4 Signs That You Should Hire A Designer Beforehand

Many of our projects are pretty straight forward.  A 12 x 24 screen room is pretty simple to visualize.  A 20 x 40 pool enclosure with mansard roof is also pretty easy to visualize.  Anyone who is familiar with Florida Patio Structures will know what these basic and rectangular structures will look like.  Things often […]

The Pre Estimate Checklist For New Structures

The process of getting any home improvement project done starts well before you even get an estimate.  If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve started the process (research) already, and are considering contacting us for an estimate, or perhaps you have us scheduled for an estimate already.  Here are a few things to ‘check’ or at least consider before you get an estimate.  After-all, nothing hurts more than having an awesome idea, only to find out that it can never come to fruition.

Verify Our License and Insurance

The State of Florida makes it easy to verify a contractors license.  Just go here and look it up.  Here is a direct link to our state license.  Unlike many companies who advertise ‘insured’ but seemingly hide their insurance information (likely because they don’t have it), we do things quite differently.  We make our insurance certificate, the actual insurance certificate, transparently available.  No smoke and mirrors.  You can find ours right here: View Our Insurance Certificate.

See What Our Past Customers Say

When choosing any service provider, hearing from their past customers, and checking out their reviews is something that must be done.  Some companies provide bottom of the barrel service, or worse, don’t deliver anything at all.  That is reflected in their reviews, and many go out of their way to hide them.  We take pride in delivering service far superior to our competitors.  Check out our reviews and you’ll see what our customers have to say.  Unlike many contractors, we have nothing to hide.  You can view all of our reviews here.

Know You Want A Patio Or Screen (all parties involved).

I know you probably think this sounds silly, but it’s not.  Trust me.  Knowing that you do or do not want a patio or screen in your backyard is the key to making sound and rash decision on what will be an expensive project.  Earlier this week I had a lady, we’ll call her Jan, call me with big plans for her patio in Fort Myers.  A new screen enclosure, with a picture window for a lake view, and a wood grain finish pergola within it for shade.  It was an awesome idea and would’ve looked astounding.  All I had to was convince her husband that he wanted the astounding patio too.  While I certainly empathize with Jan’s dilemma, I had to tell her that such was not my job.  It’s not what I or our company does.  We’re not in the business of convincing people that they want a patio or screen enclosure.  We help people, who know they want a patio or screen enclosure, choose everything properly, get the right materials, get the project completed headache free, and build a patio that will add value for years to come.

We also have the Learning Center and our Featured Projects to help you get ideas for what is possible and how           it will look.

 Check With Your HOA

The HOA is the official buzz kill of home improvement projects.  Many times, customers have spend hours detailing their ideas, given us a deposit, had plans drafted, and then found out their HOA will not approve it as designed thus incurring costly change orders.  While plans do cost money and are not available until after a deposit is received,  most of the time, a little communication in the very early phases of research will establish what can or cannot be done, long before we arrive on site.

Make Sure Your Proposed Structure Is Within The Buildable Area Of Your Lot.

Despite the fact that you own your property, local zoning ordinance prohibit what you can build and where you can build it on your lot.  On every parcel, property line setbacks exist, meaning that you cannot build right to the edge.  In most places the setbacks vary according to structure type.  As a rule of thumb, we suggest eyeballing other similar structures on your block.  For example, if you want to build a screen enclosure that goes 15′ further back than all of your neighbors, chances are it cannot be done.  If every house on your block is about 50′ from the road and you want to put a carport in front of your home (meaning carport will be 30′ from the road), chances are it cannot be done.  In some cases, a survey of the property will need to be reviewed or a new one ordered to determine exactly what is feasible within zoning constraints.  We can help you review and make the determination, but do just have an idea that these constraints do exist.


Discuss This Project With The Author In The Comments Below

Why It Takes So Long To Get A Permit

Why It Takes So Long To Get A Permit (And What We Do About It)

One of the most frequent complaints we hear about other companies has to do with permits.  Here are a few examples of phone calls we have gotten from individuals who went with other contractors, but they were so frustrated they are calling us for help.  You can actually go poking around online and find MANY reviews reflecting similar scenarios dealing with our competitors.

