pe vs pvc tarp

All You Need to Know About PE Tarpaulins and PVC tarpaulins

Picture of 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, is non-toxic, and 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, is resistant to most acids and bases, has 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.

pe tarpaulin fabric
  • 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, and 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, and is difficult to break easily.

pvc tarpaulin-touch method
pvc tarpaulin test

3、Shaking Method

PE tarpaulin: shake with your hands to 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.

Play Video

5. Water Immersion Method

Immerse the two tarpaulins in water and press them into the water with your hand. To float to the top is the PE tarpaulin, and to 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 choose 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 for 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
side tarp for canopy
tarpaulin shed cover
tarpaulin sheet for water storage

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.

Part 4: How Can I repair Tarpaulin?

Tarpaulin may tear with use. There are several methods of repair:

  1. Tarpaulin Repair Tape
    Typically, this tape is crafted from durable fabric or PVC material. Ensure that the tape surpasses the mended section as you affix it to the repaired area.
tarpaulin repair tape

2. PVC Repair Kit/Sewing

If you have minor damages on a PVC waterproof tarp, you can easily fix them using a PVC repair kit designed for this purpose. Firstly, ensure that the damaged area is dry and clean, then cut a patch of the right size and use adhesive to press the patch onto the damaged area. Take care that no air bubbles get in.

However, it is difficult to bond PE tarpaulin with glue, so this method is not suitable for PE. PE can be sewn with sturdy needle and thread and then sealed with seam sealer.

Tarp Repair Kit

3. Heat Sealing

For larger damages, the hot sealing method can be used. First, cut a patch larger than the damaged area, and then press it tightly onto the damaged part. Next, use a hot air gun to heat the edges, causing the two materials to weld together.

It is crucial to maintain a controlled temperature between 130 and 145 degrees Celsius to prevent overheating or burning the waterproof tarpaulin, which could lead to more harm.

hot air tarp repair
hot-air tarp repair

It is important to note that regardless of the repair method used, the lifespan of the tarpaulin is limited. When the tarpaulin has been used for a long time or is severely damaged, none of these methods will be very effective, and it should be replaced with a new tarpaulin in a timely manner.


In general, PE tarpaulin and PVC tarpaulin each have their 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!

FAQ Guide

Tarpaulins can be made from a variety of materials, including canvas, nylon, PP, PE, PVC, etc. Tarpaulins made from different materials have their specific usage scenarios, watch this blog <The Material Guide of Tarpaulin> to learn more about tarpaulins made from different materials and their advantages and disadvantages!

No, not all tarpaulins are waterproof, due to different materials or treatments, some tarpaulins are less waterproof, but after waterproofing they can have good waterproofing properties, or we would also recommend to buy tarpaulins made of polyethylene. However, if you have more strict requirements for the waterproof performance of the tarpaulin, we recommend you to emphasise this with the sales person, and we will recommend the most suitable style for you, the

Tarpaulin grades are differentiated according to the GSM value, i.e. grams per square metre. The higher the GSM number, the stronger the tarpaulin, watch this blog <The Guidance of GSM In Tarpaulin> to see how GSM is tested.

1. If you are using it for personal use and have a small amount of tarpaulin, you can go online and buy a diy kit to make your own eyelet for the tarpaulin. The advantage of this is that it is flexible and you can choose the position freely. But maybe it take some times.

Eyelets in Tarpaulin

2. You can also just buy this type of tarp so you don’t have to do it yourself.

Yes, we offer custom-made tarpaulins, you can decide your own tarpaulin material, colour, treatment, GSM, etc. Feel free to talk to our tarpaulin experts.