Winterizing Lawn Furniture with Plastic Covers and Tarps

Plastic, Tarp, and Covers – What You Need to Know Now! Winterizing lawn furniture may soon be as easy as sitting down. The new tarps and covers claiming to provide protection from snow, ice, and rain are now available at your local home center. But do they work? And how long will those promises last? We headed out to find out and discovered that this winter weather gear does its job without costing a fortune or taking up much space in the garage.

Here’s what we found:

Furniture coverings come in three main types:

Flexible plastic sheets with straps, fitted fabric covers, and all-purpose polyethylene tarps. The thin plastic styles (AP but flimsy) won’t last long at all. They’re not much more than a dust cover and don’t even begin to insulate patio furniture, while the fitted fabric covers should be used only on open-backed wood chairs and other such ‘lighter duty applications. The best of these styles is an offshoot of the old heavy plastic sheeting that roofers use – only you can get it in lighter weights for about $6 per 10×12 foot sheet. It too needs additional support (wood planks or dowels) to keep it from drooping, which allows wind and rain under the sheet and into your furniture.

It’s cumbersome but effective:

The Polyethylene style we like best is made by one manufacturer who claims that if positioned correctly it can withstand wind, rain, and even snow for days. Well, it’s a strong claim but we’ve put these tarps/sheets to the test with encouraging results. In fact, several of our testers were so sold on this product that they plan to use it as ground covers under the legs of their patio furniture all winter long – just because they like the way it looks and protects against weeds and grasses and makes future clean-ups easier.

Here’s how we tested:

Our first step was to drag out some old battered patio furniture from last year’s garage sale finds. Nothing fancies here just your basic gliders, chairs, and tables that need a little TLC as well as protection from this year’s harsh winter weather.

A quick inventory check showed us that we had some good, some not-so-good furniture styles (old aluminum tube chairs will buckle under the weight of wet snow) and some pieces still in need of re-coating to slow down corrosion. But with all these potential problems you can rest assured that our test samples did have one thing in common – they were exposing to the elements from about mid-October through early May when we finally put them away for summer storage. The test conditions included windy days, damp rainy ones, and even a few bone-chilling nights where temperatures dipped into the low 20s! In other words, just about everything, Mother Nature threw our way this winter.

For the test rig, we use a basic patio set that was made up of six gliders, four chairs, and a glass-top table. Each piece of furniture had the potential to accumulate at least two feet of snow on its top surface, which meant that we would need some serious protection if our products were going to last more than just a few days.

Initial results:

Our first test group included all-purpose polyethylene ‘tarps’ – one light green heavy-duty 6 mil plastic sheeting cut into three 10×12 foot sheets (we also tried 6-mil Visqueen or painter’s drop cloth); an 8×10 foot blue tarp; and a blue 9×12 foot contractor-grade plastic sheet. All three types were place over our patio with the 10×12 foot sheets drape over the back and sides of our furniture. While the other two styles place only over the tops of all pieces.

The first three to four days went well as we had some typical Ohio winter weather complete with sunny skies, windy days, and a few light snow flurries. Then came a really nasty spell that brought gale-force winds and several inches of wet sloppy sleet followed by even more snow during one very cold night (teens) – it was here that we lost two low-cost plastic sheeting covers and one blue tarp style. The 10×12 footer held its own for another week before spring-like weather returned and we decided to retire them from active duty.


And the winner is…our 6-mil all-purpose green plastic sheeting. It’s light, inexpensive (about $2.50 per 10×12 foot sheet), and looked just fine under our patio furniture where it kept out plenty of snow, rain, and wind without tearing or puncturing. We were worrying that its low melting point might cause problems when expose to winter winds. But it performed well in both moderate and strong gusts without drooping too much. Even with about two feet of snow on top!