Coronavirus (COVID-19) & The Outdoor Living Industry

A Resource Guide by NADRA.org

We have written and re-written a number of letters to address how COVID-19 is affecting our industry. And the next day things change so drastically, we scratch that letter and start again. Perhaps you’ve found yourself doing the same thing in your business!

So here we are. 

It’s March 26, 2020. Grocery stores are ransacked. Toilet paper is being rationed by armed guards inside your local Walmart. Schools are empty. Churches forced to close their doors. Sports are cancelled, and parks are closed. Just 3 weeks ago we were sitting on our deck here at NADRA HQ planning an official education and training tour. First stop had been Minnesota. A lot can change in 3 weeks. 

For some, fear is brewing as this pandemic continues to change everything about the way we live day to day life. For others, it may be frustration or even anger at how something is, or isn’t being handled locally.

How will you choose to react to these changes? 

Will you ignore the shut downs, but keep a safe distance from your crew and home owners and continue to build? How will you handle permits and approvals? Are you a lumber yard offering online ordering, or curbside service…or maybe restricting deliveries? Maybe you don’t have a choice and you have to put your business on hold.

Try to remain positive:

Ask yourself this: What is everyone doing at home? Families are cleaning and purging out their closets and garages. They are spending time together. There’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and use this forced stop, as a chance to become better in some areas. They are worried, but they are also making the best of a bad situation. 

What is the best part of this industry? We’ll tell you. Hands down, the best part about our industry is that we provide a space for families to spend time together. A place to play outside. To share a meal and a beer, play a game, jump in the pool, or light a fire on a cool night. 

The best thing you can do right now is to build on the momentum of spending time together. Remind your fans, past clients and customers that this time we are spending together shouldn’t go away in 30 days, 60 days, 90 days…. Schedule conference calls or virtual meetings. Have your client FaceTime/Zoom/Skype while you take measurements outside of their house. 

Many are keeping a distance, while embracing togetherness. Focus on that!

What you can you lean on NADRA for?

We are working on partnering with a couple programs we feel will help make a difference in the way we all do business. Programs to assist you with virtual meetings. One-on-one and group settings. We are also looking into a tried and true credit program for you to offer to your customers, which may be helpful for clients who perhaps overspent on TP…or who may have missed a few paychecks, but still want to take advantage of this season’s construction schedule. This is a program that we trust and have even used ourselves. More details are forthcoming.

We’ve compiled an extensive list of links and resources that are worth reviewing. Perhaps there will be an idea that you can use to either minimize the negative impact for your business- or help you grow as we move through these challenging times. If you have information you feel we should include in this resource guide, please send links to Info@NADRA.org.

Above all, please remember that we’re here for you! If we can help in any way…please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are your industry’s association. We are also real people, who love and value you, and want to do anything we can to help you survive, and then thrive!

List Of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Industry – Related Updates from our members, partners and friends: (all in one place, updated regularly):

Business Resources: 

Mr. Rogers’ Mom had the right idea; “look for the helpers”: 

A Simple Recipe For Contractors Part Two:

Referrals, Websites, and Social Media, By: Bobby Parks

Staying Busy

As I travel around the country it’s common to hear the phrase  “we’re staying busy”. Although that’s better than the alternative, plenty of contractors go broke “staying busy”. They don’t fail because they don’t have work. They fail because they aren’t charging enough.  Charging what’s needed to be profitable has always been challenging but it’s easier to do if you incorporate a few simple elements that increase the odds in your favor. Without having the right pieces in place,  cost becomes the driving factor which results in staying busy instead of being truly profitable. 

In part one  of “A Recipe For Contractors” I shared views on the importance of a contractor’s building philosophy, choice of project deliveries, and messaging.  In this second segment, I’ll share my thoughts on additional ingredients with referrals, websites, and social media. It’s a combination of what I did as a former contractor and what I’d be doing in today’s market.

Prior to entering the business I had no sales or marketing experience, but yet I was able to sell and build a lot of projects with an emphasis on margin growth versus traditional production growth. It involved an effort of maintaining an awareness of what was going on in my market, but also what was not being done and where I could gain an edge. It was an effort to help set the trend instead of following it. For me, it was about laying simple but effective groundwork and creating the layers of credibility with a business recipe that allowed for success. This included implementing a strategy that provided leads through a combination of a website, referrals, and later utilizing social media. 

Leads Equal Opportunity 

The upside potential for contractors is directly affected by leads generated, the profit contained in each job, and production capability. The better the lead, the better the opportunity.  It’s also a numbers game involving a balance of quantity and quality of leads along with closing ratios. Although some brag about high closing ratios, for design-build contractors this can be a bad thing in that you’re likely leaving money on the table. It also comes down to production as most contractors have a certain “buildout capacity” that’s based on their labor availability. No matter how much they sell they can only deliver so many jobs in a year’s time. Depending on how well these projects are priced from a profitability aspect determines how well they do each year. Some stay busy, some make wages, and some are operating profitable businesses. 

Referrals, Website, or Social Media?

When it comes to customer leads and jobs sold, what is your best source? Website, social media, referrals, or another source? Of the first three, referrals are typically the best quality because they’re coming from someone that you’ve already satisfied that provides an actual testimonial referral to a friend or coworker. The fact that you’ve proven yourself to this past customer means this referral carries more weight than any other source. This provides you credibility going in and lowers the sales resistance walls that most prospects have. It also raises the prospects confidence level in you earlier in the game. To an extent it can lessen the depth of this potential customer’s due diligence efforts if they trust the person that referred you as they consider part of that process already completed. On occasion you may be their only proposal. The closing ratio is generally higher so from a lead quality aspect, all of us prefer good referrals over any other lead type.

Good and Bad Referrals

The good referrals come from past customers that you charged in a way that provided good profit margins. These customers communicate to the new prospect that although they paid a premium they consider it a sound value investment. They verify that the quality of the project and the delivery experience made it worth the price. This new prospect understands they’re going to have to pay so they’re not expecting any type of discounted deal therefore allowing you the potential profits you should be striving for.  

