We do tons of condominium carports, an we love doing them.  In a typical year we will do over 1,000 spots.  We’ve got the experience and crews to get them done fast an right!  In fact, many general contractors sub-contract them to us.

Considering you (or another board member) will be overseeing the project and responsible for the success or failure of the project, and getting everyone onboard (sold on the project) the project should be planned for and managed professionally from the beginning.  The proper way to manage a project of this scope is to have the project engineered with a siteplan beforehand.  When general contractors, developers or others with professional project management experience contact us to bid on carports they always have this documentation.  Hiring an engineer to review the project beforehand, and draft together the 10+ page scope of work packet does a few important things

  1. Establishes the scope and viability of the project upfront.  You would be surprised, but getting carports approved on a parcel isn’t as easy as getting a standard building permit.  Depending on where you’re located, the approval process can vary wildly.  Sometimes roof design and post are specifically applicable to your parcel.  You might even find out  carports cannot be built in the proposed locations.
  2. Ensures that you are getting like-kind bids. The old saying goes, there’s more than 1 way to skin a cat.  Often when you get bids for carports, they will vary wildly, and usually the lowest bidder is the lacks the specific experience to produce a substance holding bid or is planning to use low grade materials.  Having an engineer detail the project beforehand ensures that materials reflective your intended budgets and lifespan of the structure are used.

When the engineered packet is presented to us, your estimate is free — just email the packet over.  If the engineered scope of work is not completed, we charge a fee (usually $250) for a project review and estimate.  The next question is “why do you charge for an estimate?”, so lets answer that.  The research that goes into these (usually done by the engineer) takes several hours.  We spend time reviewing the site, pulling records to see what exists under ground, reviewing the zoning or development plans, corresponding with the zoning department for clarification — all takes a lot of time.  We receive on average 5 estimate requests per day for carports on non-single family parcels (i.e. condos).  Over the last couple of years we’ve built up a list of 2,000 plus inquiries for carports at condos.  We have checked them via public records to see which ones actually came to fruition; the result, less than 2%.   Considering the high number estimate requests, time of research required for the estimate, and extremely low rate of materialization, we require customers to have a financially vested interest project, and show intent to have it completed professionally by either hiring an engineering firm before soliciting bids, or hiring us for the project review and quote.

Of course you will find contractors who will bid it without the engineering, and without charging a fee.  In reality though, they are generally just giving out what we call a ‘catch it’.  A catch it bid means that no matter ‘what happens’ hopefully they’ll be fine, and they can sub-contract it out or if they get awarded the bid, they will then do the research, and find out that it cannot be built as planned, and back out or hit you with a costly change order.  These types of bids happen often and are the number one cause of carport delays and over budgeting.

In MANY cases, we will receive calls for a carport estimate from a board member who does not have engineering, nor is interested in paying the $250 for a project review and written quote from us.  Thats OK for us — but usually doesn’t work out well for the end customer (you).  Recall I said that many general contractors subcontract to us…

Let me give you an example, a board member (Richard) of condo association on Vanderbilt built beach called me in May 2015 to request an estimate for over 40 spots.  He had no engineering, and un-enthusiastically declined our $250 fee for a project review and quote.  I gave him a ballpark of around $8,000 per spot and about $30,000 for engineering and siteplan, and noted that the location of the carports needed serious review.  Over the next 2 weeks, 5 contractors called me to request a bid on the same project.  I told them the same thing, regarding our quotes and ballpark.  I would assume they all did the same thing, of marking up my ballpark substantially and placing a ‘catch it’ bid.  Several months later Richard awarded a contractor the total project at $875,000 and I received a call from the contractor.  Richard didn’t know this yet, but he was getting carports from Gulf Coast Aluminum at about 250% more than we charge.  The first issue between Richard and his chosen contractor was location of the carports.  After a thorough review the carports could not just go anywhere on the parcel.  The locations needed to be changed.  This set the whole project back several months as the revised locations needed approval from the board.  The next issue came when Richard found out he was not getting a quality fastener on the carport, considering the location to the beach.  His contractor hit him with marked up change order for this.  Then when it came time to build, it was revealed that the first company he spoke to, Gulf Coast Aluminum, who had given a substantially lower ballpark number was actually the company doing the work.

Scenarios like this happen all the time.

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Corey Philip

About the author

Corey began working on screen enclosures as a teenager in 2004 after hurricane Charley devastated his home town of Punta Gorda. 7 years later, after holding positions from foreman, to sales, to project manager, while attending college at Florida Gulf Coast University, Corey and childhood friend Thomas Davis founded Gulf Coast Aluminum in 2011. With a focus on delivering an unparrelled level of service, the company has grown by leaps and bounds under their leadership. Today you’ll find Corey answering the phones In his free time Corey likes training for triathlons, running the trails at Ding Darling park on Sanibel Island, and of course, working on growing Gulf Coast Aluminum.