In our last newsletter, we mentioned the uncertain future of Clubhouse Decking. We have since heard that a Canadian company in Ontario, TRUNORTHDECK™, has bought it and is planning to keep it on the market. We expect that until production is back in full gear supplies may be limited.
We’ve recently learned that Tapco, the manufacturer of Clubhouse® decking, plans to discontinue the Club-house product line. A press release revealed that Tapco is exiting the decking and railing market so it can focus on other building categories.
The Not-so-good News
The timeline for when Clubhouse decking will no longer be available from Tapco isn’t clear, nor is whether another company might acquire that product line and continue it. Either way, we anticipate some difficulties or delays in ordering Clubhouse decking products.
The Good News
Even though the future remains uncertain for Clubhouse decking, you can rest assured you will still have all your needs met by Homestead Outdoor Products.
We have other high-quality decking material options available, including those from WOLF Home Products, Paldeck®, and Fiberon®.
Three Common Questions (and Their Answers)
In porch projects, getting the posts right can mean the difference between a structurally sound porch and one that puts people in harm’s way. In serving contractors, the three most common questions we hear from our customers are:
What are the load tolerances of Superior Plastic Products porch posts?
Superior has done extensive testing to determine their posts’ “point of failure” (i.e., the absolute maximum amount of weight their posts can hold). To ensure safety, the typical rule of thumb is to not attempt supporting any more than half of that maximum load. For example, Superior’s max load rating on 4” posts is 7,800 pounds, so you would not want to support more than 3,900 pounds with them.
The max load ratings for other-sized Superior Plastic’s porch posts are below:* • 4.5” posts = 11,800 pounds (appropriate for supporting up to 5,900 pounds in your projects)
5” posts = 10,500 pounds (appropriate for supporting up to 5,250 pounds in your projects) • 6” posts = 18,000 pounds (appropriate for supporting up to 9,000 pounds in your projects)
With Superior Plastic Products load testing results, we’ve found them to be more than adequate in serving most porch projects’ requirements.
What are the load tolerances of pressure-treated wood posts?
Quite often, we’re asked how much weight a 4 x 4 or 6 x 6 pressure-treated wood post can hold. The answer to that question isn’t always straightforward. Many different factors affect the load tolerances of wood posts, including the length of the unbraced height, the type and grade of wood, the service conditions, and other variables. According to calculations using an online “Capacity of Wood Column Calculator” by Jonathan Ochshorn via Cornell University, a southern SPF wet-service 4 x 4 9-foot-long post can hold about 3,500 pounds and a 6 x 6 9-footlong post can support about 10,000 pounds.**
What does code require?
Unfortunately, no answer exists to this question. International Residential Code (IRC) offers guidance on platform and balloon frame construction, but not on the construction of posts and beams.
With building codes not specifying the weight a post must bear, you’re left on your own to figure it out, unless you’re working off an architect- or engineer- The Good News Even though the future remains uncertain for Clubhouse decking, you can rest assured you will still have all your needs met by Homestead Outdoor Products. We have other high-quality decking material options available, including those from WOLF Home Products, Paldeck®, and Fiberon®. approved plan. To ensure posts are adequate, make sure you know the expected dead-load and snow-load capacities. And when in doubt, consult an engineer.
* According to Superior Plastic Products’ website— accessed 9/29/2017
** This information is not meant to replace the expert advice of an engineer. While the online calculator’s
information appears to make sense, we cannot guarantee its accuracy
To give you a more convenient and informative experience when you visit us online, we recently launched
our new website.
You’ll still find us at www.homesteadoutdoorproducts.com, only now you’ll discover we:
- Made it easier to find what you’re looking for.
- Provide more details about the products we carry.
- Made the design more attractive to the eye.
- Updated our FAQs section.
- Added information about the areas we serve, our delivery services, and the types of customers we serve.
We invite you to visit our new site and browse around. If you have any questions, we’re just a phone call away!
Attractive and very easy to install, SCREENEZE® fixed screen system lets you transform your customers’ patios and porches into outdoor living spaces they’ll love.
For the best results during installation, keep these two tips in mind:
Install with consideration of sun exposure and temperature. In hot summer months, consider the porch location and temperature when installing SCREENEZE. On hot days with lots of sunshine, the vinyl will have expanded, so you’ll want to make sure the caps have a snug fit.
In cool weather (under 60º), keep the vinyl caps warm until you’re ready to install SCREENEZE. In cold temperatures, vinyl becomes brittle and can split or crack if not stored in a heated environment before installation. The ends are particularly susceptible to breaking in cold weather, so SCREENEZE’s manufacturer recommends hand-pressing the
caps at the corners and tapping the caps close to previously expanded points.
Cut the track and cap at the same time to ensure clean miters. If you try to cut the aluminum base and vinyl cap separately, you’ll find it more difficult to get the joints right. By cutting them together, you’ll ensure they’re of equal length and avoid leaving gaps.
For detailed installation instructions and tips, visit the SCREENEZE website at Screeneze.com. And, as always, you’re welcome to call us with questions.
Bonus Tip: For pet-hardy screened-in porches that resist tears and punctures better than other screen fabrics, we carry TEXTILINE ® (formerly known as SuperScreen™). Used with SCREENEZE, this heavy-duty coated polyester screen will give customers years of use with minimal maintenance.
Photo courtesy of SCREENEZE®
Boost Productivity and Keep Customers Happy
A neat, well-organized job site affects customer satisfaction and how efficiently your crew can get the job done.
