How to Build a Tarp Canopy

Jericho McCune

Tarp canopies are useful because they erect quickly whenever there's a need for protection from the elements. A strong tarp will provide cover from the rain and shade from the sun. With lightweight PVC or bamboo poles, storing and transportation are convenient.

Tarp canopies can be used for picnics, sporting events, camping, yard sales or a variety of other occasions. Tarps are lightweight, so they only provide a limited amount of protection and shouldn't be considered when erecting a permanent structure. Heavy precipitation, strong winds and time will wear out tarps, so replace them every 10 years or so.


If tent stakes aren't available, the corners of the tarp can be tied off to anything steady and secure. Trees, buildings, heavy tables and light poles are all good objects to tie off to.


Do not tie the corner ropes off to vehicles to avoid having someone accidentally destroy the canopy by moving the vehicle.

  1. Clear the area the canopy will need to cover of any large objects or items that could get in the way. Spread the tarp out over the area as flat as possible.

  2. Place a 6 1/2-foot pole at each of the tarp's four corners. Fit the end of the pole into the circular grommet attached to the corner of the tarp.

  3. Cut four 10-foot lengths of rope. Tie a length of rope to the grommet in each of the four corners.

  4. Lift the poles so that the tarp is held in the air. Position a person at each of the poles to steady it until the ropes are secure.

  5. Pull one of the ropes towards the ground directly away from the center of the canopy. When the rope is taut, hammer a tent stake into the ground and tie the rope to it. Repeat this for each of the corners.

  6. Push the 7-foot pole upwards into the center of the tarp and plant it securely into the ground. If the corner ropes are tight enough, the center pole will be supported by the tension on the tarp and will not need any additional support.