How to tarp a roof in an emergency

Published: February 17, 2021

A wooden roof with a hole it in By Jazmine Thomas/Shutterstock

No matter what caused it—a tree branch or a chunk of frozen airline sewage—there is a hole in your roof and it is supposed to rain tonight. Resist the urge to nail or staple some plastic over the hole. If you perforate your waterproofing material with flimsy fasteners, water will work its way through. Plus, nails and staples won’t stand a chance when that sheeting starts snapping in a stiff wind.

Keep these items in your extreme weather emergency kit

A better solution is to attach your waterproof material—a large tarp, some plastic vapour barrier, or a painter’s drop sheet—with battens: long, narrow strips of wood that will apply clamping force to the sheeting. Battens can be 1x2s, 1x3s, 2x4s, or even strips of plywood. 

If your tarp is long enough, run one side over the peak of the roof then down to cover the hole. Place one batten on the edge of the tarp so it runs vertically from peak to eaves. Fold the tarp over the batten twice, then fasten it to the roof deck with 3″ screws placed every 16″ or so. Secure the other side of the tarp after pulling it taut. Fasten the edge on the far side of the peak with a third batten parallel to the ridge. If the middle of the tarp starts to billow, screw another batten vertically down the centre. Bring the rain.

How to prepare yourself for an emergency at the cottage

This article was originally published in the May 2019 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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