New Product Spotlight: Wolf Portrait™ Siding

We are pleased to now offer Wolf Portrait Siding.
Your customers will love its:

  • Authentic wood-grain texture
  • Superior protection against moisture
  • InfinitySeam™ Technology, providing a precise fit
  • Proprietary ColorWatch™ premium ASA capstock that helps block UV rays and prevent fading

Wolf Portrait Siding is available in two collections and six colors. It’s made in the USA and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

Contact us for more information!

Tips for Choosing Fencing and Decking Colors

In our showroom, we field a lot of questions from homeowners and contractors about color selection for fencing and decking. They want to know “What will look best?” with the exterior of the house.

That’s a tough question to answer! Color choice is very subjective. What looks good to one person may not appeal to another.

That makes it challenging when proposing color pairings. However, by keeping a few key considerations in mind you can narrow down viable options for customers.

  • What is the exterior color of the house?
  • Does your customer prefer subtle or bold palettes?
  • Does your customer like contrasting or complementary colors?
  • What architectural style (colonial, contemporary, Victorian, Mediterranean, etc.) does the home have?
  • Is the home located in the city, suburbs, or country?
  • Are the environmental surroundings vibrant or subdued?

Examples of popular choices for several common situations include:

Modern city homes
Stark colors are often chosen to complement minimalist design.

Beach homes
Faded, subtle colors like cool gray and light tan present well in muted surroundings.

Lancaster County country homes
Saturated (deeper) colors often look best because the rich colors in the environment don’t drown them out.

Of course, customers have the final say. It’s important to collaborate closely with them to ensure they make an informed decision—one they will be pleased with for years to come.

How to Deal With Customers Who Don’t Want to Pay

When customers pay late – or don’t pay at all – it can hurt your
cash flow. Here are some ways to prevent problems and deal with issues
when they do happen.

Tips for Preventing Customer Payment Problems

  • Be wary of projects that were started by another contractor. It raises a red flag when a customer wishes to suddenly switch from one contractor to another. Make sure the “opportunity” didn’t come to you because the customer didn’t pay the other contractor and is looking to find the next unsuspecting business to do the work.
  • Set up a payment schedule to insulate your business from non-payment. What works well for many contractors is asking for one-third of the project rate up front, another third at some point during the project, and then the final third at the end of the job. Getting payments in installments can help keep you on solid ground as you devote time, materials, and effort to a job.
  • Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Contractors that rely on one or two customers for their income are at
    risk of needing to scramble to find work if the customer suddenly hits a slump or decides to use a different contractor. It also puts the price negotiation power in the hands of the customer. Try to diversify where your revenue comes from, but if you do put all of your eggs in one basket, watch that basket carefully!

Tips for Dealing With Delinquent Customers

  • Be professional, calm, and politely persistent. Set a schedule for calling non-paying customers regularly to check on the status of their payment. Set expectations that you’ll be calling back again to check in.
  • Propose a mutually agreeable payment plan. Often, slow payers are either poor managers or in a financial crunch. They want to pay, but they’re struggling.
  • Consider a collections firm, but only after other tactics have failed. If the dollars at stake are significant enough, then it may be worth trying this. Realize, however, that this could do permanent damage to the customer-contractor relationship.

Wolf Distinction™ Railing

With the classic appeal of white painted wood and OptiBracket™ Technology, Wolf Distinction™ Railing makes an attractive and durable addition to outdoor living spaces.

  •  It’s easy to install—with a simple all-in-one kit.
  • It requires minimal maintenance.
  • One versatile bracket supports 6-foot and 8-foot rail sections; connects 22.5°, 45°, flat, and stair; and hides out of view to provide a flawless finish.

For more information about this railing that combines a timeless look with modern innovation, contact us!

Best Practices for Handling Two Common Issues With Railings

To help you navigate two challenges you might encounter with railings, we’re sharing the following helpful tips:

Options for Handling Difficult Angles

Installing railings can get tricky when circumstances present something other than straightforward 45° or 90° angles.

Here are some options for dealing with odd horizontal plane angles:

Poly blocks—These solid plastic blocks, which are available in colors that match vinyl railings, can be cut to accommodate any angle.

Painted PVC trim—By cutting a wedge out of PVC trim to meet the angle requirements and painting it to match the railing, you can effectively solve the problem.

Surface-mounted post brackets—Rather than using the existing post, consider cutting it off and putting a surface-mounted post bracket on the deck. This will allow you to mount railing at any angle.

Aluminum as an alternative—If you’re not too far along in the process, switching to aluminum railing can simplify matters. With aluminum railing, you can use swivel brackets, which make it easy to accommodate strange angles.

How to Avoid Gaps When Attaching Vinyl 2 x 4 Railing to a Rounded Vinyl 4 x 4 Post

In screened porch applications that require attaching a 2 x 4 vinyl rail to a rounded 4 x 4 post, an unsightly gap can occur.

Follow the step-by-step guide below to avoid the problem:

  1. Start with a 2 x 4 that is 1/4 inch over required length.
  2. Cut to where the 1/4 inch radius begins.
  3. Cut a 45° angle with a miter saw.
  4. Finish fairing the curve with a rotary tool or utility knife.

