Sunday, November 20, 2011

How to build curved decks.

Here is a fine example of how to design and build a deck with curves provided by our design-builder in North Kawartha ( Near Peterborough Ontario).

 This deck was designed artfully, around the trees, with plenty of clearance and most importantly it compliments the house and simply looks like it grew there naturally. If I had designed this deck--it would likely look exactly as it does. I give this design a 10 out of 10. Very well done Garry! You won't see anything this well done on any TV deck building shows!
 This is no kerf-cut wannabe deck that will fall apart in 5 or 10 years. Garry did a layered lamination on the rim joist using marine epoxies, cut the rails out of solid stock and spent the time to get it right. Heavy ledgers connect this deck to the frame of the house so that even in the event of an earthquake this deck will remain the way it is today. When you hire an expert designer to design and build your curved deck--you get a structure like this that will last 30 years plus!
Garry also did the front deck, giant flagstone and landscaping on this year round residence near Peterborough Ontario. Kudos to you Garry-- Beautiful job!

To see more photos of this curved decks project click

You can reach Garry at 705-656-3757

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Etobicoke - Toronto Cedar Decks

More Cedar decks in Etobicoke, (part of Toronto Ontario). This deck was designed by Lawrence and built by Luke Simonovski and Crew. The deck we replaced was 3 levels and was poorly planned. A narrow upper platform and another narrow platform below made it too cramped for furniture.

Privacy screens work well to create a sense of privacy even though the neighbours are only a few feet away. By adding found objects or art sculpture you can personalize these blank panels and make it feel more like the interior of your home.

These decks have plenty of space for furniture and still maintain traffic flow.  The pergola is designed for a future retractable canopy system. There is still a nook in the far corner designed for housing a hot tub in the future.

Dropping the level of the deck and maintaining the barbecue area up top means a larger lower platform. When you want to build beautiful decks in Toronto Please call us at (416) 951-9998. Everywhere else, please call (888) 293-8938

To see more photos of these Toronto Decks click here.

To see more photos of our decks click here

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stairs with No Screws?

Here's a new twist on stairs...  No fasteners. Well, not very many anyways.

When I was looking at this deck in Muskoka, I nearly missed this. Normally I am pretty quick on the critiques, but it was one of the last things I noticed. The deck did look fairly good, and it was a new build. Ford had it's better idea... (the Pinto).
Chev had it's better idea... (the Vega)

And this carpenter's better idea, gluing stairs together with flooring adhesive... YIKES!

 There are a few finishing nails to hold the outer stringers on until the glue sets... but the only screws, (which shouldn't be used for stairs anyhow), were toenailed into the stringers 1 per plank.

Please don't try this at home people... VERY DANGEROUS to mess with stairs when you don't have a clue what you are doing. I know, not a fair statement. This guy knew enough to build a beautiful deck, and the only flaw other than the stairs that I could find were a few odd spaced joists and some joist hangers that are too small. He won't know that the glued stringers idea didn't work...because he ran off with the client's money. That's why I was there--they had me price finishing the rails. I designed a nice system for the rails that matched the log home rather nicely if I don't say so myself!

So, to sum up, as wood expands and contracts glue will separate on exterior work. Wood shrinks in all directions. Unless the grains are aligned and you use marine epoxy... glue will release. These stairs will come tumbling down, maybe not this year... but likely within 3. 

When stairs collapse it nearly always ends in injury...and they nearly always collapse when someone of size is using them, which makes the injury worse.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Life Time Lumber-- Out of Business

Another Composite Decking Company has closed it's doors. Two months ago they sent us samples... and today, they are out of business.  The website is gone... I guess warranty service isn't an issue, unless the composite decking you bought from these guys doesn't live up to expectations. In that case--you have no warranty--sorry.

 Composite decking companies seem to come and go. If anyone knows of a site keeping score of composite decking company failures, please let me know about it.

Life Time Lumber has closed up shop and their manufacturing facility is winding up production.  This company had actually constructed pergolas out of the materials so it had peaked my interest. Unfortunately the samples (delivered by UPS ) were damaged during the shipping process even though they were bubble wrapped.

