National Nail Launches Versatile CAMO® LEVER™ Tool for Fast, Easy Deck Board Bending

Grand Rapids, MI– At CAMO, we know that you don’t have time to wrestle with deck boards –time is precious during installation and crews are getting smaller. Not to mention the strain on the body and potential board damage. As part of the CAMO experience that delivers ease, efficiency and profitability, CAMO® LEVER™ is the only tool needed to bend, straighten or align deck boards to speed up installation. In fact, contractors can build decks up to 5X times faster when they use LEVER with other CAMO innovations like the versatile DRIVE™ stand-up tool for any decking and CAMO EDGE Clip for grooved boards. In these difficult times, the CAMO team knows that COVID-19 is a challenge for deck builders as they try to protect their families and livelihoods. That is why we’re forging ahead with the latest innovation.

Contractors can build decks up to 5X times faster when they use new LEVER with other CAMO innovations like the versatile DRIVE™ stand-up tool for any decking and CAMO EDGE Clips for grooved boards.

LEVER is all about freedom during installation. Without time-consuming set-up, the unique LEVER tool sets in one turn to lock boards in place for fastening with no strain, no hassle. When combined with CAMO EDGE Clips, LEVER speeds up grooved decking installations by locking multiple rows of boards and clips in place for quick fastening. The compact LEVER is also strong enough to straighten any warped board. Smaller crews are not a problem—LEVER eliminates the need to have someone holding boards, or a tool, in place. Lay your boards down, lock them in place with LEVER and you are free to fasten. And the timing of the LEVER launch aligns with the need for one- or two-person installation that allows social distancing on the jobsite to protect worker safety. 

“We are unwavering in our mission to help contractors build a better deck easier and in a faster timeframe–even with smaller crews,” said W. Scott Baker, CEO.  “CAMO LEVER is the latest addition to the family of innovative CAMO products that gives contractors an unparalleled deck-building experience.  We’re dedicated to helping our contractors stay on the job as well as emerge strong from the pandemic.”

The versatile LEVER tool adjusts to single, double and even steel joists and keeps spacing between boards consistent, which, for the discerning deck builder, adds to the beauty of a fastener-free surface. For the best installation experience, lock in a whole field of boards using 2–3 LEVERS across the length of the deck. 

With an MSRP of $99.95, CAMO LEVER is an affordable, easy-to-use innovation that allows contractors to work smarter, with less labor, and helps them build a better deck.

To learn more about the CAMO LEVER, visit camofasteners.com

About CAMO    

CAMO exists to provide the best deck fastening installation experience for hardworking folks who take pride in their work and value their wallet. That’s you. Whether you install decks for a living, offer to help build them with a buddy, or maybe build just one in your lifetime, CAMO products are engineered to save you time and ensure your work looks and performs as you expect it should. CAMO®. The Better Way to Build a Deck. 

For more information or to locate a dealer, visit camofasteners.com or call 1-800-968-6245. Be sure to “Like” @camofasteners on Facebook and @camodeckfasteners on Instagram. Search CAMO Fasteners on YouTube to find our channel or check us out on Pinterest.

The Overuse of the words: “uncertain times”

By: Heather A. Marchand

I use gmail. If I click on my “promotions” tab, I can guarantee that 8 out of 10 promotional emails use the word “uncertain”. In fact, just for fun, I searched my email for “uncertain”. How many times do you think I found the word? 

TWO HUNDRED emails used the word “uncertain” since March 2020. TWO HUNDRED!

I get it… uncertain = I am freaking out and need to find a way to leverage this disaster to sell you something you didn’t know you needed.

I admittedly made this mistake two weeks ago. I used it in a NADRA email. In my defense, we gave away something quite substantial for free. So I think I earned a free pass here. But in all seriousness, I’m not using the phrase again & you should try to avoid it too. Consumers are over it. 

Here are a few words / phrases you could use instead: 

  • Unknown
  • Weird
  • Undetermined
  • Unsure
  • Crummy
  • My personal favorite: Dubious!
  • During these unprecedented times
  • This sucks

It’s simple. When you are making sales calls and answering inquiries regarding leads… just be real.

