Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hot Spots-- Deck Builder Locations Available in Canada

There are a few top notch spots for deck and pergola builders in Canada that came available last year. These have been set up under the old system, where content means major traffic for those that will be listed before spring. These are places where the economy is still strong and we get phone calls often from disappointed potential clients wanting the decks, fences and pergolas they find in our Gallery.

We have updated the Canadian Locations section--it was getting a little crowded so we have broken it out by province.

Mississauga, Etobicoke and Brampton received more than 4900 Unique Visits to the website last year. That means enough traffic that you will see sunny days in the spring getting 5 or more calls a day. The builder there was more interested in renovations and kitchens than outdoor work since he didn't have a shop to prefabricate off site. He closed things up a couple of weeks ago. This area has lots of wealthy low density residential areas and has always been busy. This one won't last long.

Vancouver Island BC is a great territory for a local builder. This location received more than 3750 visits to it's two main cities, Victoria and Nanaimo. We would expect somewhere near 5000 for the whole island which makes it a busy territory. Top ranks in the search engines should keep your phone ringing.

Vancouver BC is wide open and it has always been busy. Things went backwards after the HST came in, but of late we are seeing more phone calls again. Vancouver and Burnaby together received more than 6000 unique visits last year.

Calgary and Edmonton Alberta each saw more than 7,000 Unique Visits last year--  That is enough to make a company busy. Aside from Toronto, these areas get the most phone calls from potential clients. Calgary was just slightly busier than Edmonton -- Likely due to the turn around in oil.

Winnipeg Manitoba was a big surprise to me when we went through the stats this year. 6,200 Unique Visits should make it a busier area than Mississauga. If any builders are looking to relocate out of Ontario or BC... Winnipeg may well be a great place to look.

Windsor Ontario is picking up again, still has a high unemployment number, but wherever there is a larger population, people are making money. Those people are our customers. 3300 Visits from Windsor alone, factor in the other small towns it should be 4000 visits. It looks like a good place for a deck company.

Montreal Quebec is an area that we only get traffic from Anglo residents since we don't have content in French. We would happily add some to increase traffic, however even without french content Montreal received 2800 English visitors. Keep in mind you Bilingual contractors, that English (Anglos) make up about 20% of the population in Montreal. With content in french the area of Montreal Quebec should see more than 12000 unique visits a year. This is a tremendous untapped market.

The traffic stats above are a good general guideline as to how busy an area is. If you would like to know traffic for your area please send an email with the major cities within striking distance and we'll let you know some stats. In general, traffic increases dramatically when a builder starts in a new area and even rural builders will benefit from inclusion in our builder list.

You can find out more about including your company in our builder list here  Join Us

If you want more information give me a call at 888 293 8938


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Try out Now!

If you have been on the fence about joining as a builder here's your chance to try us out  on the cheap.

 We in the office are tired of disappointing the thousands that call us asking if we have a builder in a certain place and we have to tell them sorry. We know there are many thousands of quality minded builders that are eager to hone their skills and want to make every customer happy. We want to connect you with clients that wants it done right and is not afraid to pay a reasonable amount to get the job done.

If you are curious as to how many people visit our site from your local area send us a note by email, letting us know your name, phone number and where you live and we'll dig that information up for you.

The "Artisan Group Program" is only offered in areas where we don't have an Accredited Design Builder--however if you are in doubt, give us a call or email and ask if your area is available.

Our traffic spikes on January 1 and builds to the summer, so the sooner you get things set up the better for spring leads. In most areas we get leads through the winter and in the southern states... this is building weather right now!

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to call 888 293 8938 or email us at

Happy Holidays everyone!


Monday, November 29, 2010

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, November 12, 2010

Dealing with the Building Department

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes it is just not worth the fight--

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

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


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Market for Decks and Fences Fall 2010

The Market for Decks and Fences in North America 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pergolas with Roofs

 Pavilions typically featured pretty basic detailing. Now that we are doing them that is changing. Why can't roofed structures be cool?  This pavilion is more like a roofed pergola. It has all the style of a pergola and a permanent roof to boot. To see more shots of this pergola with a roof (click)

This pavilion seems to be sitting on interlock, however there are 22" footings beneath the stone to prevent frost heave. Here's the flattering part. The client was impressed by the compression hardware that stabilizes the columns--He should know all about it. The client is an Engineer!

