Ask Brian is a weekly column by Real Estate Expert Brian Kline. If you have questions on real estate investing, DIY, home buying/selling, or other housing inquiries please email your questions to [email protected].
Question from Glen in Texas: Hello Brian. We bought an older small bungalow four years ago. It doesn’t have a garage and our cars have taken a bit of a beating from the weather and a few tree branches. I’ve decided I want to park them under some protection but can’t decide between a carport or a full size garage. What do you think are the pros and cons of each? Money is an issue but not the only issue.
Answer: Hi Glen. There are many options available when you’re open to either a carport or a garage. Money might not be your only issue but to start with, a carport is easily going to cost you less than half as much as a garage. On the other hand, a carport will provide only about half as much protect.
Because you are in a smaller and older bungalow, I’m assuming you don’t have HOA restrictions to deal with. For readers with HOA restrictions, the HOA has probably already made the decision that you can build a garage but not a carport. So, let’s start there. A garage is definitely going to require a building permit. At the other end of the spectrum, there are metal carport kits that you can probably put up on a weekend. Even a wood structure carport can be built in a couple of weekends with the help of two or three friends. But you will need some carpentry and roofing skills.
The reason carports are much less expensive and quick to put up is these usually don’t have walls or utilities that you would find in a full garage. A concrete floor usually isn’t a requirement either. So those are big cons to carports. The lack of walls also provides less protection for you cars. Without walls, you might also find critters seeking shelter in your carport. Still, a carport will keep the hot sun from blistering the paint and the roof will stop hailstones along with most tree branches and tree sap from damaging your cars.
You’ll need to check your local ordinances for carports but you might be able to add some protection on the sides with floor mounted storage shelves or even a workbench. These won’t give you full protection but they do provide some. You can also budget your expenses by building the carport large enough to add these later. While you’re checking ordinances, you might want to ask if utilities can be added if you’re thinking about a workbench. Of course, none of this is secure without walls and a garage door.
If money really isn’t an issue, a garage does give you a lot more options and advantages. You can build it big enough for more than two cars, the Christmas decorations, a workbench, yard tools, and anything else that you don’t want stored in the house. Again, things like storage shelves and workbenches don’t have to be built at the same time as long as you plan the garage big enough to add them later.
You might think about including more living space. Glen, you wouldn’t be the first father to decide to convert a garage into a rec room when the kids become teenagers. And there is always the possibility of a two-story garage with an apartment upstairs if you think your in-laws might be moving in a few years down the road. But then again, you could well have moved on from the bungalow into a larger place with a garage by then.
Cost and time are the big cons for garages. Besides the three walls and a door with an automatic opener, you’ll need a concrete floor. You will also need full utilities if you want to put the laundry out there. Most people are going to contract this to professionals rather than take it on as a big DIY project. That’s going to triple or quadruple the cost. You can believe there will be more rules to follow such as “fire-rated” walls and a light if you have a step through door where the garage connects to the house. Glen, the cost of a garage might be a bigger deal than you originally thought. Be sure you have a complete understanding of the costs before deciding between a carport and garage.
Please comment with their thoughts and experiences about a carport versus a garage or other DIY projects. Our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions or inquiries to [email protected].