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.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Makela on Vinyl Fences vs Wood Fences

Here's a post from David Makela--
(He knows more about vinyl than I do).

Heres some info for the blog regarding vinyl fence products. As you know I prefer a nice custom built wood fence over a vinyl fence myself and I don't want to bite the hand that feeds me and try and compare wood against vinyl, but I do feel vinyl has its place in the fence industry just as ornamental aluminum and steel fence does!.

The out come of any fence is in the quality of the material used and the craftsmanship of the person or persons behind the installation. You can apply that rule to any style, type of fence that is to be installed. A vinyl or aluminum fence will magnify any flaw in the installation where a wood fence has a margin for error with the natural twisting sagging and bowing of the product. Vinyl is manufactured where all the material is true to form so if a post is set a quarter inch out of height or alignment it will show up where wood has a forgiveness.

Too me every style or type of fence has its place in certain applications. I like a ornamental around a swimming pool. A vinyl picket looks good on a vinyl sided colonial, A vinyl rail looks nice around a vinyl sided ranch house, And a vinyl privacy looks nice in the back of any vinyl sided home.

Like Lawrence said the vinyl fence business has come a long way since the pictures of the round coral fence shown in the previous pictures. It is not fair to judge vinyl by those pictures. I can't even buy that style of fence in today's market.

There are several companies today that manufacture their products to offer a transferable life time warrantee. The product is engineered so that they feel they can offer a product that will with stand the UV rays from the sun plus all weather conditions to prevent sagging. The product is also recyclable.

I assure you if a Quality vinyl fence is installed properly it will last and look great for many years too come!!

Some of the better products I have used are ultra guard, Buff tech, and Maximum. They are reinforced through out with a grid system of vinyl extruded on the inside of the rails Ultra Guard sells there fence in a 6 ft. on center increment. Some other manufactures have a I beam insert that is installed at the bottom rail.

Best Regards,

David Makela
Mak also Mentioned that this fence withstood a flood and looks much the way it did in these photos. If anyone has any other questions--Mak is happy to answer them in comments!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rookie Fence Building - eposode 2

How do you spot a rookie fence builder's work?

No names-addresses or embarassment. I drive alot, and I see some horriffic fences. Here's a couple with critiques. I'm clearing off my desktop, so lets use up these photos.

Possibly a beginner fence builder will see this post and learn what they need to know ahead of time.

For the rookies--we sell DIY Fence plans at the web site... just click on DIY.

#1 Beginner error- not enough support. Most carpenters get it-but amateur builders may not get the principal. You can't really blame them. I've seen this design in a few books.

To span 8' you will need the equivilent of about 7-10" of material supporting.
Which means, 2-3 2x4's stood on edge built into the structure. A 2x4
upright--nailed to a 2x4 on the flat equals 5".

I bet this (below) was a really nice looking fence when it was new. Now--a waste of wood.

The new section is actually built on the ground--and has no support either. Same mistake-10 years apart.
When you build in an area where frost is a factor--you need to leave a couple of inches below the fence. (helps prevent rot too)


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Here’s a shot of a that pergola (spy shots seen earlier during construction). It’s done for a banquet facility in Oakville. We think it turned out very well.

The purpose is for use in brochures and act as a lure for weddings. We designed it to drop a tent in behind—and stage it as an entrance to the outdoor function. Group shots can then be taken at the entrance—be it day or night functions and the backdrop will always be fabulous.
There’s a similar bar area at the back of the main facility, (smaller).

Monday, November 20, 2006

Insane Neighbors ! - A Reason for Building a Big Fence !

Here's the best reason I know for building a big fence!
I can't even imagine being in these poor people's place.
You buy a house and do all the renovations the right way--they even had the wood windows meticulously restored rather than sticking vinyl windows in.
The neighbours seem ok... until they change the furnace and stick the pipe towards your property. Not thinking much of it, you ask them to move the pipe, never realizing that the guy is about to go nuclear on you.

I've seen neighbors paint their fences hot pink on one side, I've seen stop work orders for fences on retaining walls down the street from this residence and the comittee of adjustment exist just for cases similar to this one--but mark my words, this one is different.
This one has gone way beyond reasonable and rational. One neighbor has passed through to manic behavior it's about to get interesting. (believe it or not-the one exhibiting irrational behavior is involved in the psychology field)

So, when I get the call a fence nearly 8' tall has been built, with a solid gate and a roof structure right up to the property line so that the owner can scurry around like he's in his own comfortable little nest free from the prying eyes of his neighbor.
And-he's installed 3 surveilance cameras so that he can view my client's home.
And a 2 million candle power motion sensor security light (to illiminate my client's bedroom at night)

The ladder is a permanent fixture....

And a security sign-- 8' in the air, directed at my client's dining room window.
Stay tuned...
Strategies are in place...
Lets see how it all plays out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Decorative Woodwork in North Kawartha!

Meet Garry Douglas--draftsman, carpenter--all around nice guy.
And he builds gorgeous things!
This Trellis feature was designed and built for a very special client near Peterborough.
Garry specializes in complex trellises.
He also enjoys building decks and is quite capable of designing something inspired. He even designs additions for special clients.
Nice Work Garry!
You can reach Garry at 705 656 3757

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Vinyl Fencing Failures

PVC Fencing (Poly Vinyl Chloride)

PVC Fencing has been around a few years now. This is a two part entry. I’ve invited one of my associates to comment on vinyl fencing because he knows more about it than I do.

I drive by this nearly every day.

It doesn’t work well for eavestrough, not particularly well as decking. PVC reacts with UV to cause fissure cracks in the material. It actually becomes nearly translucent, then… all of a sudden catastrophic failure. (see illustration).

