Monday, November 29, 2010

Think your Deck Company website gets traffic?  --  Our Deck and Pergola Company Website traffic for 2010 is up 11% year over year and our main site received 961,000 unique visitors.

When you start a new website these days you are joining many tens of thousands of new sites that likely won't see substantial traffic or ever climb to the top of the search engine results. People just don't give away links these days, and Google values links above all else.

Thousands of sites out there link to our sites because of the unique content. We simply design the most intriguing outdoor woodwork, decks and pergolas.

If you are in a related outdoor trade and want to gain exposure through our sites and blogs please get in touch with Lawrence Winterburn at (888) 293-8938. Involvement starts at just $29.00 per month through our graduated licensing.

If you are planning to start a deck, fence or pergola company you need to speak to us first!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Dealing with the Building Department

The critical thing you have to remember when dealing with the Building Department is that they are just doing their job.

In some places the rules that govern them may seem misguided or unjust--but once you know the rules you should skate through. The first thing to understand that it is their job to guide you through the process of obtaining a permit. Secondly, the rules are there to make sure that what you build will be safe for you and your visitors.

In Canada the laws governing construction and permitting are based on old British precepts. Your home is your castle and you can build whatever you want--no accounting for taste! This also means that if you draw the plans yourself they have to examine and accept them so long as they meet code.

They have brought in stringent guidelines in Ontario and to be candid, it is like the "Do as we Say Festival", from The Simpsons episode. They tell you that these are the handrails that you are allowed to build and they will dictate design in a quite fascist way. You may need to do some research on the rules... not the guidelines and make what you design for your home fit the general guidelines.

A contractor does not have the right to design building plans or deck plans or addition plans on behalf of a homeowner in Ontario.  You need to take courses and get a BCIN Certificate, and then you will need a couple of million worth of "Errors and Omissions Insurance" to design decks. I design hundreds of permit plans for decks everywhere else in the world... but I only design concepts in Ontario. We have a couple of BCIN designers that we have do the working drawings if the homeowner can't handle it.

They did this in Ontario primarily for budgetary reasons. If they dumb down the design--it will take the examiners and inspectors less time to approve and inspect. If you put anything on their desk that they don't understand they will tell you to have an engineer stamp the drawing. You will then be astonished to find out that there seems to be less than 10 engineers in Canada that specialize in wood details... which makes it a little difficult to do anything not in their specifications, not to mention being exorbitant in price.

Don't give up--learn the rules and build what you want, it just may take you a few attempts to get it through. If you can make it seem like common sense, stay friendly and kind they will get used to--or tired of you and eventually acquiesce. Please don't build their standard details if you can help it--they are ugly and uninspired, outdated and I personally despise looking at them.

In Florida because they have to deal with hurricanes even a garden shed needs engineers stamp. This is purely a safety issue. Garden sheds flying around in 120 mph wind can be akin to a bomb. There are thousands of engineers and they are reasonably priced.

In California most projects also need engineering, but it is the possibility of earthquake or landslide that is the issue. Again, they seem to be reasonably priced and they are very used to it.

In many rural areas in the US you may be surprised to find that you won't even need permits or inspections for a deck or pergola. Some areas simply don't have a building department.

Now, you need to remember that not everyone is sane or kind or competent. There are bad building inspectors just like there are bad politicians, lawyers and priests. Every 100 clients we meet up with someone that is truly disturbed. There are some building inspectors that are looking for kickbacks also. I have had building inspectors nitpick everything about simple projects and cause delays for no good reason. I have personally had examiners put 5 red marks on a plan that by OBC (Ontario Building Code) should not have been there. When I argued they finally agreed but later in the project they caused other problems. Imagine a 4x8 deck and having them demand that I put in 12" sonotubes and triple 2x8 beams to support it.

Sometimes it is just not worth the fight--

If spending an extra couple of hundred dollars for extra materials or to tip the inspector is what it takes to stay on schedule, then that is the prudent thing to do.

The thing that building inspectors need to remember is that we are just regular guys, building decks and trying to make a living-- We are not the enemy. We are all just doing our job.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Market for Decks and Fences Fall 2010

The Market for Decks and Fences in North America 2010

We have had people asking how things are going in the deck and fence business of late. Some have said they closed their deck and fence business, sort of dipping their toe into the water to test the temps. As I told him it really depends where you are.

If you are based in Ontario or BC you have certainly seen things screech to a halt after they brought in an 8% tax on everything, part of the HST blending. It's not just decks and fences, but renovations, lawyers, accountants, architects and any trade. It takes a disabled government to introduce a tax grab like that in the middle of an economic downturn. That said our people have stayed busy throughout and as far as I know are all out finishing jobs from this season.

What it has done is drive low end work, (which we don't do much of), under the table. Lumber yards are telling me that most of the pressure treated jobs are being done half cash. It sure makes it rough on legitimate business to be competing with that. I expect our people will be fine though--we are in a different market.

The States, California and Florida are making a comeback-- we are seeing considerable uptick in the number of leads.

We have a new builder starting in South Florida and another in New York.. so stay tuned. New York has stayed strong throughout the economic downturn, so we know he will do well.

It looks like the US is pulling out of this economic funk... once jobs start getting created things will be back to normal in no time. It is a good time to start up if you are anywhere in the Southern States or Alberta.

You need to look at your local market before deciding to pull the trigger on a new business. So long as you have a source of high end homes locally and people are secure in their jobs--that is a good place to start up. If you are thinking to compete for low end work using flyers and the lettering on your truck for marketing--you might want to hold off for a while.

Exclusive work always has a market--someone is always making money in every area.