Monday, April 14, 2014

What to use? Composite or Wood?




 I know we all hear the slick marketing showing decks like those above and painting their composite products as the best... "Maintenance Free"... "Permanent solution to staining every year...".

Will your deck look like the deck above, or the deck below in 5 or 10 years?  The deck above is Trex...now, the thing to keep in mind is that Trex has had 2 class action suits against them in the past 10 years, one due to deterioration and failure of boards, and the other due to mold and fading. 




GardenStructure.com has created an article that asks the important questions and gives you information and inspirational photos to help you decide whether or not you want to buy Composite Decking (click to read article).

Monday, April 07, 2014

Why Poplar doesn't work outdoors

Of course we didn't build this one--the trim work is wonky and they used poplar.
 There is very little information on what type of wood works well outdoors. You are really better off using the old standards like red cedar, mahogany, pressure treated pine then gambling on a new species that nobody can tell you what will happen. I was called in to estimate replacing the fence shown here and I photographed it because it was such a good illustration of what happens to woods like poplar when it is used outdoors, even if you stain it.

These guys mixed their trim-- the one on the left used poplar for the base--and the one on the right had pine baseboard. Pine will last fairly well if it is sealed, but poplar just turns to dust in a few years. The caps, even though they were pressure treated were not sealed. You can see the curve from it soaking up water in both images. Sealing anything that might see standing water (like caps) is always a good idea. Epoxy will always work best.

Poplar exposed to the elements just turns to dust

The trouble with doing this kind of decorative work outside is that the stock trim you buy from the big box stores is mostly poplar--and rookie builders just don't know. It is a hard lesson to learn and there is very little information even on line. I learned it early on after using it on a tennis court fence and pergola (25 years ago).

We couldn't find any information in books, talked to a few lumber yards and they all said it would be fine outdoors. I can remember a business in Barrie making old fashioned screen doors out of poplar...2 years and the warranty work started---they were out of business shortly after. After the job was done and I was talking to a 90 year old builder on the site that he pointed it out. With white stain on it he picked out the profile we had to use poplar for.

Poplar is a species of tree that grows along the outside of the forest and grows about 3 times as fast as Maple or Oak. It has no thick sap like pine so it draws water in like a sponge. Since it grows faster--it rots faster. Its purpose in the forest is to break up the ground to allow the more long lasting species to grow stronger. Rotting poplars supply nutrients to help the other trees grow.

So... No POPLAR Outdoors please!

L

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Why we don't use deck clips anymore


  Sometimes a better idea isn't; Ford's Pinto, Chev's Vega, AMC's Pacer, Honda's Del Sol...  In this spirit of failure, wouldn't it be good to fasten decking from the side or from beneath, so that all the fasteners are hidden?

  Alas, another tragic error. 10 years later it seems to cause rot. It works fine in the middle of the boards, however, at the ends the excessive fastening have caused the boards to rot, and the deck to be condemned prematurely.


Speaking as someone that has had a piece of decking snap under me, and had my leg slide into a space 5.5" in width, the feeling of your skin being peeled off is not just alarming--its downright disconcerting. This is a nasty thing to go through and not recommended for entertainment.  (I doubt the guys from JackAss would even try it).

As you know, decking soaks up moisture from the ends of the boards, and when you put 5 fasteners through the end of the board and one is a pointed part of a clip, which cracks the board width wise, it amounts to pulverization. Cracks draw moisture in, and as this select pressure treated decking in this case dries out, the cracks grew larger. Untreated grains are exposed and rot is accelerated.

People suggest securing from beneath using strip type products that screw to the joists and the underside of the decking, which works fine--until you refinish. Then when the painters sand the old finish off, they sand the tips of the screws off causing black stains in the pattern of the screws on the top surface most notable on red cedar decking. Hidden fasteners of any kind are often a bad idea. I expect that the tops of the joists will deteriorate due to screws being driven in along the same grain. Cracks are likely.

Keep in mind, when you hide the fasteners where stain doesn't get into the wound, and where the sun doesn't reach to dry the wood, moisture will fester, and rot will occur. 

Solutions?

Pre-finish the decking so that it doesn't expand and contract. Seal the end grains as you build and use a waterproof epoxy to heal the wounds. Touch up...voila, no fasteners, no premature rot. We do this all the time. Since the decking is stable, not absorbing moisture with every rain, and shrinking as it dries, you can use nails for this method.

Alternatively, if you are in love with screws, (as I am not), you can countersink the screws prior to installing, then use a tapered plug cutter and plug all the holes after installation using waterproof epoxy.  Again, no premature rot.

