A carport is an open-sided, roofed structure made for storing at least one parked car, van, truck, boat, trailer or recreational vehicle (RV). Carports differ from garages in that the sides are open rather than walled. There is no need for garage doors and a garage door opener in a carport, yet unlike garages, carports often don't have much storage space. A carport may be attached to the side of a building or it may be free-standing. Many carports are located in the front of a home leading in from the main driveway, while others are positioned in side or backyards and have dirt, concrete, gravel or paved driveways.
Supporting posts and a roof create the basic structure for carports. The carport was first created in the early 1900s, and the structures were later given their name by famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Carports may be constructed from wood, vinyl, aluminum or steel, but steel carports are often considered the strongest and most durable. Galvanized steel carports with a one-piece roof offer a zinc finish to resist rust plus a sturdy roof construction. Carport roofs with many sections may not be as solid.
Steel is also fire resistant and not prone to termites or mold from water damage. The advantage of wood carports is that they can look very attractive and be built to fit in with a home's overall style and appearance. If properly maintained, wood carports can be long lasting. Vinyl carports aren't as common as wood and steel versions, but they are often quite easy to set up and are water-resistant. Vinyl is a recyclable synthetic material with the full name polyvinylchloride (PVC) and it's known for strength.
Aluminum carports aren't as popular as steel versions, but they are lightweight and are available in a wide range of colors to coordinate with house colors. Carports need not be permanent structures and aluminum carports are available in portable or permanent options. Although not as strong as steel, aluminum has the advantage of being more lightweight and therefore many portable metal carports are made from aluminum. A portable carport may have a lightweight aluminum frame and a cloth canopy. These types of carports are often used for outdoor recreation such as sun protection during beach camping or wind protection during hunting trips.
Carport kits offer a lower priced option to custom built carports. All types of carports have open sides, yet the weather protection they offer vehicles is adequate in most areas. Although garages usually offer much more shelving and storage space, larger carports allow some room for these options. Since carports are roofed, yet also open on the sides, some people like to add a picnic table for rainy day outdoor eating if the carport is located off the kitchen.