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.

An Ultra-reliable Energy-efficient Outdoor LED Lighting Option

If you’re looking for outdoor lighting solutions for your customers, Placid Point Lighting may be the perfect fit. Made in the USA by Key-Link Fencing & Railing, these outdoor LED lights offer:

  • Energy efficiency: Placid Point’s Post Cap lights use only 1.6 watts of electricity, while the lens lights and stair lights use just 0.4 watts—which means increased efficiency and cost-savings for your customers
  • Versatility: They’re available in colors to match all of Key-Link’s aluminum posts and railings and all of Superior Plastic Products’ vinyl posts and railings. With a choice of lit or non-lit caps, you can customize this lighting to suit the customer’s environment.
  • Long-lasting performance: These lights have protective seal coating on their circuitry to prevent corrosion and retain their attractive appearance and functionality for years.
  • Convenience: Placid Point’s timer allows customers to set their lights to turn on and off automatically for a set period of hours, so they won’t have the worry or hassle of doing it manually.

To learn more, call us or visit

Clubhouse Decking Update

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.

Breaking News: An Uncertain Future for Clubhouse® Decking

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®.

Structural Porch Posts

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:

Structural Porch Posts

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.

Structural Porch Posts

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