Friday, January 26, 2007

Celebrity Builders---pt.1

Celebrity Builders

Ok, when these celebs know their stuff, they can be ultra cool. When they don’t—Yes Dean, I mean you, it’s embarrassing for the celebrity and the entire trade is cheapened. Every celebrity builder has things that they are good at--and others they are not.

"Red Green is available for DIY advice daily on Home Envy .com "
(an example of a Tres Cool Builder!)
What absolutely grates on me the most is the makeover shows where they totally renovate, paint the house, build new decks and fully landscape with all the fittings for $1241.00.

Arrrrgh. Now, keep in mind that 20 people worked for a week for free, much of the materials and furniture were borrowed or rented or donated (in exchange for contra advertising), and the designers worked for gratis also. Most of the time they are honest enough to give a reasonable figure on materials only—but it makes people think it is easy, which in my mind is criminal. Nothing good is easy.

Ok, we’re nearing the end of today’s rant.

The ones I really love are the California and Texas “House Flipping Fiasco” shows. Buy a dump for $500,000 in a slum and turn it into 730,000 cold hard cash for a cost of 98,000 dollars for a profit of $132,000 in 3 months.

I want to see the episodes where they bought for $500,000 and put in $125,000 and filed for bankruptcy 6 months later when the house didn’t sell for $450,000 because the market corrected mid flip. NOTHING is that easy.

I have never seen a failure on those shows—I guess nobody wants to see that so it wouldn’t help ratings, or it just never happens. Who ever heard of speculators getting burned?

I am sure l'immigra is going to notice that those texans on the flip show are using all illegal labor and pull them off the air. Proceeds from crime getting snatched on national TV- now that would be a great show!

Happy Flipping To all—


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Building Decks - Becoming a deck builder

Building Decks—

Learning about building decks takes time. There’s plenty involved in making decks into an art form. Designing decks, making the design fit a budget while still maintaining a profit. Decks must also fit the client’s needs and desires (wish list), while suiting their personal taste and fitting with their homes. The design of decks is likely the most difficult skill to master.

Technical Drawings for the building department is the next hurdle involved in building decks. Most building departments will accept a hand drawn sketch to build decks, however some expect every detail about your decks to be illustrated clearly. Here in Canada they want a BCIN designer’s number. When you are building decks it is better to have every detail down on paper before you build the deck—it keeps you productive and makes for few misunderstandings with the client.

Building decks is pure carpentry. If you are a good carpenter you likely can cobble a deck together, but there is more to building decks than just being a good carpenter. There are methods for keeping the decking tight, special fasteners for pressure treated, methods for making joints shed water as well. Standing water beneath decks as well as drainage issues to keep the water out of the basement should be of paramount concern. Deck builders know many ways of fastening things that most carpenters wouldn’t even need to consider.

Where our work shines is 5 years from now. When a composite deck is yellowing and many decks are looking old—a quick touch up coat of stain and the deck looks new again.

When you are ready to finesse building decks you are educating your client throughout the process to give them something to talk about to their friends—teaching things that other contractors don’t know.

Over the years the quality of your deck building work goes up—like any trade. If you are building on your own it may progress more slowly than if you are building within a group like where you are challenged to compete and build better decks you can expect to progress more quickly. We also teach you many techniques alluded to above to increase quality.

Learning “about” building decks is different than learning “To” build decks or “Run” a deck company. Becoming a skilled craftsman is different than becoming a good manager or business owner. A good deck builder can do very well—but a good manager will grow a larger company.
To determine if you are ready to join our “ Deck Builders Group ” give me a call at 888 293 8938 and we’ll chat about it.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Starting a Deck and Fence Business in 2007

For the New Article about Starting a Deck Company click

What do we expect from this year’s economy as it relates to decks and fences?

Garden Structure .com web traffic is up nearly 25% this year. So we expect more leads and less marketing required for our Builder Group Members.

Housing Starts are weak which means more competition for those in the deck and fence business going it alone—it means that if they are selling on price alone it could be tough going. Our Builder Group is not often involved in competitive bids—so it makes us more or less immune to price pressure.

NADRA is attempting to open a chapter here in Ontario—I am still not sure as to whether that is beneficial for our Builder Group—We’ll keep you posted. My initial impression is that it is just another Directory to assist with creating more and more competitive bids.

Global warming is helping extend the Northern States and Canadian Building season…so we'll just call that an unfortunate positive factor for some.

Illegal Labor is on our radar and we hope to see solutions to level the playing field this year.

The war has created positive economic influences in many areas with economic dependence on military industries.

Expect to see Duties and Tariffs on goods coming into the US and Canada shortly thereafter —It has to do with devalued currencies from Asia and it’s just further leveling of the playing field economically.

The deck and fence business is servicing 3-7 year old houses primarily. Record building during those years 3-7 years ago will make this a banner year for professional deck companies.

Amateur companies without proper portfolio and product line—relying on word of mouth may find this year a little challenging to say the least. Since the average deck company lasts less than 6 months you may wish to re-think your strategy.

There is simply no point in re-inventing the wheel when you don't have to. From someone who has--it's expensive and can take many years.