The bad referrals come from those where you lowballed a price and profit was limited. Some contractors who count on referrals only may have several quotes out there and they need a job to move to. They have to keep people busy and cash flowing. In order to assure they’re not going to come to a stop they contact the prospects with quotes and offer a discounted deal. This means that not only will you not be profitable on this project but the referrals that come from this customer won’t allow for good profit as well. If this  customer refers you they’re likely to communicate that the contractor works cheap and they should call them. This new prospect expects a deal same as the first so there’s no upside potential for profit. It’s another job you have to give a deal on and the process repeats itself. 

Referrals Only Can Limit Upside Potential 

Even with good referrals your companies profits can be limited if you work off “referrals only”.

On average, most organized contracting businesses that produce significant volume get 30% of their leads and jobs from referrals. This means that 70% of the leads and jobs come from other sources most of which are website or internet based. It also means that those working off referrals only are working off a fraction of the lead and quote opportunities compared to those with effective websites and internet presence. Because the ones with websites have this lead surplus they can afford to quote at higher margins and work off a lower sales closing ratio compared to the referral only leads. If you’re running referrals only you have to have a higher closing ratio as opportunities are limited by two thirds or more. Because the opportunities are limited the built in margin is likely to be lower.

The effectiveness of referrals can depend on the types of projects you deliver. For example as discussed in “Part One” your building philosophy regarding the kinds of jobs you’re known for factors in. If they’re lower end wood deck jobs that have weathered, your effective referral rate weathers with them. Whereas higher end projects with better performing materials that stand the test of time allow for longer referrals periods. 

Of course there is an argument over quality versus quantity which applies here but counting on the phone to ring and run a business by “word of mouth” from referrals creates an unpredictable aspect of reliable leads. No doubt many operate this way and many “stay busy” while some actually hit good profit numbers. A lot depends on your desired volume and the amount of buildout capacity you have.

Website Provides More Opportunities 

A website is the gateway and billboard for a company that communicates what you do and the types of projects you deliver. It’s your online headquarters that allows a display and communications of everything your company is about.  If done properly it establishes a strong layer of credibility prior to having contact with a prospect. Because online searches have become a standard process for today’s customers, without one you can be overlooked and unknown. Again, it’s a numbers game that funnels potential customers your way that far exceeds the numbers referrals only bring. 

My website for my former company focused  on two main aspects which were first impressions created by photos and simple messaging. The interior behind the scenes aspect was on optimization. It’s kind of like looking at a sleek looking race car. As good as it looks it’s what’s under the hood that makes it competitive. So regardless of your company size its important that most invest in one and that you use a professional to build and manage it.  You’ll compete with others that do so to try and go cheap or manage this yourself will likely result in an ineffective site that won’t have potential to accomplish the objectives. 

I Stay Busy and Don’t Need a Website

In my opinion many contractors that “stay busy” and don’t see the need to have a website are missing out. Why not provide yourself more leads that allow you to quote at higher prices? Why not add the layers of credibility that separate you from others? When you’re quoting from word of mouth only,  you have to be careful with the price tag as you could exhaust all opportunities and not have enough work on the board. If you have a surplus of leads that allows you to add to the price tag you have a better chance of filling up your job schedule with more profitable jobs. Because you couldn’t build out everything you quote, you can afford to take 2 out of 10 or less compared to having to hit one or two out of three from referrals. It more than covers your website investment as well as adding to your annual earnings. It does require an efficiency in terms of creating quotes which I’ll cover in a future piece.  

There are always exceptions and it is true for some that realize their value, charge good margins and fill their job board with profitable jobs. But in many cases this approach imposes a limitation on upside potential. There’s also the time aspect of being able to run more leads and provide proposals. If you’re working within the crew every day, how do you find time to do both? I’ll cover this in more depth in another piece but a lot has to do with creating a quick quote system so you avoid doing takeoffs to quote every job. It requires models for expedited pricing that allows you to do several quotes in the same time period it may take to do one. This is a necessity to operate efficiently. 

Social Media

Although FB and Instagram can produce leads and can show up in searches, in my opinion these serve more as an expanded internet presence providing social media content and secondary branding purposes. They work in conjunction with a website which is the foundation and mothership for localized leads and prospects. Social media is an enhancement tool and pathway to a site and not the same as having a truly optimized website that shows up in local searches that displays your work and messaging. It’s more likely your peers and followers who are spread out across the rest of the world will see you on the social media platforms but it’s the website that provides you a set up that communicates with local prospects. It’s where your messaging and galleries are.  FB and IG can produce feathers in your cap and add another layer of credibility. It’s a way to directly communicate with others but at the end of the day it’s the prospects in your market that you must connect with and illustrate what your company is about.  

Many businesses such as millworks, subcontractors, and other trades can be connected with builders and remodelers as FB and IG serve as a networking portal. It’s an advertising platform within the building community. It’s like a national builders show compared to a local home show. For the most part they have different audiences. I’m sure some do obtain work through these outlets but counting on social media alone is likely to limit the upside potential. To grow and be selective with jobs and attach a premium price tag, the percentages are going to favor a website.

Work With a Blended Approach

There are exceptions for every aspect here. Some contractors can hit their numbers and maximize profit off referrals only. Some may actually do the same with only a social media presence. A lot depends on the volume required and an individual’s effort in each area,  but in most cases these two aspects alone won’t provide the necessary upside opportunities. Neither replaces an effective website that allows for a better sharing of messaging and photos with local search advantages. Even if you’re a one crew operation with limited buildout capacity you can benefit. It’s not about selling more but more about filling up your job board with more profitable jobs and providing the necessary opportunities to accomplish this. It’s about not operating on hope and prayer. Most will benefit from a balanced three pronged strategy because one day the referral leads that have always seemed to arrive in time to keep you busy may slow to a point that even staying busy is a challenge. Having this balanced plan will produce more opportunities with better predictability providing for a smoother operation and better profits. It’s an investment that some may believe they can’t afford but I would argue you can’t afford not to. It’s an investment in your business and should be part of the plan. For me it was a key ingredient of my recipe. 