PVC is a hard plastic, quite strong when new and flexible, but over time it becomes brittle.

Grass will stain it, it will scratch from weed trimmers, mud will splash up and discolor, pollution will make it dirty and dingy. There are chemical cleaners available that you spray on and wash off with a power washer-but you may have to do that yearly.

If the structure is not sufficient, it will sag.

To be fair, this was one of the original products available about 10 years ago, (the approximate age). I believe this was installed by Nordegraff Enterprises in Springwater Township more than 7 years ago..

The companies selling vinyl fence material will all tell you that the new stuff is waaay better than it used to be.

Study the warranty. The last thing I want is my associates having to face people in 10 or 15 years when these products fail. We offer a 5 year warranty on Workmanship—not the materials that go into it.
If you are going to sell it don’t misrepresent the product ok guys. I’d say low maintainence for a while… but I wouldn’t expect it to last more than 20 years unless it has reinforced concrete inside.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Another Class Action Suit for Home Depot

I've never liked Pressure Treated--If I worked with it too much I would get an eye twitch--a bit disconcerting, but I tended to shy from using it. I like the new version even less.

I've had mixed emotions about Home Depot--but I think this is a stupid frivilous law suit and quite unfair. Home Depot didn't develope the processes, they didn't take it to market. When Home Depot was founded it was an accepted product and quite mainstream. The only reason they are being sued is due to their success-- They shouldn't be sued unless all the other companies that have sold it in the past are included--and the manufacturers and chemists that dreamed it up and made the products.

I wouldn't sell my shares yet... could be years before this is settled.

One suit in Austin, one in Florida and another in Louisiana. The gist is that pressure treated materials (CCA) was known to be dangerous to humans and home depot breached the warranty by selling it as a safe product for decks and fences...

Read about it here... Home Depot Class Action--PT

If it kills bugs... it's bad for humans. I don't like pesticides for that reason either. My theory is they can help you get MS and a whole host of other nervous system disorders. Wear gloves... respirators if you can, or just stay away from it.

Using a joist flashing will prevent the chemicals from leaching into the soil, but you can't slow it down if you use it for decking.

Wouldn't it be ironic if that were the reason for cancer rates being higher near suburbia--that these carcinogens are in our drinking water?


Monday, August 21, 2006

ACQ Fasteners

ACQ Fasteners

Not Using ACQ Rated Fasteners ??

You may want to think about it.

Here’s an example of 2 year old non-ACQ rated fasteners.

The guys that installed this deck are being sued. I’m the expert witness. We removed 30 screws securing the decking—12 broke because of rot.

Spend the money—Invest in quality. Even if you have to charge more, it’s just a wise decision.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Why do posts rot ?

Why do posts rot in the ground?
Three things are necessary to cause rot. Moisture, Oxygen and the sugars occurring naturally in the timber add up to rot. This rot is worse near the surface of the ground since that is where the maximum moisture and oxygen exist.

If you are thinking that a sonotube will work better… think again. Without the post extending into the earth as leverage—fences and second level decks won’t have as much lateral support. They will lean in short order without additional bracing. Lets face it, braces on a fence? The other problem--Concrete retains moisture and actually helps rot happen faster.


Use an expoxy coating or exterior stain to seal the post prior to installation. This should extend the life 5-10 years beyond the normal 10-20 years.

Post Protector tm with silicone sealant around the upper edge is a permanent solution. This membrane is similar to the material used beneath dumps to prevent chemical infiltration into the environment. Post protectors will also protect your posts against trimmer damage. Available in 4x4, 4x6 and 6x6 sizes, they are suitable for decks, fences, arbours and pergolas. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cheapest Price for Decks ?

All deck companies have to survive so at times you have to build with lesser materials, however you want to be careful not to sell your soul—and your reputation in the process.

When folks have a small budget but want something that looks grand you can always steer them towards simplified details and pressure treated or rustic materials. You need to also educate these people as to what they should expect. Pressure treated materials will crack and twist more than red cedar—so flaws in the materials will be evident. When they stain with a solid color stain they will see knots bleeding through. Coach them towards a semi with more color- and a more rustic appearance.

Be realistic about expectations and share your experience up front.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Our New Logo

Our New Logo

This is a long story. It started many years ago. We hired numerous guys for a couple or a few hundred dollars each, and just never created what we loved for a logo.

I believe that nearly 10 people tried… and failed—or just plain gave up trying.

Through our Landscape Designer – Paul Corsetti, we met Ben. Ben is an “artist” who is extremely creative. He sells his time in $500.00 blocks. It took us 5 blocks of time to get here, but we have something that works perfectly and it all happened inside 3 weeks.

He actually created 5 different variants that can be used for other applications.

Ben is a Genius—a creative Guru—and we are grateful for his creativity.

We are pleased enough that we intend to do a showcase of his logo work within our site, so keep an eye peeled in the coming weeks.

If you need a logo—just get in touch with me by email and I’ll give you his number.
( ).


Friday, June 30, 2006

Salesmanship Standing out in a Sea of Deck Builders

Salesmanship – Standing Out in a Sea of Deck Builders

When you are arriving at a home to give your “Free Estimate” to build a deck or fence for someone… and you arrive early to see your competition being ushered out the door—and when you get rushed out the door after giving your best bid only to find 2 more competitors parked a few doors down the street you know that you are playing by someone else’s rules.

“Average Joe Builder” from “Dun Already Decks”, will tell you that this is the way to do it.

Do free estimates—That is your penance for gaining access to prospective clients.
Keep your prices low so that you get the most jobs.
Build what people want… or what you think they want based on what you see being built.
Build what you make the most money doing.
Use all the new products—whether tested or not. If other people have spent money marketing it—It must be good right?
Call all your competitors to find out what they are charging… and set your prices slightly cheaper to corner the market.