They ____________ promised me 6 weeks until it was done, but we’re 12 weeks in and they still don’t even have the permit.


I gave them a deposit over 2 months ago and everytime I call them to check out in, no one has any clue what is going on.


They said the engineer needed to sign this.  Then a surveyor guy needed to do something.  Then they were waiting on an engineer again.  Now they can’t get ahold of anyone at the building department.

All these frustrations vented to us are generally followed by the question “can you guys just take over the project from them?”

So what is the problem with all other companies and permits?

Namely, organization.

Before the permit can even be applied for most project needed to ran through a survey company, and an engineering firm.  The surveying companies (even the best) are notoriously unorganized, and the engineers are notoriously unorganized.  On top of that, small screen enclosures are a lot less appealing (and lucrative) to engineers that large buildings.

After the surveyors and engineers, your project needs to go to he building department.  They’re all overworked, underpaid, and unorganized.

This means that your contractor needs be organized.  Most of the time, they’re not either.  In most cases there’s no management or organization.  Then, things become a mess.  The project gets forgotten about.  No one follows up with the surveyors daily.  No one follows up with the engineers daily.  Sometimes the contractor doesn’t know anyone inside the building department.  Even worse, the contractor just overlooks your projects and all the steps it takes.  

We pride ourselves on making your project headache free.  That applies as soon as you sign a contract and starts with our organization.  We give each project (permitted project) a dedicated project manager.  Behind the scenes e’ve got a 38 step project approval process, and a computer system to make sure all the steps are followed through dilligently.

Continue reading:  How We Get Your Permit Faster Than Anyone


why we get your permit faster than anyone

How We Get Your Permit Faster Than Anyone

It’s not every day that you have to deal with getting a screen enclosure or carport built.  Permits, engineering, siteplans, notice of commencement; for many the process seems confusing and nebulous.  While it is more to the process of getting a screen enclosure than simply setting one up, we’ve got it covered with experience spanning thousands of projects!  Permitted projects usually take anywhere from 8-12 weeks and require much a good bit behind the scenes work.  8-12 weeks is our general timeline for project administration (siteplan, drafting, engineering, and permitting).  Chances are you may have heard a much shorter timeline, like 3-4 weeks, from a another companies’ sales guy, but the unfortunate reality is many of them grossly round down (lie) the timeline just to get your deposit.  After that the excuse is usually “that was 3-4 weeks after permit”.  If you are ever promised anything less than 8-12 weeks, ask them to put it in writing (suddenly the timeline quickly gets realistic).

We won’t get your hopes up with a shorter, impossible timeline just to make a sale, but we will  tell you what we do to make the project go as smooth as possible and get your permit approved as quick as possible (usually always faster than the people who lie about the timeline)

Preface: before continuing on, you should read: Why It Takes So Long To Get A Permit


Lets Break It Down!

At Gulf Coast Aluminum we make things easy for the homeowner by first assigning you a dedicated project manager.  He/she will be your primary contact.  That means a few awesome things:

  • No projects getting lost in the ‘shuffle’.
  • Someone specifically responsible for getting your project approved.
  • None of the ‘buck passing’ when on the status of your permit.
  • Most importantly, you don’t have to do much.

Over the next several weeks your project manager will ensure that everything runs smoothly until your project is approved.  The first steps are procuring a site plan and engineering, in some cases you may also need a certified survey.  Since the engineering will need to match the site plan to the ‘T’ in most places, the siteplan is done first.  This usually involves a 3rd party surveying company, and punctual surveyors are hard to come-by.  We work with the 2 most reputable surveyors that we have found over thousands of projects, but surveyors are in hot demand, and can take up to 1 month.  While that’s happening your structure is pre-drafted.  Once the siteplan is complete, the siteplan and draft go on to engineering for review and approval.  Like surveyors, we only work with the best, but they can get bogged down as well and take a month or longer.  Once all of these are completed the permit can be applied for.