Bobby Parks / Instagram: @Bobbyparks007

Copyright Bobby Parks – March 11th, 2020


NADRA Code Update

March 11, 2020: ASCE-7 Subcommittee meeting on Minimum Design Loads:

By: Mark Guthrie, NADRA Code Committee

Members of NADRA’s Code Committee participated in a call held last Wednesday by the ASCE-7 Subcommittee on Minimum Design Loads.  We were there due to a proposal under consideration by this influential group of engineers to add a new load requirement to deck boards. 

The proponent was looking to mandate at first a 300 then a 250-pound concentrated load requirement on deck boards based primarily on anecdotal evidence of board failures and the increase in average weight of our population.  We feel that this change, if allowed to pass, would result in the tightening of spans between joists, the reformulation and retesting of currently well performing composite and vinyl deck boards at a substantial increase in cost for the customer with little or no appreciable increase in safety. 

ASCE respectfully allowed us to speak of our opposition, with much of our testimony spent educating the group on the already strict performance requirements of ASTM D-7032.  Some of our time was also spent drawing parallels between this proposed change and the lateral load connectors that were forced into code lacking the sufficient facts or data to support them, only to be watered down in future code and in many cases unenforced. 

Ultimately, the Subcommittee voted 8-0 in favor but two members abstained in lieu of more study.  In the near future, this item will go to the Main Committee of ASCE for a vote.  We will be continuing to be a presence within the process make our opposition known in the hopes that the best and most fact based standards will result.                       

Outdoor Shower Kits Offered by RDI

Galloway, NJ – March 4, 2020 – RDI, a leading manufacturer of railing and outdoor living products, offers customers an easy solution for creating an outdoor oasis with their Outdoor Shower Kits. Outdoor showers are a hot home feature these days. This back-to-nature haven is especially smart for those who have a pool or live by a beach or lake, and is also handy for rinsing off a dog or muddy tools after gardening.

Sold un-assembled, Barrette’s vinyl shower kits come with all the hardware needed, are easy to install and will complement any home exterior. Posts install over wooden 4” x 4” posts for a strong and secure installation. With multiple kit options to choose from, you can create the design and configuration that suits the outdoor lifestyle and landscaping needs of your customer. 

Choose the basic enclosure kit with two walls or a combo kit with a gate door. Outdoor Shower Kits are made from low-maintenance vinyl that is easy to clean, durable and long lasting. A lifetime limited warranty ensures your outdoor shower will stand the test of time.

According to Patrick Ianni, Barrette’s Director of Product Management, “An outdoor shower is the perfect affordable backyard luxury, no matter your style or budget, and is as accessible as it is desirable. It will add to your patio or yard, enhance the beauty of your landscaping, while adding value to your home.”

About RDI:

RDI is a leading manufacturer of durable, low-maintenance and code compliant railing and outdoor living products. RDI provides solutions that feature style, performance, durability and safety. Offering classic, traditional and modern designs in a wide variety of materials and options including composite, vinyl, aluminum and steel. As the Pro Dealer arm of Barrette Outdoor Living, RDI services 2-step distributors and lumber dealers nationwide. For more information, please visit www.rdirail.com.

For further information, please contact:

Maureen Loughead
Associate Channel Marketer
Barrette Outdoor Living
Maureen.Loughead@us.ebarrette.com
www.rdirail.com
609-593-5635

Question & Answer with NADRA.org

An on-going series of inquiries from consumers & industry professionals sent to Info@NADRA.org.

Question #1:

“I am planning a deck on the back of my home. I am wondering if I am missing something. 

I want to use 6×6 post and notch them for my beam and rim joist as one, then just carry it up to be my hand rail posts also. Other than maybe cost and the extra work of dealing with the heavier pieces this seems like the way to go but I don’t see anyone doing it. Am I missing something as a non professional as to why this would not work?

Other details: Deck height on one end will reach 36 inches. Total deck size will be about 24 feet along the house and a max of 12 feet out away from the house.”

Answer provided by Glenn Mathewson, NADRA Technical Advisor:

Thank you for reaching out to us for assistance.  The NADRA membership supports the organization to offer commentary to those seeking a better understanding of the deck and railing industry.  The International Residential Code (IRC) is a model code developed by the International Code Council.  Government authorities very often reference this document for the regulation of single family homes, but they often make amendments to change the rules.  The guidance herein is only in regard to the unamended model code, as we are unaware of your locally adopted building code.  The subject of guards may or may not be amended.  have reached out to our advisors to provide you assistance.

What you are proposing is not unusual in anyway and can produce a very sound and beautiful deck and guard.  Being a technical subject, it is important we clarify that you are referring to “guards” and not “handrails”.  Handrails are only the graspable rail found beside stairs and ramps to assist in ascending and descending.  A guard is a feature at the edge of an elevated walking surface meant reduce the likelihood of a fall off the edge.  Presuming you are speaking of a guard, we will continue.

According to the 2018 IRC, guards must be designed to resist a 200 lb load placed at the top of the guard, currently in any direction.  To achieve this design load through testing, an ultimate strength of no less than 2.5 x the load must be resisted.  This is a 500 lb test load.  Research has been done on this load for guard post connections and found that a 4×4 post could not be notched at the point of connection.  No testing occurred on a 6×6.  In the development of the next edition of the IRC, the 2021, much discussion was made by industry professionals on the subject of notched guard posts.  A proposal was submitted and approved for this code, based on the research and engineering analysis, that prohibits the notching of 4×4 posts.  In the discussion for this proposal, 6×6 posts were brought up.  When notched to retain at least 3.5 inches of material in the “flange” it was agreed that notching a 6×6 should not be prohibited by code at this time and without further research.  No code provisions were approved with relation to 6×6 posts.