Average Joe Builder will always be Mediocre because he follows the crowd. He will be edged out of the trough because he is simply not built to discover or develop anything.

Free Estimates benefit the client… the 10 contractors that jump the shopper’s hoops or get them to come in and design their project right in their home are working for free—worse than slaves. The homeowner gets benefit of professional advice without paying a dime. There are ways to filter out price shoppers… and it takes 10 seconds on the phone.

The lowest prices will get you out of business fast. Low prices—less profit—less marketing—less success. Sell service—not a commodity.

Lots of contractors get their ideas out of magazines—that’s why they never get their work in magazines. (We’ve been featured in 30-40 magazines and newspapers so far). Nowadays folks want something designed specifically for them… not what the other guy up the street has. Listen to the client.

Value your client—and your client’s resources. Don’t supply something that will not make the client happy in the future. Be sure of what you are selling.

Basing your prices on what your competitors are doing works well for commodities… but when you are selling your creativity and talent—you need to base your pricing on needs for future prosperity. When you can’t get enough for your services to thrive it’s time to move to somewhere that you can.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Is worry about the future holding you back? I look upon my entering the business world as a necessary challenge and schooling. 18 years in business I can’t imagine placing my future in the hands of others. They just don’t have a bested interest in my well being.

Look at what you earn now. A salary of 720 per week, That’s $18 per hour right? Good money right? But then it takes you an hour a day to get to work and you are actually working 70 hours on average a week for $720. Oops, you inadvertently took a pay cut back to $10.28/hour. If you include your traveling time… $9.35/hour.

Ouch. I’d have a tough time getting out of bed for that, in fact I was making more than that in high school working part time in a muffler shop—but we’re not talking about me right now.

So… when you take deductions(252$ / wk if you are Canadian) off your $9.35/hour you see about $468/wk. If you are average you will be sliding into debt and living on consolidations at present rate. Forget retirement… unless you are counting on a lottery win, who knows, it could happen.

The average Joe has a mortgage of $1000/month, car payment, insurance and repairs, lets not forget about what the kids have, hydro, heat, phone… how do you do that on $1800/month, ($21,600/year take home pay).

I don’t normally advise someone without assets or a credit rating behind them to go into business… but someone in this situation requires drastic action to get out of debt and really has nothing to lose.

There’s a million jobs out there right now for the same money… they can always go back. At minimum they must limit the time they work at this salaried position and start making positive steps by doing freelance work on the side.

In this modern time in history—Slaves must be Fed, Clothed and Housed. This guy’s Master is shirking responsibility to his Servent.

What does Servitude feel like? It’s that sinking feeling you get when you work 70 hours a week and still can’t pay the bills.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Springtime for deck builders.

Leaves are finally appearing on trees in Ontario. Ads are hitting the magazines, sun is shining and it’s 70 degrees….

Springtime is here for deck builders—

No time for posting, I’ll be introducing our 3 new builders soon, Niagara, Burlington and London are set up and running. Mississauga-Brampton is coming soon.

The design work crush is on. Phones ring non stop. Life is good.

The work happening is gorgeous.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hourly Rates for Deck Builders

Deck Builders need about $20,000 worth of tools, Liability Insurance, Business Licenses (in some areas), Workman’s comp, A decent vehicle and of course insurance on that vehicle, associated repairs and maintenance.

You need an office, likely an answering service; you need to pay to do bookkeeping and accounting. You need a lawyer on retainer.

You need to do sales and marketing. You need flyers, letterhead, and business cards.

Deck builders require similar overhead expenses to any renovation company.

Here’s a hint. Union Carpenters make about $37/hour here in the Toronto Area. They get 10% vacation pay, dental and medical benefits. So, each man-hour costs the company about $45-50.00 per hour.

That means the company—to cover their overhead and make a small profit has to charge those guys out at $80+ per hour.

Will your rate be $35/ hour?

Are you only worth $12/hour after covering overhead?

Chinese Proverb: “He who works for free is always busy”.Don’t miss out on profitable jobs because you are too altruistic to turn away unprofitable work.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Do you love being a deck builder?

Do you love being a deck builder?

What is it that you love to do? We all know that the most successful people we know enjoy what they do—the question is how to get there?

Is it the building that you enjoy? Designing? Selling?

In the early days of a business you have to wear a number of hats, but there should be a goal in mind, that you consistently work towards. How do we move toward doing only what we love?

If you like the building side, you have to hire and train managers and salesmen. This is difficult. Front line people have the most dramatic effect on the business. If you are building all day—you can’t be available to observe what these people are doing for you. You see the results, and experience them when crews flee, and clients complain (hopefully). In fact, being a builder and allowing other people to run your deck company is dangerous.

Enjoying the management aspects—being the juggler is more typical for our crews. Most of the guys will pitch in when necessary, but normally they have their lead hands who run day to day installations. Management of your deck company is where profitable decisions are made and where the greatest impact on company persona is made.

Sales is one of the major 3 tasks—No deck company can survive or thrive without it. It’s where profit is made or left at the table, and it is also your PR . It is the front line representation for your company—the face of your company.

Hire well—and watch your deck company thrive!


Monday, April 03, 2006

Amateur Deck Building--How to spot it!

I won’t often link to a competitor’s website, but in this case I make an exception.
(I don’t see them as realistic competition anyhow). (another photo of cleat type steps and climbable rails)

Here’s a photo of their best work. (it’s on most main pages-it rotates with a few others--java tricks)

Stairs made with cleats rather than cut stringers. It’s dangerous, Illegal and shows that they are not serious enough about what they do to bother learning how to do it right.

