Waterproofing a Tent – All You Need to Know

Save your shelter from leaks!

Waterproofing a Tent

A camping trip has a lot going for it: the fresh air, the beauty of nature, and beautiful delights cooked over a blazing campfire are just a few reasons people love it so much. But there is one thing that isn’t quite so great—the sight, sound, or sensation of water entering your tent. Waterproofing a tent can be essential.

Even though it’s unusual to have a rainy night when camping season is on, it does happen. When the weather gets chilly and wet, it’s good to make sure your tent is completely watertight.

We will cover everything you need to know about making your tent waterproof in this article, including which products to use and how to apply them correctly.

You’ll know precisely how to waterproof a tent by the end of this tutorial. Yes, you read that correctly, so make sure you stick around!

Are All Tents Waterproof?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but no. There is no such thing as a waterproof tent; they are only water-resistant. They slow the penetration of rainwater inside but do not prevent it entirely. Such tents require additional protection to become waterproof.

theoutdoorcoach.com tells us that a hydrostatic head rating system is used to determine how waterproof a tent fabric is. It determines how much water a cloth can hold before water seeps through to the opposite side. For example, a 30,000mm HH tent can contain a 30,000mm high water column before it leaks through the tent.

A tent must have a waterproof rating of at least 1,000mm HH to be considered waterproof. Even impermeable tents can develop leaks when exposed to extreme situations. However, due to faulty seam construction or damage to the fabric, even waterproof tents can leak.

Do You Need to Waterproof a New Tent?

It may appear illogical, as you might expect a new tent to be ready to use straight away. As a result, new tent owners frequently ask, “Do I need to waterproof a new tent?”

Even if it is new, you may need to waterproof a tent to prevent water from seeping in on a stormy night. Even though most tents are composed of waterproof materials, this does not imply that they are completely watertight. Therefore, unless you buy a very high-end tent, you’ll want to take the time to waterproof it before its first usage.

When it comes to camping tents, even the most costly and high-tech models need an extra layer of waterproofing, and it’s worth doing so before the first time it’s used. So keep on reading for more information.

How Long Does It Take To Waterproof a Tent?

Waterproofing a tent may sound daunting, but it’s not as difficult as you imagine. First, keep in mind that all of a tent’s components can be re-coated and resealed if the situation arises.

It takes 24 hours to waterproof a tent, including the tent floor and tarp, from when you put it up to when you are ready to pack it away. It will only take 6 hours if you’re resealing the tent seams or the tent fly.

How to Make a Canvas Tent Waterproof?

There are many ways to waterproof canvas tents. The approach you use will depend on your circumstances and may differ based on the sort of canvas tent you have.

Make a canvas tent waterproof by following these simple instructions. Choose a sunny and warm day if you want the most remarkable results.

  • Use soapy water and an upholstery cleaning brush (or any firm scrubber if you don’t have one) to clean your tent after you use it thoroughly. Before applying any waterproofing treatment to your tent, check to make sure there isn’t any dirt, debris, or mildew on the surface.
  • Make sure your waterproofing is ready. It may be necessary to dilute it or follow other particular guidelines to apply the product. 
  • Apply the waterproofing solution. You can spray it on your canvas tent or paint it with a roll-on brush.
  • Make sure the product is applied evenly by using a brush. Even if you waterproof your tent with spray, a brush can help you fix any rips or tears.
  • Let your tent air dry thoroughly before putting it away.
  • If necessary, repeat steps 1-2 more times.

How to Waterproof a Nylon Tent?

The most crucial component of waterproofing a nylon tent is the application of the coating. If you want your tent to be “waterproof,” you’ll need a layer of polyurethane, silicone, DWR (Durable Water Repellent), or a combination of these.

  • DWR or Durable Water Repellent – DWR is the lightest of these treatments (and so, will evaporate), with Teflon being the most identifiable type. In terms of environmental consequences and overall effectiveness, the usage of DWR coating is debatable.
  • Polyurethane – This plastic substance is the most common coating used to waterproof a nylon tent and other materials. Polyester urethane (PU) and polyether urethane (PEU) are the two primary kinds of polyurethane (PE). They are nearly identical; however, PE has a slight advantage over PU. It is due to a difference between lack of lifespan and water absorption capacity.
  • Silicone – Silicone is another material that you can use to waterproof a nylon tent. It is naturally inert and well-known for its non-stick properties. It performs exceptionally well in offering water resistance that may last for an extended period. The majority of tents have a polyurethane or silicone finish.