In the absence of prescriptive design methods or provisions provided by the code, a design professional is necessary to validate structural performance. Therefore, we cannot provide you any definitive answer, as there is not yet an established accepted and generic practice to notching 6×6 guard posts. We can tell you that it can be achieved sufficiently, and is a design seen in the industry.  Here are some things to consider as you make your decision:

  • 1) Determine if there are local design standards required by your local building department.
  • 2) Discuss the design with your local building department.
  • 3) The design of your guard assembly as a whole can have an impact on the load resistance the post to beam connection must resist.  Evaluate this.
  • 4) Notching of material must be done with consideration to any knots, wane, or damage to the member near and at the notch location.
  • 5) Do not overcut your notches with a circular saw, as this equates to a deeper notch.
  • 6) If it is preservative treated lumber, you need to field treat the inside of the notch.  If cedar, you do not.
  • 7) At a minimum, do not leave less than 3.5 inches of material remaining in the untouched portion.

We hope this information will be helpful to you in your project.

RDI’s® Decorative Screen Panels Offer Privacy Solutions

Galloway, NJ – February 24, 2020 – RDI, a leading manufacturer of railing and outdoor living products, offers privacy solutions with Decorative Screen Panels. RDI’s Decorative Screen Panels provide semi-privacy when installed on a deck, patio, or porch, delivering more options for customer’s outdoor living needs. The durable panels are available in an array of on-trend designs, colors and textures that are sure to work with all styles ranging from traditional to organic to modern. 

The Decorative Screen Panels are constructed of weatherproof polypropylene material at twice the thickness of most outdoor lattice. They resist warping, rotting, twisting or splitting and will not discolor or show scratches. The low-maintenance, impact-resistant material will ensure outdoor sheeting remains stable in extreme conditions. In addition, RDI’s Decorative Screen Panels can be painted for complete customization to complement any home project or outdoor environment.

You can also easily enhance the look of a patio or deck with the powder-coated aluminum Decorative Screen Panel Frame Kit. The surface-mountable Frame Kits work with the Decorative Screen Panels and are easily installed up to three panels high, allowing for custom configurations that reflect your personal style. 

New for 2020, and introduced at this year’s NAHB International Builders’ Show, are a Line Post Kit and Corner Post Kit to be used in conjunction with the Decorative Screen Panel Frame Kits. These new products will make it easier to create continuous and corner privacy sections on a deck or patio. 

These architectural panels provide the flexibility and versatility to use them in many custom and creative ways for your customers. They provide decorative beauty while also serving practical purposes. RDI’s Decorative Screen Panels and Frame Kits can be used for a wide range of applications that will enhance both your outdoor and indoor living spaces with color, texture and creative accents, while adding a bit of privacy. 

Mark Brown, Senior Marketing Manager, stated, “With homeowners looking to spend more and more time living and entertaining in their outdoor spaces, there is a higher demand for privacy. We are very pleased to be able to offer attractive privacy solutions for both residential and commercial uses.”

About RDI:

RDI is a leading manufacturer of durable, low-maintenance and code compliant railing and outdoor living products. RDI provides solutions that feature style, performance, durability and safety. Offering classic, traditional and modern designs in a wide variety of materials and options including composite, vinyl, aluminum and steel. As the Pro Dealer arm of Barrette Outdoor Living, RDI services 2-step distributors and lumber dealers nationwide. For more information, please visit www.rdirail.com.

Home Show Season is Here. Are You Ready?

Tips from NADRA.org

March is right around the corner, and that means we’re entering “Home Show Season”. It’s the end of the winter, the early customers are calling and inquiring. Now is our last chance to button-up any policies, procedures, and give our companies one last “spring cleaning” before the rush!

Home Show Tips:

  1. Market the event ahead of time. Ask your family, friends and fans to share a post about the show. It’s human nature to want to help. Your family and friends will want to share your post and tell people about it! If you’re feeling shy about it, offer a free prize to a random fan that shares your post. That way everyone wins!
  2. Pull the crowd into your booth. Try something interactive: Corn hole, giant size connect 4 or jenga.
  3. Two things everyone has a hard time saying “no” to! Hand Sanitizer and Candy. Do yourself a favor and stock up!
  4. Collect Potential Customer Contact information. Grab a fish bowl, use an app, anything! Have your prospects fill out their info and be sure to get permission to contact them. Run a content to entice them to fill it out. Simple ideas might be: $100 gift card to a local pub, Target or big box store gift card, maybe a free lighting package to name a few. Just make sure to give them reason to pass along their contact info.
  5. Ask the crowd to pull out their phones, bring up your social media platforms and follow you. Reward them with some branded promotional merchandise. Who says no to a free Tshirt, stickers, sunglasses or Trucker hat?
  6. Guys. C’mon. Put the phone down! Stand tall, shoulders back, make eye contact and be present. Greet your potential customers. Smile.
  7. Avoid clustering together and having staff discussions. Don’t turn your back to the walk ways. Look approachable.
  8. Wear comfortable shoes!
  9. Don’t dilly dally when it comes to follow up. Follow up right away. Most people can’t remember what they ate for breakfast yesterday! Don’t wait too long before following up. Make it a priority.

Good luck at the show. Be sure to post photos and if you’re feeling up to it, tag your friends at @NADRARocks, or at least use the #NADRARocks hashtag so we can find your home show photos!

Preparing for the busy season ahead. A few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is there any last-minute education to wrap up?
  2. Are all of our vendor agreements in place?
  3. Are your trucks and trailers lettered and in good shape?
  4. Are you displaying the NADRA logo and pledge on your marketing materials? (stand out from the competition!)
  5. Are your business cards printed with updated industry certifications and social media information? Do you have any awards to add to these?
  6. Are you utilizing NADRA’s Deck Safety Month® Marketing Tools?
  7. Do you have marketing pieces ready?
  8. Job site signs in good shape?
  9. Crew T-shirts and hats stocked?
  10. Do you have a good camera for your before and after pictures? Or is this the year to consider adding a drone?
  11. How is the website, email signature, and voicemail greetings?