“Our structures are properly designed, structurally sound and built to perfection. Safety should always be on top of the list of every decking company. You can rest assured safety is a top priority at ROYAL Decks Co.” ( this quote is on their portfolio page)

I haven’t dug very deep into their site past the first page of their portfolio, but if you look at the first photo… there are balusters spaced more than 4” apart—close to 6” by my eye.

If they don’t know the absolute basics like these things, how will they ever survive?

They will get sued, they will lose clients as these poor techniques become their reputation, and soon, they will cease to exist.

This is a preliminary post to Tuesday’s Topic… ‘How to tell when a project is built by an amateur.’

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Which jobs will benefit your deck business?

Which jobs will benefit a deck builder?

Running from little job to little job may not be the best thing for a deck builder.
Small jobs may be all you can get presently—but booking 5 months in advance and all the jobs being basic in scope may pigeon-hole you as a deck builder that just does “little decks”. This happened to a friend of mine many years ago—and he worked for a long time to dispel this myth.

How about this scenario. You are booked solid for 5 months come May 1’st. You get a lead to do a 5 level deck, 2200 square feet and you know that it will set your deck portfolio apart from all the competition. There’s a healthy budget, but you are booked 5 months doing mediocre work.

Do you drop or postpone a few jobs? Do you squeeze it in? Do you hire another crew? Each of these options could mean unhappy clientele in the months that follow.

Here’s my solution-

Increase prices to make sure you are only booked 6-8 weeks in advance. This maximizes profit and ensures that you will be able to capitalize on those good jobs when they happen.

“He who works for free is always busy”


Monday, March 20, 2006

How to Sell Decks and Fences

How to Sell Decks and Fences ( prelude )

Selling decks and fences is 80% preparation and 20% experience.

Here are the absolute basics. ( Prelude to the sale )

  1. You need to show people your best work. How will you do this? Creativity counts. We give our builders the best portfolio and display work in the business. 20 years of beautiful projects like half million dollar tennis courts and up-scale trelliswork. This tells our potential clients that we are simply the best.

  2. You may not have the car of your dreams-in fact it might be a little rough. Your car should not be as nice as your best clients, it may be slightly better than what you find in your pressure treated clientele’s drive. Showing up in a $100,000 Mercedes S class says the wrong thing for a deck company. The vehicle should be respectable but not ostentatious, well maintained and signs add to credibility. If your vehicle is in obvious need of repair park a couple of doors down as not to call attention to it. If your car leaks fluids, park on the road and plan on upgrading soon.

  3. Up-scale clients will expect you to be in office casual. Armani suits may say that you are expensive-but office casual will say that you are a respectable business man. Show up in ripped jeans and people will have reservations about giving you a check. A company shirt with logo will also help confidence.

  4. Shoes-believe it or not are very important to high-end clients. They know that $30.00 shoes denote that they out-class you. I know what you are thinking here. That’s ridiculous, and if you went to a public school you may just be thinking that. This is just something you will have to trust me on, until you buy a pair of Browns, Bass, or Geox for $150-250. When you pay attention take a look at how the people in the big house look inside your shoes when you take them off. A little detail like this will actually make it easier to sell to high-end clients. Showing up in office casual clothes, with good shoes and they see you as respectable and valuing quality. If you choose to invest in good shoes you will obviously shop for the best materials for them.

  5. Do you have your portfolio, design resources, contracts, brochures, business cards, drawing pad, tape measure, a good pen? You are ready to approach the door. Have a card in your hand… and approach.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Building Decks in your own backyard

A Greek businessman once told me, “ Do Business in your own back yard “. When questioned about it his point to me was to stay local. Create a business that draws clientele to you. Transportation is expensive, and time on the road is time wasted.

This is the most compelling reason for staying local.

In our area here there are a couple of new deck company start-ups attempting to cover the entire area. They are both marketing themselves as the most creative (they are not),and the least expensive (they are). On top of having higher transportation costs, they have the smallest profit margin (if any). I would warrant a guess that both are utilizing illegal labor, (just a hunch) and sub-standard materials.

They are both marketing hard, pay per click advertising, and I know one is a full time student.

Every year there are a hundred or so start up deck companies—every year most of them go broke. Some survive a while—but rarely do they ever succeed.

This is why I am so proud of our crews.

In the 3 year history of our network, one closed his doors (he was trying to run 3 businesses simultaneously—2 lost money, which tapped the business we were helping him with for money).

Another got cancer and closed the doors, and another picked up and moved to Quebec to fulfill his dream of opening a Hungarian restaurant.

Only 3 have left the network in 3 years… this record is far and beyond the normal 75% business failure rate in the first 3 years that is the standard ratio in Ontario.

I really believe we are building our installation network utilizing the best quality people in our areas.

Well done Gents!


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Landscape Design by Garden Structure .com

Landscape Design by Garden Structure!

Garden is now in the Landscape Design Business!

We also have been working hard on getting Paul Corsetti set up as our first Landscape Designer who will be operating in the Greater Toronto Area. He’s a trained Architect—but since the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects has rigid specifications as to who can refer to themselves as a Landscape Architect, he can only refer to himself as a Landscape Designer. Even though he has been trained as a Landscape Architect—With a diploma in Landscape Architecture and a B.A. in Landscape Architecture from Ryerson—Unless he has put in his time working for tiny wages for a Registered Landscape Architect and has paid his fees to the OALA, he cannot legally refer to himself as a Landscape Architect.

We at Garden believe that people should be judged on merit—He’s finished his school, and the rules simply are not right. We have always backed the talented underdog—that’s just part of our Culture here at Garden

There are good and bad Landscape Architects in every area. Paul is backing up his abilities with a satisfaction guarantee—It’s part of our arrangement.
Further, we are arming Paul with the best architectural woodwork details going.