*  If you reside in Canada, import high VOC finish from the USA. Canadian stain manufacturers have been prohibited from producing high VOC finishes and we have not found a coating that offers durability produced in Canada. ONLY high VOC finishes will be durable long term. Speak to your local paint store to learn more.


Friday, January 24, 2014

A Gorgeous Curved Disaster Deck.

 
 This is a perfect example of how NOT to build a curved deck. I know this is how they do it on TV, however, I visited this one when it was 5 years old, and it wiggled like a cobbled together scaffold. It had nice strong support posts but this deck was flimsy.

The more I looked at this, the more it looks very familiar to designs by a famous Toronto TV Deck Company (to remain nameless)--could this be one of their early disaster decks?

Tragic flaws on this deck--No lateral bracing, the steel stairs project the weight outward causing them to spring. The deck has no rim joist to speak of which means the joists all move independently. The joists are  held in place by the fasteners in the decking. Some of the footings moved, which means they were poured on disturbed soil or were too small for the deck. There was evidence of water infiltration into the stucco finish of the home as well.


The owner of the home asked me if he could add a 3 season room with pergola on top of the deck. He didn't like what I had to say and might have been upset when I giggled. I let him know that I wouldn't erect a big box umbrella on the existing structure, and that it should be removed or rebuilt properly. 

 
As you can see, the rim joist has released and failed completely. Even if you clad it in composite decking, it will surely fail in a short time using this method.  
This is what is known as a Kerf Cut and it is often used in construction, however these should NEVER be exposed to the elements. When they are used in interior work they are usually filled with glue and then bonded to something. Anything you build outdoors needs to have the end grains sealed to prevent rot--and it should be built twice as strong , to be safe after the structure starts to rot.

When nails are driven through this kerfed rim into joists, only about 3/8" of solid materials is secured--which doesn't take long to rot. The nails will pull through and if stressed all the fasteners will release. The load is also supported by a nail that has 1" of space to flex, which means it will carry even less load.  Can you imagine what would happen to this deck during an earthquake?

This detail was published in a book by Black and Decker, "The Complete Guide to Decks". This book teaches people to build in "Maximum Flaws Per Square Inch". The book is so bad, that a carpenter likely wasn't even consulted during production.

 Among the numerous bad details, they instruct you to countersink all lag bolts into beams and framing. This has the effect of making the beams break away under load. It weakens the connection by half. Your 2x8 becomes a 1x8. Rot sets in quickly to weaken the lag or carriage bolt connection.  The book should be banned and discontinued immediately. 400,000 copies have been sold, so there are at least 100,000 dangerous decks out there if they followed instructions by Black and Decker!

I jumped on line to see what information was available on curved decks--There is actually some guy making 2 1/2" rim joists out of exterior plywood--another temporary method. Exterior plywood is not made to be exposed to the elements. It is made of thin layers or spruce, pine and fir, and a water resistent adhesive, and the voids in the adhesive allow moisture to infiltrate. I wouldn't expect those to last longer than a few years either.





The steel stringers would have worked... but they needed to be much stronger because of the weight deflecting outward on the curve. They sprung badly under my 220 lb frame. It felt unsafe to me.

This article was originally published in 2011, but the information is relevant so it has been revived and re-edited. What kinds of disaster decks have you run across? 

By Lawrence Winterburn

If you want to see how curved decks should be built... check out the following links.

http://decks-fences.blogspot.ca/2011/11/how-to-build-curved-decks.html

http://decks-fences.blogspot.ca/2012/12/decks-with-curved-rails.html

http://www.gardenstructure.com/gallery/section/deck_designs  (There are a few here)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A Beautiful Trelliswork Fail

A beautiful Trellis Panel, Destined for Failure
 Nobody can deny that this trellis is intriguing, artistic and looks to be a fine addition to the home. Trouble is, I was the designer on this project and unknown to me this "Contractor" talked the client out of what I had designed and into his master work. This project was built a few years ago. I stumbled on the photos and thought they may serve as a good way to illustrate some guidelines for building trelliswork. We should learn from others mistakes when possible--its cheaper! Let me make this clear; I photographed this trellis-work panel, but this is not my design.

View from home entrance
Dave was only around for a few months and he was incapable of following anyone's designs but his own. I am all for understudies suggesting improvements, though I would prefer to be kept in the loop, mostly to prevent disaster.

I tried hard to impart the most basic structural logic to this kindly giant of a man, but he knew better. He didn't mention any changes to me at all. I discovered this monstrosity as I drove by a few weeks later.