If you don’t have these things ready, you have time, but that time is now! Go get it done. You’ll feel better prepared, and at the end of the day, you’ll know you did everything you could to be ready for the season.If you’re wondering where to get the best job-site signs, or you’re not sure where to order your T-shirts, don’t forget to reach out to your fellow NADRA members to ask. That’s what we are here for! Ask away. Use NADRA’s social media platforms to ask questions, hop on LinkedIn to start a discussion, Tweet! Instagram seems to be the most active these days. @NADRARocks. Use whatever platform makes it easy for you to ask your question. It’s human nature to want to help. Someone will answer you. Use your NADRA network to better your business. We are here for you. Your NADRA Board of Directors, and Home Office staff are here to help. Feel free to call or email any of us, if we can assist in any way.

We will have more tips coming your way in future issues of your industry brief.

Sincerely,

Your friends at NADRA

Fence Quarter, LLC Announces The Debut of its Carbon Fiber FAIL NOT Hardware System: The First of its King Used in Wood Deck Railings

For Immediate Release: February 12, 2020

LYNNWOOD, WA —Fence Quarter, LLC has done it again with another industry first that is changing the construction industry for the better. The company has launched its patent pending FAIL NOT carbon fiber supplement, a durable piece of hardware that can be incorporated into a wood deck railing for added support. This type of hardware system is especially beneficial for balconies and patios that require additional railing support, such as installations on the first or second floors. 

The Deck Railing Panels provided by Fence Quarter offer a beautiful and easy to install solution for homes of all sizes and styles. Like the company’s patented wood deck railing inserts, the FAIL NOT was inspired by the founding team’s extensive field experience. The team sought to create innovative tools that effectively simplify and streamline the otherwise time-consuming, costly as well as frustrating experiences that many homeowners and construction companies experience when installing, building, and maintaining porches or decks. Like the pre-assembled deck railing inserts, the FAIL NOT is made from the highest quality material, is easy to install, and delivers long-lasting results. 

The FAIL NOT patent pending hardware system is the strongest insert on the market, exceeding Building Code requirements by over 11 times. It is made using carbon fiber and designed to withstand temperatures beyond 120 °F. Like all Fence Quarter products, the FAIL NOT hardware system is designed to be highly functional and aesthetically pleasing. In fact, after installation the only component of the FAIL NOT system that can be seen are the stainless-steel security screws.

Unlike other support systems, the FAIL NOT is uniquely designed so that homeowners can readily remove their deck railing inserts for regular maintenance or for changing to another one of Fence Quarter’s unique designs.  In short, the carbon fiber support system only needs to be installed once, which saves time and reduces costs, while delivering a lower environmental footprint because the carbon fiber is made in the USA from 100 percent recycled materials. 

The FAIL NOT, as well as the entire debut line of Fence Quarter products, is now available for purchase. To learn more, contact Fence Quarter by calling Toll Free 800-205-0128, emailing sales@fencequarter.com, or visiting www.FenceQuarter.com.

About Fence Quarter, LLC
Based in Lynnwood, Washington, Fence Quarter, LLC designs and manufactures innovative tools as well as deck and porch railing inserts. Homeowners, seasoned decking professionals, and contractors can all benefit from the high quality and sustainable products that Fence Quarter delivers. From the patented deck railing infill insert to the FAIL NOT patent pending hardware system, Fence Quarter has a history of designing and selling innovative products that are the first of their kind within the industry. The company is dedicated to creating products that are easy to use, beautiful to behold, and feature high quality craftsmanship. To learn more about the FAIL NOT patent pending hardware system contact a Fence Quarter team member by emailing sales@fencequarter.com, or visiting www.FenceQuarter.com.

Are You Charging Enough for Deck Features?

By Bobby Parks

Today’s Outdoor Living Contractors

In today’s deck building market, radiuses, borders, inlays, outdoor lighting, and mitered stair tread details have become the trend.  I have friends that deliver amazing award-winning creations utilizing some or all these elements and most have figured out not only an efficient way to deliver these options, but also how to price them. I know from price tags I’ve seen on jobs and through conversations as I travel around the country that some could be charging more than they are for their projects and especially upgrade features. These operators are producing impressive work, but at compromised prices. In a best case scenario, this limits their profitability. In a worse case scenario, this weakens their financial health and lessens their chance of riding out the next economic downturn as there’s likely no buildup of reserves!

Reasons for Underpricing 

Many deck builders begin businesses with stronger building skills than sales abilities. While most  develop the balance with both, some don’t and often provide quotes without proper presentation or follow up which can handicap margin. They can sell jobs as long as the price is “low enough” but for varying reasons, they struggle to sell at needed margins. 

Underpricing or selling at minimal margins is often a result of one of the following: Not understanding the real cost of delivery. Not understanding the cost of overhead. Undervaluing ones worth. Underdeveloped people skills and sales ability. 

Generally, it  occurs with newer contractors that are trying to establish themselves, but lack confidence in their ability to sell or in the value of what they offer. It also occurs with many who worked as subcontractors that have not fully understood retail pricing or struggle to mentally overcome the “cost” aspect when quoting a customer. It even happens with veteran operators who undervalue their worth and lack the development of confidence to mentally overcome price. 

Motivation, ambition, and what’s considered as satisfactory profitability varies with contractors. At the end of the day it’s what you are satisfied with that matters. I’ve met with contractors that weren’t charging enough for basic jobs and I’ve met with some who charge appropriately for most jobs but don’t charge enough for added features.  Let’s touch on some of these.

