Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Decks with Curved Rails

Curved Rails in Muskoka!

by Lawrence Winterburn

Lots of deck builders attempt curves--however, few of them achieve something that fits the site, looks good up close and lasts as long as it should. This is a summer residence near Gravenhurst Ontario.

I designed it to work with the flow of the home and to blend with the surroundings. Elevated homes with lake views need to also look good from the water--so I took that into account. 

When it comes to the rim joists, they need to be structural, so those are a solid lamination using red cedar lumber and marine grade adhesives. It is much like making one solid piece of lumber from multiple layers. Installing them is exactly the same as a regular joist, using nails. Since it is structural you can simply bolt the posts in place just like any deck.

The top cap is also made from multiple pieces and faired smooth. Fairing is a boatbuilding term, that just means to make a curve smooth and even. Since framing is never absolutely perfect, allowances for irregular placement of the posts must be made, which is why this rail ended up being about 9" wide around the curve. We added a drip edge to keep the inner portion of the rails dry.

The glass is 1/4" tempered and this rail, (a standard GardenStructure.com detail), is engineered to span 6' without too much trouble. The posts around the curve are roughly 4'-6" to work with the top rail size, so that flat panels work. Curved glass panels are possible, but not many clients will like the price.
 When you want to show off a view--and your prowess as a carpenter, a grand curved rail like this fits the bill!
*If you want details for this rail and or layouts to do your own, or a rail installed in Ontario get in touch with www.gardenstructure.com and ask for Lawrence, or email plans@gardenstructure.com . We will do our best to help you out! 888 293 8938. Visit the website for many other curved decks and pergolas!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Starting your own website. The top 5 things you will need to makes sales with your web-site

Well, it is good that you have finally done it--however, you are a little late to the game. If this were baseball, your team would have forfeited already, but hey, in the interest of positivity, it is good that you showed up. Creating a web-site for your deck company is a must. Getting something up is the important part. Remember--Ford didn't produce the GT 500 in their first year of business. Your first website is not where you will end up.

1)  The hook. Most deck companies won't have great photography of their own. You really need great photographs of decks, fences and pergolas. How do you get to do big beautiful projects without already having built them?  Photographs of shining happy people in your intended demographic enjoying their summer on a deck, (Archadeck has been using that type of marketing for a few years now), or the most creative and intriguing photographs of cutting edge projects. You can buy stock photography numerous places... for which you pay a license fee. Much to my chagrin smiling faces still make the phone ring--sometimes human nature infuriates me, but it is true.

Grabbing photographs from other websites is a big no-no. You might get away with it for a few months--but most of the major companies will sue you out of existence for stealing their work. 

The other option is to align yourself with a company like GardenStructure.com in order to use their photography to populate your new site. They have been the cutting edge in outdoor woodwork design for decades now, and there is nothing like showing brilliant and well executed designs to sell decks and pergolas.

2)  Clear navigation. There is nothing worse than getting to a website and it isn't obvious where to find things. Think through your major headings and keep things easy to navigate.

3)  Your address and area of operations. People need to know where you work and live. Everyone wants a local company to do their work-- and they don't want sub contractors coming from god knows where. They know that quality is higher if you are truly local.

4)  Testimonials--Let me be candid. 90% of testimonials are bogus, and you will not be publishing actual names and phone numbers on a website these days... so give them what they want. When you are new to the game you need to convince people of your ethical and trustworthy status.

5)  A phone number and e-mail link. I can't tell you how many sites don't have a way to contact the company displayed prominently. If you want the business, they have to be able to contact you!

This is just basics... to have a great website and to become a business leader you need advantages. Things that set you apart as a company and make you a known quantity in the business. A great flyer (which is basically what you are creating with your website), is just the beginning. Now you need to get that flyer into the hands of your millions of potential clients.

For a dose of reality--there are only 104 million other deck builders trying to do the same thing.GardenStructure.com created our first website in 1997, and we get about 1 million unique visits every year. Very few other companies in this business get near that number of visitors.

Building a website takes time. In order to get traffic, you need links from other authority sites and compelling content that draws those links.

Build a great website--and with some luck they will come!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Selling Decks - Where are all the Big Decks?

Larry was 18 years old and building decks in Burlington Ontario. He went out and worked for the best deck companies in Ontario the year previously, about 5 of them. He learned all their tricks, how to price and how to do some basic marketing and decided that he could do it better. Marketing that worked? Flyers, a small ad in the phone book, and signs on the lawn and truck while you work seem to do the trick.

