or granular product, non-toxic, tasteless, and its density ranges from 930 to 970 kg/m3.

  • Advantages

PE tarpaulin has good heat and cold resistance, good chemical stability, is insoluble in any organic solvent at room temperature, resistant to most acids and bases, small water absorption, yet maintains flexibility at low temperatures, and high electrical insulation. And PE tarpaulin is light, clean, non-polluting, and easy to transport and store.

pe tarpaulin structure
  • Disadvantages

The disadvantage of pe tarpaulin is that it is easy to wear. Thermal oxidation will make its performance decline, making it easy to age and brittle. The surface hardness of PE tarpaulin is relatively low, making it easy to scratch and stress crack. And is not suitable for long-term use in the open environment.

  • Applications

PE tarpaulin has many applications, such as protecting unfinished buildings from wind, rain or sunlight (reinforced polyethylene sheeting); as a temporary cover for construction materials; covering temporary fences to protect them from the weather and extend their service life; or it can also be made into tents, cargo covers, garden bag, etc.

2、PVC Tarpaulin

The PVC tarpaulin is made of high-strength polyester canvas, coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) paste resin with growth agents, anti-mildew agents, anti-aging agents, anti-static agents and other chemical additives, taking the impregnation technology, the process is: long dip coating drying set – light pressure cooling rolled.

And the raw material Polyvinyl chloride is slightly yellow translucent, glossy, and more transparent than polyethylene.

Polyvinyl chloride
  • Advantages

Polyvinyl Chloride – is a tough, cost-effective material that is hard, mechanically strong and has good chemical resistance. Moreover, PVC is a natural flame retardant and has the advantages of being flame retardant (flame retardant value of 40 or more) and good electrical insulation.

The pvc tarpaulin is characterized by high durability and sturdiness, water resistance, mildew resistance, cold resistance, aging resistance, anti-static, and can provide provide a high level of weather protection.

The pvc tarpaulin has a bright colorful appearance and a special treatment on the surface with anti-slip function, which is a popular international tarpaulin.

  • Disadvantages

    The transmittance of polyvinyl chloride tarpaulin is not very good, reducing the natural light inside the building. And When using pvc tarpaulin, it is best to avoid sharp objects scratching the tarpaulin, which will reduce the waterproof performance of the tarpaulin.

  • Applications

    PVC tarpaulin can be used for many applications. Such as the following:

Part 2 : How can I distinguish them?

1、Touch Method

PE tarpaulin: you can feel the woven structure (for most situations)

PVC tarpaulin: feel the lubrication with your hands, relatively smooth, the surface is like a layer of wax coated.

2、Pull by Hand

PE tarpaulin: softer, but less tough, stretching can be broken.

PVC tarpaulin: strong toughness, can be stretched wide and long, difficult to break easily.

pvc tarpaulin-touch method
pvc tarpaulin test

3、Shaking Method

PE tarpaulin: shake with your hands sound brittle.

PVC tarpaulin: shake with your hands and sound low.

4、Burning Method

PE tarpaulin is ignited when it meets fire, the flame is yellow, burning with paraffin-like oil drops. And have the smell of burning candles.

PVC tarpaulin because of the chlorine element, the flame is yellowish green after ignition, no oil dripping phenomenon, will be extinguished after leaving the fire source, and there is a strong pungent odor.

5、Water Immersion Method

Immerse the two tarpaulins in water, press them into the water with your hand, to float to the top is the PE tarpaulin, and sink to the bottom of the water is the PVC tarpaulin.

Part 3 : How can i choose them?

1、The cost and budget

In general, the initial price of PVC fabric is higher than PE fabric, so tarpaulins made of PE tend to be cheaper than those made of PVC, so we would recommend buying them. Of course, if you need a long-term or even year-round solution, or to use them in low temperature situations, you should choose PVC, for occasional use and without special requirements, then there is no need to choose the more expensive pvc tarpaulins, and choosing PE tarpaulins is the most cost-effective decision for you.

pvc tarpaulin-save your budget

2、Service life

PVC tarpaulins are durable and designed to last up to 10 years. Whereas pe tarpaulin lasts about 1-2 years or a single use.

If you hold both materials, you will find that pvc tarps are thicker and more robust. This is because pvc tarpaulins have a strong internal mesh fabric and are therefore more robust.

So, if you want a tarp that will last longer or can be reused, then choose a pvc tarp, if you only use it occasionally, a pe tarp is better. Of course, combined with your budget, order quantity, price, and other factors to consider before making a choice.

3、Application Scenarios

PVC Tarpaulin applications
PVC Tarpaulin-application
pe tarpaulin application

Compared to PE tarpaulins, PVC tarpaulins offer higher durability and sturdiness, providing a high level of weather protection, winter protection, and especially resistance to environmental influences, while PE tarpaulins tend to become brittle in low temperature conditions. So if you need to use it in low temperature conditions, of course, you should choose pvc tarpaulin.

But compared to PVC tarpaulins, PE tarpaulins have better light transmission, so if you want it not to be too dark, pe tarpaulins are better.

In addition to the above scenarios, there are many application scenarios that will affect your choice, it may be worthwhile to contact us directly, our experts will give you professional advice to help you choose the most suitable tarpaulin for your projects.


In general, PE tarpaulin and PVC tarpaulin, each has its own advantages and disadvantages, no matter which one you choose, you have to make a decision based on your project requirements, price budget, and other aspects.

If you still have doubts about this after reading this blog, contact us immediately!