Radiuses Are Premium Features with Premium Price Tags

Radius decks provide a great look and delivering them can separate you from competition as you’re offering options that many don’t. But as good as they look on website galleries and social media, it’s only a good option if they’re profitable deliveries. The process for layout, framing, jigs, material, heating and bending borders, and taping takes extra time and requires an investment in equipment. From a sales and production standpoint you’ll spend more time on the site compared to simpler designs, so the project should be priced to produce comparable margins as other jobs from a production aspect.  Giving a deal on the first couple of jobs to create projects to leverage off of makes sense, but otherwise these works of art are opportunities for added profit. 

Mitered Stair Detail Feature Options

Stairs are a necessity for function and can be a “feature” as well. When I built in Georgia most deck projects averaged being at 10’-12’ elevations with 15 or more treads a common occurrence.  Often a landing to redirect the stairs was needed, so by the time railing and lighting were added in, this was a pricey component costing the customer several thousand dollars before the deck dollars even factored in. This left less in the budget to create the usable space, so I kept it simple with stair systems that included riser boards, stair treads, and continuous pvc side skirt trim but not mitered surrounds. It was a clean and functional finish but not a “feature”. If I were operating today, I’d give the customer a choice for more deck space with “nice stairs”, or less deck space with really nice stairs”.

I discuss stairs here as I do for three reasons. One I know from conversations that some have been charging for custom treads similar to what I was charging for my standard ones five years ago. Secondly if the stringers are not stiffened and the treads not installed correctly, potential issues may show up as stairs are tested every time someone walks them.  The push off when weight is applied traveling upstairs and the downward impact pressures on tread nosings walking down is different than typical deck surface travel and can rock the miters over time. You must think about what these will look like 5-10 years down the road and not just for your one, three, or five 5-year warranty. And third, if flat blocking is used and not taped there’s potential for rot issues as well as framing swell which can open up the joints. So, if you’re installing them, take appropriate measures to ensure they’ll hold up and price accordingly. 

Lighting Features 

 Because code requires stairs to be lit in some fashion, I always had a standard lighting package priced in and offered the customer an option to add more for the deck. I know some contractors that throw in a lighting package as a “special offer” effort to help sell the job. If you have priced the project where you believe you can absorb this without affecting your real desired margins or you’re willing to take a hit on some jobs, then I see the rationale. I realize some basic packages can be done at a low cost, but in my opinion, contractors should see “lighting” as an opportunity to add to profits, and not provide for free. Why give something away that most will pay for and that could potentially create callbacks? 

Price it so the Customer Pays Now and You Don’t Pay Later

I’ve learned from over 30 years as a builder that products don’t always perform as advertised. Wood rots, fasteners corrode, and manufactured products can fail. Years fly by and not everything stands the test of time. Incorporating high building standards with pricing that guard against problems is a good approach. Taping pressure treated lumber in certain applications is a good example. But charge for your work and educate the customer why it’s a good idea to do it. If you’re going to experience rot, it’s likely to show up on cut stair stringers, planed down joists, and flat blocking areas used for inlays and borders, so taping is a wise investment. Even if your structural warranty has expired, your reputation can still be harmed with wood or product failures. And if you didn’t follow exact installation guidelines and set the customer up to be “in compliance” and a failure occurs as a result, regardless of your warranty; you may very well be liable. 

In Summary

So, understand my efforts here are not to offend anyone because of how they operate. I know some markets are more challenging than others and there are always low-ball contractors that factor in. The points I’m trying to make are: Value your gifted abilities and worth and charge accordingly. Have confidence in what you do and require customers to pay for the skill you bring to the table and the art you create when it comes to upgrades or don’t do them. Limit the deals you give and only award that “upgrade discount card” for those rare projects where it will be worth the investment. Leverage off those jobs and off the reputation and brand you build and maintain because you possess the skill for such offerings. Create sales models and track cost of delivery so you’ll be able to accurately charge moving forward.  Give your customers options with an upgraded price tag so they see the difference and value, so you come out ahead either way. Realizing markets vary most can charge their worth. It’s a builder’s market in most regions and if you’re a quality operator, you are in the driver’s seat. And although profit margins vary slightly from job to job when job-costing is done what’s important is that it averages out at the end of the year. 

Selling jobs at the right price will always be challenging and requires several aspects working together.

The key is to separate yourself from others by creating layers of credibility. Gain confidence in who you are and what you offer along with generating the right kind of leads that provide the opportunities needed to hit your numbers. There are ways to position your company to increase success in sales and increased margins and I’ll share my thoughts on that in upcoming pieces. 

Bobby Parks / Instagram: @Bobbyparks007

Copyright February 12th, 2020 – Bobby Parks





Manufacturers Share Highlights from 2020 International Builders Show

A letter from NADRA’s President, Matt Breyer: 

This year’s International Builder’s Show was again held in Las Vegas, and like always it is almost impossible to absorb it entirely! It’s a very well-run event, but the sheer size and scope of what you are immersed in can be daunting.

Part of what I attempt to do is visit with as many of our NADRA members as possible while walking the show. However, due to the 80-100,000+ people walking the show with me, this means I’m not able to physically talk with our members- as there’s a crowd in their booth ahead of me!

It’s been encouraging to see the growth and development with our members- and with the industry segment at large at this show. At the moment they haven’t sectioned us off into our own “wing”, but there is no doubt that the “outdoor living” category is well represented at IBS.
Something else I attempt to do at this show is simply walk through as much of it as possible, looking for design inspiration, subtle market trends, and clues for where consumer preferences are headed. Rest assured, if there’s a kitchen cabinet feature consumers want inside, at some point that’s a detail they will be asking about outside with the grilling station, and I’d like to be informed enough to have that conversation!

Something else I’ve grown to love about shows like this, is the excuse for some “reflection time” away from the “daily grind” back at home/office. Vegas isn’t exactly known for it’s “quiet spaces”, but the dramatically different environment does provide an opportunity to disrupt daily routines, and some personal reflection- and that (at least for me) is extremely rejuvenating!

It looks like we’re headed into another strong year. There’s good pent-up consumer demand, a great overall economy, and we’ve got some of the best materials available to use as we seek to exceed our client’s expectations yet again. Here’s to an AWESOME 2020!