The material was extremely heavy and also very soft. It reminds me of MDO in structure and I am not convinced that material will work very well for exterior work that is exposed to potential damage.

I was going to do a little experiment... hanging a concrete block off double rafters for a couple of seasons to measure it's structural strength. I guess they saved me time by going out of business.

Nice knowing you Life Time Lumber--


Saturday, October 01, 2011

Copper Post Caps or Cheap Immitation?

I suspected it, and yes, it is pretty much impossible to create copper clad post caps for $20.

As you can see the copper... is peeling off. Copper does not de-laminate from the cheap tin core like this post cap is doing.

These beautiful and inexpensive copper topped post caps you find at the big box stores are not what they seem. They are anodized coatings that eventually corrode off and leave you with the cheap tin top you paid for. There are authentic copper caps available from specialty retailers, but be careful. you can test them by scratching the finish in an unobtrusive place. Real copper will be the same color inside as it is on the outer surface.

You can expect to pay $35 or more for authentic copper caps. Copper caps will turn a green patina as they oxidize and they don't rot...unless you have 3 or 4 hundred years to wait.

When it comes to copper clad post caps...if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Deck Renovations- With Curved Brow

Here are the near finished shots of that deck with the dangerous staircase. As you can see a safer staircase was built--away from the septic system. We also built in a storage area beneath the stairs with a landing mid way down to avoid guests tumbling too far if they were to mis-step.

We added a boardwalk out for easy travel to the water--this is a property near Wasaga Beach Ontario. Dan Maragno was the builder and you can see his smiling face on the boardwalk. 
 We paired joists and added a brow to allow more space on the deck. This is no kerf cut temporary brow like you see on TV--this is a solid red cedar lamination using epoxy which will last 30 years. 

 Adding the brow in this case made it possible for a full size dining table on the second level. Dan also took care of a large deficiency list stemming from the deck inspection that spawned this project.

Another masterful job by Dan Maragno--Our Oakville Design Builder!         L

Friday, September 16, 2011

Deck Inspection--Scary Stairs

Think Twice before walking up this Staircase!
Would you try it? What if I told you that these stairs were supported by 3-2 1/2" Nails? That the stairs were basically held up by the hand rails? 
This was for a client that lives in China and bought this place as a summer home in Canada. 

 When we removed these stairs we found 3 small nails carrying the deck, through the weakest point of the stringers. (the part that will snap off the straight grain under a load). We normally build out a base from the beam so that the stringers are capped and securely fastened to the deck structure. The cap needs to extend past the lowest extent of the stringer to be safe. 

And at the bottom of the staircase we find the same thing as the top. Supported by the tip of the stringer that is prone to break off. To make things worse it is supported by a platform without footings on sand--on top of the septic field. You are not allowed to build anything within 5' of the septic field. We ended up moving the staircase to the other end of the deck to maintain distance from the septic system.

 I don't know who the manufacturer of this frail rail system is, however I would expect it to be the lowest priced item available in a big box store. The rail is sagging under the weight of the glass and the posts are weak enough to give way if anyone fell towards it. No engineer would stamp this rail as suitable and I have no idea how it passed inspection in the first place. We changed the rail to a more robust system.

 Here's a common issue not addressed by building code. 

Code stipulates that second level decks need to be connected to the house with carriage bolts through the framing of the home... they stipulate every 24" but they don't say where to mount the bolts. All the bolts are mounted 1.5" down from the top of the beam...which means the entire structure is supported by a 2x2 piece of pressure treated lumber. We added bolts and had to remove drywall and patch inside the already finished basement.

The ledger adds another layer of safety--however the ledger was attached to the part of the rim which if tested, would fail. There were also no joist hangers... so we had to add those.

My other concern was that there was no flashing to prevent moisture from getting behind the siding to rot out the connected structure. We added flashings during the re-build.

