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Building Your Lanai: Choosing a Contractor

building a lanai choosing your contractor

Floridians love the outdoors! And, around here, we consider the lanai to be the perfect outdoor living area. They roll all the benefits of a patio, veranda, or porch into one amazing living space. In fact, hearing the phrase “living out on the lanai” isn’t out of the norm around here by any means. Many Floridian homeowners say it’s their favorite spot in the house.

If you’ve made the decision to add a lanai to your home, you aren’t going to regret it.

It’s no secret

Having an enclosed outdoor living space provides your family the luxury of making the most of our subtropical climate—especially if your lanai is enclosed using mesh privacy screen.

If that wasn’t the direction you were considering, there’s something you should know about mesh screen enclosures before you hire your contractor.

Mesh screen enclosures provide you with all the benefits of other types of structures—which are:

• An element of privacy
• Protection from the elements
• Bugs and debris stay out in the yard where they belong

Mesh screen enclosures offer an added benefit as they allow for continuous airflow. Living in Florida, that’s important because the high humidity levels provide the perfect environment for mold to thrive. And, left unchecked, it can cause health issues for both humans and pets.

Other enclosures don’t allow air to circulate freely and moisture can become trapped in cracks and crevices. When that happens, mold is likely to find a home.

First things first

There are several things you need to do before you actually start seeking bids for your job.

The first decision you need to make is where you’re going to connect the lanai to the rest of the house. Attaching them to the kitchen or living room area makes the most sense. That’s because it connects them to one of the main living areas in your home and provides the most enjoyment.

You also need to look into obtaining any necessary permits required by the city for building additions on the property. They would include information such as how far away the structure needs to be from property lines. Most contractors obtain the actual permits, but it’s a good idea for you to be aware of what’s necessary before the job begins.

If they don’t mention whether or not they need to be obtained prior to beginning the build, take that as a red flag. Cutting corners and flying under the radar regarding following protocol is a sign of someone who is not trustworthy. Don’t do business with them.

If you live in a subdivision that is controlled by a homeowners association (HOA), obtain a copy of their guidelines pertaining to additions. Some even instruct where work crews are to park their vehicles while they’re in the area.

HOAs are known to run a pretty tight ship as far as “uniformity” within the neighborhood is concerned. However, that’s not to say that you won’t stand a chance if they don’t agree immediately. You just may need to prove your case—and we’ll be rooting for you if that’s so!

Don’t break the budget

After you know where you’re building your lanai, you need to think about how much you’re going to spend. There are building calculators online, like this one, that can help you figure your budget.

These are the factors to consider:

• Is there an existing floor or are you starting from scratch?
• What size will your lanai be?
• What type of enclosure are you building?
• What other building materials will you incorporate?

Having an idea of what the job costs will help you choose the right contractor when you see the final figure on the estimate they hand you.

A good contractor will offer suggestions and guide you in making the right decisions when they come out to give you an estimate. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to get at least three estimates.

Compare the three and if any of them appear to be markedly less than the others, it’s a sign of someone who uses shoddy building techniques and cheap materials. Get rid of that one right off the bat because those practices shorten the life of your enclosure.

Choosing your contractor

Ask your friends and family about contractors that they have used in the past. Word of mouth is the best referral you can get as far as we’re concerned. Someone you know is going to be honest about their experience and if they highly recommend someone, you should give them a call.

If you have a reliable referral, there’s really no reason to seek a variety of estimates. If not, there are a few questions you need to ask before having someone come out to your property.

Is the contractor licensed, insured, and bonded?

That’s important to know because if they aren’t and an accident occurs while he and the crew are on your property, you could be held responsible.

Do they provide a written contract?

If the answer is no, disconnect yourself from the conversation. Any contractor worth their weight will provide you a contract that includes:

• A detailed description of all work to be completed and the expense you will incur
• Your payment schedule
• A start and completion date
• A breakdown of their guarantee
• Signatures of both parties

The final details

Once you’ve hired your contractor and the date is set, you can set your sites on the final details of your project. Namely, furniture and decor!

You may already have everything picked out. If not, now’s the time to finalize your plans and plan a shopping trip—so hit the stores or hop online!

Will you add a water feature? Small tabletop models take up a small amount of space, yet, still provide you with their greatest benefit—the sound of running water. It has a calming, mesmerizing effect on most of us and induces relaxation.

Consider how you’ll be using the space and let that influence how you place your seating arrangements. Do you need to leave room for a dining table or will outdoor meals be uber casual?

Once you have that figured out, the decor will be your final touch. Outdoor rugs provide a homier environment, as do pillows and throws. Plants are a popular feature, as well.

We’re sure you will know exactly how to decorate your new lanai to provide the perfect environment for your family and friends. You can look forward to spending many happy years there making memories that will last a lifetime.

Granted, you’ll probably go indoors now and then, but “living on the lanai” is an option you can take advantage of any time the spirit moves you.


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