Wednesday, January 16, 2008 featured in Magazines Spring 08 Fences, Decks and Pergolas are being featured in the Spring Magazines

Of course we have the best designs in the world—and the magazines are taking notice.

We have been supplying magazines like House and Home, Canadian Living, Home Workshop, Canadian Gardening, Newspapers like the Hartford Courant and The Tribune, as well as on line publications like with our unique designs, insights and content for many years.

We were credited with a pergola design in the Florida Magazine "House Trends" recently.

Look for our designs to be featured in Contractors Advantage Magazine and “This Old House” Magazine soon!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Xtendex Composite Decking

Our Builder in Barrie "Jamie Elliot" advised me this past week that one of our competitors in the area has bought a few lifts of composite decking " Xtendex " from the defunct composite decking plant in Barrie.

They are selling it at competitive prices to cedar--The alarming part is that they are not advising the potential buyer that there is no warranty and the product may have maintenance issues. He knows--because he saw the estimate.

Xtendex went bankrupt a few years back... The Carney Timber Company-McFarland Cascade bought it out and then this past summer closed the plant again. Obviously, there is no longer any warranty on Xtendex products. They had a big auction and piles of the product were sold at fire sale prices.

Information released to Professional Deck Builder Magazine (click for full article) inferred that they had stock to last 2 years--however this was sold off at a giant fire sale auction last fall.

If a company goes bankrupt-normally it is due to a faulty product. I'll zoom you back a few years. I noticed this horrible composite decking display from the highway--when you notice how horrible something is from 200 yards away, there's no question; the product had issues.

You won't be able to buy replacement material, there is no warranty on the product whatsoever and as you can see in the above photo...every lift is a slightly different color. Fading and stains are an issue with all these composite products.

Composite decking is not structural material--so the rails will have to be made from something else.

If someone is trying to sell you a composite deck at a price that seems unrealistic-- Run away!
First grade composite decking goes for over $50.00 a square foot installed... when you are offered something cheaper, and it is represented as first grade, there is a high probability you are being ripped off.

Our simple rule of composite, if it contains recycled plastic and organics like pulp lumber--brace yourself for a product prone to mold and early deterioration. The sugar contained in the old pop bottles along with the fuel supplied by the wood pulp make for a mold generating machine.
The virgin vinyl is a little better, however they are very expensive.

PVC products tend to expand and contract severely due to temperature changes.

To read more about composite decking and photos of composite decks click here.

The beauty of wood--you can make it new again a few years after it is built! Have a look at a few of our wood decks. Many of the photos of these wood decks were taken 3-5 years after installation and they age more gracefully due to pre-staining.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cheapest Decks and Fences

Too Busy—

What do the following statements mean to you when said by a contractor?

I’m too busy.

I don’t have a problem getting work.

I’m as busy as I want to be.

Well, that means to me that you are Selling too cheap. (Confirmed when I read on the website that they are installing deck packages from lumber yards for less than what I paid subs 10 years ago.)

It means to me that you are in a boom town and anyone with a skill saw and most of their fingers can get busy working cheap.

Old proverb; “He who works for free is always busy”

It is a tough thing to grow a company from infancy. Without a coach we are doomed to be a mediocre business. Someone has to tell us that we are undercharging.

Here are the top frustrations of this business coach.

Builders undervaluing their time and expertise. (Your labor rates should be union scale or better after all expenses). If you want to re-invest some back into the company that is fine!

People that know it all. When you know it all you have just set the boundary of your knowledge.

Guys that believe they can start a website and get enough traffic to keep them busy in weeks. (IT TAKES YEARS TO GET TRAFFIC!). The average website will see 20 visits a year.

Good skills and no Business Training or resources or even a mentor to bounce ideas off of.

Guys that outgrow themselves—which means they sell 50 decks before they figure out what their pricing should be or base their pricing on that of their apparent competition.

Spending themselves into a ditch before they stabilize the business. Do it small scale first. What is the rush? Avoid large purchases until near the end of your first tax year.

Being able to charge more, choose which jobs to take and staying local are all benefits of having more quality marketing happening than you need.

Having these advantages are what will makes your company a GREAT Deck and Fence Business. Our Builder Group will also set you up with the best portfolio and sales tools in the business, and help you benefit from the busiest web site in the business.

To find out more about our Deck and Fence Builder Group click here or call Lawrence Winterburn at 888 293 8938


Friday, January 04, 2008

How soon to apply stain to a new wood deck?

How soon after building should you wait to stain a wood deck?

The answer may upset you. If you are asking this question you have likely already built your deck.

Did you leave spaces between the decking boards? How much? Without space the boards won’t dry sufficiently after rain. To get a good coat of stain on you may have to wait for a drought of 2 months or more for the moisture to escape the wood.

