Product Spotlight: Chesapeake Series Railing by Key-Link™

Photo courtesy of Key-Link™ Fencing & Railing

Homeowners who enjoy entertaining friends and family on their decks will love the new Key-Link™ Chesapeake Series railing! The attractive top rail, uniquely designed for deckboard, provides a perfect place for food plates and beverages while your guests are socializing.  

Installation couldn’t be easier! Simply lay a composite, PVC, or wood deckboard on the top rail profile and fasten it. The railing comes with pre-drilled holes every 12 inches (in hidden channels). Fasteners are included, and installers don’t have to deal with special brackets. 

CHESAPEAKE SERIES RAILING INCLUDES:

  • Top rail profile of choice
  • Bottom rail (not applicable with horizontal cable)
  • Vertical cable or square infill 
  • Brackets and fasteners
  • Comprehensive installation guide
Photo courtesy of Key-Link™ Fencing & Railing

Chesapeake railing, manufactured locally in New Holland, Pennsylvania, comes in one standard color (textured black)* and three standard infills: square balusters, horizontal cable, and vertical cable. Presently, Chesapeake works best on decks with 90-degree angles. Eventually, Key-Link will offer swivel brackets to accommodate decks with different angle configurations. More accessories are on the way, too.

Key-Link has specially engineered Chesapeake to make drink-rail installation easy for contractors and give homeowners the ultimate outdoor entertaining space they’ve dreamed of!

For more information and to order this sleek and functional product, contact us!   

*Additional colors available via special order


Perspective: Ebb & Flow of Building Materials Prices

“The only constant in life is change.”

That quote by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus has become especially true for contractors and their customers! The cost of building materials keeps going up and down as the pandemic throws more twists and turns our way. 

We’re all frustrated with the pricing uncertainty. It’s difficult to plan ahead and even more challenging to explain increases to homeowners. 

Fortunately, the manufacturers that Homestead Outdoor Products works with have been very conscientious about keeping us informed. They do their best to provide products reliably and as affordably as possible. 

Still, changes happen—upward and downward—when the supply/demand equilibrium goes out of balance.

SCENARIOS WHEN PRICES RISE

  • Demand has skyrocketed.
  • There are backlogs or bottlenecks in production because of unanticipated demand or a drop-off in the workforce.
  • Transport and delivery delays or cancellations occur (of raw materials or finished products).

SCENARIOS WHEN PRICES FALL

  • Excess inventory needs to be moved.
  • There’s less demand for the products.
  • Something new and improved has been introduced to the market.

The evolving pandemic will continue to influence building materials pricing. 

SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO? 

Stay in the know about where the industry is trending—and watch for notifications from us about any upcoming changes. Some more changes will be inevitable, but find peace of mind in knowing that our free-market economy will help prices level out in the long run. 

We’re fortunate to have the advantage of LOTS of supplier competition in the building materials industry, which helps ensure that cost increases aren’t in vain and that decreases will follow when economic conditions improve.


Get Things Done—Step 4: Reflect

“Reflect” is the fourth step in the five-step process described in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

“Reflect” involves regularly taking time to review what you’ve captured, clarified, and organized. The needs and priorities of your business will change over time; what you identified as necessary a month ago may no longer be relevant today. Reflecting serves to keep you on track and make sure you’re doing what you need to be doing. It lets you reaffirm that your to-do list is current so you can focus your energy and attention effectively. Plus, it helps you stay aware of tasks that may not impact short-term success but must be completed to reap significant long-term benefits. 

PRACTICAL TIPS FOR REFLECTING PURPOSEFULLY 

  1. Set aside a dedicated day and time of the week—such as early Saturday morning as you enjoy a cup of coffee—to review your calendar and to-do list.
  2. Schedule time to clean out your “in” boxes. This means all of them, whether physical or online—your USPS mailbox, notes on your desk, email, and the cab of your work truck. Approach this task as if you were going on vacation for a week, aiming to tackle everything important (and remove anything irrelevant) so that you have nothing critical looming over your head.
  3. Encourage your crew leaders to keep a list of to-dos for the upcoming week and present them to their workers every Friday. Gathering the team together for an hour in the afternoon before the weekend can help everyone prepare the tools and materials they’ll need for projects the following week. It will help them hit the ground running productively on Monday! 

Stay tuned for our next issue when we’ll discuss the critical “Engage” step.


Product Spotlight: Cascadia Railing System

Photo courtesy of AGS Stainless, Inc.

Many customers prefer a sleek, contemporary design for their outdoor living spaces. At the forefront of that trend is the Cascadia railing system by AGS Stainless, Inc., which provides durability and a clean, tailored look without the need for custom design work.  

Homestead Outdoor Products now sells Cascadia railing components, including top-mount posts, stainless steel horizontal bar infills, and more! Posts are available in 36” or 42” sizes, and adjustable tops and infill knuckles allow for sloped installation. AGS Stainless fabricates its railing components in-house to ensure consistent execution and the highest quality. Personalize the end-product to your customers’ style preferences with their choice of top rail (not included in the Cascadia railing system).

Call us to learn more about this attractive, high-quality, easy-to-install product!


Deck Flashing Makes a Difference

In fact, it can make a BIG difference when you consider that some contractors ignore this vital step in protecting their customers’ investment. 

The Problem

While decking and railing materials continue to evolve, providing long-lasting curb appeal and low maintenance, the wooden foundations underneath them often fail to keep up. Even pressure-treated wood becomes prone to moisture, water damage, and rotting. 

Consider that the minimum residential warranty for brand-name decking is 25 years. Railing is at least that (typically much more). With that kind of lifespan for top materials, doesn’t it make sense to take measures to expand the life of the deck’s frame, too? 