This Pergola-Pavilion was designed by Lawrence Winterburn and Built by Dan Maragno in Oakville Ontario.

You can learn more about pergolas at the Pergola Blog


Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Horizontal Fences

If there is a trend in fences it is horizontal fences. Things were vertical for the last 20 years, likely in part due to pool guard laws. Fences had to be difficult to climb to prevent wild neighborhood children from drowning in your pool.

Here is a new horizontal design for fences that is actually pool safe. The key is that it is non-climbable for 42".  5' of non-climbable area is even better and you get that from the 6' version of this fence.

This fence had 7', 6' and 5' sections randomly--actually strategically placed to hide sight lines from the neighbor's boundary encroached home next door. 

This design is suitable for pressure treated, cedar or any outdoor wood you choose.

These fences were designed by and built by Luke Simonovski in Toronto East.


To see more of our Wood Fences click

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Market for Decks and Fences 2010

It has been a fairly busy year for all things considered. Our builders seem to be ticking along nicely in most areas. It may have something to do with the level of skill and creativity among our group. Ontario's market for decks and fences slowed to a snail's pace on July first with the HST increasing the tax charged by 8% on all decks and fences.

BC also brought in the HST this summer, and that province was already in the doldrums for luxury items like decks and fences so until something changes out there we are not looking for a builder in that area. To be candid, I considered just leaving this paragraph out in an effort to keep things positive--however I really want to be honest and open about business posts.

South of the border things are still slower in many areas than usual--that's just a bi-product of near 20% real unemployment.  We had many calls from the New York City area as well as Washington and Boston this year, so it sounds like New England is a fairly healthy economy on the whole. We finally have a builder setting up in the New York City-Connecticut-New Jersey (Tri State Area) and I expect him to be very busy.

Plenty of calls from Florida and Texas this summer-- and both those areas are available. Boston had a few calls as well this year, and that area is also open. I expect the prosperity to spread to the Boston area in the next few months.

GardenStructure has focused efforts on capturing a larger part of the high end residential and commercial market and it seems to be paying dividends for our builders. We are happy to say that in the Ontario market Post Mid-Recession Tax Increase, our builders are busy while many fence companies, small lumber mills and other discretionary business are shutting down.

The present market for decks and fences in North America is highly competitive at the middle and low end of the market. More people with smaller budgets are shopping dozens of companies for low prices--however the high end still wants a dependable quality builder with inspired details. Sales ratios seem to have increased dramatically for our builders--and we have seen many more large job consultations than in 2009.

If you want more information about our builder group you can call 888 293 8938 and ask for Lawrence, or go here. Deck, Fence and Pergola Un- Franchise.


Monday, August 09, 2010

August in Toronto

I am actually out building this month--finishing up some glass rails in the Beach, and doing a grade beam supported floating deck a few minutes from my place near Wasaga Beach.

I thought it would be great to get in shape and take some decent photography while I work. 

Notice the planks and the wheelbarrow... I mixed small batches by hand and picked up cement mix at the local quarry in my Pre-Runner, but only half because that is the cheaper way to do it. Mostly because I need the exercise!

I was taught to mix cement by hand by an 80 year old Italian gentleman about 25 years ago... and I will always be grateful for what he taught.

There is very little you can do in a gym to top pushing a wheelbarrow full of mixed aggregate up a plank on a steep slope. No helper... doing it alone so that I can photograph that it CAN be done. (even by an out of shape has been!)

Over the winter I am hoping to get a few chapters done of the new revision of the installation guide... which most likely will be an on-line resource for our builders.

On the business side of things we are actually getting calls from BC and Florida again... which has been quiet for so long.

Ontario is ramping up nicely after the HST shock,  and lots of  gorgeous looking jobs are getting finished up this month. Most of our people are booked a month or two in the Toronto area, and with a 10% tax increase on everything we do mid recession-- we are not complaining.

Caledon, Houston and Dallas Texas are still available-- those are the hot spots this month!