We discovered a few other issues like non-acq rated nails here and there but we were able to salvage much of the structure. Stay tuned--the next post shows how it turned out!    L

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Composite Decking could Cost You as a Contractor

Composite Decking Liabilities

We published a poll where we asked;

Who should pay for the labour to remove and replace faulty composite decking?

The Home Owner (12%)

The Builder (34%)

Your Insurance Company (0%)

The Manufacturer (even if you have to sue) (54%)

People seem to be of the opinion that if you sell it to them--you are partially liable for replacing it when things go wrong.


The important consideration here is that since the manufacturer refuses to pay for the removal, disposal and installation of the replacement decking (under warranty), YOU as the BUILDER may well be shamed into, or worse still forced to through litigation with your own client.

In my mind any external factor that could put you at odds with a happy client is simply not something we as high end builders should ever risk. I don't like having to tell people "No Maam, even though I sold you composite decking--and it turned out to be defective, I couldn't possibly replace it for you for free". The majority of our builders have steered clear of it for this simple reason and the fact that we don't believe it to be the best material to use.

In the act of selling people composite decking you must make clear that in the event of a warranty claim you will not be supplying free labor to replace the deck should the materials turn out to be defective. You need to tell them verbally and include it as a term within your contract. If you don't make this perfectly clear up front, your act of selling the product could leave you vulnerable later.

The other trouble is that once you tell people you won't replace defective materials for free--they just may not buy from you.
The Company that was the largest deck builder in Canada staked their business on composites--and in the last couple of years they have watched 10 of their franchisees close their doors, (1 joined I am not sure if that is due to complications of composites or just management issues in general.

As deck builders we need to choose what we sell carefully. We need to look at the warranty and decide if the risk is worth the potential gains. It is your deck business and only you decide what you will or will not sell.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Privacy Screens in Toronto

Here is a privacy screen we designed for a home in the Beach - Toronto.

 The neighbors were doing an extensive addition and it had been going on for about 2 years when we got the call. The situation was urgent considering the home owner was considering moving to avoid putting up with the mess next door any longer.
 The view from the neighbor's side is minimalist, and budget was a concern for our client. We utilized the original hand rail support posts and added some strength by cladding the posts. These screens are made of pressure treated lumber... however they still look great utilizing these inexpensive materials.

The client in this case is a fabulous designer, so adding the candle holders, umbrella and plantings really sets the entire feature off. This project was designed by Lawrence Winterburn and installed by our Toronto East Builder, Luke Simonovski. To speak to them please call 888 293 8938.

To see more Privacy Screens go to our Gallery of Deck Designs , Gallery of Wood Fences, or our Trelliswork Gallery.

This has been the busiest spring ever for most of our builders--so please forgive my truancy, I'll be posting more often from this point and I have plenty of projects to show off from this season!

Stay tuned!


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Spring 2011 for Deck and Fence Builders

Spring started for our builders about March 1st, so I haven't had much time for updating the blog.

Most have been wrapping up winter projects and busy doing estimates from the many inquiries in the past weeks. People call us all winter to plan projects, and many of the jobs happening this spring were planned late last summer.

We've added a few Artisan Directory Listings, A vinyl specialist in Los Angeles, builders in Dallas, Raliegh North Carolina, Baltimore Maryland and two builders in Ontario and they seem to be getting plenty of calls. 

Artisan Directory Listings are a risk free way to try out what we can do for you as a deck builder--without commitment. This will give you a good indication of how many of our existing visitors are from your area looking for what you do. It also gets you familiar with our designs when you build a couple of our projects for the clients you meet through the listing.
"We also have new Accredited builders near Montreal Quebec, Etobicoke Ontario, New York and South Florida."

Watch for many more new builders this spring. Our programs are the best value going to make Deck, Fence and Pergola builders busy even in this difficult economy.

We have a 3 week backlog for custom plans already, which is very early. I am working on plans for a deck in Calgary, a cemetery in Virginia, an elaborate deck in Tampa Florida, and about 5 other projects in the Toronto area. Of course there are the usual alterations to stock plans...about 5 of those.

