To put it simply, a tarpaulin is typically a large sheet of strong and flexible material used to protect goods from rain, sleet, snow, hail, high winds, harsh sunshine, etc. While the very first tarpaulins were made from heavy-duty sailcloth daubed with tar to make them waterproof, modern-day tarpaulins are made from a large variety of materials that can also be treated with special chemicals and additives to make them more suitable for special applications. A quick look at the various types of tarps and their ideal uses:
Mesh tarpaulins are designed to have small holes in between the threads of the material. While they allow the ingress of moisture, air, and light, they also allow the contents inside to breathe. Due to the ability of the wind to pass through the holes in the material, mesh tarps offer less resistance to wind. The ideal uses of mesh tarps include containing debris, covering trucks carrying lightweight materials that may blow away in the wind, to cover sand, gravel, soil, etc. in dump trucks, as well as covering swimming pools, in the greenhouse to protect plants, and in awnings. According to https://buffalonews.com, awnings are a good way of blocking the intense heat of the sun.
One of the heaviest and strongest tarps, canvas tarphas the advantage of being extremely robust while being breathable. Many canvas tarps are given special treatments to make them water-resistant, flame-retardant, and resistant to mildew, UV radiation, abrasion, and other special performance requirements. Canvas tarps find popular use in the transport of agricultural produce and commodities that are sensitive to heat and moisture, on-farm applications like covering bales of hay or farm equipment, ground covers, as well as home and garden use.
Poly tarps are made from both low-density and high-density polyethylene depending on their intended applications. The lightweight 12×12 tarp has a lower mesh count as well as a less thick poly coating and is used for applications smaller in duration. While poly tarps are good for covering materials outdoors to protect them from sunshine and rain, being waterproof, they cannot breathe. Though not very strong and durable, poly tarps find popular use being lightweight, waterproof, and inexpensive. Typical applications include lines for truck beds, protection for gym floors, seal leaking roofs temporarily, and to make tents and temporary shelters.
Poly tarps are given a coating or lamination of vinyl to make the tarps stronger and resist tearing making them more suitable for industrial applications. Vinyl tarps are very heavy-duty and have a lifespan of several years even when exposed to harsh weather conditions for extended periods. Because of their added thickness, they are also more abrasion-resistant while being naturally resistant to grease, mildew, as well as acids. Vinyl tarps find use in marine applications, in awnings, repairing roof damage, flatbed truck covers, emergency shelters, and where toughness is a must.
While you can get tarpaulins in many different materials, the choice should be made given the demands of the application. Picking the wrong material will lead to below-par performance while the right material will give you years of good service read about Eric Dalius.