Business Operations

Business Operations

Happy Customers are Loyal Customers

At RailFX, we sell through our distributor network and communicate with the end-user regarding the installation of our products. As a manufacturer, it’s in our best interest to ensure a solid installation.

Regal Ideas President Retires After More Than 20 Years with the Company

Effective immediately, Andrew Pantelides, vice president of marketing and business development, will be taking over Couillard’s responsibilities including sales and strategy for the company.

Oldcastle APG Will Double Capacity for MoistureShield Composite Decking

Oldcastle APG will double its manufacturing capacity with a new expansion at the company’s MoistureShield plant in Springdale, AR.

Best Practices for Deck Restoration

Regardless of wood type, all decks require a maintenance coat of finish to retain their beauty and ensure the highest level of protection from the …

Fence Planner Software

Simpson Strong-Tie has launched Fence Planner Software—a robust, easy-to-use solution for simplifying and streamlining the fence planning process to create customized designs, compile a complete …

Horizontal Vinyl Fencing Debuts with Barrette Outdoor Living in 2022

Barrette Outdoor Living, Inc., a leading provider of outdoor living products, recently debuted its new contemporary Horizontal Vinyl Fencing product line, featuring two styles — a full solid privacy option and one that features the company’s unique Decorative Screen Panel as an alternative to traditional lattice top.

Marketing Your Business One Image at a Time

As a professional deck builder — a team of one or many — marketing your business may be low on the list or something you farm out for someone else to do. Word of mouth and repeat business may keep your project pipeline steady, and that’s great. Or your marketing may be high on the list if you lack a robust project schedule. In that case, there are some easy ways to get you going. With so many marketing options to consider — updated website, social media posts, Google my business, Google reviews, advertising, blogs, etc. — there’s one essential marketing tactic your customers and prospective customers love to see: project photos. Build Your Image Portfolio Building an image portfolio is often overlooked and is easily accomplished with your smartphone, whether you snap a completed project, work in progress, before and after, no matter how big or small the projects. Your customers and potential customers are searching for inspiration, so give it to them. Building a deck may be an essential part of your project. But also consider the finishing touches like your railings. Are they just there for safety? Or are they an architectural focal point? Is there a view? Was there a before and after transformation? Highlight the obvious and build a visual story. Maintaining a View This recent deck and railing project in Northern California showcase panoramic and unobstructed views. The owners converted a 1970s ranch-style home on a slope perched high in the hills in Carmel, and the view was the highlight of the home. In addition to many windows, the extensive deck off the back overlooks the valley, and by adding cable railing in silver by RailFX, their view is not interrupted. They liked it so much, they added it to the interior staircase. Before and After

Deck Specialists of the Year: StoneCroft Construction

Evolution Specialist of the Year Q. How did you get your start in construction? I have always enjoyed building things. I grew up on a rural family farm in Kansas and I learned to weld things out of metal as a teen. From personal experience, we knew that if we built something on the farm out of wood, we would need to replace it. However, if we built it out of metal, our grandchildren would be able to use it one day. We moved out to Colorado Springs in 2012 because we had always wanted to live near the mountains. Two years later, StoneCroft Construction was born. From the very beginning, we’ve focused on building decks because these structures blend our love of construction and the outdoors. Q. When did you first come to use steel decking framing and why Fortress Evolution? We assembled a beta deck with Evolution steel deck framing in 2018—it was hook, line and sinker. I knew it was a fit for us. Our company focuses on building decks that are as beautiful as they are strong, and as strong as they are beautiful. Steel framing allows us to carry out this vision. We made the complete shift to the Fortress framing system a year later and never looked back. In fact, we just completed our 58th steel deck framing project. We believe in steel because here in the Southern Rockies, wood is exposed to dramatic fluxes in temperature and extreme weather conditions. The dry heat of summer, paired with the wet, cold of winter, can wreak havoc on wood frame decks. It’s not uncommon for typical builder grade decks around here to show signs of deterioration after exposure to moisture or begin warping with drastic changes in temperature. These issues can cause critical places Owner:

What is your building philosophy?

