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.

Get Things Done—Step 2: Clarify

In our last two newsletters, we introduced the five-step process in David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.”  


Clarify is a two-step process centered on sorting through all of the information and to-dos that come your way. It means reviewing what you have in front of you to make sure you understand it and determining the actionable steps you need to take. For example:

  1. Say you get a piece of mail from your tax accountant. Before you can take the next steps, you need to figure out what the paper is about.
  2. Then, you must ask yourself, “Do I need to do something with it now?”

If “no,” decide if the information should be trashed, will require action someday, or needs to be kept around for future reference. 

If you must act soon, ask yourself, “What is the next action?” If it’s something that will take less than two minutes, get it done now. For example, if there’s a tool on your desk, you can quickly unclutter your workspace by putting it in a work truck. That will also ensure your crew has it on hand when they’re out on their next job.

If an action will take more than two minutes, decide who should handle it. Delegate it if there is someone else who has the skills and time to take care of it successfully. For example, sending financial information to the accountant might best be tackled by your bookkeeper. Or a project manager might be the one to respond to an email from an inspector about a framing detail. If you’re the best person to handle an action, make a note to remind yourself of it or schedule a time on your calendar to do it.

Pro tip: Allen recommends dealing with one item at a time so that you can focus better. Multitasking leads to distraction and mistakes! 

Stay tuned for our next issue when we’ll discuss organizing your to-dos.

Product Spotlight: Porch Posts

Photo courtesy of Superior Plastic Products

Did you know that we carry structural vinyl and aluminum porch posts in many styles from trusted brands, including Key-Link and Superior Plastic Products? 

No matter your customers’ design preferences, we have posts in many varieties and colors to enhance curb appeal while providing stability.

Call us for more information!

*Porch posts are not designed for freestanding applications, such as pavilions. You can find information about load tolerances in our article “Structural Porch Posts: Three Common Questions (and Their Answers).” 

Three Communications Tips to Help You Satisfy All Customers

Every customer is unique in some way, with their own preferences and expectations when working with a contractor. Here are three tips to help you ensure customer satisfaction across the board. 

1. Talk and, more importantly, listen to customers before starting a project. 

Communication takes time, but it’s necessary. Not only does it matter for learning what customers want from a design and functional standpoint, it also allows you to assess: 

  • Their overall demeanor (relaxed and easy-going or demanding and stressed)
  • How they would like you to communicate with them (e.g., phone call, text, or email) 
  • How involved they want to be in the process (for instance, how often they want status updates)

2. Remember that it’s more than just “a job” to your customers.

Resist viewing a customer’s project as “just another job.” It may be one of many on your schedule, but to the homeowner, it’s a big deal. Their deck, patio, or fence is something that will affect their lifestyle. 

When discussing a project, repeat the details back to the customer to make sure you’re on the same page about what they’re envisioning, when the work will begin, how long it will take to finish, and how much it will cost. 

3.  Don’t avoid tough conversations.

If there will be a delay in starting or finishing work for a customer, let them know as soon as possible. The customer may have taken time off work or made other sacrifices to be available based on when you said you would arrive. Communicating news that customers won’t be happy to hear is no fun, but it’s always better to be candid and straightforward. Proactive communication helps show customers that you care—and that can mean the difference between satisfaction and frustration.