Friday, November 30, 2007 leads all Deck Companies for Traffic. seems to be the king of all deck companies on line.
Archadeck with multi-million dollar advertising budget gets less than 1/2 of the traffic to our main site. That doesn't include blog or portfolio site.
Below is an estimation by a company that specializes in traffic ranking. They take search engine stats, toolbar information and other sources to estimate traffic. They are about 75% off in our case, so lets just assume they are 75% conservative in their numbers for everyone else too. *
To see all the estimated stats from site analytics.

And... Hickory Dickory Decks--advertised as the #2 deck company in the world... 1/10 our traffic.

80% of our locations have not had time to do a home show in the past 2 years. We are better off servicing the leads we have rather than chasing more. We just don't need the extra marketing with traffic like this.

For more information click Deck Builder Group or call Lawrence Winterburn 888 293 8938

*Our actual server based stats tell us that the main site peaks at over 100,000 unique visits per month.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Winter Work for Deck Builders

Our Ontario Deck Builders are being frozen out early this year. Maybe we are spoiled from last year… I think we stopped outdoor work in January around Toronto last year.

It is Tampa’s Busy season, their seasonal snowbird residents are settling in and this year their money goes about 25% further due to the stronger Canadian Loonie. (That’s dollar in American).

The new guys on the East Coast, Virginia Beach, Charleston and Greenville will should be able to work right through the winter.

Some of the seasonal area guys do interior trim and cabinetry in the winter… though we will likely be building out of doors again mid March. Rod—Our posthole guy in Mississauga-Burlington says he was digging again in mid February last year.

When it comes to the folks that made enough money to rest up over the winter… if they are smart they are working on marketing. People are shopping on line while they are cooped up for the winter—just after Christmas the traffic to our websites doubles… and by May we see many more than 100,000 unique visitors a month.

Over the winter people are printing out web pages and collecting contacts to enact their lofty spring projects. They all start calling about February or early March…first sunny day above zero. Most of our guys have a couple of projects in the bag for spring already—and they will sell more over the winter.

When builders ask when the best time to set up is—Before January is the answer. We need your pages found by the search engines in time for the winter shoppers that will be starting in January and February. Normally it takes 2-8 weeks for google to do it's thing. The more fridge doors your contacts end up on the better your spring building season will be.
The other part of it is that we have more spare manpower this time of year as well--so we can spend more time with you.

Greenville SC and Markham Ontario are being set up presently.

If you want to learn more about our deck and fence builder group—click here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Word of Mouth Marketing

Salesmanship is something you can put into every word. From the initial contact to the final stroke on an agreement.

The old adage of shoot while the birds are in the air has plenty of sense in it—but what to do when the economy suffers and there are fewer birds seen?

We are seeing it where the most new migrants are, and where housing prices have tumbled and where the economy are overly reliant on the Automotive Business. There is simply less work to be done—and more people bidding on it for less.

This is the most important line in this article… “In Every Economy – Someone is making money”.

You need to connect with those people and show them the right things to ride through the economic downturn in style. “You can be one of those Someones”.

There are a few simple truths in the Deck and Fence Business.

  • Selling it as a commodity is a losers game.
  • Selling based on pricing decided by the competition is lunacy.
  • And finally, marketing must be done consistently for financial security.

    Our Builder Group is growing because about a Million people see our web presence every year… It makes our builders busier and gives them many exclusive designs to show to clients that are interested in our products.

    Good luck in whatever economy you may be in!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How to Build Gates - and how not to Build Gates.

Where on earth do you learn how to build wood gates properly?

I don't even recall reading decent instructions in a book, however our DIY plans include good step by step information.

Of all the tasks that a fence builder needs to know this is the Achilles heel of the trade. I see more sagging gates with the hardware inoperable in my travels than any other flaw in wood fences.

Wooden gates require a brace and braces work in compression (see photo above). I see a million braces (right idea), with the braces backwards. The braces must run from the swing side of the gate down to the hinge. This builder got the braces right--however he built the gates too large and the gates are inoperable.

There are brackets--that don't work particularly well and many react with the chemicals in ACQ Rated pressure treated materials.

When a wood gate is not hung off a wall you will need a headpiece to prevent the weight of the gate from bending the post and causing the hardware not to work--and the gate rubbing on the other post.

There is a maximum size for gates that don't have steel reinforcement--that is advanced information that we share with our Builder Group.

These gates are all on the same block (cheap copies of a fence I designed this summer).

