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How to Level the Ground for a Carport

Before you have a carport installed, you need to prepare a level foundation of gravel, dirt, concrete, or asphalt for your carport.

Here’s a detailed guide on how to level the ground for a carport.

Why the Ground Needs to Be Level for Your Carport

Carport base rail

Metal carports have two base rails that need to be securely anchored to the ground to prevent your carport from being blown away in a storm.

A site that isn’t level creates all kinds of challenges and difficulties for you and the carport installers, such as:

  • The carport could become damaged
  • It may not be possible to properly anchor the carport
  • It may not be possible to install the carport at all

If your site has a very slight slope, so that the front is only three to four inches higher or lower than the back, we can adjust the legs to accommodate for the difference. But if the difference is more than three to four inches, we will not be able to install your carport.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Four wood stakes
  • String
  • A level

Step-by-Step Guide to Leveling the Ground for a Carport

Selecting Your Location

Before you start leveling your site, you need to find a suitable location for your carport. There are several things to consider.

Setbacks. There should be at least three feet of space on every side of your carport so the installers have space for their ladders as they set up your carport. That means your carport cannot be attached directly to your house or any other existing structure.

If you want your carport installed near any property lines, you should also check with your local planning department to find out if there are any setbacks for your property that restrict how close you can place your carport to property lines.

Water. Once you have an approximate location for your carport in mind, make sure the site you have selected isn’t in a low spot where water pools after heavy rains. Ideally, the location you have selected is a little higher than the ground right around it. If you will be using a gravel or concrete foundation, you can use extra gravel to raise the level of your foundation above the surrounding ground.

Marking Your Location

Stake carport location

Once you have a site selected, you should mark the four corners where your carport will be placed. Use a stake to mark the first corner, then measure off one side and mark the second corner. 

To place the third corner in the right spot, you should measure off the second side, and make sure the second side forms a right angle with the first side.

Once you have all four corners marked, and you have double-checked the length of each side, you should also measure the distance between opposite corners. If the distance between the first and third corners isn’t the same as the distance between the second and fourth corners, then you need to adjust your corners until everything is perfectly squared.

Right angle formula

Before you do any digging, you should ask your local 811 service to mark any underground utilities near the area you have selected. 

How to Make a Level Dirt Foundation

Before you begin leveling, you need to find out how level your site already is. Here is how:

  1. Run a string between two corners that mark where one side of your carport frame will be located.
  2. Use a bubble level to check if the string is level.
  3. Move one side of the string up or down until the string is perfectly level.

Repeat the same procedure for all four sides of your carport, until you have four level strings in the shape of a rectangle. Now you will be able to see any areas you need to flatten out in order to level your carport site.

If one corner is higher than another corner, or if there are hills and valleys in the ground along the strings, you’ll need to dig out high spots or fill in low spots to make the ground level and even. If you fill in any low spots, it is best to use a tamper or plate compactor to thoroughly compact the new soil so it won’t settle later.

How to Make a Level Gravel Foundation

The steps for leveling a gravel foundation are mostly the same as the steps for leveling a dirt foundation above. However, since you’ll be filling the area with several inches of gravel, you don’t need to fill in any low spots with dirt. Just dig out any high spots before you pour the gravel so that you have a mostly level site to begin with.

Next, cover your whole carport area with at least four inches of gravel. Gravel is cheap, and six or eight inches of gravel is better than four inches.

You will want your gravel to extend about a foot beyond each side of your carport, so your base rail won’t be right on the edge of the gravel.

After the gravel is down, rake it out until it is level. Check it with a bubble level to be sure. Finally, it is a good idea to use a tamper or plate compactor to compact the gravel before your carport comes.

If you want to pour a concrete slab for your carport, see our concrete slab guide.

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