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Nov. 30, 2017, 8:31 p.m.

Aluminum Carports and Metal Carports: understanding the differences

30×41 Boxed Eave Triple Wide Steel Carport
30×41 Boxed Eave Triple Wide Steel Carport

Over the years, we have found that many customers that are in the market for a carport with either search for an aluminum carport or ask if our carports are made out of aluminum. Many are surprised when we tell them that that majority of metal carports produced today are made with a steel frame and steel panels. While the carports that we offer are made from steel, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both types. Ultimately, which type that’s best for your application and budget is your decision and our hope is that we provide you with the information that you need to make that choice.

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Aluminum Carports VS Metal Carports

Aluminum carports are lightweight structures that can be used to provide protection for your car, truck, boat, or other vehicles. They are usually available in a variety of colors and the finish is durable and long-lasting. When it gets down to the properties of aluminum as compared to steel:

  • Aluminum is one-third the weight of steel but it is only half as strong
  • Aluminum is softer than steel
  • Aluminum, since it is softer and lighter than steel, usually requires 2½ times more of the material to make it as strong as steel
  • Pound for pound, aluminum is more expensive than steel

Having stated some of the properties of aluminum, since the cost is more for the same structure and it certainly dents more easily.

Most homeowners choose the steel carport over the aluminum carports. Aluminum is more commonly used as patio covers, awnings, and single-slope carports that are most often attached to the home. They are lightweight and work especially well on wood decks. There are some distinct advantages to aluminum carports versus metal carports and covers that are manufactured with steel. They are:

  • Aluminum is lighter than steel
  • Aluminum will not rust like steel

Steel Carports VS Aluminum Carports

Steel carports are certainly heavier than aluminum carports and the metal is much harder than aluminum. Since the steel is stronger, it’s more commonly used for wider spans. While aluminum might work for a single carport, it’s not ideal for the spans required for two-car carports and wider since so much of the more material would be required to make it equally as strong as steel. So the advantages of steel for carports are:

Steel is superior to aluminum in strength

  • Steel is harder than aluminum and less prone to dents from hail
  • Steel is considerably less expensive than aluminum

There are some disadvantages to steel carports.

  • Steel can rust over time if not maintained
  • Steel is heavy
  • Steel’s finish won’t last well in very damp areas

With today’s technology, steel’s finish is very durable. The galvanization process used on the framing system of steel carports is excellent, providing long rust-free life for the frame. The steel frame usually will not rust under normal conditions. If the frame becomes scratched and begins to show signs of rust, the area is easily touched up with a little paint.  The same applies to the panels. Most paints on steel last for years without having to re-paint. Aluminum’s finish can become chalky over the years and it’s not quite as easy to re-paint.

Aluminum Carports and Metal Carports Differences Explained

An estimated 95% of all free-standing metal carports made in the United States are made of steel because of cost and the inherent strength properties of steel. Most small patio covers, porch awnings, and single slope residential carports, sometimes referred to as lean-to carports, are made with aluminum because they are light-weight. The image on the left shows a single-slope aluminum patio cover that is attached to the home owner’s house

Taking all of these facts into consideration, ultimately the choice between selecting an aluminum carport or a steel carport is your decision! If you’re looking for a carport for two or more carport or you’re looking for an enclosed garage, it will certainly be a challenge to even find one of those that can be purchased, mainly due to the cost and the strength of the unit. Steel carports, on the other hand, can be found all throughout the US and they are inexpensive, compared to aluminum carports and conventionally constructed carports made with a wood frame.

If you’re looking to place a single carport in a very wet environment or attached to the side of your home, aluminum carports are probably the better solution. If, on the other hand, you need a free-standing single carport or a wider double carport, then steel carports are usually the ideal solution. Again, the choice is yours!

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