The best time to stain is before the deck is built. Dry, Deglaze and apply a coat of stain before you build. Sealing the end grains every time you cut will give you the longest lasting stain job.

Most of our “Builder Group Contractors” can do it, however it is a serious premium. Sometimes people opt to do the stain work themselves and then have us build the deck and end cut. You end up having to pay a little more for the extra work and ruined clothing—but that will solve the peeling stain issue.

For more information on Exterior Stain Application click here.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Deck and Fence Business Economics 2008

Someone asked me the other day how much money they could make—expecting me to say it is unlimited.

My answer—Well, that depends how hard you work, how good a manager you are, the local economic situation, how skilled a tradesman you are (or hire), how well you pick up the design aspects of your new job and numerous other factors.

If you rub every customer the wrong way, or show up in a Corvette to estimate a modest deck, wear a beer tee shirt to the quote, or try to sell with a phone number that folks have to dial long distance to contact you it is bound to be sluggish.

If you sell too cheap, nothing will make you a success.

Competing on price with unregistered, uninsured and illegitimate competitors is also a recipe for disaster.

Make the error of giving your company the wrong name there will not be much I can do for you

Names like Dirt Cheap Landscaping-Decks R US or you have slang words like Stuff or containing clever misspellings will often sabotage efforts to do more prestigious work or demand a fair market value for your upscale offerings.

Someone who just doesn’t have enough time to work 8 hours a day is not likely to do as well as someone putting in a full week of work.

When the economy looks tough, as it appears it may be in the coming year, you may wish to give some careful consideration to overcoming the obvious challenges.

“Shoot while the birds are in the air”, is short sighted and reactionary bit of advice. When there are no birds in the air it is bush beating time… or time to go hunting in other local bushes.

We are seeing it in Tampa. Housing has been discounted 35%, and our local builder has plenty of calls. When people can buy a house cheap—they are more willing to put money into it. Housing has always appreciated in the long term… and when you buy well you simply can’t miss.

There are more ways of looking at an entire economy even during challenging times. I have seen many people make their fortune during recession and met others that amassed a fortune during an actual Depression. In every economic circumstance someone is making money. I bet trustees, bailiffs and auctioneers are doing rather well in some areas.

Some people are defeated by difficulties—others are motivated by challenges and learn from them.

One guy may make a good living—another can build an empire but the most brilliant thing is the fact that it is your choice to make.

We are happy to be here to help you achieve your goals in 2008.


(For more information about our Builder Group Licensing- click here or dial 888 293 8938 and ask for Lawrence Winterburn)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Deck Builders Trends 2008 / 2009

The latest trends in the Deck Business 2008 / 2009

2006’s Trend of using IPE for decks has crashed for the main reasons of quality and price. It doesn’t arrive kiln dried so it tends to crack and twist badly as it dries. We’ve seen some poor quality stuff retailed locally and it is extremely difficult to work with.
Apparently Ipe is on the list of endangered species so we have ceased using it at all.

Lighted post caps are a trend, however built in low voltage lighting seems to be a permanent trend in the business.

When it comes to materials, Tigerdeck is the king of 2008. It is sustainably harvested from more than 40 countries and comes kiln dried with a warranty—yes, it is a hardwood and is expected to last 30 years on a typical platform.

Composites are yesterday’s news in my opinion. Azek seems to be the best of the group, it used to be Pro-Cell before being bought by another company.

Brite closed it’s doors this spring, The Dexx plant burned down a couple of years back (they were making composite from recycled gas tanks), Xtendex was closed last year and we expect a few others will do likewise due to a shrinking market for composite and increased operating costs.

Nevertheless composites are not seen as “The” premium product in the business due to aging in a chalky and simulated way. Putting plastic or vinyl outside leads to deterioration—and there is just no way around that fact.
Pre-finishing is a major trend again this year. When we can pre-finish red cedar and have it age more gracefully than composites at a competitive price to premium composites… and then refinish in 5 years and make it new again, folks understand the advantage.

Curves and Brows are a trend that won’t go away. Organic looking, free flowing decks will never go out of style.

Built in Garden Areas have always been popular. Outdoor kitchens need herb gardens—trelliswork screens need a place to root vines.

Pergolas for shade and privacy are becoming much more popular, and this year we have a new product that mounts within the pergola to create total shade and is fully retractable. Made of stainless steel and aluminum mechanicals with a 12 year warranty, they also offer a motorized version with a remote. Sunbrella fabric helps it age gracefully and resist fading. You can now shelter a 16 x 20 area from rain in a single retractable under pergola awning.

We have designed these into 4 projects so far—and are eagerly awaiting photography.