The economy locally in Ontario has never been worse, but we are still run off our feet.

As this most recent gas shock effect takes hold, it may be a challenging year for anyone not involved with this year--but the signs are putting to a banner year for everyone in our group. Many of our builders are booking well into summer already.

Get in touch soon to make it a better year for your deck company!


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Large Decks Showcase in Video !

We are quickly getting known for being builders of the most beautiful decks in the world. Check out our new video showcase of a very large deck with curves, glass rails, a furniture grade pergola over a hot tub and pre-finished red cedar decking.

The curved treads are solid laminations and the rails actually shed water from the inner parts.

This deck was built along the shores of the St. Lawrence so the views were spectacular. 

To see more of our Beautiful Decks (click)

To become one of our Deck Builders (click)


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Some of our Decks from 2010

Our builders did some beautiful decks in 2010!

These decks were designed by Jamie Elliott in Barrie Ontario. They feature pre-finished materials, (Red Cedar), internal membrane roofing and evestroughs so that it is dry below all the platforms, and built in benches. Nice work Jamie!

Above is a cable rail deck by Mark Schwarz and his Earthscape crew. It wasn't built last year--but we did get the photos to share last year. See more photos of these decks by clicking the photos.

Here is another Decks with Pergola Project by Mark Schwarz and Earthscape. It is a balcany-roof-deck project that had to be craned into place. GORGEOUS work guys!

What are portico decks?  A deck that looks like a portico... and a deck from above, yet it sheds water like a roof into an evestrough--lets not get picky. The trough wasn't there when I took these preliminary shots--but for the spring shoot they will be on!

This is one of my designs, and you can see the designs and before shots here.

This Portico deck was built by Dan Maragno in Oakville Ontario.

If you want to start building projects like this... get in touch with me at 888 293 8938 or click this link- Join

Friday, January 28, 2011

Plan Prices are Reduced!

We believe that our pergola plans, deck plans and fence plans are far superior than all the rest and we want to prove it!. We have cut our prices across the board 10-80% permanently. We will sell our pergola plans for the same price as fence plans and deck plans because we want to be the most popular outdoor DIY plans site in the world.

Downloadable Plans are all  $12.99 each
         and       Printed plans  are all $19.99 with free mail delivery

We will keep our prices as low as possible forever--It is our Vow to our Clients.

We are also streamlining the system and migrating content to a new section on the website so that you get the basic instructions like how to set posts and footings and basic woodwork techniques etc. right on the website.

So you can learn the very basics from the website and develop your skills for free--and then order the plans with details with critical dimensions from the website inexpensively as you need them.

There is also No Tax on US orders!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Did you buy your website from the yellow pages group?

Did you hire the Yellow Pages to create your website? Yes you did... and your website looks like this. On first glance, that's OK, you have to have somebody create your website...but be advised-- This kind of website isn't going to supply endless leads the way the Yellow Pages did 20 years ago. You will be lucky to get a couple of calls a year in most areas.

You will notice that there are many thousands of websites that all look like they were created by 1940's Germany. different colors, but all the same.That means that they will all be clustered together in a glut of under-performing websites.


How do I know?  Did I hire Bell Canada-er- Yellow Pages Group to build my website? 
No, I discovered this when I started seeing a lot of ads showing up on our website. You see, Bell Canada - Yellow Pages Group doesn't get much traffic to their on-line directory (website). They either can't figure out how to do it, or they are penalized because they are competing with Google.

So these days, since the Yellow Pages don't have eyes and they want to continue making the same money they did before the decline of their media, the game has changed. 
So, you hire Bell - BCE- Er, Yellow Pages Group.

They Pay Google for Advertising

Google pays us for Advertising--and I block the ads if they compete with our people.

The trouble with this arrangement is that you have a great big middleman in the picture... Yellow Pages. 

The point of the story here is that the Yellow Pages Group is incredibly expensive for what you get. They have no natural traffic so they have to pay for traffic. What they create for you is poor quality and won't get you the traffic you want or need to get for the money you pay them. (The most you can expect is to find your name in Google if you type that in with the Town you live in--not sure about City, depends on competition and your chosen name).

