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Carports – Structure Guide

Carports: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know and a Few Things You Never Knew to Ask

vertical carports

While they’re especially popular across the Southeast United States, carports are popping up all over the country. Why? Because they’re inexpensive, functional buildings that are quick and simple to install and use. If all you need to do is keep your car, boat, or lawn mower dry and snow-free, a prefabricated carport is a great choice.

What is a carport?

A carport is basically a garage without walls: a covered structure used to provide limited protection for vehicles (or other valuable equipment,) from rain and snow. Unlike a garage or shed, a carport has three closed walls or less. On some designs, they will have one or two, but others are designed almost like a pole barn with just a roof and supporting stilts or struts. Because of this key design feature, carports offer less protection than garages but allow for better ventilation. As a result, a vehicle stored in a carport likely will not develop frost on the windshield. If you need to work on a vehicle using chemicals with potentially dangerous fumes, a carport won’t require the same artificial ventilation a garage or barn might.

The history of the carport

The carport enjoys a long and interesting history in the United States. While the basic carport structure has been used all over the world in one form or another, it’s been especially popular in the U.S. for over a hundred years.


The English word “carport” comes from the French word “porte-cochère”, describing a covered portal or tunnel. According to the Carport Integrity Policy for the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office: “As early as 1909, carports were used by the Prairie School architect Walter Burley Griffin in his design for the Sloane House in Elmhurst, Illinois. By 1913, carports were also being employed by other Prairie School architects such as the Minneapolis firm of Purcell, Feick & Elmslie in their design for a residence at Lockwood Lake, Wisconsin. In this instance, the carport was termed an “Auto Space”. 


The late architectural historian David Gebhard suggested that the term “carport” originated from the feature’s use in 1930s Streamline Moderne residences. This term, which entered popular jargon in 1939, stemmed from the visual connection between these streamlined residences and nautical imagery. In the 1930s through the 1950s, carports were also being used by Frank Lloyd Wright in his Usonian Houses; an idea that he probably got from Griffin, a former associate.”

carports
The W.B. Sloane house with (allegedly) the world’s first carport.

As far as we can tell, the first known home designed with a carport was the W. B. Sloane House in Elmhurst, Illinois, built in 1910. (Pictured)

Why do you need a carport?

Basically, if you own any vehicles or other valuable equipment (such as a boat, ATV, snowmobile, motorcycle, or riding lawn mower) but don’t have another option readily available for keeping it protected from the worst of the elements, then you need a carport.


On the other hand, if your chief concern is security – you want to make sure no 

one lays a finger on your 1967 Camaro – then a carport isn’t the best choice. 


Likewise, if you need to make sure what you’re storing is completely out of the weather, including temperature and humidity extremes, a carport won’t accomplish that for you. You may want to consider a large storage shed, barn, or garage instead.

What are the different kinds of carports available?

The basic carport design categories can be broken down as follows:

  1. Freestanding Fixed
  2. Freestanding Mobile
  3. Attached (or, like the first carport ever built in the picture above, built into the home.)

While there’s technically nothing stopping you from “attaching” a freestanding carport to another structure, that’s not how they’re designed and you could run into complications as a result.


The most common prefabricated carport available is the freestanding fixed design. These carports are designed to be placed on a relatively flat surface, apart from other structures, and are anchored to the ground in a permanent or semi-permanent fashion. They are available in many different sizes, shapes, colors, materials, and roof designs to accommodate your particular needs and aesthetic wishes. Some common designs include vertical, boxed eave, and standard carports.

To see all the different variations available in prefabricated carports, view our catalog!

How to choose the right carport

Choosing the right carport comes down to understanding what you want and need out of a prefabricated shelter or building. As noted above, if you’re just looking to protect your car or other items from the worst of the rain and snow, any carport will do that for you. You just need to determine what size you need, then consider color, style, and materials based on your preferences.

On the other hand, if you want a permanent shelter that’s going to provide complete protection from the elements, offer security for your possessions, and maybe even pass as living space in certain circumstances, what you’re describing is a storage shed, barn, or garage. No matter what options you choose among carports, you’re never going to find one that offers what you’re looking for.

Should you order a DIY carport kit or hire a professional?

While it is possible to save a little money ordering a do-it-yourself carport kit off of Amazon and having it shipped to your house, we’ve found that a lot of homeowners underestimate the labor required to properly construct a quality carport. Additionally, the cost of shipping is probably going to be substantial, since the kit you receive is going to be very heavy.


In our professional opinion, your best option is to let a team of professionals handle delivery and installation of your new carport for you. And, that’s not just because CarportUS offers some of the best installation services in the nation, absolutely FREE with your purchase of any carport. It’s also because we’ve been to many properties over the years where the owners have either gotten a DIY kit partially erected before throwing in the towel and calling for help. Or, they’ve completed a DIY kit, but then needed to call us in to install the replacement that they had to buy when their “project carport” collapsed.


To get a high-quality carport on your property that’s going to stand the test of time and function well for the price, you should really have a professional install it for you.

What to look for in a carport installer

The most important factor you’ll want to consider when searching for a carport installer is experience


And, that’s not just a matter of how many years a given contractor has been putting up carports. Years of general experience is important, but experience with the particular carport kits and materials you’ve selected is even more important to ensuring the success of a project.


If you hire an installer who has put up a hundred carports, but hand him a design or set of materials he’s never worked with before, he only has a slight advantage over your mailman or hairdresser when it comes to constructing that carport. There’s bound to be a lot of trial and error and he’s not going to be as fast or efficient as usual.


On the other hand, a contractor who’s put up a hundred carports identical to the one you’ve ordered is going to be able to hit the ground running and not look back. You’ll have the best quality construction in the quickest turnaround time, and that means the highest customer satisfaction rating possible.

What makes our carports the best in the business?

CarportUS has decades of experience selling, installing, and maintaining steel buildings across the country. That’s why you can be confident that any carport you purchase from CarportUS is going to be the very highest quality, delivered safely and securely, and installed by experts with loads of experience.


Our prefabricated metal carports can be rated to withstand winds up to 180 mph, and snow load up to 35 pounds per square foot. 


All our carports are built with strong 14 gauge galvanized steel framing with center bracing and 29 gauge metal roofing. All base units start at 6’ tall with legs spaced 5’ on center. Each carport will also have bracing on every leg to enhance strength and stability. Anchors are always included.


Our carports are available in sizes ranging from 12′ to 60′ wide, with no maximum length. Contact us for a size that will fit your needs. 

If you find a carport that you like, we’d be honored to deliver and install it at no extra charge. We’ve put up thousands of metal barns all over the United States, and we’re highly experienced with every unit we sell. Contact us to discuss your options if you have any questions at all.

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