Here’s a checklist of to-dos to help you deliver an exceptional customer experience and streamline your work:
- Visualize the flow of work in advance. Consider the layout of the job site and plan ahead for how you can work—and clean up—most effectively. For example, determine where you might place your saw to minimize the distance between where you’re cutting and the destination of your finished lumber stack.
- Keep supplies in good order. Arrange your materials neatly as soon as you bring them on-site. Taking a few minutes to do that can save hours by making supplies easier to find and minimizing clean-up efforts.
- Use a blower to remove dirt and debris. After wrapping up your work each day, use a blower to clear dust and debris from porches, yards, and sidewalks. Although the home’s exterior may still be a work in progress, it will look more like a completed job if you’ve cleaned it up as you go.
- Set standards and expectations with your team. Strive for consistency in how your crew handles organizing and cleaning up sites. With uniformity from one job to the next, you can boost productivity and better ensure customer satisfaction.
Never underestimate the goodwill you can create with your customers by keeping their property organized and clean during and after the job. A little extra attention can go a long way toward gaining repeat business and referrals!
Houzz recently published its 2017 Houzz & Home Report. Within it, Houzz lists what matters most to homeowners when hiring a contractor to do work for them.
Believe it or not, price wasn’t number one on the list. In fact, it didn’t even make the top three!
So, what is most important to customers? Here’s the breakdown of how more than 100,000 U.S. participants in the survey responded:
- 78% look for positive reviews.
- 62% want a contractor who has experience with a project’s scope of work.
- 52% want a contractor who communicates well and is organized.
- 37% look for someone who has experience with their project style.
Less than one-third (30%) said price was a deciding factor—although that percentage was higher (54%) for first time home-buyers; personality (28%) and other components (9%) rounded out the criteria.
Moral of the story: Customers consider price, but it’s often secondary to other factors.
It seems like it should be a simple task, but discovering what price point a customer is willing and able to pay often presents challenges. Customers may hesitate because they have no idea what a job might cost or fear getting quoted a higher rate if they share their budget.
Regardless, learning about a customer’s budget early in the quoting process offers
benefits to you and your customer. It . . .
- creates trust between you and your customer;
- narrows down the options for you to consider;
- quickly exposes projects that won’t be a good fit for you;
- helps the customer pre-buy your proposal; and saves time when designing and estimating the job. Tactful, non-confrontational phrasing and anticipating responses when asking about a budget can help bring a hesitant customer out of his or her shell: Start with: “I don’t suppose you have a budget set aside for this project?”
Then tailor your response according to how the customer answers that question:
- IF THEY RESPOND “YES,” REPLY: “That’s great. Would you be comfortable
sharing that in round numbers?”
- IF THEY ANSWER “NO,” REPLY:
“That’s OK, it’s not unusual. We get that a lot. When you’ve done something like this in the past, can you share what you may have invested? I want to make sure you’re comfortable with our solution.”
- IF THEY ANSWER “MAYBE,” REPLY: “No problem, I understand. We actually have a number of solutions for a project like yours that range somewhere between [lower range] and [higher range]. Where might you see this project fitting into that scale?”
By approaching the budget question in a casual, undemanding way, you’ll
put your customer at ease and get the information you need to move forward.
Our thanks to Todd Burgard of Burgard Design. Todd originally shared these helpful
tips at our February workshop.
Photography Tips to Help You Sell Your Work Without Using 1,000 Words
When you’re selling your expertise as a contractor, stunning photography of your work can speak for itself. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare to take photos that represent your capabilities:
- Pictures tell your story! Make sure you share those that give customers a telling glimpse into who your company is and the value you bring. Showcase your best work to make a great first impression.
- Pictures will help you sell the benefits rather than just the features of
your products and services. Focus on the experience you can provide. For
example, take photos of friends gathered around the patio for a birthday party or a family cookout filled with smiles and laughter. Photos that evoke feeling will make a more memorable impression than simply stating in words that you offer “the latest innovation in decking with realistic grain pattern.”
- You don’t need to spend a fortune to take an exceptional photo. For most purposes, a good cell phone with a high-quality camera will do the trick. If you do want to go higher end, however, you can find good DSLR cameras for under $500. Either way, consider investing in a tripod (as inexpensive as $30) to keep your camera steady.
Thank you to Jeremy R. Martin, owner of Willow Gates Landscaping, for sharing the insightful tips in this article—and for speaking on this topic at our on-site workshop in February!
It’s no secret; businesses that find the most efficient and effective ways of doing things stand the best chance of success. By having a lean business model at the core of all that you do, you can satisfy customers while eliminating wasteful spending and increasing productivity.
WHAT IS ‘LEAN’?
Although originally created for the manufacturing industry, businesses in
every industry now employ “lean” principles to offer more value to customers while reducing the time and costs to do so.
Running a lean business is a mindset rather than a strict set of to-dos. It requires thinking of new ways to organize, grow, and operate your business.
Have you thought about what changes you might make in your business to take it to the next level?
- What additional services or products might you add to your offerings to make your customers happier and add more profit to your bottom line?
- Are there any products and services you should eliminate from your list of offerings so you can concentrate on those that are more in demand and more profitable?
- If you regularly find you have too much or too little inventory in stock,
how can you streamline your ordering to meet customers’ needs on time and improve cash flow?
- Are there any technology tools you should explore to streamline the processing of customer quotes, orders, and invoices so you can save time and boost productivity?
- How can you improve the flow of communication within your company and with your customers and suppliers to help build stronger working relationships?
Every business has room for improvement. Asking yourself the right questions with lean principles in mind can help put your business on the path to achieving the profitability and customer loyalty you’re striving for.