The point is that if you have done this you can always change your phone numbers and shut it down, however don't trust me. Go right now to google. Type in Google Analytics and follow the instructions to generate code.

Now get that to your webmaster (Bell Canada - Yellow Pages Group), or whatever webmaster you can find that they will grant editing access to the yellow pages created site. Without accurate statistics you are driving blind. You need to know how many VISITS, where they came from and how they found you. (For more about Website Traffic Terms like Visits, Hits and Page here)

Install the code from Google and very soon you will find out how much the wonderful website by the "Yellow Pages" is doing for you.

You will quickly discover that ALL of your traffic is coming from Google and most is from Adwords.
Google has a wonderful system for buying advertising called Adwords. 

Now, if you are in the Deck and Fence, Landscape Architecture or Design or Landscaping Business... you can go right to the source and get a listing on our site. Because we see 1,000,000 eyes every year, we get targeted traffic that is looking for what you sell. For about the price of a dinner out you can get listed on (click for info). 

We don't charge per click and being part of a large high quality web presence means legitimacy. 
We will make your phone ring. You can even upgrade to being one of our "Accredited" Builders or designers and have an exclusive area without any other competition.

There was a time when the Yellow Pages were the only game in town.

If you had a business that sold to customers of any kind, you could get a Yellow Pages listing and be immediately in the game. With the advent of the internet that has changed in a horrific way for the Yellow Pages. They went from supplying 77% of the home improvement prospective customers or better, to roughly 5% and mostly retired.

I personally don't know where our phone book is--When is the last time you used yours?

On-Line Yellow simply are not a factor. There are 30,000,000 people in Canada, 100,000 visits to Yellow Pages website a month (and traffic is sinking fast). At minimum, 50,000 of those visits would be from advertisers checking their sites/ads... That leaves 50,000 eyes a month. For perspective, from March till August gets 100,000 to 150,000 unique visitors per month and we are just one company in a niche market. Our humble little company gets more visitors than gets

Google is the new Yellow Pages, and supplies thousands of targeted referrals because
Google sees us as a source of good information and inspiring photos.

Get in touch with Lawrence to find out more about getting involved!

888 293 8938

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Best Places to Start a Deck and Pergola Business With

Hot Spots for Builders of Decks and Pergolas in the United States

People are making money in this recovering economy--Those are your potential clients.

Our typical jobs range between $5,000 and $100,000. It is not uncommon to have jobs worth upwards of $70,000, so adding a couple of jobs a year through our program even in areas without high populations still makes sense. You could potentially pay for involvement from a fraction of the profit from 2 jobs.

Ford is pumping millions into a plant in the St. Louis Missouri area which means new jobs. New technology in the automotive industry should breathe life into many manufacturing States. We are hearing news stories daily about

All the banks and investment companies have been making money, so if you are in an area that has that as part of its Economy, things should be brisk, like in Connecticut, New Jersey or Long Island.

We had 3000 unique visits from St. Louis last year and nobody on our list to help people build.

New York State, Southern New Jersey, Texas, Washington and California our heaviest States for traffic presently.  When you click on Locations and go through to the State it will tell you how many visitors from that State came to our site last year.

How it works… As we gain builders in areas, traffic picks up, so it is a good idea to try us out with a directory listing to gauge how many leads come about by being on our list. As you do projects worthy of feature pages and share photography of them, those will increase our rank in those areas--which means more traffic for you.

Here are the top 10 cities in the US for traffic where we don't already have a builder
(NYC and Los Angeles are #1 and #2--however we have builders there).

•    Houston
•    Seattle
•    Atlanta
•    Portland
•    Dallas
•    San Francisco
•    Chicago
•    Denver
•    Washington
•    Minneapolis

For more information about Becoming a Builder from $29/month click here or call 888 293-8938.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Spring Marketing Season is Here!

People are shopping for outdoor ideas right now--yes, the majority will call you on the first warm day in March, however traffic to our main site has doubled since the weeks before Christmas already and traffic builds steadily from now until March.