This one has no headpiece--no brace--and it is built too large for the opening that doesn't seem to be the same size top and bottom. This gate incorporates nearly every mistake in the book.

The garbage beside it is a nice touch.

There should also be a good space beneath the gate so that it doesn't get obstructed. There are many rules for yards with pools to do with gate operation direction, self closing hardware and climb ability so consult with your local building department before deciding on a fence style.

Here's a nice looking gate --However it won't last due to;

No head piece.

Diagonal bracing is insufficient--little blocks in the corners won't do it.

The frame seems to be hanging on screws. Screwing through the long face of a 2x4 doesn't work very well--the wood shrinks, play develops and the gate begins to come apart.

I don't think there is an inch of space to allow this gate to swing.

If I were the client I would complain about the concrete all over the posts.

The gate is also too close to the ground... and will pinch when frost or clay heave lifts the ground.

The above examples illustrate why wood fencing is a commodity. Poorly trained contractors running around cobbling things together the best they can, not knowing what crown is, not having the know-how or skill to build something properly can not ask for proper pay.

If you wonder why licensed contractors charge a little more--it's because they simply do better work, that lasts longer and ages more gracefully... oh, and our gates work properly.

Below is a set of wood gates built by Tony Fredericks - WoodCrafters in Toronto, Ontario.

The braces are on the interior for a clean look, there is clearance for swing and they work well. The headpiece carries the weight of the gates. 10/10


Friday, November 16, 2007

New Fence Design for Suburbia

A new Wood Fence for suburbia. Roughly the same price per foot as a good neighbour 5+1 lattice topped fence, just a little better looking. Our contractors have hundreds of details to work designs from--and new ones are always being released. 30 pages will be added to the Design Elements Package for our Builder Group this winter.
Notice the space beneath the fence so that frost does not lift the panels out of the ground.
Simple understated gates with a tasteful headpiece that maintaines posts vertically under the weight of the gates. There's a clear 1" of space between the gates and the braces are on the interior--transferring the hinge from the swing side down to the hinges. This prototype was Built by our Top Crew in Toronto "Tony Fredericks- Woodcrafters Inc." Nice work Tony.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Free Pergola Plans

Dear Lowes ;
Thanks for the free pergola plan pictured.

I tried to use your on line form--however it was inoperable. It apparently didn't like my name, postal code or email address. I have instead posted my feedback form here. Hopefully someone with Lowes will find it.

Regarding your free on-line pergola plan.
#1 problem, no lateral strength
#2 floating footings and attached to the dwelling--one or the other. Attach it to the dwelling and you may damage that dwelling and be libel for the damage when they follow the "free" plan...waiver or not.
#3 What is the point in supplying a plan that no one will ever build? It is too ugly.

I own

Have a look at our pergola plans, they are not free--but lots of people actually build them and send us photos. Our best designs are for our builder group only...after a few years when they have new designs we retire them and offer them as DIY and Professional Level Plans.

I can only imagine how much you paid a graphic artist to develop this free plan for you... I am sure it was expensive. As a woodwork designer and a master carpenter I am going to speak very plainly and I apologise in advance if my words seem hurtful or coarse. Your outdoor woodwork plans are about the worst I have ever laid eyes on.

Building something from them would surely end up in disaster-and with the way they look they just shouldn't be built. Ever. I could shoot holes in your plans for an hour or two if you want--but I believe that to be unproductive. I see no potential for success working from what you have.

The trouble is that inspired details are an absolute nightmare even for seasoned tradesmen to develop, (I guess that is why our Builder Group is growing so quickly--they get great details that have taken over 20 years to create).

In my not so humble opinion, Lowes owes it to their shareholders to explore the possibility of developing their woodwork plans in the future.

Kindest Possible Regards,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trex - Defective?

I wouldn't want to be in the composite decking business this year. Costs have about doubled for raw material, trucking is higher and the Canadian manufacturers have seen their currency jump about 40% in the last year. They are calling our dollar a commodity indicator because it just doesn't make sense.

We are going to take a look at the Trex warranty soon, I just want to try to keep the majority of posts positive--so sorry, there is less space for composite info at the moment. I'd love to see some positive info about composites, but there seems to be a shortage of late.

What I know about Trex is that they tell us that Mold is not covered by their warranty because it is environmental in source. What I know for certain is that pulp lumber (like what is ground up into trex), gets slimy and mold covered when left for a few weeks in a pile outside your back door. Just a coinkidink.

