Painting tarps, more commonly known as drop cloths, are one of those unglamorous essentials that are needed to insure that any painting project comes out right. Without them, not only does your paint get applied where you want, but you get the bonus of having it apply itself all kinds of places you dont want.
Have you ever looked at the walkways, patio, or porch around a house and seen a dazzling selection of colored paint drips near the wall? Thats the unmistakable evidence of painters who dont believe in using drop cloths. Its even worse when that happens inside the house, because then the victims are furniture and carpeting. Those are much harder to clean and much more costly to replace.
While it is possible to paint with a brush, without every getting a drip on the floor, its impossible to paint with a paint sprayer or roller without drips, splatter and overspray. Even with a brush, theres always the chance that youre going to drip, no matter how careful you are.
If you are going to buy drop cloths, the first thing you need to eliminate from your mind is the word plastic. While there are many brands of plastic drop cloths available on the market, in any thickness and size you can imagine, they all share one common fault; none of them can absorb paint. When your paint drips, and it will drip, you want something to absorb that drip, not just preserve it until you can step in it. Many a carpet has received a lovely, colorful footprint from painting over plastic drop cloths.
The only thing that plastic drop cloths are useful for is for covering furniture. Even then, you dont want to take that drop cloth and move it to another piece of furniture, because you may have paint drips on it and not be able to keep track of which side is up.
The second thing you want to keep in mind is that bigger is always better. Trying to use a 9 foot x 12 foot drop cloth to paint your 10 foot x 12 foot room is a prescription for disaster. While you can always fold a drop cloth that is too big, you cant stretch one that is too small. If you are going to cover furniture with it, you will be amazed at how quickly your drop cloths seem to shrink. What you thought was big enough suddenly seems like its last years size.
I've always used canvas drop cloths, as most professionals do. However, I recognize that not everyone reading this list is going to want to invest in a bunch of canvas drop cloths, so I've also included some plastic-backed paper, disposable drop cloths. While they wont last you years, they will work for the project you are trying to complete.
A good habit to form with your drop cloths is that of always using the same side up. That way, when you move the drop cloth, youll be sure that any paint drips on the drop cloth are on the UP side and not on your furniture and carpeting. To start out with, mark the up side in several places with a thick magic marker. After a while, the paint splatters and drips themselves will make it obvious which is the up side for that drop cloth.
The best possible combination; fabric to absorb paint drips and rubber backing to prevent them from soaking through. If you're looking for the Cadillac of drop cloths, this is it. Sure to give you years of great service. Read Full Review
This quality canvas drop cloth is butyl rubber backed to give you the best of both worlds. The canvas-butyl combination has been used for a number of years, with great success; giving both absorbency and a moisture barrier to prevent paint from leaking through. Although this drop cloth is available in a number of sizes, the larger size gives you the most coverage and the most options. Slightly heavier fabric than the Butyl II, it is also slightly more expensive.
This is also a backed fabric drop cloth, but it's poly backed, instead of butyl. I trust the butyl backing a little bit more than poly, because I think it's less likely to rip over time. Either way, the combination of fabric and waterproof backing is a winner. Read Full Review
Although it says Butyl this is actually a poly backed drop cloth (Butyl II is the manufacturers name). Nevertheless, it still provides the same advantage of having fabric to absorb the paint, along with a waterproof layer to prevent it from soaking through. The fabric is a little bit lighter on this one, when compared to the Trimaco 80322, which is why I put it in the number two slot. Id also have to say that the butyl backing is more secure than the poly one. This one is also available in various sizes, but once again, Id recommend spending the extra to buy the larger size.
Many pros prefer a pure canvas drop cloth, so that they don't have to worry about the backing flaking off. This heavy duty canvas drop cloth will do the job, soaking up the paint and protecting what's underneath. Read Full Review
For those who like pure canvas, without the rubber backing, this is a quality drop cloth that is made of heavy canvas with triple-stitched seams. Personally, all my drop cloths are pure canvas, and I've never had paint leak through to mark what I've covered. I like canvas because I dont have to worry about the rubber backing drying out and cracking from the heat; and where I live, we've got lots of heat. However, were I to do it again, I'd probably go for one of the backed ones. This pure canvas is heavy duty, insuring it will do a great job.
For the do-it-yourselfer who can't afford the high dollar stuff, might I recommend a plastic backed paper? This gives you the same combination of advantages that the backed canvas drop cloths have, at a much lower price. This one is reusable, although I doubt you'll get 20 years out of it. Read Full Review
Okay, I realize that not everyone is a professional painter, and most folks dont want to spend the big bucks for half a dozen canvas drop cloths. For the do-it-yourselfer who needs something that will get him through painting his house, I recommend a plastic-backed paper drop cloth, like this one from Kimberly Clark/Scott. The paper absorbs the paint, and the plastic keeps it from seeping through. While paper and plastic dont do a very good job by themselves, when you put them together, they combine to form great drop cloths. Not only that, theyre reusable maybe not for 20 years but still reusable.
Getting to the bottom of the list, we've got another plastic backed paper. This isn't considered a reusable drop cloth. Even so, it does give you the advantage of having both paper and plastic. Read Full Review
If youre just painting a room or two, Ace Hardware puts out this disposable plastic backed paper dropcloth. Less expensive than the professional grade plastic-backed paper, itll still get you through your project and save you a few bucks while youre at it. Essentially, this is a lighter weight version of what we're showing in the number 4 slot. The paper is there to absorb and the plastic to protect. These are not intended to be reused, but are disposable.