If you have space off-road for your car, a carport is an inexpensive way of giving it some shelter from the elements. You can adapt the structure to the size you need and the space you have available for it.

A carport is more than just a protective canopy for your car. It can do double duty as a porch over a side door, and provides useful undercover space for storage. It can be used as a work area for DIY or car maintenance, a children's play area, even somewhere to dry clothes on wet days.

You only need basic DIY and woodworking skills to build a carport. The most important part of the job is setting the supporting posts truly vertical - a job for which another pair of hands will be helpful.

A carport is classed as an outbuilding as far as planning rules are concerned, wherever it is sited. So long as it does not project in front of the local building line (usually the front wall of your house), is not more than 3m (10ft) high, and does not result in more than half of the garden being built over, then you do not need to apply for planning consent.

If you are in any doubt about whether your proposed structure needs consent, check with your local authority planning department.

As far as the need for Building Regulations approval is concerned, a carport is exempt so long as its floor area does not exceed 30m² (325ft²) and the structure is open on at least two sides.

The simplest way of building a carport alongside the house is to erect three or four stout timber posts along one side of the site to support a beam that will carry the outer edge of the roof, and to fix a horizontal timber wallplate to the house wall to support the other edge. Then joists are fixed into notches cut in the beam and wallplate, and corrugated plastic roofing sheets are secured to this timber framework.

Make sure that all the wood you buy for the carport is pre-treated with wood preservative. Treat all the notches you cut in the wood with extra preservative before assembling the structure.

The roof needs a slight slope in order to drain rainwater off it. This can run from front to back or from the house wall to the opposite side of the roof. It is easier to waterproof the junction between the roof and the house wall if the drainage runs from end to end, since the flashing tape will run parallel to the corrugations in the roofing sheet rather than at right angles to them. Add a run of guttering along the downhill edge of the roof so rainwater does not simply drip off. Fit an outlet and a downpipe to discharge the water into a nearby gully if one is available. If there is no gully nearby, collect the rainwater run-off in one or more water butts, for use in the garden.