In short, our economic Outlook for the Fence and Deck Business 2007 is Highly Positive.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Deck Apples

What are Deck Apples?

How many times have we gone out to do an estimate and we have to bring up the phrase to our customers about comparing apples for apples? It seems like a common sense question, but a lot of people simply don't get what the phrase means?

A deck is a deck right? When you are giving it 1/3 extra foundation—it still looks like a deck, it’s just a deck that you could park your car on if you had to.

If you pre-dry and finish every single part in that deck and seal 6 sides… it still looks much like any other deck, it’s just much more expensive because it takes much longer to build.

If the deck is designed to suit the clientele and their needs and contains inspired details that have taken decades to develop it is my opinion that it is worth nearly double what a normal deck would be worth. It will age more gracefully, it will last longer and it will garner more praise from family and friends. It also takes much longer to install.

I would think more people would do more home work on their part before calling for a “Free Deck Estimate”, but it just isn’t so. It just seems like such a waste of time for a reputable fence and deck contractor to come out to give valuable expertise and time just for the chance to maybe get the job.

When “Joe Shmoe Custom Decks Contractor”, sells you a deck with no profit in the job he very likely won’t be in business a year from now to back any warranty. I guess that deck warranty really isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

There are many reasons for the cheapest price to send up all kinds of red flags. If the contractor doesn’t know how to price a job-how can you be sure he knows how to build it? As a project manager I always threw out the low bid.

Just think about it this way would you rather pay 10.00 dollars for bushel of nice firm apples all the way through or take your chances on the 8.00 a bushel where the top is firm and the other two thirds are either punchy or half rotten? When it comes to clients I want to be able to provide good service—and that costs time, which I need to be paid for. For this reason I am rarely the low bid.

Salesmanship is about offering a service of value to the right people and helping them understand why our decks are a better value. A good deck salesman will teach the client how to identify quality construction and what exactly makes a deck great.

Mak ...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Comittee of Adjustment Application Fee $1250.00 YIKES!

Barrie Ontario January 1/ 2007

Committee of adjustment application fee is now $1250.00

This means if you want to build a 101sq' shed rather than a 100 square foot shed, or a fence that is 2.2 meters high or build a deck between 2 houses there is a financial spanking doled out.

From the creators of the "Do as We Say Festival", there is now a financial incentive to be good citizen and just accept what the city dictates. Not only do they want to inflict their taste on the masses--they demand we pay $1250.00 for the privilege of being told what we can or cannot build in our yards.

All the building department fees are ballooning--get caught without a permit... few hundred dollars, the cost of a basic permit is up.

Mississauga-- $150 application fee, Barrie $1250.00. Strange isn't it?

On the same subject--to obtain a permit in Oakville Ontario to build a deck you need a special permit with a deposit of a couple of thousand dollars in assurance that you will not make a mess on the street or boulevard in front of the house on city property.

BCIN numbers, insane fees, from people who don't know why a fence stands or a gate works--really is a bit of a joke.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Behavior on Site

I am only going to be able to touch the tip of the iceberg on this subject! There has been an expression among us carpenters for years. " What looks good is good" That phrase applies to more than just the out come of the project at hand.

It also applies too the way the project management performs and keeps everything moving along in a professional manor.

One of my pet peeves is to keep the job site clean and orderly through out the entire project even if we have to hire a laborer just for clean up. To me keeping the job site clean and orderly shows the customer that you take pride in what you do and that reflection carries on to the workmanship of the project itself.

I make sure every employee is busy doing something at all times. Just standing around lollygagging and smoking cigarettes does not cut it. My son Dan has been working for me since he was a freshmen in High school ask him how I feel on the subject? I won't keep my employees from smoking, but don't let it hinder your ability to keep the job progressing.

Another thing I will not tolerate is any swearing on the job. In the summer month people have their windows open and in the early morning the sound really travels if you get my drift?

Sorry if any one thinks I'm a mean boss but I was taught the correct way to act on a construction job site. Any other behavior is not going to help your company thrive.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Composite Decking -More

I received a note from a fellow that works at a large composite decking company. He gave some very candid information about the shortcomings of composite decking, such as deterioration of surface and puckering near the fasteners. He explained why it is such a struggle to create a good product with the technology that is presently available-- at least it makes sense to me.

His contention is that it is best to try because "trying" leads to eventual success. Experimentation and going through the motions leads to development and learning.

I agree entirely. That's how Honda and Toyota did it. If you remember their earliest cars--Would you ever imagine Toyota would be competing in Nascar next year?

With people like this trying--those who will compete with themselves for success-- I think they will create a superior product to wood decks some day. I would be happy to entertain ideas as to how I could work with the companies developing new composite decking products. I can see numerous ways they could improve.

"Rumor has it that there is a new composite decking product that should be
in distribution within 3 years that weighs half and is 3 x stronger than the
best composite decking is today."

Here's a laugh. I did an article on composite decking a couple of years ago.
Of 561,000 results it ranks #4 for Composite Decking (click for the search in Google)
I guess I should get that article re-written to include some recent developments.
A Prosperous New Year To All of You-- Happy 007