When it comes time to apply for your permit, we don’t just go down and fill out paper.   All the paperwork is done on a computer in our office to ensure all details are crystal clear and legible (no crappy handwriting).  Then, using our experience, we organize the papers (usually in a folder) in the particular way that we have come to know each building department is receptive to (to clarify organization method varies according to building department preference).  The easy to ready paper work, and specifically organized approach usually gets our permits some priority.

Things don’t stop once your permit is applied.  Over the years and projects, we’ve built up an internal contact list consisting of over 50+ names, personal emails, and phone numbers, of authority individuals within all of our local building departments.  We follow up with them persistently until our permits are issued.

Behind the scenes of all of this a state of the are project management program.  It tracks all of our projects through a 38 step approval process and notifies managers daily of events and tasks, and when something seems like it could go faster.


MAP: Have You Done Any Work In My Community?

In 2015 alone we were pleased to work with over 4,000 clients around Southwest Florida!  Projects range from a simple screen repair, to a new screen enclosure with pavers, to several hundred carports for a condo on Fort Myers Beach.  That’s tons of metal, thousands of rolls of screen, and hundreds of gated communities and neighborhoods.Chances are we have done work in your community!

The numbers of clients sounds large, but it looks even bigger.  Take a look at the map below which will show you where we have been.  Each marker represents at least 1 project completed on that street between January 2014 and December 2015.   On many streets we have completed more than one project as a result of referrals from happy clients.  If your street isn’t on the map, lets add it!
**Previously we have displayed specific street addresses for each project, however after expressed privacy concerns and reports of unsolicited attention, specific street addresses have been removed.  Service area subject to change.

Wait for interactive map to load.)

Inspiration For Accessorizing Your New Lanai

Outdoor Chairs, Sofas, & Center Table

A lanai is best experienced with friends and family in the comfort of the outdoors while keeping the insects at bay. One of the most critical accessories you can add to your lanai are outdoors chairs and sofas. Weather it’s lounging out by the pool or socially gathered under the lanai, these pieces are a must own for any lanai. The MOST IMPORTANT factor when purchasing your furniture is that the cushions you are purchasing are solution-dyed acrylic. This means that your upholstery will be water resistant if caught in the middle of a rainstorm. Most cushions have a 100% polyester fill as well.

Patio With Furniture

This patio oasis is complete decor and accessories that will make you want to never go back inside. All of the accessories pictured here can be purchased on Amazon.


If your lanai has an undercover space a TV/entertainment system is a wonderful way to enjoy movies, music, and TV outside in the warmth of the Florida sun. Speaker systems can be easily installed and flat screen TVs can be easily mounted to the wall giving viewers a comfortable experience. This can be best enjoyed in conjunction with an outdoor sofa set and communal gathering table.

Hot Tub

Even in Florida, you like to relax in a bubbly Jacuzzi while the winter breeze flows through your lanai. Hot Tubs are yet another way to add diversity and relaxation to your lanai. Most companies can conveniently install hot tubs through the opening of your lanai doors. If not, the teams at Gulf Coast Aluminum can custom remove aluminum sections of the lanai so your hot tub can fit with ease.

Fire Pit

Nothing is more communal than a night around the fire. Fire pits are a great way to bring everyone together and will wow guests. Fire pits can be built into the pool or lanai system with matching paver or stonework.

Natural Plants

We are blessed to live in Florida where there is such a diversity of lush green plants everywhere around us. You can never get enough of these botanical wonders so why not include them in your lanai to give it a natural look. Many people immediately consider palms to add but be very careful of palms and other high growing plants, as they will likely outgrow the size of your lanai. It’s best to select low growing plants such as Aglaonemas, Cast iron plants, Star begonias, Spiral gingers, and Crossandras. The possibilities are endless and choosing the planters and pots can be a fun DIY project with endless possibilities.


A great accessory to add to the selected plants and lanai is specific lighting. There are great low cost LED lighting systems you can purchase and install around the perimeter of your enclosure. There are also great low-level spotlights that can be placed around the outside of the enclosure to enhance your surrounding plants at night. The correct string lights are a pleasant DIY lighting system that gives the enclosure a homey feel.