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Testing New Stain Product from Benjamin Moore

Our Builders are presently trying out a new stain called ArborCoat. Waterborne finishes that go on in 2 coats and seem fairly easy to work with. Initial trials are good. Of course this photo shows REAL WOOD... not Composite. It is actually the kiln dried Red Cedar we sell out of Barrie with Arbor Coat applied to it before installation.

We won't flat out recommend it until we have seen how well it works for a couple of years, however Benjamin Moore has made our standard oil based stain that has given us good results for many years. We have never had warranty issues with Benjamin Moore to this point.

For now you will have to read the materials and decide on your own. If you are skeptical use Banjamin Moore Alkyd Exterior Stains or Sansins.

PS. Check out our article on Exterior Stain here...   It will teach you the rules for and why you should pre-finish decking.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

GardenStructure now sells Deck, Fence and Pergola Materials!

Sorry for the lack of blog posts of late--VERY busy spring.

We have now teamed up with a Supplier of very high quality deck materials and they have been supplying materials to many of our builders through the spring. We delayed offering materials to the general public because we just didn't have staff to answer the calls during this very busy spring--however we are adding pricing to kit descriptions in the coming weeks and we invite you to send your material list to us for a quote if you live in the central-southern Ontario area.

Kiln Dried Red Cedar, upgraded pressure treated pine and large dimension lumber are all within our offerings.

If you are building a deck, fence or pergola and want the advantage of using better materials, please send your material list to or fax to 705 322-9199.

Back to work!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Decks- To Space? Or Not to Space Decking?

Contentious issue this spacing--Should we space Decking?

I hear it all the time--"I've always pushed the decking up against the last row... it looks great". I have only one thing to say ... BS.

If any decking is installed tight it will hold water like a barrel and you will NEVER keep stain on it.

In order for air to flow through the underside of the deck, the skirting needs to be spaced. There are two things that scream "ROOKIE DECK BUILDER"... Routered hand rails and tight decking. Hey, we all started somewhere, but just because you can, doesn't mean you should. More is sometimes too much.

Do you know what happens when you park a car on the grass? In about 2 years the floor will be hanging on the brake lines. This is because grass retains and releases moisture every day. This is why we put down a vapor barrier and gravel below our decks. (Even though the city of Toronto is demanding that we don't).

Using filter cloth is the second best solution, however my preference is to slope the ground and use a vapor barrier to slope the water away from beneath the deck . The other issue has to do with water infiltrating into the basement of the home... you have less chance of a leak with properly installed drainage.

Here is a deck that a builder with 20 years experience built--During the very wet last couple of years, mold covered this deck... not just a little green, more of a squid like multi-colored mold. The house faces east and is in the shade most of the day, so this seems to be the worst mold issue I have ever seen. Tight red cedar decking. Believe it or not, even after showing this builder what happened, he didn't believe it and he refused to fix it.

Ed Morkin of MorDecks, AKA Morkin Outdoor Structures offered a 5 year written workmanship warranty, then reneged. Keep in mind that if you have decks built by Ed Morkin, he simply refuses to space decking and you will end up with the same issues as this unfortunate client.

All the more reason to go and see some of your builder's previous decks when you shop for a deck builder.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Competitive Wood Fence Prices ?

Are our prices for Wood Fence competitive?

Among quality builders--yes, we are competitive.

Do we build fences cheaper than the guy down the street that started last week and is using mom's k-car? Unlikely.

Every spring there are 500 new fence builders in most major cities in the US and Canada.

And every summer, most of them quit after only a few weeks in the business. Often they leave with customer's deposits and jobs undone--and the warranty they promised? That ended as you saw their brake lights turn on when they left with your check.

Rookie fence builders often don't have the first clue about actually building a fence. They may have gone to the library and pulled a book first published in the 1950's to learn how to build fences. Using those outdated methods the fence will look terrible in a few years--since most of those instructions were designed for a frost free California climate.

They often buy sub standard materials, they often don't put fasteners where they need to be, typically they build the gates backwards and don't know what a headpiece is for.

Often the fence touches the ground, and in areas where frost is an issue this will cause premature failure or rot.

Typically they put too much concrete in the hole and every year the posts will grow out of the ground a little more.

As a rule the wood fences they build won't be level, or straight and you may have issues with pieces falling out and the fence looking weak prematurely, (because they didn't place the structural members crown up).