We hope to see you throughout the year at various NADRA events and shows. Please stay in touch! If you’d like to send us photos and a brief recap from your experience at the International Builder’s Show, please send images, links and comments to Info@NADRA.org. We will keep the blog updated with posts from our members!

At your service, 
Matt Breyer

We invite you to scroll through the photos & comments from NADRA members that participated & exhibited at the International Builder’s Show last week in Las Vegas:

Screw Products, Inc.:

We had a wonderful time at the International Builders Show this year in Las Vegas. The people who came to our booth were from a good mixture of states, a wide variety of visitors from lumberyards to designers, to contractors, and all were very interested in our new and improved line of Gen II fasteners. We had quality time to explain our Horizon Curve Head and its slight curvature of the head that make for for elegant, professional results. The Finish Ring underneath the head that provides a better finish by cutting the top fibers in the wood for an extra step in countersinking, our Turbine Ribs that cut quickly into the wood, leaving a professional, clean finish with maximum wood contact, our Twin Blade Knurls that cuts fast to dramatically reduce friction and heat on the shank, while reducing load on the drill and we talked about our Fast Start Tip sharp threads all the way to the tip and how the fastener has an immediate grip for a fast start. The inset thread cut drastically reduces splitting effect and minimizes the driving torque needed to engage the wood.

We introduced our new lines at the show that included AXIS™ Structural Wood Screws, EPIC™ Trim Head Screws, PICO™ Finish Head Screws, AURA™ for Cabinetry & More, NOVA™ Structural Lag Screws, YUKON™ Hex Structural Lags and ROCO™.

We were also able to show our new Planograms available to the retail lumberyard, home center and hardware store. Learn more at ScrewProducts.com.

TimberTech:

The 2020 IBS AZEK TimberTech booth was a labor of love with the joint efforts of Minnesota Platinum Contractors Phi Decks and Deck and Basement partnering on the deck build.  The 50×80 deck featured all of the colors in the Legacy and Vintage collections as well as the four colors in the new Reserve Collection. Learn more at: TimberTech.com

NADRA Members, AGS Stainless: 

At IBS this year, AGS Stainless released its newest stainless steel railing system, Cascadia Rail.

Cascadia Rail was designed to provide deck builders with a visually-stunning and cost-effective stainless alternative to aluminum railing systems. 

Made from 316 marine-grade stainless steel and fabricated to AGS Stainless’ exacting standards, the lineal foot cost of Cascadia is similar to aluminum rail. 

Cascadia is easy to install, ships within 48-hours and is is currently the only ICC-ES approved metal railing system with a horizontal infill. This means Cascadia can be installed quickly,  anywhere in the US and Canada, by just about anyone – and without the need for the engineering calculations typically required by local permitting authorities for custom stainless rails.

For additional info or to order Cascadia for your next project, go to: AGSStainless.com  

NADRA Members, Versatex:

IBS 2020 in Las Vegas was an incredible time. We had a blast showcasing our products at IBS with new color offerings with our Canvas Series. The best part about the show was conversing with industry professionals all week and learning about their work. This is definitely a show that should not be missed! Plenty of innovative products come up each year and we are lucky to have such great support from the industry. Learn more at Versatex.com

NADRA Members, Armadillo: 

Avon Plastics was at the International Builders’ Show (IBS) last week, showing builders how to cut deck installation time by up to 60% just by using TurboClip Hidden Deck fasteners. That’s precious time you can spend elsewhere.

Avon Plastics booth featured all of our building material brands from Armadillo Composite Decking, Grid Axcents Decorative Lattice, TurboClip Universal Hidden Deck Clip and Quix Tile.

We think our Builder Rebate Program is the best in the industry! We had a great response by getting people signed up for the builder rebate program right at the show when they visited our booth.  When you use our brands, we’ll rebate you 3% of your material cost on all Armadillo, TurboClip, and Grid Axcents products. Plus, our Armadillo and TurboClip builders will receive two 192ct boxes of Narrow Gap TurboClip fasteners (enough to install 200sf) simply for signing up! Sign up today at pro.avonplastics.com.  All in all, it was an awesome show!

NADRA Members, MoistureShield:

MoistureShield® made a huge splash with its new booth at the 2020 IBS Show, right on the heels of winning “Marketer of Year” –the highest honor in Hanley-Wood’s Brand Builder Awards.  The winning campaign was highlighted in the booth, with captivating images of underwater scenes on their extremely moisture-resistant composite decking. MoistureShield was also submerged in an actual water fountain and pool, something no other decking would dare to promote!

MoistureShield’s Elevate™ capped wood composite decking, initially offered in select locations in 2019, has now launched nationally at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas. Contractor and lumber dealer interest in Elevate is growing rapidly, as they recognize the need for an attractive capped decking product at an entry-level price point. Elevate decking features a strong, protective cap which shields each board from impact, corrosion and harsh weather. 

In addition, Elevate was Finalist in the NAHB’s Most Innovative Products in the Best of the IBS Awards.  MoistureShield also hosted designer and former HGTV host Chip Wade, as he explored the brand’s Solid Core Difference which makes all MoistureShield decking products moisture-resistant enough to be submersible in water.  He also did the “Feel the Difference” comparison the CoolDeck technology, in which you can actually feel the surface temperature difference in CoolDeck compared to other decking brands. And, Chip did a Facebook Live on how seamlessly MoistureShield complements Belgard® Pavers, firepit and outdoor kitchen for a complete backyard experience.  Learn more about Elevate HERE

NADRA Members, Regal ideas:

Award winning deck builder, Dr Decks, and co-host of the Vanilla Ice Project Wes Kain joined us in the Regal Ideas booth at the International Builder’s Show. It was great meeting so many new contractors. Regal ideas products raise the bar when it comes to safety and durability. Our products are made from high strength 100% pure aluminum alloys and engineered to resist the tests of time and weather and proven to outperform vinyl, composite, wood and steel materials. 