Welcome to the Team Paul!

Friday, March 03, 2006

It's A New Age for Deck Builders

A New Age for the Service Industry

Remember the old days? Nobody wanted to be a carpenter, electrician, janitor, plumber.

These are apparently tough jobs and the pay wasn’t great. Last year I met a couple of guys running a janitorial company and it seems they both make over $125,000 a year working no more than 40 hours a week.

If janitors now make that kind of money what are carpenters worth?

For many years carpentry and all service businesses simply weren’t attractive to kids coming out of school. This trend is still firmly in place but perceptions are changing quickly as pay rates rise. I say—let the exodus from the trades continue, it means more money for the rest of us..

Even with an estimated 35,000 illegal workers in the Toronto area (100,000 illegal aliens), the price of hiring a carpenter is rising. I hear that even the illegal workers are charging out at over $20/hour.

That means legitimate carpenters and specialists (like us), can charge upwards of $30-$70/hour.

I believe that in the very near future this shortage of skilled professional tradesmen will result in more respect for and much better pay for all of us.

I’ve had Lawyers and numerous other professionals like project managers and teachers approaching me to get into the trades full time—this is the trend. They know that the writing is on the wall.

People will be getting very wealthy in the next decades from trade careers.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Business Plans for Builders of Decks and Fences

Business Plans for Builders of Decks and Fences.
Business plans are a necessity for any business, whether it is retail or a builder of decks and fences. Here are a few elements we coach our licensees to include in their business plans:
Marketing Plan, even if it is primarily word of mouth/networking. We ask them to treat even those activities as a job--with goals and quotas.
Include an analysis of your competition. (Critique of their business from an outsider).
Perform a realistic analysis of your challenges and advantages. The entire business plan should utilize feedback and opinions from people not connected, related to or dependent upon your business. Important to get impartial advice when hatching a plan.
Address Economic Expectations. What if interest rates shoot to 15% (a reality not that long ago), or a prolonged war were to happen, or terrorists attacked your city? How would your business cope and thrive? Disaster scenarios are a useful exercise. Things like that will go a long way towards tightening up your strategy and increasing your confidence as well as your lenders.
A business plan will help you identify goals—this enables you to do away with activities in business that don’t help you achieve those goals.
Your business plan can contain many things that most other folks don't include... get creative.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Designing decks and fences

Where do designs for decks and fences come from?

Designing decks and fences is a challenge in the beginning.

Any art—has to be developed. I don’t believe anyone is “born to be great”, skills are developed, challenges are met, practice makes it easy. If I were born a great designer my childhood first lean to structure in the woods would have looked more like a castle than the pile of sticks that ended up falling down.

I can remember Bob Bateman (my HS art teacher) asking me not to return to his art class since I just had no natural talent. Cheers Bob— and thanks.

We all start out the same way—copying, emulating and building our skills. Eventually, your own style will evolve. Some are very different than the norm—some are closer to the normal in appearance.

I was fortunate that my designs had to be toned down 90% in the early days. People simply wouldn’t take the chance. Not much call for driveway gates that resemble Angel’s wings anyhow.


Friday, February 17, 2006

The Environment and your Deck Business

Choose your Deck Business location carefully. You will be at the mercy of your environment both weather wise, economic and even phone service is a factor.

I am located in a little oasis of houses in the middle of farmer's fields to the south east of georgian bay. For about 500 miles cold wind over open (warmer water) picks up moisture and dumps it here in the form of snow. Add 50-60 mph wind and outside our little cluster of houses you can see 3-5' or- looking out your propped open car door you may be able to see the line on the pavement in spots.

Obviously, I'm going nowhere today.

This happens about 10-12 days a year. It's just part of living here and I don't mind. Clients you have to cancel or delay appts for often do--but in this kind of situation they will have to understand.

This is a fairly healthy community with plenty of work for a deck builder within an hour. Barrie and Collingwood are 1/2 hour away, but you have to factor in traveling time to your pricing.

Locating in a depressed economy will mean low prices for what you do--and likely considerable competition.

Here's another quirk to my location. I have 2 phone lines--that's all I can get. I am also on a dialup internet connection. No phone or cable company can help. Even sattelites don't work 5 or 6 days a year. They have no plans to install the equipment to enable high speed here.

With 2-3,000 emails coming in a day, and a site getting 10,000 visits a day staying is an impossibility.

There are many considerations to locating your deck business.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Confidence and your deck company.

It takes confidence to build a better deck company.

This morning my 3 year old woke up and informed us that “I’m 5 now”. In his mind—he can do anything. We are not born with a defeatist attitude.

Back in grade school I had numerous teachers along with my parents line up to clear any thoughts from my head of doing anything outside their believed field of reach.

“You Can’t Do That!”, “You’ll never be able to achieve that!—Don’t even think about trying to do that”.

It’s not their fault. That’s what they were taught—and that’s what they teach us.

If you attended a public school (like I did), you may just require some de-programming.

Think up 5 things you can’t do…. The fastest things to come to their mind.

You can’t become the president

You can’t become the best mathematician

You can’t be an investment mogul

You can’t become a senator

Or maybe it looks like this… You can’t do _______, You don’t or Never Will have enough money, power or invluence to do something like _________.

Good… Take your mental chalk brush… wipe it away. Those truths as you know it no longer exist.

There is nothing you cannot do.
Accept it--believe it--live by it.

Here is a truth.

The public school system’s purpose in the early days was to “Create better workers for the factory owners”. This is why—quite inadvertently, the public school system still strips the students of confidence and positive mental attitude.