Larry worked on 1 street for 2 months, some 12 jobs in total. He was working under a name cooked up by his father. "Fair Deal Carpentry", and it sounded right since that's really what everybody wants right?

Larry was 18, but unfortunately he looked 14. It is a difficult task to convince anyone that he is an expert in the field of decks and fences when you look so child like.

What's in a name anyways? Your work speaks for itself right? All that matters is that you get your foot in the door and get the opportunity to sell right? All leads are good leads... aren't they?

Larry was doing a job in Hamilton for a referred renovation through a friend and if you have ever been in Hamilton you will know that it is all 1 way streets. A drunk in a van loaded with roofing materials ran a red light and Larry's truck t-boned the van. His left arm went through the drivers side window and his right hand pushed the steering wheel of the F150 about 6" out of round. The truck was about 3' shorter than it started out.

After 6 months of rehab and laser treatments he could finally turn his ignition key in his truck. Insurance replaced the truck, but he lost about 4 months of work at this critical time in his business start up. He burned up all his cash and was basically starting again.

This was 1991 and Larry is/was Lawrence Winterburn, founder of GardenStructure.com and things have changed a little in the past 20 years.

All the things that worked for me in the first year or two are now ancient history. Flyers, Yellow pages no longer work. Lawn and Truck Signs might, but that original name...my God, what a mistake that was!

I milked some opportunities, what turned out to be important ones from the bargain seeking clients I ended up meeting up with, but that Fair Deal name lead to lost opportunities, jobs with no profit and cheapskate clients that would negotiate all the way through the job. Things didn't start to get better until I changed that name.

It was just one of the reasons I didn't get the big profitable jobs back then.

I was doing all kinds of things wrong, and lucky for me, I learned from the experience.

If you want to learn how to get the big leads, and opportunity to do more profitable large projects, click this link. Starting a Deck Company

I want to help you become a success... Preferably Sooner -- Rather than later!


Sunday, April 08, 2012

Spring 2012

It is shaping up to be a great year!  All the crews are busy and they got a good early start.

We have openings for exclusive builder, coming up next month in Oakville. Dan took a cushy corporate job in Calgary with Stanley Tools. To be young and impetuous....Yes, I am envious. Dan did great work with us. Did a beautiful portico in Oakville and another curved deck we haven't taken photos of yet.

North York is also coming available later this spring. Brian doesn't have time for decks and fences since he is making investments in a development in India...and will be developing a subdivision there. Brian also did beautiful work with us.

We have new builders this year in Windsor, Barrie and Caledon... all brilliant craftsmen.

If you are interested in becoming an exclusive builder with GardenStructure.com call Lawrence at 888 293 8938

Friday, March 30, 2012

GardenStructure.com at the Windsor Home Show

Sal Constante is at the Windsor Home Show this weekend-- at the GM plant. Booths number 400.

Sal is one of our most talented builders and this is a chance to see some of his work up close. Bring a sketch, photos and he might have time to sketch some ideas for you while he is there!

He builds decks, fences, pergolas and decorative woodwork for the garden of all kinds!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lots of noise about Composite Decks

Linkedin is abuzz over composites. New products all jostling for position in the business. There's a great article about the current state of composites in North America here..

They talk about the expected new generations of products due out this fall, and touch on capped materials swelling at the ends and causing the vinyl cap to tear. 

Michael Dotson spent $15,000 on Geodeck materials and sent in a pile of photos of that failure--he told me that  
"I filed a claim... and had a claim number....and eventually was told we have no $$$ to pay your claim"

We are going to use all of them for a gallery of photos for the "Composite Decking Article" shortly, but here are a couple of samples.

Now, I know that the Geodeck name has been sold twice since the originators of this product had control...but this legacy will continue due to the mistreatment of their customers. When you buy composite decking you need to know that many companies have left customers with decks that look like this--and when they get sold, change their names or go out of business, you have NO Warranty!

If you have photos of a deteriorating composite deck... send them along. It may cause pressure on the company to service your warranty claim.

For GardenStructure.com's article on " Composite Decking " click here.

If you are building a deck and considering composite decking... Do your Research!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Articles; Composite Decking and Starting a Deck Company

"Composite Decking Vs Wood Decks" update.

