#1 Lie: How Long Will This Project Take?

Generally speaking, most of our competitors are straight forward, honest companies when it comes to things like the materials they’ll be using and needs of their clients.  They’ll genuinely tell you what they intend to do, and help you get the materials and other choices figured out.  When it comes to the timeline of the project, things get a little twisted.  Obviously, every consumer wants their project done as soon as possible… the sooner, the better.

(this post applies to projects that require a permit)

How long is this project going to take?

This is a question that every contractor gets, but many don’t answer honestly.  Knowing that the shorter timeline, is going to appeal to that instant gratification need, most sales people REALLY round down the time line.  The timeline we frequently here promised is 4 weeks.  That is, 4 weeks from the time a deposit is given, until the project is fully complete.  The 4 week timeline sure sounds great, but having completed hundreds of projects in the last couple years,  I’ve never seen a project go from deposit, through permitting, to completion in just 4 weeks.

After The Deposit Is Given

Unfortunately for the consumer who was swayed by the short 4 week timeline, once the contract is signed and the deposit is given, the story of the 4 week timeline changes quickly.  The story suddenly becomes “that was 4 weeks AFTER the permit was issued”.  That was a big detail left out.  I’ve seen this exact scenario play out time and time again as we frequently hear from customers calling for our help after their contractor is taking waaaaay longer than their extremely short timeline.  As I mention above there are some administrative & planning steps that must occur before we can even apply for the permit, then we have to wait on the permit to be approved or rejected (and then corrected).  The truth is, no one can guarantee how long it will take to get the permit.

Realistic Time For Screen Enclosure & Patio Projects

When we get asked the question “how long is this project going to take?”,  we always respond with a realistic time-frame, that truly reflects how long the administrative processes that must occur before we break ground, and then the physical scope of work will take.   Our answer is usually something to the effect “well it will probably take us around two months to get the permit, engineering, siteplan, and then … (however long we estimate for the rest of the project)”.   This is a realistic estimate of the time it will be from the date of deposit, until the structure is complete.  Although our initial estimated time-frame is often longer than our competitors, we ultimately find that our we complete our projects as we work diligently to get your project approved and completed.

For more information on the permitting process and timelines, I suggest ready the following posts:

Up Close And Personal With Our GCA Standard Enclosure [Interactive]



Large carrier beam engineered for maximum view.


Specifically engineered & manufactured post and connection to carrier beam.


Polyester Ultra-screen mesh is used.  This mesh is 3x stronger than Phifer screen and has a 10yr warranty.


Fasteners used throughout the structure are Nylo-techs.  Connections are made with internal gusset plates.


Stainless hurricane cables as required for code compliance.


This lower piece on all screen enclosures is simply called 1×2 per its size.

Most screen enclosures that are built, just don’t last in our local climate.  Just take a look at any enclosure over 5 years old and chances are extremely high that you will see faded paint, rusted/broken fasteners, torn screen flapping in the wind, and lots of thin aluminum members which are probably not level/plumb.  These are builders grade enclosures; the default level of of quality most companies bid when asked to bid ‘a screen enclosure’.  Builders grade enclosures use the lowest grade materials to save on cost; steel screws, artisan screen, epoxy paint.  Ultimately they become unsightly, and we are called to do a restoration.  Here is a good example.  We get lots of business from doing restorations on these enclosures, but we’r rather build you something that will stand the test of time from the beginning.

When you ask us to bid a screen enclosure, we quote our GCA Standard.  You get materials that will last; 2604 powder coat finish (2605 is available as an upgrade), screen with a 10yr warranty, fasteners with a 10yr warranty.   Then we engineer the enclosure to use thicker, denser specialty beams so we can have fewer total beams and maximize view.  Each beam is cut site specifically to adjust for changes in elevation (builders grade enclosures use templated pieces which don’t fit level/plumb) of the deck and host structure (no pool deck or house is ever level or square) and of course you get a dedicated project manager.

We say the above from experience.  We frequently hear from other customers who went with another company offering builders grade enclosures complaining about screen falling out before 2 years, paint turning green within 1 year, screws rusted within months.  Considering the fact that they don’t provide long lasting value, and most customers are generally unhappy with them, we no longer build any builders grade enclosures for our customers.

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What Is The Average Size Screen Room? (With Prices!)

A few times a day we’ll get a call that goes something like this :

Customer: “Hey there I’d like to get a lanai built”.

Us: “Awesome that sounds like something we do, but just to clarify, you’re looking for a solid roof lanai?”

Customer: “Yes that’s it”

Us: “Ok we call those screen rooms and we build them all the time.  What size are interested in?”

Customer: “the size ummm just an average size screen room”

So lets see what exactly average size.  We did some research on the last 50 screen rooms that we built, and found that the average size was around 270 sqft (footprint).  Of course there is more than one way to get to the 270 square foot such as a 10 x 27 or a 15 x 18, both of which have slightly different prices.  We decided to factor some ‘practicability’ into the equation of an average size screen room.  In most cases a 10′ projection is a bit too narrow for a patio table, and a 15′ project is a bit too much and doesn’t allow for good organization of the patio area.  So we rounded to a 12′ x 24.  That gives enough walk around room and some space to allow for doors to to open and close.  That is the size we start with when someone requests and average screen room.