In most cases, using both polyurethane and silicone coating is one method of waterproofing a nylon tent. All of the above layers will eventually wear away. Even if a tent has been treated with waterproofing, it still needs a touch-up.

Here’s how to ensure that your tent is appropriately prepared and applied so that the waterproofing can do its job:

A Simple CheckList

  • Check if your tent is clean – Wipe down your tent with a moist towel and some mild detergent before cleaning it. For this task, most dish soaps will suffice. It’s critical to clean your tent until you can brush a dry rag across the entire surface and it comes back clean.
  • Continue cleaning if you have been cleaning for hours and still have dirt that comes up on a dry towel. The dirt on the tent will clog the pores in the fabric, preventing the waterproofing from penetrating and remaining in place.
  • Examine the entire tent, including the seals and the rain fly– Performing a thorough inspection of the tent is strongly recommended. Keep an eye out for the usual suspects for leaks. Seams, a rain fly, and the fabric fall within this category.
  • It is essential to apply waterproofing in a well-ventilated area. A tent waterproofing spray includes hazardous chemicals, so you’ll want to be sure that you’re using it in a well-ventilated environment.
  • Waterproofing can be applied outside if you don’t have enough room inside to do so. However, take care. It’s essential to keep your tent clean so that the waterproofing can adhere appropriately to the cloth.

Step-by-Step Instructions

After learning a few pointers on properly waterproofing a nylon tent, it’s time to get started. So let’s look at how you can waterproof a nylon test. 

Seal the Tent Seams

Many tents have sealed seams, but the tent sealant can wear off with time, allowing water to leak in.

Here’s what you’ll need if you come upon a leaking seam:

  • A piece of rag
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Working space that is clean and dry
  • Brush for painting (optional; as some sealants have applicators) — a little or medium-sized item
  • High-quality tent sealant

How to seal seams:

  1. Place your tent in a dry, sunny area or a well-lighted room to readily inspect all seams. Seams on the fly and the tent body will be sealed. To reach the seams, turn the fly inside out.
  2. Remove any peeling seam tape from the underside of the fly, but leave entire sections in place.
  3. Clean the seams with a rag and rubbing alcohol.
  4. Apply the fresh seam sealer.
  5. If one seam starts to fail, the rest may not be far after, so apply seam sealer to all of them.
  6. Wait for the seam sealer to dry.

Renewing Urethane Coating

Apply a fresh coat of urethane to your rainfly or tent floor if you notice anything flaking off.

What you’ll need:

  • A sponge that has an abrasive side
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Tent sealant (Again, get the proper type for your tent. Polyurethane-coated fabrics require a different sealer than siliconized fabrics. Contact the manufacturer if you’re unsure about your tent’s fabric.)

How to use tent sealant:

  1. Scrub the flaking coating off your rainfly and tent floor using rubbing alcohol and a sponge.
  2. Follow the directions on the sealant bottle to apply a thin coat of new tent sealant to the fly or tent floor.
  3. Let it dry for at least 24 hours before storing your tent.
  4. Wash your hands to eliminate any residue from the sealant and coated tent fabrics.

Renewing the DWR Coating

If rain no longer beads up on your fly, you can re-apply the DWR waterproof coating.

What you’ll need:

  • A water-repellent spray
  • Water
  • Clean & damp cloth

How to use the waterproof spray:

  1. Set up the tent and clean the rainfly (you don’t have to wait for your tent to dry before adding a fresh DWR coating if you just washed it).
  2. Apply the waterproof spray evenly to the rainfly’s exterior.
  3. After a few minutes, wipe off any excess coating with a moist towel.
  4. Dry the tent entirely before storing it.

How to Waterproof a Canopy?

If you’ve observed that your canopy or gazebo is leaking water or that rain is not beading off the surface properly, it’s time to give your canopy or gazebo some top first aid to prevent further damage.

To make a waterproof canopy, follow these steps:

  • Clean the canopy.
  • Apply seam sealer and wait for it to dry.
  • Sponge off any worn-off or peeling waterproof coating that was previously applied.
  • Douse the entire structure with a waterproofing spray.
  • Allow to air dry thoroughly.

How Often Do You Need to Waterproof a Tent?

Waterproofing on a new tent should endure for several years, especially if the tent is of high quality. Almost all modern tents are pre-coated with a high-quality waterproof finish, says tenthacker.com.

The amount of re-waterproofing you’ll require is determined by a few factors. The amount of camping you do, the sort of camping you do, and the weather you camp in all aspects into how often you need to waterproof your tent.

