Fitted vs. Flat Tarps

You have two main options when ordering a tarp to cover something in the shape of a box or a cylinder.

  1. Flat Tarp
  2. Fitted Tarp

Flat Tarps

When a flat tarp is placed over something that is box shaped, you will find that extra material will gather in the corners and ends as we show here.

Flat tarp gathered at the end

In most cases you can simply fold over the corners much like when you wrap a boxed gift. It is a little hard to see in this photo of a black tarp but the material at the sides has been folded toward the back of the trailer.

Trailer tarp with folded side

If you are planning to fold it like this it is ideal if you have a grommet positioned so that it ends up in the location where the fold will end. You can see here that the blue tarp below was folded over but there was no fastener at that location so it was not possible to draw the corner into the side.

Usually, the best way to ensure that you will have a grommet in the end of the fold is to make the overlap on the sides match that of the ends. In such a case, the corner of the tarp will tend to be the end point that gets drawn in. Since tarps almost always have grommets in the corners (unless you tell us not to put one there) you will always have a grommet that is positioned to facilitate the folding of your flat tarp.

Fitted Tarp

Fitted tarp sewn corner

With fitted tarps, we cut out the excess material that would need to be folded over and we sew the two sides of each corner together. This provides a neater look but it also gives you a little bit less flexibility for how you use and size the tarp since it must be sized to your exact application. It is always good to add an inch or so to your sizing to make it easier to install and remove the tarp and also to give us some tolerance. If the tarp is even a tiny bit too small, it won't fit onto whatever it is you wanted to cover.

It is also worth noting that since the corners are sewn together, it is possible for traces of moisture to seep through the corners. This is usually not a big deal since any water droplets that make it to the inside of the tarp will generally just drip to the ground. Nevertheless, if it is imperative that no water gets under your cover, a non-fitted tarp will actually be more waterproof.

When ordered a fitted cover online, you will need to use the Custom Fitted Tarp order screen. If this screen does not have the features you require you can try the complex tarp ordering function. The main reason you need to use these specific forms is that they allow you to enter a height for the tarp which indicates how far down the sides the tarp should go.  When deciding on the height, make sure the fasteners on your trailer will be at least 6 inches below the bottom of the tarp so that you will be able to tension the tarp properly. Also make sure the fenders on the trailer will not prevent the tarp from extending down the sides. If this can't be avoided we will need to make cutouts in the tarp to accommodate the fenders or other obstacles. Make note of where your taillights are to ensure that these wont be covered when the tarp is installed. This is only a consideration if you are planning to use the tarp while travelling.

Red fitted tarp

Tarp Drainage

Tarp with center elevated to drain to the sidesWhether you are ordering a flat tarp or a fitted tarp, if you are selecting a waterproof material such as 18 oz vinyl, you need to have a strategy for ensuring your tarp drains when it rains. If you are covering an open trailer, you can never tension the tarp enough to prevent water from pooling. In most cases you will want the centre of the tarp to be elevated slightly so that water flows to the sides of the tarp. Keep in mind that this will cause the sides to be drawn in so you will need to size the tarp wider and longer to allow for this. Be sure to read our blog post on how to prevent rain from pooling on your tarp.

As an aside, notice that the fasteners on this trailer are hooks rather than eyelets. This makes it easier to add and remove the tarp since you don't need to pull the fastening rope through all of the eyelets to take the tarp off the trailer.

Fitted Tarp Testimonials

Philip Bolduc
Worcester, Massachusetts
Excellent Five star rating
Heavy Duty Tarps gets my 5-star rating for customer service, timely delivery, and a high-quality tarp made exactly to my specifications. Thank you!