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Shade Screen Material

What To Look For In Choosing
The Right Mesh Shade Tarp

Mesh tarps and shade screens rival the ever-present blue poly tarp for the variety of ways and places in which they are used.


Providing debris and dust protection, they have become a staple at construction sites and as truck covers. They are a natural choice as a nursery tarp or as shade cloth for gardens. As privacy screens, they are perfect anywhere from sports facilities to backyards. And due to the sturdy grommets on all sides, even the lightest mesh fabric is easily secured to almost anything.

Most mesh is made from high-density polyethylene, or a vinyl coated polyester. With their open weave, shade tarps and screens are not water proof. But a vinyl coating adds mildew and rot resistance, and also makes the fabric exceptionally strong while maintaining a light weight.

The Shade Factor

This openness of the weave (size of the holes) is an expression of how much light is filtered. The higher the shade factor, the denser the weave and the smaller the holes For example, patio tarps might be referred to as 75 % sun screen material, meaning they block 75% of the sun's rays.

The is a great variety of weave density, ranging from a light and airy 30% to a dense and virtually solid 95%. Even the denser sun tarps allow for comfortable air flow. The tight mesh that has a shade factor of over 95% still allows air to circulate and will keep an area cooler than a solid screen.

Since everyone seeks some combination of shade, airflow, and protection from wind or dirt, this variety of density gives you great flexibility in choosing the right mesh for your needs.

Knitted vs. Woven

Mesh Shade TarpThe best mesh shade cloth has a knitted construction, using lock stitching that resists tearing and sagging, even when stretched tight. Knitted shade cloth is cloth-like to the look and feel and has threads running in various directions. The lock stitching also prevents unraveling if the mesh is cut or a hole is made.

Woven fabric is generally less expensive, and is most often used in mesh tarps. And unlike knitted stitching, it can fray when cut. But it is still strong enough to handle the toughest truck hauling or cover duties. Its' lower cost makes it a great value, especially since it offers the same comfortable air flow and the same sun and UV protection.

For patio shade cloth or light privacy screens, a knitted mesh will provide an attractive look and durability. A mesh tarp with woven material will have the best combination of strength and cost effectiveness.

Making the Choice

Nursery Shade ClothIf you are searching for garden shade cloth, or perhaps a mesh privacy screen, look for a knitted mesh weave. A 50-70% shade factor is ideal for most gardens, while 85-95% will provide a good sense of privacy. The knitted fabric will have the most attractive appearance, hold it's shape well, and will not ravel if you need to cut it to fit a certain area.

Strength is sometimes more important for mesh tarps. So a woven or knitted construction is fine as long as the fabric thread is vinyl coated to provide high tensile strength as well as UV and rot resistance. This makes the tarp a good choice for swimming pool and truck covers, fencing, bird netting, wind breaks, and for use in construction areas.

Sun shade tarps can have the same range of shade factor, from 30-95%, but will have the advantage of sturdy grommets every 18-24 inches, a thick 2 inch webbing around the edges, and heat sealed seams. Many tarps are also treated for UV and flame resistance.

Black Mesh Truck TarpIf you are looking for durability, choose a heavier fabric weight of 7-10 oz per square yard. Contrary to what you might think, ounces per square yard is not an indicator of the shade provided by the material.

One vinyl coated mesh tarp with a 10 oz weight with an 11 x 11 weave count will provide 50 % shade. Another one made of polypropylene can weigh 6.5 oz per square yard, have a 14x14 mesh, and provide 95% shade. Its' all about the tarp material and how tightly the screen is knitted.

Where To Buy Them

Vinyl coated mesh tarps from Global Industrial are made with a heavy-duty 11x11 weave count for strength, and are mildew and oil resistant. Sizes are from 6'x8' up to 20' x 20'. You'll find them by typing in "mesh tarps" in the site search box.

The wide variety of screens and tarps from Amazon, including truck tarps of all sizes, are found here . If you can't find what you need at Global, Amazon will likely have it.

For More Information:

Poly Tarps: A less expensive option when you dont need the shade and airflow.

Tarp Grommet Repair: A quick and easy fix, as well as a good source of repair kits.

Tarps: An overview of the main choices in protective tarp coversings: polyethylene, canvas, and mesh.

Canvas Tarps: A stronger and flame retardant alternative to laminated mesh tarps.


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