Even if you’re a light, fair-weather camper, waterproofing your tent every two to three years is smart.

No matter how much your camp, it’s good to waterproof your tent once a year. Your tent will survive much longer if you maintain it regularly.

Before going camping, inspect your tent. It’s best to do it a few days before you go. Then, if any signs of failure do appear, you’ll have enough time to waterproof your tent and allow it to dry entirely.

How to Waterproof a Tent Floor?

Waterproof a Tent Floor

Now that you understand how critical it is to waterproof the tent, you might be wondering how to waterproof the tent’s floor. Here are the steps you need to follow:

Buy a Tent Sealer

The first thing you should do is invest in a decent waterproof sealant explicitly made for tents. It is essential to ensure that the waterproofing product is intended explicitly for camping gear.

Go Over the Instructions

Before you start using the product, read the instructions carefully. Many items require the addition of water or other liquids before you may use them.

Use Waterproofing

Apply a layer or two of the waterproofing product to the tent’s flooring once it’s ready. For a small tent, the first coat should cover the entire portion. However, you may need to apply coats in parts for larger tents.

Apply More Coats

You cannot overstate the importance of timing. Do not apply the second coat until the first coat has completely dried. It will not provide any additional protection. Instead, wait until the first layer has dried before applying the second. The coating will dry faster if the weather is warm where you are waterproofing. If it’s very hot outside and you’re covering a large tent, coat one-half of the floor first, then apply the second layer before moving to the other half.

How to Waterproof Tent Seams?

Waterproof Tent Seams

You can waterproof the seams of your leaky tent with a few simple supplies, an hour of your time, and a day of drying time. Find a non-humid day with temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees (F) that will allow it to dry quickly.

Ensure every seam is covered and sealed from both the inside and exterior. It frequently necessitates erecting the tent as it would typically be.

Before you begin, you’ll need the following items.

  • Cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Seam Sealant
  • Brush (If it is not provided)

This is how you must apply the waterproofing on the seams:

  1. Erect the tent: To see all the seams, set up your tent outside in a dry, sunny place or a brilliantly lighted room. Put the fly on inside out to expose the seams.
  2. Remove any broken or damaged sealant tape: Make sure there is no loose or broken tape. Remove such components with care, being careful not to damage anything.
  3. Clean the seams: Remove all dust, dirt, and grime from your tent seams. Wipe it down with rubbing alcohol and a cloth. Allow it to dry.
  4. Seal the interior seams with sealant: Apply the fresh seam sealer to the internal seams with a brush dipped in the sealing mixture. Apply the seam sealant about 1/4 inch past the seams on both seam sides. As needed, wipe away any excess.
  5. You should not use a seam seal on mesh or zippers. Painter’s tape is sometimes used to conceal zippers and other sensitive locations.
  6. Seal the exterior seams with sealant: Reverse the procedure for the seams on the outside.
  7. Allow it to dry: Allow 12 to 24 hours for the tent to air dry. If the sealant is still sticky after 24 hours, sprinkle talcum powder over the seams.
  8. Spray with water to check: Spray your tent with a garden hose and inspect it for leaks to see if your work is up to par.

How Long Does Tent Waterproofing Last?

How well your tent performs is determined by the HH rating of your tent and the conditions you subject it to. It is preferable to re-apply waterproofing to your tent when you discover that it needs it rather than waiting.

You may do a simple test at home once or twice a year by erecting and hosing down your tent. Re-waterproof it if it leaks.

You will save money, time, and effort if you do this!

In addition, you can inspect its roof, rainfly, and its sides, which are the areas that are most exposed to rain and sunshine.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the protective layer is beginning to peel away. Fill a spray bottle halfway with water and set it aside. A re-waterproofing of your tent will be necessary if water starts seeping through the fabric where damage to the coating has occurred.

Final Words

This brings us to the end of our post, and we have covered everything about waterproofing your favorite tent. You shouldn’t despair, learning that even the most durable tents will eventually leak because, as we’ve seen, this does not imply that your favorite tent has reached the end of its useful life.

You can avoid most leaks with simple maintenance. Testing your tents regularly is the best way to avoid getting caught in the rain on a rainy camping trip. If you don’t have time to waterproof your tent before going or just want some extra coverage, you can always bring a tarp. Not sure which tarp to get? Check out our list of the best camping tarps on the market!

So say goodbye to rainy camping vacations now that you know how to make your tent waterproof and get on with the job!

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