Saturday, December 30, 2006

Snow Load on Decks

Snow Load on Decks

Logic in Building Decks is a relative thing.

photo by Jenzug (click for flickr site)
Think about it this way. You construct a home with 2x8 joists typically—you can nearly get away with 2x6 at times. Generally a deck needs to support slightly more “live load” than the interior of a house so the minimum joist size should be 2x8 – 16” o.c. You know that if you live in Southern California you are not likely to see that much snow—maybe the odd wildfire so see flame retardant coatings. You won’t need the structural reinforcement like they will need in Denver this month.

Some building departments will specify more strength in decks for snow load—but not all. Many just defer to the building department’s minimum standards-or apparently in rural Tennessee, there's just no rules.

Joist and Beam Spans must be reduced, footing sizes increased and joists should also be increased by at least 2” in size in areas where decks will need to support 4’ of snow. The connection to the house should be no less than ½” carriage bolts through the rim joists of the home on second level decks.

We built a deck on Georgian Bay where we were told the owner shovels the snow off the roof and on to the deck when it gets deep. This means up to 4 tons of snow on a deck platform from time to time. I helped him put a 10’ deep pile on the deck one day. 50 footings beneath a 600 square foot deck—but here we are 8 years later with a nice level deck.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tire Kickers

Beware of the “Tire Kickers” !

I'm sure we have all had our share of dealing with tire kickers in the past? They take our time and energy and should be identified before wasting more of our valuable time.

Here are a few clues that make me think a potential client is a tire kicker:

They are looking for the cheapest price and a free estimate.

They seem to have all the answers about the project they want you to do and that they could do it themselves, but they don't have the time.

You ask them for a ballpark figure and they hesitate and say they don't have a clue.

Last but not least. They tell you they are getting several estimates and price is their priority, not quality.

Be careful not to judge a book by its cover. Some clients might just be shrewd shoppers and they want the best value and quality for the dollar! Folks like this just need logical explanation as to why your price is more.

When you get set up with they give you a lot of documentation to read that gives you the upper hand when rooting out tire-kickers.

I would like too wish all of you and the folks at a happy and safe holiday season and a very prosperous New Year!


Saturday, December 16, 2006

More Concrete = Stronger Footings? Not True

More Concrete Does not necessarily mean Stronger Footings.

A post in the ground is only as solid as the ground around it. Concrete holds moisture. Rot needs air and moisture and fuel (sugar) to form. The worst place to have a concrete/wood intersection is at ground level.

Second factor is that when you dig a hole, the top of the hole is normally larger than the base of the hole which causes frost to be able to lift the post (and your fence) out of the ground--dirt washes in beneath the footing and it gets higher every year.
Bell the hole you say? If the bottom of the hole is larger, and the top of the hole is larger, as the frost sets in it will shear the concrete between the two. Don’t underestimate the power of frost.
If you keep the concrete in the bottom half of the hole, frost will set in and anchor the footing in place. Use fine gravel or stone dust to set the post above the concrete footing and it will act as a lubricant and prevent the post from being lifted by frost.

Monday, December 11, 2006

What type of Nails to Build a Fence--

Here's an example of the wrong nails--

Black Bleeding streaks.

It gets worse. If this is pressure treated-ACQ Rated Materials and regular galvanized nails, the nails may be rotted to failure within 3 years. If it is red or white cedar, you will find that there is no method for removing these streaks. The iron reacts with the tannins chemically to create the discolouration.

There are special double galvanized fasteners specifically for use with ACQ Materials.

Nothing will help this fence if it is ACQ materials. Wait until it falls apart and rebuild with the proper fasteners.

If it is cedar, think about a solid stain or a very dark semi-transparent finish.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Trompe L’oeil

Trompe L’oeil (to fool the eye in French)

Sometimes it is difficult to know what to put where. This is a decorative trelliswork panel that can work well in areas where privacy is needed, and it calls for more attention. Here, the client had the fountain in place, a table nearby, and knew she wanted decorative trelliswork installed here.

She offered artistic license—and this Exterior Designer doesn’t have to be told twice. I love a challenge.

Tough part is, all the installation crews were too busy for a time consuming nightmare of a job like this in the middle of the summer. It took me many months to put in the time—but the client was patient. It was one of my only installation jobs that summer. I’m not complaining—it’s better for me to keep my hand in it enough to not be totally inept.

Here’s what I did with it.

I think this trompe l’oeil fits nicely.


Garden - Home Improvement Industry Potential

Industry Potential:

Other companies estimate the back yard woodwork business to be worth 6-8 Billion. Garden Related products are in the 15 Billion Range. That means more than $20 billion dollars worth of business potential when you work with It is expected that the gardening business will continue to grow for the forseeable future (major trend--which means for the next 20 years at least). There are not many business sectors with that expectation.

Learn more about our “Anti-Franchise “ Business Opportunities.

This is a business you can start for a few thousand (if you already are involved in the woodwork business) and about $10,000 if not. You really don’t need to be a carpenter, but design and sales experience helps.

You would need to be organized and efficient--so management experience also helps.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Naming your Business

Creating a Business name.
When formulating a business name there are many things to consider.

Your name is as important as your business plan. It’s the invisible snapshot—that critical first impression your business develops with every potential client.

For a contractor-if your name says, “Amateur”, or “Caution” or “Cheapest” you may be doing yourself a disservice.

If you want handyman work—it should imply that. “Odd Jobs Wanted”, or “Handyman Connection”.

If you want high-end work, it should give that immediate impression. “Precision Carpentry”, works well for Trevor in Mississauga.

Using your local area in your name works well for the web—but you may pigeonhole yourself and or outgrow it. Re-branding is expensive.

Pitch the name to 10 friends and gains a consensus… beg them to be honest. You want real criticism.

The ultimate test is if your phone rings after adopting the name and getting the marketing out.

Many of our contractors use the name that we know makes the phone ring. The name has worked very well for us—

Changing the name mid stream is tough.

My original business name in 1987 was functional at first. I was 20 and had little experience. I needed to gain the experience so I needed to be busy. The name did that, but it precluded much profit. It got me many low-end basic, price conscious jobs. I think I did 21 jobs on a single street. (When this happens your pricing is too cheap). The name implied that we did cheap work, which I couldn’t justify continuing with.

Many people when confronted with evidence later that their name is hurting them fight it vehemently. It’s worse still when it’s your initials, worse still when it is your nickname.

Spelling errors are to be avoided, and things that imply taste in music or slang should also be avoided, as with cultural and racial terms.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Fence Spikes ?

Fence Spikes

Did you know anyone still uses these things? Where I grew up it was grey/red Clay soil... with lots of rocks. These things were punishing to use. You could beat them until they bend...then the first good wind the fence lays down like that 40' cedar tree that took down part of my house last night.

They tend to run out of level when they hit an obstruction--rock, root, power or gas line... They make a wobbly fence. I don't like these fence spikes--and will never recommend them.
get my point? It's not smart to pound a piece of sharp steel into the ground around a house with utilities coming in nearby. I am amazed and astounded that no one has been killed by a hydro strike in damp ground with one of these things...

Now.. there's another type of fence spikes. This type I like... it's sort of medieval.
You too can have poly spikes on the top of your fence... since it's decoration and removable it might just be the thing to add 6" to your fence and send a message to that miscreant sociopath next door.
I have actually heard that the main reason people use them is because they can't stand the idea of local cats and other rodents walking along them. Maybe we should put this one in the "Insanity Folder".
With all the liability issues I just can't see these catching on in North America--any more than Screens in Windows would catch on in the UK.

But I like these fence spikes-- I really do.