As an association we are struggling due to most payables being put on hold. We know you are going through it too. 

Don’t be cheesy. Don’t be sales-pitchy. In a world without human touch, or handshakes, no hugs, no embrace… The best thing you can do right now is to just be real. 

We know we need to find the positives here & as an industry we have quite a bit to leverage during this crisis. The industry knows there is an opportunity here to promote “staycations”. Please do yourself a favor, give it some time and don’t be too aggressive. Families are hurting right now, and the last thing you want to do is have them unsubscribe from your emails or unfollow your business on social media.

Business must go on & there are ways to self-promote in a classy way. Make some calls. Check in on your past clients & prospects that didn’t close. Just be sure to be human. Be sensitive to the fact that folks are unemployed, kids are home from school, parents are losing their minds & some may have loved ones who are ill. Take your time to construct well thought-out, sensitive content for your emails, phone calls and social media campaigns. Sharing content that demonstrates how your company is giving back and supporting your local community is a great way to self-promote. 

We will continue this discussion in the next brief by providing a couple instagram graphics and social media text for your use. 

Have a good week, and please remember, just keep it real. 

Wishing you plenty of sunshine, 
Heather

NADRA Rocks!

Heather A. Marchand
Director of National Programs & Marketing
Direct: 215.317.2018
www.NADRA.org 

A Simple Recipe for Contractors Part Three:

Leveraging Your Photos, By: Bobby Parks

Photos are your visual resume that illustrates your capabilities as a builder and shows your style and creativity through a recorded image history. You’re often being accepted or rejected before you even know you’re being checked out when your website is visited as potential customers are making judgements about you based on the photos they see. The old saying that a photo is worth a thousand words is true as images provide a stronger communication than any words can ever accomplish. Confidence in your ability to deliver the kind of project they want or whether your style is right for a particular prospect is at play. Photos can provide a major layer of credibility and are one of the most impactful sales tools at your disposal making them a key ingredient in the recipe.

Although most contractors use photos,  many don’t incorporate the measures that it takes to fully capitalize on them. Many use unedited photos on cell phones in a disorganized and limited way. Some don’t focus on getting good initial shots or don’t take any at all. Just think about the time and effort you put into marketing, selling, designing, planning, permitting, mobilizing, and physically delivering projects. Why would you not take time to circle back and take pictures of the impressive projects you build and leverage them? Why not take a few simple steps and invest in the appropriate tools to maximize the impact multiple uses can provide? 

In the first two segments of this series (Part 1 & Part 2) I discuss my thoughts on the importance of a contractor’s building philosophy, project delivery types, messaging, referrals, website, and social media. In this third segment I’ll share my thoughts on the importance of leveraging your photos.  

Taking the Photos

You don’t need to use a professional to get good shots. Most will use a phone or iPad which simplifies the process. I still like using a camera and I take shots with the settings on “Auto” and the inner menu set on “RAW”. This allows for easy editing later. Just use common sense. Little things like a ladder leaning against the wall, an extension cord laying on the deck, footprints, or even leaves on the deck become magnified clutter when viewing the photo. Get clean shots and take plenty of them. Drone shots are great as you can pick up the overview angles that truly show the design.

How You Display? Pictures Matters

It’s not only important to take and use photos, it’s also important how you display them to potential customers. Many contractors use photos during a sales call but some don’t utilize them to the extent they should. For example: Showing unedited photos on a cell phone is not the way to do it. Flipping around trying to flash photos on a small screen in front of a customer is not likely to impress them. The images are small and don’t make the impressions that an iPad or larger views are going to provide. Larger views illustrate a clearer vision of what you’re about and shows off quality work much better. In my opinion an iPad may be the most crucial tool investment you make. You buy tools when they’re needed for a job. An iPad is no different and it’s a tool that quickly pays for itself. 

Another great way to show job photos is on a large monitor or television screen. This can be done if you have an office where prospects can come to you and you extend your pc screen. You can even do this at a customer’s home by plugging into their tv. Laptops can be used but iPads are lighter and quicker.