There is a littany of errors to be made... and that is precisely why they will often charge much less than professionals.

They feel that you deserve a bargain for letting them learn on your job--and often it is no bargain at all.
This year, those that get burned by their local low bid fence builder will likely lose their deposit--and then when you have to hire a real fence builder later on, you will have to pay 8% more in Ontario and BC. The provincial government is doing a cash grab... and the harmonized sales tax will apply to fences and decks and any other repairs and renovations in your home.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Right Time for Marketing Your Deck Company

When it comes to Marketing your Deck Company, Timing is EVERYTHING!

Home Shows are a labor intensive and EXPENSIVE method for marketing. Not quite as expensive as yellow page advertising however, if you do it right you may get some sales from the home show. Timing of these shows however, is often poor. When should you consider the investment in a home show? Consider the following analogies.

It is 1944 in France, you are a commander on the battlefield. The opposing forces are mounting an attack. You know you have a slight firepower advantage. When do you give the order to open up on them?

While they are still under cover or when the most enemy soldiers are vulnerable?

Simple Answer right?

You are Duck Hunting. Do you expend all your ammunition before or after you see a duck?

Exactly-- you shoot when the birds are in the air!

Fall home shows for deck companies are just ridiculous. We tried it many times, however for a hand full of leads it just wasn't worth the effort. Send out some glossy flyer's for 1-10'th the price or invest the money in on-line advertising instead.

Early spring Home Shows are also just throwing your money to the wind. If you are casting your net into the deck and fence pool in February and March, you are typically throwing your money away.

The only Home Shows worth doing are the ones that happen once the weather has warmed and the trees are turning green. Only flowers in bloom and leaves on the tree start the spring buying season for decks and fences.

People are simply not in the mood for buying until the ENVIRONMENT signals their psychological mindset to change. If there is no sense of urgency--people just do not buy. They shop... They call as many deck and fence builders as they can and typically those playing that game end up with worn shoes.

You the Deck Builder cannot change the environment. We react to the environment. We roll with the punches and enjoy when the environment is favorable. We can no more control our environment than we can control our expiration date.


Monday, March 08, 2010

Yellow Pages for Builders of Decks and Fences

Is Yellow Page Advertising Dead?

The Yellow pages are buying ad space on our Website...

and this blog, and they are buying it through Google. I guess that means that the Yellow Pages Group is now a middle man selling Google Adwords.

If you had a sneaking suspicion that yellow page advertising didn't work very well nowadays--here is proof positive that Yellow Page Advertising's time is passed.

When people asked me about advertising decks and fences in the Yellow Pages, I typically put it this way. "Quick... where is your phone book right now?-- Can you answer in 5 seconds or less? Unless you are over 55 you likely don't know where your phone book is. I found mine a few months back and it still had the plastic on it.

These days folks typically walk to their computer... type in what they are looking for and where... and get the answer from Google.

We have top ranks in places like Los Angeles, Dallas and many other Cities in North America. Dallas, Houston, Tampa and Boston are available. We can get you good ranking in many cities around the globe--Not just in North America. We can do it because we create actual content--information and inspiration that people recommend to friends and that is why we get hundreds of thousands of visits a month.

The internet can be the single most cost effective method for getting connected with potential clients--if the site is well built and of course, once it is established.

We shut off our yellow page ads about 10 years ago in favor of the web.

In the early days you could throw a web site together quickly and get top ranking for nearly everything.

These days starting a website and getting real traffic is a bit more difficult. The average phone company website will get 30 or so visits a month if you are fortunate.

The question is, if you are starting a new web site from scratch, how are you going to get in front of the other 500 deck builders in your area, a hundred of so directories and of course for your city's searches.

You can spend a hundred grand or so on a great website and pay monthly for optimization and wait a year... or put our leads in your pocket--and get started in a couple of weeks with us.

Call 888 293 8938 or send an email to to get involved.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What kind of wood for Decks?

What kind of wood is best for decks?

Is wood the worst choice for building decks with?

The short answer is that wood can be the worst choice for building your deck--if you choose the wrong type.Wood is porous. The above photo is a zoomed in photo of the end grain of oak. All the little holes you see will wick in moisture--add moisture along this end grain and it will draw into all the little spaces naturally. Thats how trees send nutrition from the roots to the trees, through all these little spaces.

