Building and buying

Building a carport: the practical home for your car

Torben Schröder

A carport not only is a safe and protective shelter for your vehicle on your own property, it also offers many other advantages compared to a garage. Lower acquisition costs are just one of the benefits. Find out here why it’s worth building a carport, what you need to consider in advance and what types are available.

Close-up of a wooden carport post. The roof of a car can be seen at the lower edge of the picture.
© Getty Images

In this article

A carport: the benefits

Nobody likes to leave their beloved car out on the street – exposed to the weather and possible vandalism. If you have enough space on your property, a carport offers practical protection. For example, it repels pollen, dust, leaves, bird droppings, UV radiation and precipitation such as hail. Can’t a garage do all that? Yes. But there are good reasons for purchasing a carport:

  • It’s easier to obtain a building permit
  • It’s faster and easier to build
  • It takes up less space on the property
  • It’s cheaper than a garage
  • As there are no side walls, your vehicle will be perfectly ventilated if, for example, it gets wet driving through the rain. This prevents corrosion and preserves the value of the vehicle for longer
  • Due to the more open construction, it casts less shade on adjacent buildings and plots of land
  • Exhaust gases and fine dust can escape easily

Obtaining a building permit for a carport

A carport is a non-movable object that entails a structural change to the house. For this reason, you will most likely need a building permit – in the same way as for a garage. In Switzerland, the relevant canton grants this approval. However, the regulations vary from canton to canton, and even from town to town. You should therefore obtain the necessary information and forms from the relevant building authority.

You can get an initial idea of what you need to pay attention to in the cantonal building laws of the canton in question. They contain regulations on building clearance, fire protection and approved building materials. Although you are not legally required to do this, it’s still advisable to talk to your neighbors about your plans to build a carport right from the start to avoid potential disputes.

Building a carport: do it yourself or have the work done?

As with most construction projects, the question that arises when building a carport is should you do the work yourself or consult a professional? We recommend that you consult a well-trained workman. Because even if the construction of a carport looks quite simple, there are many aspects to consider. The carport must meet certain requirements in terms of load capacity, stability and statics. If you live in an area where there is heavy snowfall, it must be able to withstand large amounts of snow.

If you decide to tackle the project on your own, there are a few basic things you should be clear about beforehand: the best location, the open space required, the material to be used, the most suitable roof type – which can also be greened if desired. In any case, the basis for the do-it-yourself option includes vertical posts, crossbeams, support struts and concrete for the foundation.

A carport: material, roofing and prices

If you have no idea what your carport should look like, it’s worth taking a look at the websites of online providers. You will find prefabricated kits as well as configurators that allow you to give free rein to your imagination. Two of the most important distinguishing features of carports are the material and the roofing.

The material for the carport

Most carports are made of wood. Different types of wood have different characteristics. For example, coniferous wood – like spruce – is somewhat softer and evenly grown. Hardwood – like beech – is stronger and heavier.

The following advantages apply equally to all types of wood:

  • warm appearance
  • easy to work with
  • low acquisition costs

Disadvantages on the other hand are:

  • wood is less robust than metal
  • it requires more maintenance
  • it’s more vulnerable to weather
  • and it has a lower load capacity
There is a carport made of reddish wood in front of a white house. The carport wall facing away from the house is almost opaque.

You have the choice between different types of wood and metal for your carport. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.

In contrast, carports made of aluminum are more resistant to rust and weathering. This is a lightweight material that nonetheless remains stable. It has a high carrying capacity – and is therefore also suitable for regions where large amounts of snow fall in the winter. As it is not a natural material, it is resistant to pests and fungus – and therefore has a long service life. In contrast to wood, however, aluminum is much more costly as a material – while you can buy a cheap wooden carport from around 600 francs, cheap aluminum variants start at around 2,000 francs.

The carport roofing

The roof is a characteristic feature of a carport. High and pointed or low and flat – here we present different types:

View of the underside of a carport roof. The roof is greened.

Alternative use of the carport roof: you can create a green area on a flat roof, for example.

  • Arched roof: a popular and widely used solution. The arch gives the roof a simple and elegant design. Rain drains off well.
  • Pointed roof: this alternative comes closest to the roof shape of a normal house with its two pointed sides. This allows it to fit in well with the overall appearance of the property.
  • Hipped roof: in contrast to the pointed roof, it is beveled on all four sides – like the roof of a garden pavilion.
  • Flat roof: the simplest form. If it’s sturdy enough, you can also use it for other purposes, for example as a flowerbed or as storage space for firewood.

Cost of a carport kit

From simple and robust to intricate and costly – the price of a carport ranges from a few hundred to well over 10,000 francs, depending on the model, material and size. Two examples are given below:

  • Simple wooden flat roof: the Primus 1 single carport by Weka is a simple flat roof construction made of wood. It takes up a good ten square meters of floor space. Including the roof overhang, it is five meters long and three meters wide. Its height is 2.35 meters. It costs 600 francs from Coop Bau+Hobby (price on 08 September 2020) – excluding installation.
  • High-quality aluminum arched carport: with a length of seven meters and a height of three meters, you can even fit a small motor home under the aluminum carport available from Gartenhaus-Shop. Depending on the roofing and type of foundation, the price varies between 5,000 and 6,000 francs (price on 08 September 2020).

Carport with solar roof?

The solar carport is a solution with sustainability in mind. It offers the advantages of a conventional carport with a built-in power supply. You should check in advance that your property meets the requirements for purchasing a new solar carport or converting your existing carport.

32 solar modules are installed on the slightly inclined roof of a metal carport. The sun is shining.

If your carport roof faces south, it’s worth converting it into a solar carport.

Here are some key factors:

  • Alignment: roofs that face south, southeast or southwest absorb more energy from the sun.
  • Shade: you will benefit most from a solar carport if it is not leaning against the house, where it could be in the shade.
  • Load capacity: the carport must be stable enough to support a solar system weighing more than 100 kilograms.

You have the choice between two types of solar carports:

  • Solar power system: also called a photovoltaic system. This technology converts sunlight into usable electrical power. To do so, several solar modules have to be installed on your carport. These modules in turn consist of solar cells. This solution is ideal if demand for energy in your household is particularly high – or if you want to supply an electric car with solar energy.
  • Solar heating system: also called a solar thermal system. This involves equipping your carport with collectors that collect the heat from the sun and conduct it to a heat storage tank. This energy can be used to heat water for showers, baths or use in the kitchen, for example. You should choose this option if you want to reduce your heating costs.

Conclusion: more than an alternative to the garage

Whether it’s made of wood or metal, has a pointed or flat roof, is expensive or more economical – a carport is the perfect solution to protect your car thanks to its light construction and relatively low costs. On account of its airy and modern look, it can also be an individual eye-catching feature on your property. A solar system on the carport will give you additional energy for the household.

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