Other than your home, your vehicle is your biggest investment. So protect it. A carport will protect your paint and dashboard from sunburn; it will also put a smile on your face the next time you unload groceries in a thunderstorm.
Building a full garage, which requires walls, floor, door(s), electrical work and an architect, could cost ten times more than a simple carport. That’s no exaggeration. What’s more, an attached garage may increase your fire insurance premiums. If you haven’t noticed, gasoline is flammable.
True — a garage enhances home values.
So does a carport — and the latter can be a do-it-yourself project, either from a kit or from scratch, using inexpensive materials.
Even before sketching your rough “vision on a napkin,” first check building codes and secure a building permit and read any neighborhood (HOA) covenants to learn what you can and cannot build. Then draw or select a design — ideas and plans can be found easily on the internet.
Metal carport kits, complete with all hardware and installation instructions, are an easy way to go. Depending on size and your skill, these can be erected by yourself in a single day — or with three friends and four cases of beer, a lot longer.
The bare minimum size for a carport is 9 feet by 16 feet with a 6-foot drive-in clearance, but large trucks and SUV’s need more space. Rafters or cross beams inside should be no lower than 7 feet from the pavement. As you consider the size, don’t be stingy, because some day you may trade your Mini-Cooper for a Monster Truck.
Although your space and budget may limit it, plan on the premise of “the bigger the better.” You’ll want to be able to swing all doors, trunks, hatchbacks or tailgates fully open to unload people and cargo.
If you already have a solid driveway at the spot where you want to build, that could serve as your “floor.” A carport utilizing posts does not require a concrete foundation. However, a concrete foundation is great, and if you build your own temporary wooden frame “mold,” having a cement truck deliver and pour a four-inch slab is not cost-prohibitive.
Slightly slope the foundation floor where fluids will flow out behind the car, into
Metal posts are good, but be aware that some metals corrode when set in concrete. Consult your building-supplies store or, if a metal kit, the manufacturer, before selection and before pouring concrete.
If using wooden posts, don’t skimp: use premium pressure-treated 4” x 4” posts, or in hurricane areas, 4” x 6”, and the straightest you can find.
Keeping the posts square with the foundation/plan and straight, using plumb-line and level, while you set them in concrete. Strong, straight posts are a vital key to the rest of the structure, so don’t skimp on the concrete. Use ample, high-quality concrete, a bag or so per post depending on height/weight of roof, with six posts for a single vehicle carport.
Two concerns here:
First: You obviously don’t want a flimsy roof that blows away in the first strong wind, landing on the witch or wizard next door — prompting a munchkin parade and lawsuit.
Second: You don’t want the neighbors next door filing a complaint with the beautification board.
A galvanized steel roof is the best choice for sheer strength and durability, but be thoughtful in trying to match a steel roof to your shingle-style house roof. It may not be possible, although nowadays a variety of colors and even different textures are available.
A shingled carport requires a plywood underlayment, something not necessary with metal. This means more weight and complexity in the framing and posts. If you must use shingles, here again, don’t scrimp. The extra cost of a long-lasting, high-quality shingle is cheaper than the labor and cost needed to replace shoddy shingles in the short-term.
When securing the metal panels to the roof structure, use rubber-washered tap-screws specifically designed for the metal. Under no circumstance use nails. Driving screws with a quality Lithium-powered driver is a breeze, and avoids the repeated cursing that comes with hammer upon thumb. Curse words yelled in pain from the peak of a rooftop carry well into the neighbors’ yards and ears.
Even if you don’t use a kit, pre-fab trusses — the triangular framework, including a rafter, that spans the side walls and supports the peaked roof — are the way to go.
The time, trouble and cost of materials in building your own trusses simply aren’t worth it, and prefab trusses can be purchased or ordered to spec in a variety of configurations to meet your design. You can add 2” x 4” framing between the trusses to support either the plywood or the metal roof. You may also wish to add an “attic” for storage — securely attach plywood across the bottom rafters. Attach trusses/rafters to the posts with hurricane straps.
The roof slope should be at least at an angle of 1⁄4 inch rise every 12 inches; but ideally steeper, to limit snow and leaf accumulation. A good rule of thumb is to angle the carport roof to match the angle on your home. You can ascertain this using a T-square or protractor (wishing you’d paid attention in geometry class now, huh?).
Two-car or larger carports may need middle posts, but with proper design and good trusses, it would be best to avoid this. Middle posts tend to be forgotten and hit when backing out at night.
One more advantage to carports: Garages tend to fill up with junk. Carports, limit your weather protection for boxes, bikes and bric-a-brac, so you tend to use them for their original intention: cars.
You’ve seen all too many people who park their car in the rain because the garage became a glorified closet. A small prefab storage shed can be added near a carport to offer protected storage for lawn equipment, bikes, etc.
A home just isn’t a home unless your car also has a place to nest for the night.