There are many great teachers in the public system—who normally didn’t attend a private school. Without attending private school the belief in one’s own abilities is missing or dampened somewhat. If they have not got the “private education attitude”, they simply cannot transfer that attitude to the students.

Once you recognize this fact your perception of reality changes radically.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Search Directories for Deck and Fence Builders

Deck, Fence and Renovation Directories

There are millions of directories for numerous subjects and headings. I am not mentioning any—they don’t need marketing from my little blog. What I can say is that competition is good—to a point.

The infiltration into Google, MSN and Yahoo (the three major search engines) by thousands of directories is negating the whole reason the web was created.

Even the phone companies are getting in on the act. That should tell you something.
When the phone directories are creating on-line directories it means that the internet has reached a critical mass.

Check out Boston Decks as an example. 7 directory sites, a british deck builder and two cruise lines. Not a single deck builder there. (check it again in a week or so and we’ll have top position). That’s where our newest associate is and we’ll put him near the top in short order.

Soon enough the search engines will change things up enough to get those directories scrambling to get back on the list.

That’s the thing about subscribing to the directory sites—they may have good ranking today, but they may not be anywhere to be found very soon.

Go Pro .ca was one of the big shots in the directory business—building and selling websites and driving plenty of traffic.

Check out their stats. This is like a study of when Google changes the rules. Every time the search engines changed the rules—their traffic tumbled.

Go Pro Stats here

The other downside of directories—just like the phone book, they attract shoppers. Shoppers will use up your time, and a few other contractors while they dig for the lowest possible price. These folks will cost you production time and plenty of money when you are selling against 10 other Contractors.

Whenever you are bidding against numerous other companies for the same job your sales ratio will plummet. That’s where marketing comes in. When you have more leads you get to choose which are the best opportunities to invest your time in.

Spend Carefully—


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Honorability-crediting Designers and Builders

Credit Designers-- It's only fair!

Designers, Builders, photographers and contractors all have a stake in and claim credit to their work. At times--the lines of protocol are a little fuzzy.

It goes something like this normally.

If you designed it or contracted the design and your crews installed it you can claim it as your own work. If you designed it... claim the design-- If you built it... Claim the installation--if you contracted it... Claim the contract.

But not...

If you were the landscape contractor--you can claim the entire job as your own--even if you didn't contract, design or pay for the design of the project or even install all the elements.

Now, I want to get this right. Photography and Stone work by Markville Landscaping, plantings by Markville Landscaping. The original Concept designs were by Elizabeth Tschoppe Garden Design and the woodwork detailing, shop drawings and installation was by Winterburn Group ( the web site was developed).
I can tell you that this company featured our work on the cover of their brochures for a few years--without credit.

We chatted about numerous jobs over the years--however the owner always wanted credit--as he assumed it on this job, which simply wasn't right. Since I knew he wasn't giving us credit for the work we did, we simply refused to do any more work for him.

This job is about 10 years old now. Water under a very old bridge. Nowadays we would shut someone down for just that kind of thing... but it doesn't seem this guy has made millions from claiming our work was his own--likely just barely stayed in business. In our original area of operations we are likely one of the most emulated of companies... we are happy to be so well respected by our competition.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Pricing Decks Fences and Pergolas

Pricing Decks, Fences and Pergolas is easy right?

Just collect the flyers that come to your door, call all your competition in the phone book and have them out for a free estimate at your house… Then put your price in the middle of the pack.
Or… Not.

Look—Some of the guys in the Deck and Fence business don’t have a clue. Some of them are con artists that collect deposits and never come back. Some are part time pressure treated jockeys and have regular jobs—some are on employment insurance and only have to make $5.00 per hour.

Would you compete with someone working for free?

Do you think that those guys working for free will actually honor warranty service on something that was lacking structurally?

Apples should not be compared to rotten apples.

Every time a factory closes there are 50 new contractors with shiny new trucks, business cards and cool logos. No business training—little sales ability—they are all competing and selling on price alone.

Without profit the business is doomed.

Try Calculating a price based on your costs, your pay and profit calculated in.

I’m not going to include pricing here—since we help all our builders set their pricing so that they make profit—Real profit so that they can build a real business.


Sabotaging Sales of Decks and Fences

Top 10 ways to sabotage Sales ( Selling Decks and Fences)

  1. Miss the appointment (then don’t call for a week or two—or ever)

  2. Arrive late.

  3. Arrive intoxicated—worse still if you choose to partake in a beverage if offered during the estimate.

  4. Close talking—Loud Talking—Arrogance, Ignorance or generally abrasive attitude.

  5. Arrive at the quote without a portfolio—or use an unimpressive collection of photos.

  6. Smell of cigarettes.

  7. Try to sell a plastic deck to someone who knows too much about it.

  8. Arrive in a truck that is an obvious state of disrepair. (Park a few houses away—better to just fix the truck or lease a newer vehicle)

  9. Get into discussion of political or religious nature with the clients.

  10. Arrive unprepared to sell—no contracts, no design materials, no tape measure.

There are hundreds of ways to minimize your chances of making the sale. When you make a mistake or don’t get the sale simply ask the client why. 90% of the time they will be brutally honest. It is a task well worth doing. It will help you grow thick skin and give you a road map for future estimates.


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Business Mentors

Business Mentors

Whether involved in a similar business or not—A mentor will keep us grounded, cause us to question things we assume and offer advice that will save us potential losses later.

A couple of my mentors early on (most important time);

Steven (an entrepreneur I built a restaurant for when I was 19. We both lived about an hour away at the time—so we had 2 hours a day to talk business. He was Greek businessman who started with $5000 of borrowed money in 1971 and by the time I met up with him he had a couple of hundred houses and 2-70 unit apartment buildings and 5 restaurants. The guy was self made and trained in the Greek hard fought business academy.