December sees 30,000 visits, January it jumps to 45000, February sees 55,000 people and by March 1 we are well over 100,000 visits every month. It often takes Google 2 months or more to find new listings and content and assign it a value. That's how long it takes for your information on our sites to get on the search engine page. Waiting until February is a dramatic mistake. You will miss out on more than 100,000 visitors.

 Deck Renovation, (new tempered glass rails and post dress in The Beach Toronto, Designed and Built by Yours Truly)

Joining our team in the spring will see you missing out on about 1/3 of the leads. People are looking for ideas while the snow is covering their yard. They hit print... They bookmark. They Copy and Paste. Just because people are not calling doesn't mean your marketing materials are hitting the mark.

You also need to consider that the larger projects for spring have been--and are being planned presently. It can take months for outdoor kitchen areas and furniture grade decks to go through the design, engineering and permitting process.

Paul Corsetti (Our Landscape Designer in Toronto Canada-see his Landscape Design Blog), is working on his first project of the year from a lead he received Jan 3. Just because everything is covered with snow in Toronto doesn't mean people are not planning their projects!

(Prefinished Red Cedar Fence- Designed by Lawrence Winterburn, Masterfully installed by Luke Simonovski-Our builder in Toronto East)

The photos above show projects done late last summer and both will need some landscaping come spring. Our Builders will be referring projects to other related trades through the winter.

This year we have 2 magazine articles coming out in April-- These will also make things pop when things warm up.

Get ready for spring--Get Listed and Get Busy!  

More information please click Join Us


Monday, January 03, 2011

I built a website for my Deck Company-- Now why won't my phone ring?

You have built a few decks, took a few photos and now you have paid a webmaster to create a website for you. You did what the webmaster said and submitted it to every directory you could find and all the search engines... 3 months later. Nothing.

Your webmaster said he does SEO and could make you rank...

He said it might take a couple of months...

You won't like hearing this, but, it takes YEARS to get traffic on line and that is only if you did EVERYTHING right.

If you hired your phone company to do your website... start again. Sites hosted within domains owned by the phone company do notoriously badly. Google is competing with the yellow pages so they get penalized. Besides... they don't have a clue how to make a web page rank.

If your site is Flash, (A programming language that is invisible to google that features brilliant graphics), you also will need to start again.

If your site is only 5 pages and doesn't change monthly... you better give out thousands of business cards and flyers because nobody will ever find you on line.

Getting web traffic is at minimum a part time job. It takes research, some basic knowledge and you had better be a good communicator and do beautiful work or you are simply wasting your time. 

So you have already built your website and you may as well keep it up and running and make the changes you need to do to get some traffic. You need to set a bar to decide if you are making headway.

Have your webmaster install Google Analytics on your website and give you access to your stats. That way you can find out what they are typing in and where they are finding you from. There will be a wealth of information to be found within the stats. Even if you have a phone company site--install Google Analytics. The best way to discover how to make a site rank is to look at the sites that rank now. Keep in mind though, that the rules change nearly daily and sites will rise and fall at the whim of the internet gods!

I've noticed something disturbing of late when it comes to advertisers on Google Adwords. Would you believe that the phone company has taken to buying adwords to bring traffic to the sites that they created for their clients? So, you go to the phone company, they charge you more so that they can pay google, and Google pays me to help you get traffic in your local area. (You can click on any of the ads on this blog or go to and check the ads below and on the right hand side).

You might be better off just paying or Google Adwords and cut the middleman out of the picture. It will definitely be cheaper!

Put simply, gets a million visitors a year because we have GREAT content, the most beautiful projects and photography, and insightful information you simply can't find anywhere else. And it doesn't hurt that we have been on line for about 12 years now.

To learn how to become one of our Builders... Go here!    Join Us

Drop by the locations page to see how much traffic we get where you live.

Please don't fall for big claims by many sites that don't actually get traffic. Check this article out to understand how people exaggerate their traffic    Web site traffic explained