Be Organized:  Create Photo Categories

Be organized and create categories on an iPad such as decks, patios, arbors, porches, pavilions, and before & afters. If you’re delivering hardscape jobs, show patios, outdoor kitchens and fire pits. Remodelers and landscapers can show their categorized projects. If you’re discussing a particular type of project this allows you to show specific job types without bouncing around, it saves time and makes you appear more organized. It assists with a customer’s understanding of what you can do therefore helping create comfort levels and confidence in you as a contractor. 

My approach was to take a group of shots and create a customer photo file. For example, I created a “Customer John Smith Job”  which I loaded the original site photos taken on the first sales call. Once the job was completed I loaded the “after shots” in and followed up with a second file titled “Customer John Smith Selects”.  I copied the select shots that I intended to use from the original file to the select files. These were edited and used in the photo files I showed customers. This boils down what you’re showing and helps with appearing organized and being efficient when displaying what you’ve done and what you’re capable of doing.  It’s creating credibility every time you show a photo. Comfort levels grow when a customer’s confidence in you begins. 

Learn Simple Editing Almost all photos need editing to pop and provide the most impact.  Even a great looking project won’t make the best impressions if it’s a dull shot. Although you could spend time learning editing software, it’s not necessary as all you’ll need can be done in 30 seconds on your phone or iPad with factory installed editing tools. I prefer a free app called Photoshop Express. In some cases as few as two edits on an iPad will do the job. For example; On an iPad or iPhone just click on the “wand” and do a color enhance increase and you’re set. In other cases you may need to lighten the shadows. These simple edits alone can make a huge difference with a photo. (See photos below) You can do other edits like merging grass into the scene and remove items if you’re willing to watch tutorials and learn. Use common sense and don’t forget to remove clutter before taking the shots.  Remember, when using a camera use the “Auto” setting with the inner menu on “RAW. These settings will allow you to do four auto edits and two manual using Photoshop Elements on your PC; you will have great results.  

Before & After minor photo edits

Color enhanced and paint-can clutter removed

Photo Galleries on Website

Having good gallery photos on a website is like using artillery to soften up the beachhead before you launch a frontal assault. Galleries soften up resistance and open the door with upfront credibility. It sets the table for the process that follows. These visuals increase the chance for success, making progress easier to obtain. Again, these should be organized into specific categories. You can even have “featured projects” where you have multiple photos of a specific job that provide a virtual tour.

Picture Videos

Picture videos are a great way to show featured projects. There are many options for easy to use software that allows you to create these one to two minute videos with added music that customers can view. For example I created a 12 minute “Before & After” video that I had the customer watch while I was gathering site information on my first appointment. It kept them in the process while I was outside for the 10 minutes it took to get site information. I did short picture videos to provide a tour of featured projects. These can be posted on your website, YouTube, social media, and emailed to prospects.

Before & After Photos

Before and after shots may be the most effective photos you’ll use. They show your ability to be creative and make an existing situation better. They show how dramatic a change can be and allows a prospect to realize how much difference the right investment can make. 

Photos show before and after and how
dramatic a change can be.

 Photos shows before and after and how dramatic a change can be

Send Before & Afters and Gallery Photos to Customers After Job Completions

Sometimes we start late, the job takes longer than expected, or there’s a problem during the job delivery that we have to recover from. Even if a job starts and finishes on time some customers handle the intrusion aspects differently and may be stressed over the process.  Emailing a visual reminder using before and after photos along with the equivalent of featured project gallery photos to a customer is like medicine that helps the pain go away. It is a dramatic reminder of the positive changes that you’ve delivered, and lessens the effect of most issues that occurred.  Ideally your logo should be on each photo. When photos are shared with customers, work associates, family and friends, through social media, it is clear who is responsible for the work. 

Brochures

Brochures are still a useful tool that photos factor into. These can be left behind after a sales call,  emailed, or accessed through a web link on your website. It’s especially useful when you’re meeting with only one of the decision makers and you don’t want to be confused with others the prospect is meeting with. It’s a simple piece that can be shared with anyone else involved in the decision and helps keep you from being mixed up with anyone else they are getting proposals from. 