Bill White was the president of the Amex Bank of Canada for a few years in the 80’s. Started his business having to do with setting up large retail chains with credit cards. He was the one who imparted to me the need to market constantly. He was actually a client in the early days—Very generous for sharing his knowledge.

Any company—large or small needs mentors and friendly folks to help steer and make decisions for your company. One guy making all the decisions is bound to make errors that the collective would catch early. In corporations it is the Board of Directors and or the Steering Committee.

Time must be taken to consider the important questions having to do with strategy and direction. Skip this portion of planning at your peril.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Decks and Fences for Cash?

Decks and Fences for Cash?

The first thing you have to ask yourself—Are you building your business for the future or for short term gain?

If you are serious about building your business or are you just augmenting your income at your regular job?

If your business loses money year upon year you will not be able to borrow money for expansion or a mortgage or to buy equipment.

When you are fudging the books the government knows. If you think you are smarter than the auditors you should re-examine your perceptions. Many people think that audits are doled out by lottery. This is a serious misnomer. What the government auditors don’t advertise is that they have a brilliant system for discerning who is cheating and who is not.

When people make up numbers they tend to (always) choose larger numbers than naturally occur. Look at the price of everything you buy. Large numbers. $19.99, $299.95, $27,999. Now… look at the number of 9’s. Multiply the first number x 2 , second number by 3, third number by 4… 39.98 , 899.85, 111 996, total it up
112,935.83. Use any made up numbers you like… in the end there should be a certain percentage of 1’s, 2’s, 3’s etc in your numbers. When cheaters get caught again and again they think it is a conspiracy--

There exists a formula in the main computer—when your numbers are inputted, they are compared to natural numbers. + Or - a certain percent and they know you have fudged the numbers. When you fudge the numbers you get audited so it simply is not worth the risk.

Secondly—Cash price is a method used by some people to get a better price—trimming your profit margin. If you were satisfied with a lower profit margin why not lower your prices and market your lower prices. You may be able to start another couple of crews who work for a smaller profit.

The third and most compelling reason not to do cash work is the fact that you are doing damage to your reputation. The majority of people see cash work as shady and underhanded. If you want your company to be seen this way—go right ahead.

We recently had a campaign manager for a prominent politician ask one of our licensees to do work for cash—You can bet I voted against his political party in this recent election.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

PVC -Vinyl or Composite Pergolas?

PVC -Vinyl or Composite Pergolas?

People are writing and calling wanting Vinyl and Composite Pergolas. People see the beautiful photos on and for some reason assume that they are made of Maintenance Free Materials. This is because our pergolas are often solid color stain on wood finishes. We use an upgraded (good cut) of materials and normally it is red cedar which cracks little and the knots don’t bleed through the finish.
When we pre-finish the materials the first application on pergolas can last between 5-7 years. At which time you can re-finish and it will look new again.

Vinyl Materials= Poly Vinyl Chloride—plumbing materials.
They made eves trough out of it… (Didn’t work), fencing (photo)-early designs didn’t work-but later versions look much better. I suspect there is some metal inside the vinyl shell to prevent sagging. The PVC arbor’s I see look fine—but they are likely a bit wobbly when tested.

One thing to remember is that PVC gets brittle over time when exposed to UV. It’s not a product that was originally designed for exterior use. When it gets elderly it will begin to get weak and eventually shatter when tested.

Vinyl and composites will also discolor where it comes in contact with grass, dirt splash, rust or hard water and pollution in general. It will not remain the original color and look new forever. It will need a chemical wash to alleviate these stains every year or two. After the chemical wash it won’t quite look like the original-there will be a bit of a milky looking residue and the finish will appear a bit washed out.

Due to numerous law suits which proved that the materials being marketed as maintenance free materials were not in fact Maintenance free—most companies are now calling their materials “Low Maintenance” and advising people that it will need yearly cleaning. These materials are also not known or recognized to be structurally suitable materials.

These PVC—Vinyl—and Composite Materials are still in the development stage. They seem to have some promise, however is only recommending and supplying products we know you will be happy with for a 10 year duration.

Our opinion is that Vinyl, PVC and Composite Pergolas are not ready for our endorsement yet.

If your company offers any type of warranty and you are considering carrying these composite, vinyl or pvc products-consider carefully.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Design Insights—Pergolas and Pools

Every month I get people asking for 20’ plus spans incorporated in pergolas.

Here’s an email from yesterday.

My question is that I want to build a pergola on part of my pool, my pool, the pergola would cover only ¼ of the pool, the problem is that the width of the pergola would have to be about 20 feet long across the pool and therefore we cannot place a column in the pool, would it be possible to not have a column in the middle on one side (the side that goes over the pool) of the pergola and still have the structure be safe? I would like to have the pergola made out of a non maintenance free material.

Thank you


People are constantly insisting that they want a pergola—but they don’t want to have posts obstructing the view. I am sure you will all agree that this kind of pergola structure and support for climbing vines is just messy and horrible. If I had to wake up every day and see this wood obstructing my view every day I don’t know if I would want to go on.
I am sure you will agree that this frames the pool, accents the view and just plain looks fabulous.

Pergolas get their strength from support posts and diagonal bracing. The more braces, the more wind it will resist and the longer the pergola will last. More posts, more braces, more strength, more durability.

Clustering posts in areas can create a feature as well as hide unsightly structures and elements in your neighbor’s yard.

By the way—the pergola project above is based on details included in this plan at Here's the link "Pergola Plans" $17.99 + ($3.00 S&H) It is Pergola Plan T005 pro.