4 Types Of Screen Every Homeowner Should Know About and What to Avoid

4 types of screen - gulfcoast aluminum

Most customers are shocked to learn that there is more than one type of screen! Not only is there more then one but in fact there are several. For most people a screen is just a woven mesh on an aluminum enclosure to keep the bugs out, but for others it can be a means of reducing sunlight, keeping the cat contained or adding privacy. In this post we will discuss the 3 most common types of screen as well as the stuff you shouldn’t use.

Phifer 18/14 -

AMERICAN MADE Phifer 18/14 — Standard

The most common screen used by us is Phifer 18×14 screen, an American made product made by Phifer in Tuscaloosa Alabama. What does the 18×14 mean? Simply put it is the density of the screen mesh. Each square inch of Phifer 18×14 screen is 18 little rectangle
openings wide by 14 little rectangle openings tall. Phifer 18×14 screen will last on your screen enclosure in Florida for about twice as long as standard screen or 8 years. As a consumer it is important to know which type of screen your screen company is using


AVOID The cheap Chinese Stuff

You do not want to have Artisan Wire screen installed on your pool enclosure, front entryway, carport, or any other structure. Artisan Wire is a Chinese made product with a life span of just 3-4 years and is frequently used by screening companies because it is a cheap alternative.


NO SEE UM SCREEN Phifer 20/20 Mesh

As you know Florida is filled with many bugs, the smallest of which are nearly invisible and small enough to get through Polyester 14/16 or Phifer 18×14 screen. For a Florida native these tiny bugs known as No See’ums probably go unnoticed, but to someone new to the sub-tropical climate of Florida they can be quite a nuisance. There’s nothing more irritating then being unable to enjoy the outdoor weather on your screen porch, lanai, or in your pool enclosure because some pesky little critters make you itch. For this problem, Phifer 20×20 screen is the perfect solution. Using the same fiberglass strands and coating as Phifer 18×14 screen the mesh is woven tighter for smaller holes not allowing No See’ums to get through.

Polyester Screen 10 Year Warranty

10 YEAR WARRANTY Polyester Screen

If you are planning to keep your home for a long time and want to get the best value for your dollar in the long run, polyester is the material for you. Polyester screen mesh is warrantied for 10years and simulated tests have indicated that the material has a life expectancy beyond 21 years. To achieve such an extended lifespan, polyester screen mesh is made of a unique polyester yarn that has superior tear and tensile strength that is 100% stronger than Phifer 18/14 screen. It incorporates UV tolerant properties which delivers unparalleled color retention, longevity and filter characteristics. The fabric is also compounded with a biocide that resists mildew and algae growth and repels insects.

Ready To Get a Quote For Your Re-screen?  Get Your Estimate Conveniently Online!

The Foundation: What Goes on Beneath the Surface of Your Screen Enclosure

The Gulf Coast Aluminum Team strives to engineer all new construction with impeccable design and fortification. What makes my job great as a project manager is continuously finding new ways to design structures that add structural and aesthetic value to all unique site locations. When it comes to construction, a strong foundation will determine the overall quality of the new construction. There are generally 3 types of foundation types that I typically use when designing a new construction starting from most common to least common.

Concrete Slab – most commonly a 4” monolithic slab is poured and used as the structural foundation for a screen enclosure. This is very common for smaller lanai screen rooms and cage extensions. All of our concrete slabs utilize 3,000 Pump-mix fiber mesh that forms a bond that can withstand all county weight pressure standards.

Concrete slabs serve a two-fold purpose of functionality and aesthetics. Gulf Coast Aluminum has a wide array of aesthetic options such as paint and texture that can add significant appeal to the home.

Footers – We utilize footers for a multitude of foundational options when doing new constructions. 1st, footers are used when a larger cage is built and requires more foundational sturdiness, sometimes with or without a concrete pad. Sometimes there are higher wind and hurricane zone requirements with larger structural beams that need footers to help alleviate the appropriate zoning requirements.

Secondly, The process is designed with form boards typically creating an 8” x 8” footer spacing. The centers are reinforced with raised rebar keeping the footers as one cohesive unit. The 3,000-PSI pump mix is poured over the floating rebar forming to the concrete and steel as on cohesive unit. The fiber mesh concrete acts as a catalyst to form around the reinforced steel.