If you build a deck from SPF (Spruce, Pine, Fir), which is typically framing materials, you won't get anywhere near the durability of a deck made of Redwood, Cedar or Tiger Deck. If you are very fortunate and you seal the end grains you may get 5-7 years out of your deck.

Build a deck from poplar and even if you seal all 6 sides you will find it unstable and vast parts and connections entirely missing within the first 5 years. Poplar is one of the fastest growing trees and also rots very quickly. When it rots it nearly disappears within a couple of short years.

Eastern White Cedar is a similar species to Red Cedar, however it is a much smaller tree and for that reason is a lower quality cut of lumber with large cracks and loose nots. Eastern White Cedar grows in a dry climate--where Red Cedar grows in a Tropical (very wet), climate. Any species exposed to extremely wet climate will develop tools to cope with the excess moisture--and when you take that species into a dry climate like the central plains you get an extremely long lasting deck.

Pressure treated lumber is strong--but brittle, and if a builder is not well trained you can end up with dangerous events like this one. This lady had serious injuries when this stair failed and the builder was sued successfully for damages--even though he was her ex boyfriend.

Here is what a Red Cedar Deck looks like when it is well done. Pre-finished to fill the end grain pores, and solid stain on the rails. The builder even used exterior suitable fiberglass clad plywood for the large posts.
For information about Composite Decking Materials click here
For information about Staining Wood Decks click here


Monday, January 25, 2010 and

Lead generation services may not end up delivering useful leads to your business. Here's why. Often times they just don't get the traffic to make it happen.

Above Graphic Courtesy of They will tell you that the results may not be perfectly accurate, however we use google analytics and I can assure you that our numbers are roughly 400% of what they indicate. Even at 25% of the actual numbers you can see how we dominate these directory sites for traffic.

Here at we build Decks, Pergolas, Fences and Outdoor Woodwork. We are Niche Specialists and also innovators of unique looking things. Therefore people link to our designs and single us out as "Leaders in our Field"-- Outdoor Woodwork Experts.

These directory sites like and specialize in HUNDREDS of different trades with a fraction of our traffic.

We've been tracking Carpentry Trade leads through and we set it up for a 500 mile radius... just to know how many leads they get. For December there were less than 10. For June (peak exterior season), there was about 35.

These are not guaranteed jobs, these are simply leads, which can be anything from another contractor doing price research to potential customers that don't have a clue and are looking at feasibility of the project. This is post hole auguring, to fence repairs, to chain link to decks and deck repairs all the way up to additions and new constructions.

These are leads which each contractor bidding will pay a fee to the lead generation site.

"installation of a fence, 5 feet plus lattice, roughly 100 feet total.
online estiamtes only please"

"New home requiring second level deck. Approximately 30' X 12'"

"Add a 2nd storey addition on a 750 sq. ft bungalow"

"I need the fence between my neighbour's and my yard replaced...
It is roughly 35' in length and it shall have gates for entrance to my and or his yard. "

Some of the leads look legitimate, but you have to remember that some are small jobs that they can't find anyone to do locally for cheap--and all are in competition with other builders.

This is the difference between and these Directory / Lead Generation Sites.... Our builders tell us that in an area of 500,000+ low rise population, on sunny days they may get more than 5 leads in a day--directly to their phone--without a price tag.

We don't sell the leads. You get set up, we help you with design by giving you background and specifications from past projects, a portfolio, a very functional website showcase and you get the leads directly to your phone and email... without competing with other builders in our group. One builder per area.

We just don't believe our builders should have to compete with lesser contractors. They should be building beautiful things for customers that expect something better!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Planning Decks Fences and Pergolas for Spring 2010

This looks to be the Busiest Spring Season in Many Years.

Most people that could afford to build a deck or pergola last year held off. This is turning into a glut of work and the phones are lit up with designs for spring projects. I have personally not seen so many calls this early in the season ever.

Our deck designers and builders are busy, as are our landscape designers. The ground is open in many areas that is often covered in deep snow, and after last year we are happy to see it.

For spring service you would be well served to get in touch with your local builder before they are booked well into summer. I would expect that most of our people will be booking mid summer by some time in early March.