Curves in wood need the grain to go in one direction, or for a semi-circular curve you could use marine ply, or cre-zone, or better still, make the curve from multiple layers lapped over each other and fastened with waterproof adhesives. 

Screws are not the right fasteners for small pieces of wood outside. They cause cracks and rot. You can see nearly everywhere he screwed the pieces of half lap lattice together they cracked. If he had used 15 guage finish nails, the results would have been far better. Less cracks mean less opportunity for moisture to get in.

Half lap lattice works poorly in the elements. Every connection has end grains exposed--which soak up moisture and cause premature rot. Better to leave the lattice full width and just fasten to each other. We normally recommend pre-finishing the parts to prevent rot.
 Fit and finish is lacking, which is likely due to budget and lack of experience. These large artistic curved parts should be made as 1 part, rather than scabbed together pieces that are prone to rot.
 The lattice seems to be tacked to the curved parts, which just won't last. Many of the connections seem cobbled together, rather than each adding to the integral strength of the panel. Anyone can build something by scabbing layer of wood upon layer of wood. It takes a master to create something simple, stylish and structurally superior. 

This brings this lesson in trelliswork to our final point. Gorilla Glue. It is not waterproof. It will not keep moisture out. For this reason, we don't use it outdoors.

The underlying lesson here has to do with the function of a designer. I could have designed something ornate for this client--however, that didn't suit the client's budget or desires. She couldn't afford to have something done with this look--and pay to have it done properly. I designed a fairly simple trelliswork screen that was pre-finished so that she wouldn't have to be staining it every year and repairing it forever.

It comes down to whether the client will be happy 5 years after the project is built. It is the same for decks, fences and pergolas. A professional designer matches the scope and details to the client's desires and budget. We tradesmen need to respect the designer--and stay true to their design. 

I will have to drop into this home this spring and have a look at whats left--maybe we can add another photo to this article later.

Lawrence Winterburn

Friday, November 29, 2013

How to make Fence Posts last longer in the ground:


What are these fence builders doing?  Painting the ends of posts? Good guess, but that isn't paint. That is a 2 part epoxy that is entirely waterproof. It is also much harder than wood once it cures, so if you seal the post above ground level a little it will prevent damage from weed trimmers and the like.

Sealing the end grain with epoxy is like plugging up the end of a straw and will help prevent the wood from absorbing moisture from the concrete footing.

Rot typically forms within 6" of the surface, where the ground has plenty of moisture and oxygen to start the wood rotting. If you can make the post non-porous, the moisture cannot enter.

What does it cost?  A couple of hours work and roughly a couple hundred for materials to do an average yard.

How long will it increase durability?  I would expect a decade or more--however we have only been offering this option for a few years...so ask me again in 40 or 50 years.

L

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Pavilion in Toronto- Design by Paul Corsetti


This is a project that came from our Landscape Designer in Toronto, Paul Corsetti. He came up with the concept and working drawings, and our builder Luke Simonovski did a masterful job of putting it all together!

 

This permanent foundation pavilion (gazebo as some may call it), has real stone cladding, solid coping and is made with Red Cedar that was pre-finished. Copper flashings and gutters help add to the timeless look--and Paul's design  makes it blend with the existing landscape architecture and structural elements.


 The formal stone fireplace and garden furniture makes this feature a cozy spot for cool evenings for friends and family to gather around the fire!

Projects like this always have a designer involved, so your first step is to get in touch with Paul if you are in the Toronto or GTA for a design consultation. You can reach Paul at 416 455-5515.

by Lawrence Winterburn

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Decks with Curved Rails

Curved Rails in Muskoka!

by Lawrence Winterburn

Lots of deck builders attempt curves--however, few of them achieve something that fits the site, looks good up close and lasts as long as it should. This is a summer residence near Gravenhurst Ontario.

I designed it to work with the flow of the home and to blend with the surroundings. Elevated homes with lake views need to also look good from the water--so I took that into account. 

When it comes to the rim joists, they need to be structural, so those are a solid lamination using red cedar lumber and marine grade adhesives. It is much like making one solid piece of lumber from multiple layers. Installing them is exactly the same as a regular joist, using nails. Since it is structural you can simply bolt the posts in place just like any deck.

The top cap is also made from multiple pieces and faired smooth. Fairing is a boatbuilding term, that just means to make a curve smooth and even. Since framing is never absolutely perfect, allowances for irregular placement of the posts must be made, which is why this rail ended up being about 9" wide around the curve. We added a drip edge to keep the inner portion of the rails dry.