Photos show a brochure from my former company

Leveraging Your Photos May Allow You to Charge More

Photos should be utilized on websites, during  sales and consulting sessions, marketing pieces,  brochures, and in follow up communications with customers. They not only open the door to new and often unknown prospects, but assist with sales and business stability and even allow many an opportunity for increased profit. For example; If you are currently having success selling jobs by showing unedited photos on a phone and begin to organize edited versions on an iPad, you can likely start charging 5% more right away because the impressions and confidence this generates can make a huge difference in a customers perception. Your iPad investment will be covered by the increased sales price. 

Adding 5% -10% and selling a job that previously priced out $20,000 project for $21,000 to $22,000 is not a big stretch when a contractor stacks the right layers of credibility in their favor. There is the risk factor for a customer anytime they choose a contractor. If you are perceived with confidence and create strong impressions along with a perceived low or no risk factor because of the credibility you’ve displayed through photos and other means, most you will be able to charge more. 

Operating in Difficult Times

In this series I discuss several key recipe ingredients that work together to create the layers of credibility to provide major benefits for any contractor. All are important. My original decisions on my project delivery types and the way I leveraged off of photos were two of the main aspects that allowed me to accomplish what I did during my years as a contractor. These approaches still apply today. Even during the recession from 2007-2009 I was able to operate and survive a prolonged and challenging period because of the recipe I used. The simple formula provided a solid foundation and ability to survive tough times when others didn’t. We are currently experiencing trying and uncertain times due to the Coronavirus. We will eventually get past this period but some changes will occur. Some things will never be the same because we’ve seen first hand how a contagion can impact an economy. Because it’s happened we can’t help but wonder when will it happen again? I hope and believe this next recovery will be  quicker because the previous underlying fundamentals of the economy are different compared to 2007 and outside this COVID -19 most want to resume where we left off. But the recovery will take a while for some segments and we will likely make changes in the ways we operate. Operating from a simple solid foundation founded by simple recipes as I share, provide a way to maximize profit during a good market, and puts you in a position to survive downturns in a healthier way when they do occur. I hope that there’s something in this series that you’ll find useful and that we’ll all get back on track with our personal and work lives soon. 

Bobby Parks / Instagram: @Bobbyparks007

Copyright Bobby Parks – April 8th, 2020

When the Building Department Closes

By: Glenn Mathewson

Let’s avoid the discussion about “why” building departments are closing, reducing services, or not doing certain inspections.  For virus advice, please head to the CDC or your local health department. In this article, let’s use our First Amendment right and discuss ideas for deck builders that need and choose to keep working, but don’t know how.  These ideas are not for normal times. They are for times when out-of-the-box thinking is required, and norms must be challenged.

Our nation’s building authorities do so much to protect our communities, but if you consider humanity’s timeline of acquiring, maintaining, and improving “shelter”, a building department is a modern convenience.  There were owners, designers, tradespeople, contractors, suppliers, and even utility service providers involved with construction long before there were permits and inspectors. Do you still stop at a red light even when officers are not around?  Most of us do. Can you still comply with code even when the inspector is not around? Yes, but it’s probably going to take more effort. There will be greater risk in absence of their help. Like a red-light traffic camera, if you don’t follow the rules now, you will have to address it later.  So how do you fill in temporarily for the building department, if any hope of their assistance is gone?

Inspections

Government inspections need no justification of their importance.  They keep professionals honest, they reveal the nuances of the local construction standards, and they offer a sense of protection to the general public.  A temporary delay of inspections creates a time gap where mistakes can go uncorrected. Inspection delays happen when unusual events occur and create more work than can be handled, such as roof inspections after a major hailstorm.  At these times, 3rd party, private inspectors are often approved by the jurisdiction at the cost of the contractor. Many building departments already are providing guidance for using 3rd party inspectors and more are likely to follow.  Engineers, architects, and home inspectors could all provide this service, IF they are knowledgeable and experienced in current codes. Larger urban areas likely have code consulting firms able to offer inspections. The problem may be the same though, as you have to get them to leave their home.  If deck builders are left to fend for themselves, they will have to get creative.