So, in conclusion Parul,

No, you don’t want to leave posts out—celebrate your posts… make them beautiful and plentiful. Give them recessed panels and decorative braces, frame your view and create more points of interest with your pergolas.

Secondly, why do you want a pergola over your pool? Is it for avoiding a sun tan while using your floatation devices in your pool? Frame the pool, keep the space functional, traditional and build something gorgeous rather than a perched pergola that will blow over the first windy day.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dealing with Clients--Politics, Religion and Decks

Building decks is in fact a popularity contest.

Say nothing, express no strong opinions about anything but construction techniques, materials, design and non-inflammatory subjects.

Disagreements and ill perceptions must be avoided at all costs.

Politics and religion are not subjects that you want to get into unless you are prepared to only work within your chosen groups. If you want to be a large and successful company you must work for all ethnic groups, religions and political persuasions.

People’s beliefs are core to them. It is who they are. What they respect. If they are republican and you have democratic bumper stickers—you don’t get the job. Do not get lulled into political or religious discussions. Figure out a casual way of worming out of that prickly situation.

So, in summary here’s a list of words not to use in the presence of clients.

Regime Change (if you happen to be Canadian),
Religion, Religious, Church, Bible, Allah, Koran,
Liberal, Conservative, Neo Con, Republican, Democrat, Communists
Sweeping generalizations against politicians, tax collectors, lawyers and mechanics.

No Incendiary Subjects!!!

Keep everything positive; keep it moving in the direction of the sale. Don’t give an excuse not to deal with you.

By all means—be involved politically. Any associations or groups will be the source of additional business and many of us do have strong beliefs and views. I think it is part of the entrepreneurial personality. Exercise your need for association—just don’t use your business as a soapbox.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Where do people look to find a Deck Builder.

Where do people look to find a Deck Builder?

Yellow pages—is often the first stop. Talking to Scott Stevens of Outdoor Style (A deck builder currently being set up with us in Newmarket Ontario), these leads are mostly price based. They are looking for competitive quotes. They want quality too, however they seem to assume that everyone building decks were trained at the same school and that decks are a commodity—rather than art.

Adding a website to a yellow pages ad can go a long way to qualifying your prospects—and even convincing them that you are the guy to deal with.

The Internet is quickly becoming the choice of more educated buyers. People want to see a bit of what the contractors do. A site that shows up where the people expect to find you and then wows the people with high quality and creative work tends to develop quality prospects

Sites that promise top quality—lowest price—free estimates and we’ll even water your plants and take out your garbage tend to develop more leads—that rarely end up translating to profit for the contractor.

Direct Mail is often a waste of time since normally they consist of a black and white sheet of paper with Best Deckbuilder in Kansas—and a phone number. Most subdivisions will get 20 deck company flyers delivered to their door every spring. This is a great opportunity for a company to upstage the competition. Show them far better work on a better brochure and you will demand a better price and walk away with the job whenever the people have a budget. Further directing them to a great website will also improve response.

Referrals are fabulous—but remember they don’t happen nearly enough. These leads must be cultivated. Keep in touch and become friends with all your clients—they will remember you whenever the occasion to plug your services arrives.

Lawn Signs tell people that your current customer is happy—and since you are already working in their area you are the company for them. Again—website displayed on the sign to offer more information and you are pre-selling for the future.
I can remember my first sign guy saying—“A good Sign is a Sign of Good Business”


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What do Deck Builders do in Winter Months?

Do Deck Builders Work in the Winter?

We have actually dispensed dozens of leads in the last 3 weeks so this warm weather has people in the mood to build. I think we are also seeing people planning further ahead due to the building skilled trade shortage all across North America.

We are building—planning—selling—and designing already for spring work. Our spring magazine ads are getting booked in the next 2 weeks and flyers are already printed for the spring season. They are being boxed and distributed this week.

The web site is being updated in the next month to show off all our best work in the last year.

Time to get Busy!


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Marketing your Deck and Fence Business

Beyond the whole "Make Every Customer Happy" and "Build it like it's your own" analogies there is something different known as Marketing.

Marketing is everything beyond doing your job well. It is necessary for survival and will ensure there is profit and sustainability. No Marketing--eventually No Business.

I hear it every day--"I don't have to do any marketing, I work on Word of Mouth Advertising".

I don't say it--but here's what I think when I hear that. :

"Who taught him to wing it? Why do people believe that the economy will not change? Where do they all come from? I have heard it from many energetic youngsters to the business world--and they rarely survive more than a couple of years. Often I fantasize about meeting up a few years later and seeing a nice bold sign on their truck and telling me that their profit has increased dramatically since they started marketing their business.

Here's what I'd like to say:

"If you are a sub contractor--or an indentured servant you don't need to market yourself. You are willing to work for the base rate--you are willing to work hard and do what you are told forever. You are not really in "Business" anyway--so don't worry about marketing".

"Now--If you are serious about business you want to cast a nice targeted net to bring you more leads than you need so that you can select only the best clients from the leads. More leads means more profit--more profit and you have money for expansion--to pay and retain your employees better--to have better tools--better location--better marketing--and retire early."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Welcome to the Decks Blog

I want to help people build their deck business and simply do better.

Who am I?

I own a company called

This is where the decks fences and pergolas portfolio site is located.

I've been in the deck business for nearly 20 years now and am well known as an expert in the field. My designs and finished products have been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers in Canada and the US.

I intend to share general ideas about this kind of business and what your typical deck company does wrong as well as ideas about how to make your company thrive and endure whatever the economy is doing.

If you are planning to get into the deck and fence business or are already involved in the business please enjoy this resource.

Best Wishes for the new year!