The Solution

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to give a deck’s wood components the protection they need to withstand time, wear and tear, and weather: flashing (joist) tape! 

Secured on deck joists, beams, and ledger boards, flashing tape creates a waterproof seal to protect a deck’s foundational components. For example, the Nichigo G-Tape™ acrylic flashing tape that we carry offers exceptional adhesion, holds up under extreme temperatures and humidity, and is easy and very affordable to install. Flashing tape can add years to a deck’s longevity at just a minimal amount of cost. 

Set Yourself Apart

Why not take the small amount of time and effort required to offer and install flashing tape on your deck projects? It will give you an excellent opportunity to stand out from your competitors and show your customers you care about the long-term value of their investment. 



Get Things Done—Step 3: Organize

“Organize” is the third step in the five-step process described in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

“Organize” involves taking all the information and to-dos you’ve collected in Allen’s first two steps (capture and clarify) and categorizing and prioritizing them. In other words, it means getting organized so that you can get things done!

Tips for Organizing 

  • Keep project plans (for multi-step to-dos) on a list and in a place where you can easily access them. 
  • Schedule project tasks on a calendar or in some other type of project management tool.
  • Consider keeping a “Next Action” list to stay on top of what you’re waiting on and what must be done next.
  • Use what works best for you! Lists and files can be physical, digital, or both. 
  • Avoid the trap of keeping the same type of information in different locations. For example, keep your customer leads in a single place. Don’t record some of them in a spiral notebook, others in a note app on your phone, and then a few on sticky notes on your desk. It’s far too easy to let something slip through the cracks if you don’t keep what you need in a central place. 
  • Capture—on your calendar—only what’s critical and time-sensitive for that day. Keep non-urgent items on your “Next Action” list. 
  • Don’t jam too many to-dos in a single day. If you overpromise and overextend yourself, you will risk failing to fulfill deadlines. 
  • Have a spot for storing info and tasks that aren’t urgent but may require you to address them someday. For example, say you want to sharpen your bookkeeping skills but don’t have time currently to pursue a webinar or class. Put it on a “Someday” list.
  • Review your lists and calendar regularly, and update and reorganize them if needed. (We’ll cover this tip in our next newsletter.) 

Stay tuned for our next issue of The Homestead Post when we’ll discuss the important “Reflect” step!


Welcome Our New Inside Sales Reps

We are happy to announce that David Batturs and Dave Wenrich have joined the Homestead Outdoor Products family. As inside sales representatives, a few of their responsibilities include writing material quotes and orders, researching and sharing information with employees and customers, and assisting our customers with their orders.  

David Batturs

David Batturs

David has enjoyed a career in construction equipment sales, including 20 years as a manager. He brings extensive experience in working to serve customers’ needs and coordinating efforts with fellow employees.

Although a lifelong Lancaster County resident, David enjoys traveling. In fact, he has literally been around the world—a trip to India in 1997 took him clear across the globe!

Dave Wenrich

Dave Wenrich

Dave has worked in the construction industry for over 40 years as a carpenter. He has firsthand experience installing many of the products that Homestead Outdoor Products sells.   

Middletown is his home, and he has lived in the Lancaster/Dauphin County area for 55 years. Dave and his wife, Cara, have been married for 27 years and have four children (David, 22; Quinn, 20; Clark, 13; and Ruthie, 11). On the family’s 5-acre mini-farm, the Wenrichs raise chickens, ducks, geese, and goats. They also enjoy bowling and spending time with their four dogs.



A Q&A With Superior Plastics: Why Are the Prices of Plastic Building Materials Rising?

The cost of materials has been on an upward trend. This Q&A with Superior Plastics explains why prices are rising and how contractors can help lessen the impact on their bottom line.

Q1. What types of plastic building supplies are going up in price? 

Resin, which is the basis for all vinyl railing and fencing products, has risen at a never-before-seen rate. The cost of aluminum, too, has gone up rapidly. Both have driven up the costs of aluminum railing and fencing products—and even on our vinyl railing, which uses aluminum inserts for added strength.

Q2. What factors are causing it?

With more people staying at home and wanting to update or enhance their interior and exterior living spaces, the demand for home building materials has outpaced the supply.

The pandemic continues to disrupt the resin supply chain. That, along with increased demand, particularly in the Gulf States where extreme weather caused a lot of property damage, has made it difficult for producers to keep up. Aluminum is also more difficult to get. International suppliers have a limited supply and shipping overseas comes with challenges. This has overstressed the aluminum supply here in the U.S., driving prices higher. Increased labor and transportation costs are also affecting prices.

Q3. Is there anything contractors can do to help lessen the financial impact?

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Add an extra percentage into quotes to help cover unknowns and unpredictability.
  • Keep stock on the shelf, which will help offset potential future price increases.
  • Set a limit for how long you’ll honor homeowner quotes—perhaps 7 to 10 days, max.  
  • Consider putting a materials surcharge rider clause in contracts or bids on jobs that are several weeks or more away. This will allow customers to know up front that if your materials costs rise, so will your price to them.
  • Identify opportunities to upsell from lumber to vinyl or aluminum products, which have a higher profit margin. (The cost of lumber has increased, too, lessening the cost gap between wood and more durable, better-quality materials.) 

Be honest with customers about the changes and unpredictability in pricing and product availability to avoid giving them any unwelcome surprises. 

Q4. What can we expect going forward?  

The demand for building materials is predicted to remain strong through 2021 and into 2022. As supply lags behind demand, also expect the labor market to continue to impact pricing. With more open job positions than there are applicants, wages will be driven higher and have a ripple effect.