  • The Self Inspection:  When it’s time for an inspection, come back the next morning or after lunch with a different hat on.  Go through the whole deck like you’ve never seen it before and write a correction list. Don’t fix anything until you’re done playing inspector.  Have everyone on the crew do this and compare your inspection reports.
  • The Crew Inspection:  For builders with multiple crews, consider having the leads of different crews inspect each other’s work.  It may be hard to get subcontractors to play nice together, but that was so 2019.
  • The Competitor Inspection:  Have you been friendly in your industry?  Maybe made friends with other NADRA members?  Nothing sounds crazy anymore, so maybe exchange a game of “play inspector” with them. 

Code Compliance

A lack of code education is the single greatest cause of code violations and not even inspectors are immune.  The catch is that even if you know the IRC cover to cover, you still aren’t ready to play inspector. You’ve got to know the locally adopted and likely amended code.  Those that continue to build, have a greater duty than ever to build correctly…but that’s not defined in the IRC, it’s defined by each authority. The plan review process usually reveals any local requirements and it allows mistakes to be corrected easily and on paper.  If the chaos continues and you’ve got to start a new project, you still need to do a plan review. Using the same advice provided for inspections, create the best, most detailed set of plans you can, and have someone else do a plan review.  Here are some suggestions if you find yourself in that situation.

  • Review similar past projects and any red lines on plans or revision letters.  Look over the inspection reports from the same jurisdiction.
  • Go online to the building department website and look at their code adoptions and amendments.  Review any guides or handouts they have provided. You may not realize how much assistance has been there all along to help you succeed.
  • Look at the planning and zoning requirements for setbacks, maximum and minimum required areas, and even material types that may be regulated in ordinances and can differ from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Common conditions that trigger unique rules include decks close to property lines, visible from public ways, built with unique materials, at multi-family buildings, or serving a front door.
  • Unusual designs and alternative products and materials may be something to avoid right now, as they get more inconsistent approval amongst building authorities.  Now is a good time to stick to what is easy, proven, and has been successful in the past.
  • Have an engineer review your structural plans and seal them.  This will be incredible valuable to you, but remember it only covers the structural aspects.

Record keeping

Another service of the building authority is record keeping.  Rest assured, they will update records from work during this period, and you would be very wise to make that job very easy for them.  The records you keep as a business are not the ones the building department wants. When your “creative” inspections or reviews are performed, record the date, who did it, and what assumptions were made.  What code is it under? What zoning is it in? What setbacks are required? Write down the details, even if you don’t know what details you should write. Write them all. Take photos and video—of everything.  The more due diligence you do now, the easier it will be to work with the building authority later. If they know you took their absence seriously and acted as professionally as possible, they are more apt to work with you on any resolutions.

This article isn’t suggesting you do work without a government permit, plan review, or inspection, but if you are going to anyway, find someone to perform their function, even if it’s you.  Whatever risk you choose to take in absence of the building department, keep the owner of the property well in the loop and involved. You must have them as an ally and a witness. Finally, you must have your head in the right place.  If you have a negative attitude about the role permits, plan review, and inspection have in your work, you really should just stay home. You’re not ready to be a substitute. Now is a time to realize that the building department was helping your success all along.  If you are going to do their job, you’ve first got to respect it.

Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The North American Deck and Railing Association. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of  their opinion, and are not intended to malign any club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

Why Nichigo G-Tape on Decks?

As originally published on Nichigo G-Tape’s website HERE

Water finds a way. 

In the construction industry, it is always important to keep that in mind. Water ALWAYS finds a way. This is especially true when it comes to deck building. 

All things being equal, wood rot is one of the first places a deck begins to fail. Being exposed to the elements 365 days a year means there are many opportunities for water to find its way into a board and accelerate the degradation.

There are two weak spots in deck lumber: horizontal surfaces and fastener punctures. With the growing composite deck board market, those boards act like a seal trapping water between the composite boards and the wooden joist boards underneath. Punctures drive through treatments exposing the fresh, raw wood underneath.