This article has been updated for 2012. We don't typically use composite lumber in our projects, simply because their warranties don't cover labor should they make a bad batch. It just isn't something that we have faith in as a product. The major development is that a composite decking company has blinked and is now offering a warranty that covers replacement of the decking by a qualified builder for a period of 5 years.

There are a few new composite decking horror show photos sent in by clients and much of the information inthe article has been updated for 2012 with composite industry changes.

There is also a new article about  "Starting a Deck Company in 2012".

The information in the article will give the new deck builder insights into creating a winning business plan for your new deck company. It also outlines many of the advantages our "Exclusive Builders" have over the competition. Designs, Details, Tablet Portfolio and use of our photography for marketing purposes.

There is also plenty of information for the existing deck builder for improving their deck company in 2012, and insights into the economy and how it relates to trends in the deck business.

If you like what you see on this blog or on www.gardenstructure.com be sure to visit our +1 Page. We've loaded it with plenty of photos and information!  Add us to your circles-- We love to connect with other Deck Builders!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wood Fencing - Common Mistakes

Wood Fencing is a subject lacking any professional grade information in books on how to build for durability. On top of that, nearly everyone oversimplifies why fences stand up they way they should. There are many thousands of books and most of the information is recycled from information put out by lumber yards over the past hundred years.

The "Art" of building fences is indeed becoming lost in a sea of mis-information.  We are sharing the basics in a work in progress, "Fence School". We'll be filling in content over the next year to teach good basic fundamentals to builders as well as home owners that want to "Do It Yourself".
This wood fence is located on a commercial property in Barrie Ontario and is one of the best example of a wood fence failure. The fence was built lacking vertical support, and someone added vertically oriented 2x4's after the fact.

Since there was not enough support, and just 2x2's nailed to 2x4's oriented on the flat, the fence sagged causing the boards to come loose. When it comes to commercial wood fences you need to build much stronger to resist snow being plowed and wind that whips across open parking lots.

 These guys didn't consider that trees grow, and this seemingly harmless small tree pushed a rail and the lattice out over the next few years.

 When they added the extra rails, they didn't bother to connect them to the posts, thus, adding weight to an already failing fence, rather than adding vertical strength.

They also didn't consider that in this frost prone area, concrete curbs will lift a couple of inches each season. This aggravated the issue. Mounting rails too close to the ground is a common flaw. Ground swells as moisture within it freezes putting stress on wood fences.

You can read more about fences in this blog by clicking here. Wood Fence Articles
See our DIY Plans and Fence Instructions at GardenStructure.com
We design many very unique wood fences - See our Gallery of Fence Designs

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Do you check on your decks and fences after you build?

I drove past this Wood Trellis Fence that I built in about 1995 just last fall and was shocked at how good it looked. Yes, this client took good care of what I built, and says that people still stop to photograph it 17 years after it was built. Still standing strong, and looking much like when I built it.

More importantly, he still loves the look of it, and relishes the thought that it was designed just for him and his wife. The process worked the same back then as it does now. Customer gives us a wish list and a design retainer, and we come back with options, elevations and layouts.

Without examining the decks and fences you built in the early days you cannot be sure that your methods were sound. This is an extreme being 17 years, however, every good deck and fence builder needs to drop in and see their work a few years after construction. Only by seeing the flaws can we correct our designs and methods. Putting your head in the sand means you just don't care about your  product.

This was one of our first attempts at changing suburbia, and I wouldn't likely design something that looks like this today--however, houses don't look the same as they did then either. What matters is that the customer is as happy today as they were when it was built.

Many builders just cut out pictures and designs from magazines--Short cuts don't make your company stand out. You may not be as prolific as www.gardenstructure.com , however the sense of accomplishment from coming up with your own designs is gratifying.

Don't be afraid to try something different when it comes to decks and fences--you might come up with something that will make you famous!

That said, we excel at unique designs and details, and we do share it with select builders. If you think you have what it takes to work with us, click "Exclusive Deck and Fence Builders" for more details.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hot Spots 2012- Building Decks and Pergolas in Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Boston Mass

We have top ranking local web pages that you can use if you are a builder of decks, fences and pergolas. No waiting... we can edit them for your company in a week or two and your phone will start ringing instantly. The photos you see are actual screen shots of Google results. You need to know a couple of things about how google works before you can get the same results.

