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Home Improvement

Best Painting Tarp

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 don’t 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? That’s the unmistakable evidence of painters who don’t believe in using drop cloths. It’s 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, it’s impossible to paint with a paint sprayer or roller without drips, splatter and overspray. Even with a brush, there’s always the chance that you’re 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 don’t 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 can’t 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 it’s last year’s 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 won’t 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, you’ll 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.

Trimaco 80322 12' X 15' Butyl Rubber Coated Dropcloths

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.

Butyl II, 12’ x 15’ 2-Layer Drop Cloth, model 85323

Although it says “Butyl” this is actually a poly backed drop cloth (Butyl II is the manufacturer’s 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. I’d 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, I’d recommend spending the extra to buy the larger size.

Galaxy Paint Essentials HW1215 12' x 15' Canvas Dropcloth

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 don’t 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.

Kimberly Clark/Scott 11657 Diy Bus Contractor Grade Dropcloth 8' x 12'

Okay, I realize that not everyone is a professional painter, and most folks don’t 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 don’t do a very good job by themselves, when you put them together, they combine to form great drop cloths. Not only that, they’re reusable — maybe not for 20 years — but still reusable.

Triamco Ace 1260157 9' x 12' Paper/Poly Drop Cloth

If you’re 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, it’ll still get you through your project and save you a few bucks while you’re 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.

Rich the Tool Man

Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.

While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.

In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.

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