The weakness is then multiplied on horizontal surfaces WITH fastener punctures. We designed 3040BK to protect decks from this very issue. 

To demonstrate just how much protection 3040BK offers, we turned to our R/D lab to run accelerated tests. We drove nails through our 3040BK, sealed off the top, poured dyed water in, and placed collection cups underneath to see what would soak through.

Next, our team ran two tests, high temp and high UV exposure. Both tests ran for the equivalent of 20 years outdoor exposure. 

Turns out our collection cups weren’t necessary, as neither test had any failures. All 10 nails in each test were perfectly dry and 3040BK was still holding strong.

Use 3040BK to make water find a different way.

Download the full Technical Report HERE


TREX BRINGS SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS TO HGTV® SMART HOME 2020 

Eco-friendly, Low-maintenance Products Create Exquisite Outdoor Living Spaces

WINCHESTER, Va., April 2, 2020 – From the Steel City to a modern city with green spaces, sustainable buildings and vibrant innovation, Pittsburgh offers an ideal location for the HGTV® Smart Home 2020. This year’s home is a natural fit for the city with its industrial aesthetic, neutral finishes and strategically simplistic styling by HGTV designer Tiffany Brooks. With smart living in mind, the home features eco-friendly features both inside and out, including an enviable outdoor living area created with sustainable, low-maintenance products from Trex Company, the world’s leading brand of high-performance, wood-alternative decking and railing.

“This year’s HGTV Smart Home offers an ideal showcase for our extensive portfolio of high-performance, low-maintenance outdoor living products,” noted Leslie Adkins, vice president of marketing for Trex. “From the decking, railing and lighting to the finishing touches like a pergola, lattice and under-deck drainage, Trex offers homeowners everything they might need to create outdoor spaces that are smart, stylish and sustainable.”

The HGTVSmart Home 2020 is cleverly constructed with advanced technology, gadgets and smart solutions to enhance entertaining and everyday living. The one-of-a-kind home features four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two half baths, a three-car garage and a luxurious yard outfitted with a two-story Trex deck and other best-in-class products from the company’s industry-leading portfolio of eco-friendly, low-maintenance outdoor living products.

Decking with Unparalleled Beauty and Performance

Trex Transcend® decking in Island Mist sets the stage for the luxurious outdoor spaces. The top-of-the-line Transcend composite deck boards pair a natural wood-grain pattern with rich color and realistic streaking that delivers the look of wood without the hassles of burdensome maintenance. Like all Trex decking, Transcend brings style that can withstand any weather Mother Nature sends its way and is designed to resist fading, staining, scratching and mold. Unlike wood, it won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter, and it requires no sanding, staining or painting. Food and drink spills can be easily cleaned up and an occasional soap-and-water cleaning is all that’s needed to retain a like-new appearance.

Adding to its appeal, the entire high-performance Trex decking portfolio is manufactured from 95% recycled material, making Trex a smart choice for environmentally conscious homeowners.  For more than 25 years, Trex decking has been made from a combination of reclaimed wood and polyethylene plastic film (recycled from industrial packaging as well as common household items such as grocery bags, newspaper sleeves and bubble wrap). In fact, Trex is one of the largest recyclers of plastic film in North America, repurposing more than 1.5 billion plastic bags each year in the making of its products. 

Railing that Delivers Sophisticated Safety

Trex Transcend® Railing is installed on the second story of the deck, adding both safety and style. Sleek black balusters contrast with Classic White posts and rails to create a distinctive design that complements the home’s modern aesthetic. Boasting unparalleled durability, Transcend Railing won’t rot, warp, peel or splinter and never needs to be sanded, painted or stained – meaning minimal maintenance and long-lasting beauty. Furthermore, Transcend Railing contains a minimum of 40% recycled material and is backed by a 25-year Limited Residential Warranty.

Inspired Illumination

Bringing another green element to the outdoor space are recessed deck lights and stair riser lights from the Trex Deck® Lighting collection. Featuring long-life, low-voltage LEDs from CREE®, the worldwide leader in energy-efficient lighting, the chic, weather resistant deck lights use 75% less energy and are cool to the touch, making them safe for children and pets. The “plug-and-play” components are easy to install on both existing and new decks to enhance the safety and style of any outdoor space.