We showcased our TELESTEPS, a must have item for every contractor, builder and renovator! Here is a special offer to our fellow NADRA members!  Use code TELE10 on telestepsworldwide.com for 10% off the entire store plus FREE shipping!

It was a great show! We look forward to seeing you soon! Check out our DeckStars site to see where we will be on tour next!

NADRA Members, CAMO® Deck Fastening Systems:

The CAMO booth had an excellent turnout with quality conversations with both new and familiar faces. Every 15 minutes, attendees watched product demos, learning more about CAMO® DRIVE™, EdgeClips and EdgeXClips. Builders were able to try out the products themselves and hundreds entered to win a DRIVE while 15 walked away with a new tool! 

The CAMO DRIVE™ Stand-Up Tool features three end guides to fasten CAMO Edge Screws, CAMO EdgeClips or traditional face screws—all using your own drill! CAMO DRIVE is a collated stand-up deck fastening tool designed to save contractors time, get them off their knees, and save their backs. Using the CAMO DRIVE tool can result in a deck installation that is 5X faster than other methods.  And, CAMO® EdgeClip® and EdgeXClip® revolutionize installation of grooved boards, either using CAMO DRIVE or their Never Miss Guide™ for hand-held fastening. Stay tuned for more innovation as warm weather approaches!

CAMO was a Day 2 Product Find at IBS by BUILDER Magazine!

NADRA Members, Feeney, Inc.:

The International Builders’ Show was a fantastic way to reconnect with our reps, dealers, and contractors. This year we debuted our brand new faux wood grain finish top rails for our DesignRail® aluminum railing system. Even our own reps were fooled into thinking it was wood! Our reps were also excited by our new DesignRail® Express program, cutting shipping down on select options to 5-7 days. 

Besides the new products, we connected with editors at LBM Journal and Professional Remodeler magazine, and had delightful visits with Chip Wade and Mike Holmes Jr., and  attended the #bestofsocialmedia awards which highlighted some fantastic contractors on social. Learn more at FeeneyInc.com

NADRA Members, FastenMaster:

This year was FastenMaster’s biggest showing ever at the IBS in Las Vegas.  New to our booth was an interactive framing corner which showed off the FrameFAST tool and all-new NLB Connector.  The FrameFAST system has now expanded from its original configuration which made truss-to-top plate connections easier.  It can now create a continuous load path from the truss down to the foundation using the same 6” FrameFAST screw by utilizing different tool heads.  The new NLB, or Non Load-Bearing Connector, combines a screw with floating sleeve for attaching partition walls – delivering lateral stability while allowing for truss movement above the wall. 

Over the three days of this show, our knowledgeable sales, marketing and technical teams engaged with many Pro customers, giving constant demonstrations and answering a variety of product application questions.  For our decking Pros, these demos included our FusionLOC demo deck, showing how to install faster by having collated clips and fasteners in one tool.

Another time-saving product enhancement was our new collated Cortex plugs, allowing the decking contractor to more quickly and precisely align the grain and color of our plugs to match the decking.  No doubt that the few thousand attendees who walked through our booth left with new knowledge of our time and money saving products, and a better sense of why FastenMaster remains Pro Driven. Learn more at FastenMaster.com.

NADRA Members, Trex:

Enter the Next Deckade of Outdoor Living with Trex

Trex delivered the total outdoor living package at IBS 2020! The world’s largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking and railing, and leader in high-performance, low-maintenance outdoor living products, reinforced its position as a one-stop resource for decking dealers and contractors with the launch of three new collections and some exciting railing additions:

  • Serving up something completely fresh for spring, the Trex® Outdoor Kitchens collection boasts the finest in stainless steel cabinetry from category-leader Danver, including Trex-exclusive door styles and more than 20 luxurious finishes.
  • Extremely popular across commercial and residential buildings, exterior cladding is all the rage. Using industry-leading Trex Transcend® deck boards, new Trex® Cladding offers commercial-grade performance, premium aesthetics and low-maintenance benefits. The easy-to-use, open joint system makes hardwood planks obsolete in modern rainscreen applications.
  • Heating up the outdoor living category, the Trex® Outdoor Fire & Water collection offers stylish and durable outdoor fire features, water elements and decorative planters made of premium grade copper or stainless steel.
  • Building on the success of the commercially inspired Trex Signature® Rod Rail, Trex expanded the premium end of its aluminum railing line with the addition of Trex Signature Glass and Mesh Railing. Add striking industrial design with the new mesh infill or optimize views with up to 6 feet of invisible glass. Either way, the view from a Trex deck has never looked better!

To help Trex ring in the new deckade, HGTV personality and Trex brand ambassador, Alison Victoria of “Windy City Rehab,” made a special appearance in the Trex booth at IBS to welcome fans, take photos and sign autographs. A long-time user of Trex, Alison regularly specifies Trex products for the outdoor projects she designs. Be sure to check out Season 2 of “Windy City Rehab” later this spring and look for lots of Trex decks.With an ever-expanding and industry-leading portfolio of innovative, eco-friendly products, Trex aims to provide everything a contractor may need for any outdoor space, from foundation to finishing touches. To check out the newest product collections that debuted at the Trex IBS booth, visit www.trex.com.

NADRA Members, Barrette Professional Solutions:

Barrette Professional Solutions  was officially (and successfully!) unveiled at the International Builders Show last week in Las Vegas.   Barrette Professional Solutions utilizes the top category brands under the BOL umbrella – ActiveYards Fence, Alumi-Guard Fence, RDI Railing, and DuraLife Decking – to provide innovative and effective solutions for architects, builders, contractors, property managers, multifamily housing and landscape architects.  BPS is also supported with a new website that also launched last week – www.barrettepro.com.

We hope to see you throughout the year at various NADRA events and shows. Please stay in touch! If you’d like to send us photos and a brief recap from your experience at the International Builders Show, please send images, links and comments to Info@NADRA.org. We will keep this blog post updated with posts from our members that exhibited at the show!