How Much Does The Average 12′ x 24′ Screen Room Cost?

Great question.  Here’s the deal this price is based on the permit/siteplan requirements and structural engineering for your windzone, so there is no exact price (disclaimer: this pricing is based on today’s current pricing for a structure in un-incorporated lee county within 10 miles of our main facility.  No guarantee of price is made.  Please rely on your specific estimate).  Generally speaking this size of screen room would be in the $8500 – $10,000 range, excluding concrete.  With foundation work you could expect another $3,000 – 5,000.

Here’s What A 12′ x 24′ Looks Like:

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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.


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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.


Screen Enclosure Extension In Bonita Springs

One of most common projects we do is a screen enclosure extension. Many pool contractors and home builders build the enclosure as close to the edge of the pool as possible… the smaller size, the more money they save. Practically speaking however, this doesn’t workout well for the homeowner who later realizes that the deck area is too small for lounge chairs or a grille.

Our customers in Bonita Springs were in the same boat.  Their screen enclosure built in Bonita National Golf & Country Club by Lennar was built right to the edge of the pool leaving no room for their outdoor kitchen.

For this extension, we would need to pour a concrete footing to host the structure, cover the area with matching pavers and then build the screen enclosure matching the roof.  As with all of our projects, this screen enclosure extension started with surveying, engineering, and permitting which you can read more about here.  Getting approval, from the time a deposit was received until we were ready to break ground was close to 3 months.

Once the permit was approved and pavers were in our inventory, it was time to break ground and excavate the sod.


Shrubs, sod, and plants have been excavated.  Pavers come soon!


8″x8″+ footing formed up with re-bar re-enforcement.  3000 PSI concrete comings soon!

With the footing dug and site excavated, it is time to pour the footer.  The footer will later be covered by pavers.  Here we have Eduan, Alex, and Gilberto hard at work on footing.

With the footing in place it was time to start on the structural aluminum.  The side of the enclosure was removed and the new framing is built.  The roof is connected to provide a fluid roof line with no gully.

Things get wrapped up quickly, and a day or so after the above picture, the screen enclosure extension was done.  Start to finish the project took about 3 weeks with a large chunk of the time spent waiting for an inspection on the concrete in the beginning and waiting for a concrete delivery.  Our customer was happy they got the patio space they need for their new outdoor kitchen!

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In Depth Look At New Screen Enclosure With Large Picture Window & Footers

Many of the new homes in built in Naples Florida, by general contractors such as Lennar, Centex, Stock Development, GL Homes and Mcgarvey Custom Homes, don’t come with a screen enclosure. With a nice pool, and paver deck, but no pool enclosure this home was no different. Our client found the pool unusable due to the natural south Florida bugs, and the constant need to clean out leaves and pine needle, so they gave us a call to get an enclosure.

During the estimate process we found out that the deck lacked a concrete footer that would make a suitable foundation. A concrete footer is simply a thick edge of concrete designed to support weight and anchor. You can learn more about concrete footers for screen enclosures here. Many pool decks have a perimeter footer which can suitably host an enclosure, however with pavers, the footing can be made tightly around the pool to save on concrete cost for the pool builder. In this case there was no footing in place, so we needed to add one. While possible it is a tedious process and can make the price of the enclosure go up. Essentially the builders save a penny, so you can spend a dollar later.

The home owner chose us to take on the project, based on our reputation and professionalism and we got under way. First thing first, we needed to pull up the existing pavers and put in a footing. In the picture below, you will see we have pull up the pavers and formed a perimeter footing. The formed footing area will be filled with concrete and then the pavers will be put back in place. NOTE: The very thing we did was get engineering and permits which can take a couple months. Permits and behind the scenes activities are covered by Anthony in this post.


Footing area formed for concrete; re-enforced with steel rebar.


Pavers pulled up until the footing is formed

Once the footer is poured, and the pavers are back in place, it is time for the enclosure. The customer opted to go with a ‘clearview’ or ‘picture window’ arrangement for their new pool enclosure as they had an awesome lake view. We primarily fabricated the enclosure at our shop, and brought the enclosure out for final construction. The end result was an enclosure precisely cut, that keep out the bugs and keeps the view in check. Another successful project was added done, and another happy customer added to our list.


Large carrier beam for wide open view.


Thats a wrap!  Another customer happy with their decision to chose Gulf Coast Aluminum

Project Overview: Deck Extension With Unique Flooring and Enclosure Replacement

Getting the chance to see projects that your neighbors are doing can be a delightful and inspiring opportunity.  While we have no shortage a fabulous screen enclosures that we have completed on our website, sometimes a narrative is needed to help you understand precisely what you are looking at!

On this project, a home owner requested the following scope of work.

  • Extend the pool deck by 2′  for more space behind the pool..
  • Refinish the deck with a nice conrete overlay to make it look new again.
  • Replace the existing enclosure with a shiny new one.

Scroll through the images below with captions of the process from start to finish.  Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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