Advantages of Decking Patterns

When customers look for a contractor to install a deck, they may think of it as a commodity that any home improvement company can tackle. But a deck doesn’t have to be “just a deck.” Suggesting a decking pattern to your customer shows that a deck can be an attractive architectural feature and that you are a designer, not just an installer.

Fortunately, your team already has the skill set needed to build decking patterns.
With precise measuring and planning for some additional time to frame the deck, you can create a stunning deck with a design such as:

  • Parquet
  • Herringbone
  • Basket Weave
  • Diamond
  • Diagonal
  • V-Shape

How Decks With Patterns Benefit Your Customers

  • Create a more interesting outdoor living space
  • Minimize the appearance of gaps when boards expand and contract

How Installing Decks With Patterns Benefits Your Business

  • Sets you apart from your competition
  •  Adds revenue—decking patterns require more planning, materials (depending on the pattern), and labor

If you’re in a competitive-quote situation, consider suggesting a decking pattern to your prospective customers. It will help them visualize that a deck can be far from ordinary, and it will demonstrate your versatility, creativity, and capabilities.

Wolf Home Products Outdoor Cabinetry

We’re happy to now be offering Wolf Endurance™, aluminum cabinetry that stands up to wear and weather. Available in ash, black, and white powder- coated finishes, Wolf Endurance makes a visually appealing and versatile addition to outdoor living areas.*

Homeowners will love how this cabinetry makes entertaining on decks and patios a breeze. It comes in a variety of options and seals out rain and moisture. You’ll appreciate how easy it is to configure and install. It’s lightweight, fully assembled, and customizable to fit any surface.

Want to learn more? Contact us for more information!

* Homestead Outdoor Products does not sell countertops and ranges. They must be purchased independently.

How to Help Customers Envision Their Ideal Outdoor Living Space

As warmer weather rounds the corner, homeowners are looking forward to spending more time outdoors. But sometimes they have difficulty grasping the full potential of their backyards. Their outdoor space can be so much more than what they might realize. With the right features and amenities, an outdoor area can become an extension of your customers’ living space—a favorite “room” for enjoying family time, reading a good book, or entertaining friends.

As a trusted advisor, you can help them imagine the possibilities.

Here are some questions to consider asking homeowners to discover what they need from their outdoor space.

  1. In what seasons would you like to use your outdoor space?
  2. What times of day will you typically use your outdoor space?
  3. Do you want your outdoor space to let in or shield out direct sunlight?
  4. What types of activities will you do in your outdoor space?
  5. How many people will your outdoor space need to accommodate?
  6. Do you have (or foresee having) pets that you want to keep on your property?
  7. Would you like to increase your level of privacy?

Getting customers to answer these questions will help them realize what they want and need. And it will give you a better idea of what features (such as a screened porch, pergola, deck, arbor, fencing, outdoor kitchen, etc.) will help them live their vision.

Three Tips to Improve Your Sales Process

For many contractors, sales is one of the least favorite aspects of running a business. But it’s an important issue because your success can depend on it. Even if most of your customers come to you through referrals, you still have parts of the sales process to deal with.

Keep the following tips in mind to help make your sales efforts successful:

  1. Ask questions.
    Listen closely to what your customer tells you rather than jumping in with your thoughts and suggestions out of the gate. Ask questions to gather as much information as possible about your prospect’s needs and expectations before you propose ideas and solutions. This will also help you write more accurate estimates of time and costs for projects.
  2. Follow up after you send your quote.
    If you haven’t heard from a customer in the time frame you expected, follow up.
    While you may be thinking the prospect will call you back, that person may be thinking the ball is in your court. By
    following up, you have an opportunity to answer questions and move the sale forward.
  3. Set expectations.
    After a customer contracts you to do the job, explain your work process, schedule (as accurately as possible), and any other details that will help set clear expectations. This will help avoid misunderstandings and ensure customer satisfaction.

Deck Installation Tips for Winter

Installing decks when Mother Nature turns down the thermostat presents some seasonal challenges. Here are some quick reminders about what to be aware of when working with decking material in cold weather.

  • When the temperature is cold (40° F or less), reduce the feed rate when cutting vinyl. This will help prevent chipping and breaking.
  • Keep vinyl material warm—in the customer’s house or your heated truck—before working with it.
  • Keep SCREENEZE® in a heated area prior to installation, because the caps might split in cold weather.
  • Keep rail bracket screw covers in your jacket pocket to keep them warm. When cold, the covers might break.
  • When installing composite decking, pre-drill before putting fasteners into it. This will help prevent the material from splitting.
  • If you haul plastic materials on the back of a trailer or truck, make sure you have fastened them securely. If they flap in the wind, they might crack or break.
  • Decking will expand and contract; make sure you consider that when measuring materials and constructing decks.

According to the WOLF PVC Decking installation guide:

“WOLF PVC Decking, when installed with two screws per joist, will have minimal expansion and contraction due to temperature changes. There will be no side-to-side movement and small end-to-end change; slight gaps may be noticed at the ends of boards or in spliced joints.”

With a 50° F temperature change, expansion and contraction estimates for unattached WOLF deck boards are:

  • 3/16” for 12’ boards
  • 1/4” for 16’ boards
  • 5/16” for 20’ boards

When you’re installing decking in temperatures below 32° F, WOLF recommends spacing butt ends of boards 3/16” apart and leaving a spacing of 1/8” to 3/16” from side to side.