Is a carport the right choice for your project?

CarportsChoices When it Comes to Metal Carports

Carports can serve a variety of purposes and depending on what you plan to use your carport for, where you live and your budget, you can choose between one of our I-beam metal carports or one of the many light gauge carport kits available through various other dealers.

How to Make the Best Decision

In order to make an educated decision on what type of carport you need, we need to help you answer the following three questions with the information below.

1. Where do you live and what type of weather do you experience throughout the year?
2. What do you plan to use your carport for?
3. What is your budget?

For starters, lets take a look at the basic pros and cons that are characteristic of both I-beam carports and light gauge carport kits. If you’re simply looking for the highest quality building or on the contrary, the lowest price, the features outlined in this section may be enough to convince you which option is the right carport for you.



Engineered specifically for your location and atmospheric conditions
Uninterrupted column free clear span spaces are possible up to 300′ wide
All bolt together construction, most kits are do-it-yourself friendly



Higher quality steel materials cost more than tube steel
More components and larger steel beams means more time to complete construction
Can be unbolted and moved but cannot be relocated as easily due to size and weight


Light Gauge

If your budget is limited, tube steel carports are less expensive
Protects from normal rain and sun damage just as well as I-beam carports
Quicker delivery and simple construction process requiring little skilled labor


Light Gauge

Most collapse under strong winds, flying debris and snow
If you look at what light gauge is used for, it is typically considered a temporary structure
Structures are “certified” not stamped by an engineer and not usually warrantied

Which Type of Carport Should You Invest In?

As we discussed above, in order to decide which carport is best for you, we need to answer three basic questions. After we explore these questions, you will be able to easily determine which of the styles of carports below is the right choice for you.


General Steel Carport

Light Gauge

Light gauge carport kits


Leanto option rather than traditional carport

Question 1: Where Do You Live?

Unless you are building a temporary structure, the carport you choose must be able to withstand the weather systems and seismic conditions typical of where you live. This is important because you are not just investing in the building, you’re also investing in what it is protecting.

Good Locations for Light Gauge Carports

If you reside in a temperate climate such as Arizona, Southwestern Texas or a similar geographic region, a tube or light gauge steel carport is a viable option in most instances. On the other hand, light gauge carports are only “certified” for your locale. That means, in the end you’re taking a gamble on whether or not the structure can stand up to the risk factors associated with your area.

What If I Live in an Area with Snow, Rain, Wind or Seismic Activity?

The primary framing of a prefab metal building is constructed entirely of I-beams and an engineer stamps its plans, virtually guaranteeing it will be able to withstand the atmospheric conditions and seismic activity of the intended area. Likewise, the secondary framing is composed of 14-16 gauge girts and purlins to provide even more strength to its 26-gauge sheeting. So, if you question whether or not you live in a climate moderate enough to rely on a light gauge building, you may want to opt for an I-beam building since it is the engineered stamped safer option.

Question 2: What is the Intended Use?

Consumers choose metal building kits without compromise for a wide variety of uses, but when it comes to metal carports, there are some situations where light gauge buildings are a more prudent choice regardless of location.

Typical Uses for Light Gauge Carports

There’s no doubt some consumers choose the cheapest option regardless of use. So we asked some of the expert building consultants at General Steel to weigh in on when they would recommend a light gauge carport to one of their customers.

If the customer is planning on storing hay, sod or any other replaceable material under a carport, I say go with the cheaper option.
Ken King, Director of Tech Services, General Steel
If my customer plans on parking an old hobby car or fishing boat under their carport, I’m OK with them choosing light gauge as long as they don’t mind risking damage to the property if the roof collapses.
Lauren McCain, Executive Vice President, General Steel
Key Takeaways

To sum up, a light gauge building is a good choice on a limited budget if you’re not too worried about potential damage to whatever is parked under its roof.

Typical Uses for Metal Carport Kits

Carport for business vehicle fleetBusiness Investments

If you’re expanding your business and need to store a fleet of vehicles or valuable inventory, a metal carport kit is a great choice because of its ability to be clear span across wider spaces. An open wall building like a carport is also a good option if you plan to possibly enclose the building at some point for security or to provide more insulation. However, keep in mind that in order to enclose the building in the future with a material other than steel, the structure would most likely need a spandrel beam to support the weight of the secondary material.

Storage carport on private propertyPrivate Use

If you’re looking for a reliable RV storage building or protection for any other cherished possession, it’s most likely better to save up a little longer and purchase an I-beam carport rather than electing to settle for a cheaper alternative. The building featured in the photo is a unique design blending the traditional carport design with the benefits of steel sheeting and an enclosed building on three sides. As you can see, the owner of this building is also the proud owner of a couple of fishing boats he wanted to keep out of the elements.

Leanto attached to metal homeLeanto

Some home and business owners simply do not have the space to add another full size structure, so they choose a leanto as a practical solution. A leato actually offers more protection than a full carport because it leverages the full wall of an adjacent structure. If you are considering a leanto style carport, we highly recommend an I-beam structure over the light gauge alternative because the I-beam building is engineered to handle and deflect wind without compromising the adjoining home or building.

What Can Happen to a Light Gauge Leanto in High Wind?

According to a report by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, a poorly constructed or hastily attached carport can actually detach the roof of the connecting structure if it is not capable of carrying the forces imposed by the carport and wind.

Leanto carport wind test

Question 3: What is Your Budget?

If your budget is constrained or doesn’t have much flexibility, your choice is relatively limited and the first two questions we posed are inconsequential. A light gauge building is pretty much the same from location to location and changes very little based on the intended use. The cost of metal buildings on the other hand can vary dramatically depending on where it is going and what it will be used for. In the end, you get what you pay for. So if you live in Florida and your carport needs to make it through hurricane season, it’s probably better to wait and accumulate more money in your building fund rather than settle for a light gauge building that would equate to letting your money blow away in the wind.

Summary of Recommended Carports

Light Gauge Carport

Light gauge building

Your Best Choice If:

You live in a moderate climate

Have a limited budget

Not protecting valuable assets


I-beam building

Your Best Choice If:

You live in an area with consistent weather conditions

Have some flexibility in your budget

You can’t afford damage to the contents of the building


Leanto Building

Your Best Choice If:

You have limited space to build

You can’t afford to build an enclosed building

You have a sound structure to attach to

More Questions? We’re Here to Help!

We hope we helped you decided which carport is the best choice for you and our project specialists are ready to help you break ground before weather becomes a constraint in your area. Contact General Steel today and we’ll be happy to assist in evaluating your potential project.


Carports vs. Light Gauge Carport Kits
Article Name
Carports vs. Light Gauge Carport Kits
Are light gauge or I-beam carports the best choice for your project? Get the pros  & cons of all the metal carport kits you have to choose from.
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General Steel Buildings
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