What is a carport?

Carport and new home under construction.
Looking to protect your auto from the elements without breaking the bank? You should consider a carport.
­iStockphoto.com/Steve Shepard

­Your garage is full of stuff: a workbench, bicycles, an artificial Christmas tree -- the list goes on and on. There's really no room for your cars, trucks or motorcycles. Or perhaps you've just bought a new car, and one of your cars has to sit outside. But you paid good money for those vehicles -- you don't want to let the elements destroy the paint job. And who wants to scrape ice-encrusted windshields first thing in the morning?

A carport offers a possible solution. Made of metal -- most often aluminum or steel -- carports protect vehicles from storms and sunlight. At the same time, because they're just a frame and a covering, they have an open feel. It's also more economical to build a carport than it is to build an addition on a garage. So whether you have a car, van, trailer or boat to protect, a carport may offer the perfect solution.


If you decide to install a carport, you'll be using a form created by Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous 20th-century architect. In 1936 Wright used carports in his Usonian homes, which were single-story homes lacking in storage space [source: Bagde].

Carports don't have to be dark. Suppose you work second shift or do a little night fishing -- you're probably concerned about being able to see when you come home at night. Not to worry; you can attach a light fixture to the carport so that you aren't stumbling in the darkness.

­One word of caution: Be sure to check local zoning restrictions before purchasing or installing a carport. Most communities have rules about setback distances, and building permits may be require­d. Don't get caught in the misery of purchasing a carport only to discover that you are in violation of a local policy or building code.

Let's first take a look at metal carports as a possible solution to your storage or weather-protection problems.


Metal Carports

­A good metal carport can be made of aluminum panels with steel posts. In winds up to 80 miles per hour (130 kilometers per hour), a 10-foot (3-meter) structure made of these materials will remain standing [source: Crowell]. A sturdy metal carport can also withstand as much as 40 pounds (18 kg) of snow per square foot (1/3 meter) [source: OnlineTips].

Steel carports offer several advantages over aluminum structures, however. They're more durable and likely to last longer. So, in the long run, choosing steel may save you money. And it's certainly less expensive than renting storage space for a seldom-used vehicle such as an RV or trailer. Steel is also easily maintained [source: Home Furnish].


Galvanized steel has a zinc coating to help prevent rusting caused by corrosive materials such as salt and moisture. You'll probably want to pick a carport with one-piece roof construction - this increases the strength of the roof.

Carports can be placed on nearly any surface, so they can be semiattached to an existing garage or home in a concrete driveway. They can also be set up in the backyard on grass [source: Home Furnish].

When you are looking at metal carports, check the steel frame's gauge. This number indicates the thickness of the steel and thus the sturdiness of the carport in various severe weather conditions. The higher the gauge number, the stronger the carport will be [source: Home Furnish, Carmichael].

Perhaps you don't so much need to protect your vehicles as you need to meet other concerns that require a more portable option. If that's the case, portable carport canopies have you covered! Read on for more details.


Portable Carports

­Many situations could be improved with the use of a portable or pop-up canopy. Consider the following scenarios:

  • You have kenneled hunting dogs that would appreciate protection from inclement weather and s­un.
  • At the other end of the animal spectrum, you could build a rabbit hutch or chicken coop with chicken wire and a portable carport. Such a structure would keep these delicate animals from overheating or being pelted by precipitation.
  • If you sell vegetables or crafts at open-air markets, a portable carport can offer you shade from the sun and heat.
  • Preparing for a backyard event or outdoor wedding and worried about the prospect of rain? Special-event white carport canopies can give you peace of mind.
  • If you own a business, portable carports also are a great solution for employee or customer parking.
  • Headed to the beach? Tired of getting crisped or having sand blown into the potato salad on windy days? Use a portable pop-up canopy to enjoy a worry-free day.

Although most portable canopies are open, you can add removable sidewalls or select an enclosed tent design. Smaller pop-ups are simple to set up and also lightweight. They're often available in a range of colors, allowing you to customize for a special outdoor event.


Are you a do-it-yourselfer? If so, perhaps a carport kit is the way to go. Read on for more information about this cost-saving option.


Carport Kits

­You can find carport kits for structures that are partially clo­sed or open. Partially enclosed carports are most useful for storing less-often-used vehicles such as trailers, trucks and pickups. They often come with a service room at the rear for storing optional accessories and tools [source: Metal Carports].

You also can buy an open metal carport kit that's big enough for two vehicles or extra tall to accommodate an RV. You can even custom-design a carport to meet your specific needs [source: Harmon].


It's important to measure the site before purchasing a carport or ordering one online. Also, make sure that you have enough clearance to put the kit together. When it arrives, you'll find a cover, fittings and poles, along with directions for assembly [source: Harmon].

Options for roof design will vary. Consider the style of your house, especially if you're attaching the carport to it. Should the roof be angled, gabled or flat? Angled or gabled roofs work best in areas that receive a great deal of precipitation. Angled roofs can also be effective if the carport is going to abut the house. The roof can touch the wall and slope down [source: Harmon].

So now you've read all about carport designs, construction materials and portability options. At this point, you're ready to buy. Check with your insurance agent about auto coverage; you may qualify for a discount for protecting your vehicles from the weather. You may also be able to save a considerable sum of money by looking online for good deals on used carports. Sites like eBay and Craigslist are a good place to start [source: Carmichael].


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


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