Tips for dealing with tarps

Some people never have enough covered roof space for storing all their outdoor stuff. I’m one of them.

Some people never have enough covered roof space for storing all their outdoor stuff. I’m one of them. This is why I keep buying tarps even though I’m usually dissatisfied with how they work. In fact, I used to like my tarps the most when they were neatly stored on a shelf somewhere, ideally still brand new and unopened. Actually using the silly things was different.

Tarps are often hard to tie down in anything like a tidy way.

And if there’s even a little slack in the fabric, they start flapping and snapping and tearing in the high winds we’re often buffeted by where I live.

All this means I’ve had plenty of opportunity to master a few tarp optimization techniques in my time, and one of the best comes in the form of a simple plastic accessory.

Imagine being able to instantly attach a rope or bungee cord anywhere you want on a tarp – sides, top, middle or edges — never restricted to the location of grommets, and with no risk of ripping the fabric.

This is what an item called Grabbits do (; 877-981-5262), and they make it much easier to tie tarps on well.

Each Grabbit is a two-piece, plastic device that grips the tarp, providing a rip-proof anchor point for securing it.

You roll the inner half of the Grabbit (called the “dog bone”) into any section of tarp, then slide the trough-shaped “sleeve” over top from one end.

That’s it. With the tarp pinched between these two parts, it’s now locked solidly to the Grabbit.

A small hole in the device lets you tie on an anchor cord for securing the tarp any way you want.

I’ve been using three different lengths of Grabbits over the last 18 months: the 3”-long Mini, the 6”-long model, and the 20” Premium.

They all work perfectly, holding on to standard polyethylene tarps without slipping, though the 6” model is my favourite for general tarp attachment.

The dog bones on the two larger sizes are also drilled to accept screws. Anchor them to the side of a building, lay the tarp in place, then slip the sleeve over top.

This anchors the tarp to the building, creating an instant lean-to roof. Grabbits can also be used to join two or more tarps together for large jobs, like covering a roof that’s getting new shingles.

Grabbit’s online videos show how to make this happen.

The Grabbit system is fast, easy to use, and for the first time in my life I feel as good about using my tarps as I do when they’re folded up neatly and put away inside. They work especially well when used with braided nylon cord for tying the tarps down. Yellow polypropylene rope is cheaper, and more frequently used for tie-downs, but it doesn’t hold knots nearly as well.

Even with these accessories on your side, weighing down your tarp with something heavy on top goes a long way to prevent destructive flapping of the fabric. Got a tarp to secure to the ground? Consider something called an earth anchor.

These corkscrew-shaped pieces of metal hardware, torque into the soil, providing an amazingly solid anchor point for tying ropes.

Tarps keep moisture out from above, but not from below. That’s why it makes sense to park your stored stuff on an old shipping pallet, to get it off the soil, and away from the moisture that makes it’s way up from there. With all these things on your side, tarps may just turn into something you can feel good about, even when they’re not neatly on the shelf.

Steve Maxwell is Canada’s award-winning home improvement expert, and technical editor of Canadian Home Workshop magazine. Sign up for his free homeowner newsletter at

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