Ultimate Shade and Style

Just steps away from the Smart Home deck, a sleek white Trex® Pergola Element provides shade and additional space for relaxing or entertaining. The sturdy, low-maintenance, all-aluminum structure features a contemporary design and is accented with column-mounted LED lights for added ambience.

Lovely Lattice

Trex® LatticeWorks is used to conceal a cleverly disguised storage area under the outdoor staircase. Made from durable, lightweight PVC, Trex LatticeWorks is weather-resistant, UV-protected and cleans easily. Nine Trex-exclusive designs ranging from romantic to deco are offered in white or black.

Elevated Protection

To optimize the space below the two-story deck, a Trex RainEscape® under-deck drainage system was installed. This above-the-joist system uses a network of troughs and gutters to divert rain, snow and moisture away from a deck to create useable dry space underneath. Once protected, the space can be outfitted with electricity, water and gas lines, as well as furniture, lighting, ceiling fans and entertainment components. The system also helps to protect wooden substructures from water damage that can lead to rot and decay.

“This year’s Smart Home showcases not only the breadth of outdoor living products available from Trex but also how seamlessly they work together,” noted Adkins. “Tiffany and the team from HGTV have done an incredible job creating a home that is not only sustainable and smart but also extremely livable. We are pleased to be part of this inspirational project again this year and can’t wait to find out who wins it.”

HGTV Smart Home Giveaway 2020

One lucky winner will receive the keys to the HGTV Smart Home 2020, along with a luxurious prize package valued at more than $1.5 million. Starting April 22, 2020, through June 12, 2020, HGTV viewers can enter twice daily at HGTV.com and DIYNetwork.com. The winner will be announced in or around July 2020. Eligible U.S. residents can log on to HGTV.com for full details and the official rules.

For more information on the Trex outdoor living products featured in the HGTV Smart Home 2020, visit trex.com.

# # #

About Trex Company

Trex Company is the world’s largest manufacturer of high performance wood-alternative decking and railing, with more than 25 years of product experience. Stocked in more than 6,700 retail locations worldwide, Trex outdoor living products offer a wide range of style options with fewer ongoing maintenance requirements than wood, as well as an environmentally responsible choice. For more information, visit trex.com. You also can follow Trex on Twitter (@Trex_Company), Instagram (@trexcompany) Pinterest (trexcompany), or Houzz (trex-company-inc), “like” Trex on Facebook, or view product and demonstration videos on the brand’s YouTube channel (TheTrexCo).

About Trex Licensed Products

  • Trex® Pergola products are manufactured and sold by Structureworks Fabrication under a Trademark License Agreement with Trex Company, Inc.
  • Trex® LatticeWorks is manufactured and sold by Rhea Products, Inc. d/b/a Acurio Latticeworks, under a Trademark License Agreement with Trex Company, Inc.
  • Trex® RainEscape® products are manufactured and sold by Dri-Deck Enterprises, LLC under a Trademark License Agreement with Trex Company, Inc.

All product warranties are provided by the respective manufacturers.

HGTV Smart Home Giveaway 2020

No purchase necessary. Open to legal residents of the U.S., age 21 or older. Void where prohibited. Sweepstakes starts at 9 a.m. ET on 4/22/20 and ends at 5 p.m. ET on 6/12/20. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. For full official rules, prize disclosure, and to enter, visit www.HGTV.com. Main sponsor: Scripps Networks, LLC d/b/a Home & Garden Television, 9721 Sherrill Boulevard, Knoxville, Tennessee 37932.

HGTV, HGTV Smart Home, HGTV Smart Home Giveaway and their associated logos are trademarks of Scripps Networks, LLC.  Used with permission; all rights reserved.

Contact: Lindsey Lucenta or Sara Tatay
L.C. Williams & Associates
800/837-7123 or 312/565-3900
llucenta@lcwa.com or statay@lcwa.com

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. 

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

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