Here's the headline--

Nov. 6, 2007, 7:48AM

3Q Loss for Deck and Fence Maker Trex

© 2007 The Associated Press

WINCHESTER, Va. — Trex Co. Inc., which makes decking, railing and fencing products, said Tuesday it swung to a loss in its third quarter due mainly to a large reserve for replacing defective decking material manufactured at one of its plants.

...Trex said its profit was hurt by a $45 million increase to a product defect reserve for the replacement of decking material manufactured at its Nevada plant between 2003 and 2006 and a $9.4 million inventory adjustment...

To read the whole story please click this link

Now, what was wrong with the materials leaving that plant if they don't see mold as a problem?

Yikes. L

ps. To read more about Composite Decking issues (click)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Deck Inspections - Another Failing Grade

More often than you expect we get calls from pensive clients asking strange questions about what they should reasonably expect when it comes to decks and fences.

Yes, your gates should operate without jamming--there should be an inch of clearance, yes, it should have a brace. No, your deck should not have black spots all over it, no, it shouldn't sag between the joists.

I've received enough of these calls in the past that a few times a year I am inspecting the competition's work and preparing a report to arm the client with a definitive list of deficiencies to negotiate with the contractor.

Now, I will preface this by saying, I know what these people paid for this deck, and it was a low-ball or "Cheap" price.

In the above shot you will see the most common design flaw in decks. An 11 inch step outside a door and marks on the wall where the previous deck was. It is dangerous and certainly a tragic flaw since it makes the deck feel uncomfortable as you enter.

Taking a peek at the substructure the skirting touches the ground which means that it will lift the deck off the footings as the frost sets in.

Second issue is the strange footing... two footings to support one post. Since I viewed this I have been trying to imagine a situation where I would do this. I am still trying.

At least they put gravel and a drop sheet down.

The post to footing connection and beam to post connection are a long way from secure.

Now, Hand rails are a pretty important part of any deck.

These guys used "A cedar 2x4, top and bottom" and called it a hand rail. Zoom forward a few years. When you toenail a 2x4 into a 4x4 post and it starts to rot... it eventually falls off.

As well when you lay a 2x4 on the flat and span 42" it will sag in short order. The bottom member of this rail will not support the glass. A hand rail is not a picture frame. It could also be called a safety rail...certainly when it is 8' off the ground.

The trims are simply 3/4" x 3/4" cedar fastened with brad nails.

I wouldn't want to be the one to trip towards this rail and have to rely on it. This deck rail would never pass an inspection by the building department. It would never receive a stamp from an engineer. Any contractor that would knowingly install this hand rail and charge the client for it is simply a negligent greedy pig . If you don't know how to build a hand rail...research and find out. Laziness is no excuse for putting people in danger.

Now, this is my pet peeve of 2007. They changed the formulation for pressure treated materials a couple of years back. ACQ is now the standard and it eats steel fasteners within a couple of years.

ACQ fasteners are "Double Galvanized" to withstand the corrosion caused by ACQ pressure treated materials which this deck frame is made from. "ACQ FASTENERS DO NOT RUST IN THE ELEMENTS". This means that within a couple of years these fasteners will not be holding themselves into the pressure treated frame. The deck will fall to pieces.

Metal reacts with the tannins in Red Cedar to cause black staining throughout the entire thickness of the wood, causing a stain that can NEVER be removed.

These guys cleaned up all the materials from the deck, (which left a perfect outline on the lawn of dead grass), and left the box of what they fastened the decking to the ACQ rated under structure. Ouch...

"Ummm, I used fasteners that will turn to dust in 2 years...but can I have my check now?"

This is one of the largest deck companies in the Toronto Area. They have a website and I know one of their managers personally. I don't want to provoke a law suit so I am not going to name them but what I will tell you is that this deck is just off Avenue Road, south of the 401 and they do a lot of work in the area.

The lowest price is rarely the best deal.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Levers and Structural Engineering

Here's a nice demonstration as to how to push two little 8" footings into the ground. Add some more people and some rain--and it should successfully push the whole post into the ground too.

These folks must be part time engineering students!

My theory is that it will take more than that diagonal board to keep this deck on this house. They cantilevered the beam about 3' as well. If they don't put up a fence right away maybe I can get some after shots too.

In general, you can cantilever about 12" on 2x8 joists, and about 16" on 2x10 joists. When you get around the 4' mark on 2x8 joists you are going to see some interesting things happen... like wavy big decks, jiggly little decks. Could be entertaining--but mostly dangerous.

Did you notice the cleat type stairs?