“Building” and “philosophy” may seem like subjects that are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but the latter should come into play for builders. Most successful contractors don’t just build stuff. They have a mindset that includes specific ideas of what they are about. They develop their own style, the customer experience they want to deliver, and the types of projects they want to build. They possess beliefs of what reflects well on them as a builder, and a proven approach to people. They have set standards that they operate within and look at their business as a long-term undertaking. They understand that decisions made now affect them in the future. They build and maintain a reputation accordingly and know what they want to be known for. They don’t just take jobs. They match themselves up with projects and customers that fit. They don’t just ask customers what they want and give free estimates. They consult and help them understand their options and lead them through a process. The best will not deviate from their standards even if a customer would spend money with them for something cheaper. They realize that sometimes something cheaper doesn’t reflect well on them in the long run, so the profit gained up front doesn’t outweigh the potential consequences of a less than stellar reputation down the road. Their philosophy is to operate in a way that includes most, if not all, of the above aspects and one that they can be proud of. It also provides the best chance of a positive long-term reputation, success as a business, and profitability. So, what is your approach to building? Do you challenge yourself with the job types or do you offer options because they are easier to build? Do you deliver the kind of projects you

Contingency

With any luck, the global pandemic will soon be in the rearview mirror. It has been devastating for countless families and small businesses who have suffered loss of life and livelihood. Ironically, for anyone who has anything to do with building, the pandemic has created unparalleled consumer demand for home-related products and services. That combined with historically low interest rates has caused a buying frenzy that has resulted in labor and material shortages not experienced in recent times. A shortage of skilled labor certainly is not breaking news. However, who would have dreamed that we would experience vinyl and potassium shortages and that lumber prices would go through the roof? Making a decent profit can be a challenge under the best of circumstances, but it can be a real chore when labor and materials are in short supply and prices fluctuate at the blink of an eye. That’s where contingency comes in.  The Oxford Dictionary defines contingency as “a future event or circumstance which is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty.” That pretty much describes what’s going on in construction world. The idea of including a contingency in your cost estimates should not be a new phenomenon. A contingency is a cost that should be included in every cost estimate even in the best of times when prices are stable, and labor is readily available. You might say that you don’t need a separate line item for contingency because you mark up your labor and materials such that you can make a decent profit. That might work for some, but for many who offer material and finish allowances to their clients, it can be problematic and confusing. You will always need to mark up your product to make a profit. And you should also always include a contingency to

What’s hot in outdoor living

HGTV expert Alison Victoria lends her insight Now more than ever outdoor living is in! While homeowners have increasingly invested time and money into their yards in recent years, 2020 saw interest in outdoor living spike to unprecedented levels as homeowners everywhere adjusted to a new normal by reimagining how to use and enjoy their exterior spaces. As a result, the outdoor living design trends for 2021 have never been more inventive. “The COVID-19 pandemic has prioritized how we view and use our homes,” said Leslie Adkins, vice president of marketing for Trex Co. “With people spending more time at home, outdoor space has never been more important. It’s where we start our days with a morning cup of coffee, where we enjoy some much-needed fresh air over an al fresco lunch break, where we relish a change of scenery after a day of screen fatigue, and where we can visit safely with friends and family.” Each year, Trex captures input from consumers, contractors, retailers and industry insiders to compile its annual Outdoor Living Forecast. For 2021, the brand teamed with celebrity designer Alison Victoria, star of HGTV’s Windy City Rehab, Rock the Block, and Ty Breakers, to identify four trends expected to shape the outdoor living landscape in 2021. 1. Outdoor Offices Among the top trends predicted for the coming year is the emergence of outdoor workspaces. With working from home and remote learning expected to continue well into 2021, contractors report increased interest in outdoor spaces that can comfortably and functionally accommodate professionals and students. Requests for stylish sheds and backyard cottages are on the rise. Pergolas, too, are in high demand. In fact, leading home design site Houzz is calling 2021 “the Year of the Pergola” due to their versatility and affordability. A relatively easy addition to

Lessons Learned for Deck Builders

How pros have done business better during COVID Deck builders across the country are taking note of some of the biggest lessons they’ve learned and logging them away for the future. Planning is Vital Mark King, founder of Minnesota-based Infinite Decks, stressed the importance of preparation, especially when it comes to partnerships. “Preparation and planning is key!” King said. “Working with a quality lumberyard that allows me to pre order materials for upcoming projects so the material is ready when we are has been a saving grace!” Don’t Assume When it comes to knowing the market, never assume you know it all, says Christopher French, founder of French’s Custom Outdoor Concepts in San Antonio. “I learned not to assume I know the market. When this all hit, I was just starting a project that was bank funded,” French explained. “The lockdowns went into place over the weekend and the customers had to cancel the loan. Thankfully that project went off without a hitch and then the rest of the year showed extreme growth. We went from a one-man show to now three separate crews still working on jobs sold in mid-2020.” Communication is Essential Brendan Casey of Casey Fence & Deck found that most of the lessons he’s learned relate directly to communication in addition to shifting market focus. “As builders, we have learned several important things: communication is KEY. Order materials as early as possible and stay in close contact with your suppliers to know what they have in stock. Lastly, this has forced us to streamline and focus on what generates the highest profitability while maintaining our reputation as a company that will stand behind our contracts and projects regardless of the situation,” said Casey. A Higher Interest in Home Improvement Like most in the industry, Thien Nguyen,