Lastly, footers not only serve a functional purpose but an aesthetic purpose as well. The footers are poured to withhold the structure while the center is compacted with sand and then pavers or tile will be laid on top.

Stem Wall – Stem walls are used when the job site requires extra fortification and/or when the job site is on a gradient slope. They are always used as assistance to a concrete pads and footers.









The stem wall is built with stacked concrete cell blocks with vertical reinforced rebar and horizontal reinforced rebar that ties into the footers above. Concrete is then poured deep into the cellblocks to fortify the wall and connect to the footers.

If a stem wall is not used the structure would be placed on compacted loose soil. This is extremely unsafe and the stem wall acts as a barrier to keep the compacted fill dirt in place. By lifting the wall off of the slope ground the risk of earth erosion and corrosion on the carrier wall is minimized.

Explained: The Permit Process

“How long does it take to get a permit?” is a question we hear often You could say that is the million dollar question for sure and it doesn’t have a simple answer.  It all depends on a number of factors…

1. What county you are in.
2. What city you are in.
3 Is it a commercial permit or a Residential?
4 Do you need an H.O.A (home owners association) approval?
5 Depending on the amount of the job price, you may also need a Notice of commencement which needs to be notarized and recorded at the Clerk of the Court in the Records dept.

There are a lot of variables to this answer, the above are just I would say the top five.

Obtaining a building permit for any project such as a pool cage, sunroom, lanai, pool enclosure, or carport is not a straight forward task.  Unfortunately there is very little uniformity between each building department we operate in.  Each department (City Of North Port, Lee County, Collier County, City of Naples, etc, etc) does things differently and the requirements, procedures and governing ordinances are are always changing.  For example lets consider getting a permit (today — these are subject to change in the future) for a screened in lanai under an elite panel roof — a fairly common project we do here at Gulf Coast Aluminum.

To permit this project in the following departments, you would need:

 Collier County City Of North Port City Of Venice
Tangible Engineering      
Digital Engineering      
Notice Of Commencement After Permit After Permit
Certified Siteplan      
Drainaige Plan      
Electrical Plan      
Final Spot Survey      

These can be made even more complex as some departments or even individual plans examiners require specific engineering details that are generally left to the contractor.

Here’s how things generally work once we receive deposit on a project.
1. Project is drafted, and sent to engineering, depending on revisions
This could take up to three weeks.
2. Application for permit is filled out for your county or city. Appropriate paper work, forms, site plan, and survey, Notice of commencement, etc. are also handed in with the permit application and engineering. Usually 3 copies are required.
3. Once at the building Department your 3 application copies goes to BUILDING – ZONING REVIEW , BUILDING – PLAN REVIEW , PUBLIC WORKS-PLAN REVIEW . Departments may vary in name from county and city and may include addition reviews such as environmental. Each department must review to either approve or request additional information. In some cases the application goes to one department at a time, in others it goes to all three at the same time.

Unfortunately most of the departments are in different offices or across the building and have no centralized tracking system which is why phone calls to the building department often do not expedite the process.

4. Once approved your contractor pays for your permit, brings your permit to the project location until all inspections and finals are done by the city or county.

Now that you may understand the process better and depending on your particular job and where it is located (county or city) we can give you a ball park answer as to when we expect your permit to be ready.  Permit turn around time is very seasonal.  For example Lee County permits had a 1 week turn around time in July 2013.  As of now, December 2013, Lee County is currently experiencing 4-6 week turn around. This is without revisions or changes made by customers during the process.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to give us a call.

Start To Finish — A Behind The Scenes look At A Screen Enclosure Project

As a project manager I see projects go from a simple idea and become a visually stunning new enclosure. A lot of customers don’t realize the amount of time and work that goes into everything in-between. This article is a project review showing the step-by-step process a typical new screen enclosure project consists of.  This article gives current or prospective clients an idea of what will transpire during your project with Gulf Coast Aluminum.