Google now adjusts your results based on your profile--so if you have a deck company, and you registered that on google places, or you have a google account then they know who you are. With a static IP they will give you results that make you think you have the top rank. When someone searches for decks, fences or pergolas and where you live, they will see the "Virgin" results, not the skewed results you see at home, and you may only be on page 5. So, to see the actual results, you may have to go to an internet cafe--or a friend's house. Clear the browser cache, make sure you are not signed in to Google... and do the searches.

We have 3 locations with top ranks in Google already, where someone else paid us to create the web presence, and for some reason they are no longer there... These 3 spots are busy areas and any deck builder that wants to grow their business or cut their marketing costs will be well served.
Boston's economy is on the mend--and plenty of people call asking if we have a builder yet. Our designs fit well with the East Coast Architecture... You will be popular!
 Not very often you can jump into an exclusive deal and we already have #1 spots in Google. This isn't just recent... we've held top ranks there for years.
 Vancouver had a couple of slow years after the Olympic Games and when they brought in a new oppressive tax. That means pent up demand for decks and pergolas-- It is a great time to be building in Vancouver and our Canopy System should be a big hit there since it rains fairly often there!
 Vancouver Island is right next store, and Art is a big part of the culture there-- We get nearly as many calls from the Island as the main land, so that should be a very busy area as well.

 Vancouver Island loves their pergolas-- you should be the one to supply them!
 We can pretty much make you rank highly in Google anywhere in North America. That's only part of what we do. Our exclusive builders get to use our portfolio for tablets, design resources and support from head office.

You can learn more about becoming an "Exclusive Decks and Pergolas Builder" for GardenStructure.com here.

You can also call 888 293 8938 and ask for Lawrence for more information. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What is a privacy screen? What are the rules for building privacy screens?

Privacy Screens

What exactly is a privacy screen. What is the difference between a trellis-work and a decorative screen and a privacy screen?

In the eyes of a local building department--nothing. In the eyes of a committee of adjustment or a tribunal... there is a world of difference.

When what you build ends up being an eyesore, you will always lose your case. When a well built and obviously architecturally inspired privacy screen is in place, they nearly always side with you. 

A privacy screen is typically "A visual barrier to provide privacy". It can be an 8' solid fence, an intricate trelliage, a semi private fence or even fishing line that trains vines skyward. If you call it a privacy screen--generally a building department or bylaw enforcement agency will see it as such.

Rules for building privacy screens vary from town to town, borough to borough. Your first step should be Google and second should be visiting your local city hall.

If you are reading this you have likely landed in this situation where a neighbour has complained, or you are planning to build a privacy screen and you want to know if you can legally build a privacy screen on your property.

This is another case where building departments are flying by the seats of their pants to paint something they really don't understand as "This" or "That".

Can you dig half a hole? Not unless you define the hole.

Leaving judgements up to low level managers leads to stress among homeowners. In one area we can build anything we want if it it contains 3" spaces, and 3 miles away they could make you tear the same thing down because it has been deemed to not fit within specifications by a single clerk's interpretation of a more or less identical bylaw.

When it comes down to it most areas bylaws were created to address a certain situation that occurred that resulted in 2 neighbors arguing.

When you are dealing with the building department or municipal bylaw office or even the zoning department you need to take copious notes. It is always best to take a sketch of what you want to build and get their opinion there. The plans examiners and bylaw enforcement officers know the commonly enforced rules and should be able to give you  enough information that you can plan a privacy screen with confidence.

You need to get a business card or write down the names of everyone you speak to. While you go through this process you will discover something magical. If you ask someone at the building department for their card or name they may immedietly call someone else over. This means that you were speaking with someone less experienced at first contact and you may have been wasting your time or about to get inaccurate information.

If they tell you that you cannot legally build the privacy screen you want--you need to ask questions. What can I legally build. Ask for interpretations and definitions so that you can design something that fits your requirements and yours. There is always a large grey area within bylaws.

If you live in Ontario you can speak to Dave Macilius (289) 339-9600 (Hamilton-Burlington) , Mark Schwarz (519) 669-2972 (Kitchener Waterloo), Paul Corsetti (416) 455-5515 (Toronto + GTA). These guys are talented designers that can help you interpret the rules in your favour.

Across Canada and in the US you will want to speak to me, Lawrence Winterburn. (888) 293-8938. I can help you design suitable privacy screens that will meet local code requirements.

To see more Privacy Screens check out our Gallery of Privacy Screens and our Decks Gallery