If it is a complicated pergola or deck with curves and multiple levels you need to at least get on the design aspect within the next couple of weeks or you may be waiting for the fall in many areas.

To Develop plans for decks and pergolas often takes a week or two

To find your local Deck Builders (click)

To speak to a Representative Call (888) 293-8938

Monday, January 18, 2010

Outlook for the Deck and Fence Business 2010

To learn about Starting a Deck Company click here

A better year for Quality Deck and Fence Builders

I hope everyone had a great Christmas season.
Are you ready for the next challenging year? Last year I am sure you noticed things were a little slower for most deck builders. People were holding off on those big purchases due to uncertainty. In the US house prices were falling and folks just didn't want to take the risk in many cases. Locally our trade association saw a 20% decrease in landscape trades, though consensus from our builders was that they were par with 2008 for 2009. The government stimulus had little to no positive effect in Canada that we witnessed.

Since then the stock market has recovered substantially, and some people even made large profits from the rebound. These are all high end clients that may be doing outdoor woodwork.


10% unemployment in the US, 9% Unemployment in Canada,(these numbers don't include those that have given up on looking or whose unemployment benefits have finished.)

What does this mean to deck builders? That all depends where you live. Local unemployment can range between 6-15%, so some areas are better than others.

It means that the less expensive the project--the more competition there will be for every job. Under $5k decks will see deck builders competing heavily for every job.
Fences will be built for low wages typically. I've seen $18/lf in the Toronto area, where the average 2 years ago was $25/lf. When people lose their jobs there are always hundreds of little deck and fence companies starting up--though they rarely last more than a season.

As the job scope increases in complexity and budget you will find more
savvy customers that will insist on paying a little more for talent and
design. There is a glut of work in the high end that didn't get done last year.

Builders expecting to transition into the "high end deck market" will need to bring their "A Game".

Composite Decking

Composite Decking Producers still have not created an honorable warranty that will
include labor and disposal as part of their product warranties, so is on a strict "Signed Waiver" policy. A waiver is signed acknowledging that should the product be defective they will have to pursue the composite company to recoup their labor and disposal
costs, and that presently their composite decking warranty excludes that.

New Taxes for Ontario- Additional 8% PST on
Decks and Fences

In Ontario, with an unemployment rate of near 9% we are heading for a tax
increase May 1/2010. While most governments are thinking stimulus, our
provincial government is afflicting us with an extra 8% to the cost of
what deck and fence builders do. This means that the majority of our
work in the province will likely be booked before May 1, and finished
by July 1 to avoid the tax. After that a large percentage of that
business will be driven underground. Look for more old minivans
building bad fences for $20.00 cash! Obviously there will be more
pressure on the low end, with the high end projects happening as usual.
Like many other places in North America, there is a large glut of high
end work poised to be done in the coming year that people held off on last year.


The internet is getting busier as all businesses try to capitalize on the benefits of traffic, which in turn makes it more difficult to get traffic. Your average 1 year old small
company website will see 30-100 visitors a month if you do everything
right. Make mistakes and you may get no visits.
gets well over 100,000 unique visits a month to our sites most months.

Traffic to our sites increased 20% during 2009. We are forecasting an increase
of 20-30% in 2010 as well.

Phone book advertising and home shows are getting less effective leaving internet and direct
mail as the dominant methods for lead generation.

The phone book crowd is getting a little older, they have nested and
beautified their residences many years ago and their view of the value
of decks and fences is all about price. 30-50 year olds are more likely
to walk to the computer and type what they are looking for into Google.
Google is improving their game as well, penalizing directories and
cheaters using SEO to manipulate their results.

This is one of the advantages. We can cut through the
directories, pay for lead services, and spammy sites and get you into
the listings with your local phone number right on the page.

In Summary

Semi skilled deck builders building for the lowest price will have a very tough time in 2010 with increased competition for fewer dollars. A glut of high end work will help companies like increase total sales and increase pricing slightly because many of our competitors are weakened or out of the business. In Ontario we have never seen so many leads so early in the year from any area, let alone a frozen solid, snow covered Ontario. After July there may be a drought for a couple of months while people grow to accept the new PST tax on decks and fences. All in all it looks like a promising year for Builders.
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