Beginning The Screen Enclosure Project

The Idea & Estimate (08/26/13): Customer called the Gulf Coast Aluminum office to schedule an estimate on building a new screen enclosure with matching pavers to his existing Lanai. The team gave customer a ballpark price using their TPI mapping software. Customer wanted to proceed with an in-person estimate with our project estimator. Our project estimator took accurate measurements and noted details for the screen enclosure including roof over hangs and options for matching pavers.

Agreement & Deposit (10/10/13): Customer signed agreement with a copy of Florida driver’s license. Standard deposit of $500 to start initial project. Customer also provided a boundary survey for permitting purposes. Projects are subject to survey charges if home-owner does not currently have one.

Submit Engineering Design (10/18/13): Project Manager drafted the layout of the structure and submitted it to our engineering firm.  All new construction projects from a lanai, carport, sunroom or pool cage.

Signed and Submitted NOC (10/21/13): Customer signed official notice of commencement with officially stamp from a licensed notary. Customer filed with the Lee County Clerk of Courts for a fee of $10.

Received Signed and Sealed Engineering (10/27/13): Received certified, signed, and sealed engineering meeting Florida Building Code (FBC) and Florida wind code specifications.

 Related Post: Corey’s 9 Details On Screen Enclosure Engineering








Submit Permit: (10/29/13) Each county is different for their permit application process. For this project a few things were required.

  • Signed and Sealed Engineering
  • Boundary Survey
  • Sketch of Site Plan
  • Recorded Notice of Commencement


Approved Permit (11/8/13): Permit was approved by the City of Bonita Springs. Project Manager attached permit package to Gulf Coast Aluminum sign in the front yard of customer’s house.


Site Prep & Deposit (11/14/13): As you have noticed the majority of the project timeline takes part before any tool has dug into the ground.  When we first break ground we require a 50% deposit on the project, which was collected the day of the site prep. At this point the Gulf Coast aluminum team went out and did a site prep for the job. They removed any small bushes that would be in the way of the new enclosure.

The crew capped the sprinkler system that would be below ground from the new enclosure.  The groundwork was all dug up in one day using a sod cutter and applying soil if necessary to level out the area.  This project required footers so the crew placed form boards around the perimeter and applied rebar along the middle sections as specified in the engineering


Lastly, the City of Bonita Springs requires a termite and bug spray on all foundations before the concrete spray. The bug treatment was applied and all was ready for the pre-concrete inspection.

Pre Inspection (11/18/13): An official City of Bonita Springs Building inspector went on site to inspect the area for a foundation inspection and ensure the work completed was on point before the project went on to the next phase of construction. The foundation inspection was approved.

Footers/ Concrete (11/25/13): This is one of the most important days of the project because there is really only one chance to pour concrete for footers and it must be a sunny day because rain will interfere with the setting process. A cement delivery truck arrived outside of the house and the GCA team ran a pumping hose along the side of the house to the site location in the back. The whole process took roughly 2 hours and the whole setting process takes a minimum of three days.

Installed Pavers (12/09/13): After the existing lanai pavers had been matched, our paver crew arrived on site. They then took two days to install the pavers to the existing pad around the concrete footers. The customer was pleased at the progress we had achieved and he really enjoyed seeing visual results at this stage of the project.

 Install Aluminum & Fasteners (12/12/13): Some sections of the enclosure that had been built in the shop were delivered on site along with materials for sections of the cage that needed to be built on site. The order itself consisted of various aluminum beams, Nylotec and Protec screws, and Phifer 18X14 screen.

Our team began assembling all of the aluminum posts and doors by installing them into the footer foundation. The screen enclosure aluminum frame was completely installed and ready for the final screening process.

Install Screen (12/13/13): The screening process is very fast to install. Typically our crews can rescreen an entire 2,000 square foot cage in one day. This project was no different and the screen was all installed making the project complete and ready for final inspection by the county.


Final Inspection (12/17/13): The project manager called in the final inspection and we passed with flying colors. The inspectors make sure that we abide to the engineering diagrams and follow the structural design exactly to code.

Final Payment & Customer Satisfaction (12/18/13): Our customer was very pleased with the speed and efficiency of his new screen enclosure and gave us full 10’s on his project survey. At this point he paid us the remainder of his balance and mentioned that he would certainly recommend us to any friends.