The glass is 1/4" tempered and this rail, (a standard GardenStructure.com detail), is engineered to span 6' without too much trouble. The posts around the curve are roughly 4'-6" to work with the top rail size, so that flat panels work. Curved glass panels are possible, but not many clients will like the price.
 
 When you want to show off a view--and your prowess as a carpenter, a grand curved rail like this fits the bill!
*If you want details for this rail and or layouts to do your own, or a rail installed in Ontario get in touch with www.gardenstructure.com and ask for Lawrence, or email plans@gardenstructure.com . We will do our best to help you out! 888 293 8938. Visit the website for many other curved decks and pergolas!


Monday, August 06, 2012

Starting your own website. The top 5 things you will need to makes sales with your web-site


Well, it is good that you have finally done it--however, you are a little late to the game. If this were baseball, your team would have forfeited already, but hey, in the interest of positivity, it is good that you showed up. Creating a web-site for your deck company is a must. Getting something up is the important part. Remember--Ford didn't produce the GT 500 in their first year of business. Your first website is not where you will end up.

1)  The hook. Most deck companies won't have great photography of their own. You really need great photographs of decks, fences and pergolas. How do you get to do big beautiful projects without already having built them?  Photographs of shining happy people in your intended demographic enjoying their summer on a deck, (Archadeck has been using that type of marketing for a few years now), or the most creative and intriguing photographs of cutting edge projects. You can buy stock photography numerous places... for which you pay a license fee. Much to my chagrin smiling faces still make the phone ring--sometimes human nature infuriates me, but it is true.

Grabbing photographs from other websites is a big no-no. You might get away with it for a few months--but most of the major companies will sue you out of existence for stealing their work. 

The other option is to align yourself with a company like GardenStructure.com in order to use their photography to populate your new site. They have been the cutting edge in outdoor woodwork design for decades now, and there is nothing like showing brilliant and well executed designs to sell decks and pergolas.

2)  Clear navigation. There is nothing worse than getting to a website and it isn't obvious where to find things. Think through your major headings and keep things easy to navigate.

3)  Your address and area of operations. People need to know where you work and live. Everyone wants a local company to do their work-- and they don't want sub contractors coming from god knows where. They know that quality is higher if you are truly local.

4)  Testimonials--Let me be candid. 90% of testimonials are bogus, and you will not be publishing actual names and phone numbers on a website these days... so give them what they want. When you are new to the game you need to convince people of your ethical and trustworthy status.

5)  A phone number and e-mail link. I can't tell you how many sites don't have a way to contact the company displayed prominently. If you want the business, they have to be able to contact you!

This is just basics... to have a great website and to become a business leader you need advantages. Things that set you apart as a company and make you a known quantity in the business. A great flyer (which is basically what you are creating with your website), is just the beginning. Now you need to get that flyer into the hands of your millions of potential clients.

For a dose of reality--there are only 104 million other deck builders trying to do the same thing.GardenStructure.com created our first website in 1997, and we get about 1 million unique visits every year. Very few other companies in this business get near that number of visitors.

Building a website takes time. In order to get traffic, you need links from other authority sites and compelling content that draws those links.

Build a great website--and with some luck they will come!

L


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Selling Decks - Where are all the Big Decks?

Larry was 18 years old and building decks in Burlington Ontario. He went out and worked for the best deck companies in Ontario the year previously, about 5 of them. He learned all their tricks, how to price and how to do some basic marketing and decided that he could do it better. Marketing that worked? Flyers, a small ad in the phone book, and signs on the lawn and truck while you work seem to do the trick.

Larry worked on 1 street for 2 months, some 12 jobs in total. He was working under a name cooked up by his father. "Fair Deal Carpentry", and it sounded right since that's really what everybody wants right?

Larry was 18, but unfortunately he looked 14. It is a difficult task to convince anyone that he is an expert in the field of decks and fences when you look so child like.

What's in a name anyways? Your work speaks for itself right? All that matters is that you get your foot in the door and get the opportunity to sell right? All leads are good leads... aren't they?

Larry was doing a job in Hamilton for a referred renovation through a friend and if you have ever been in Hamilton you will know that it is all 1 way streets. A drunk in a van loaded with roofing materials ran a red light and Larry's truck t-boned the van. His left arm went through the drivers side window and his right hand pushed the steering wheel of the F150 about 6" out of round. The truck was about 3' shorter than it started out.

After 6 months of rehab and laser treatments he could finally turn his ignition key in his truck. Insurance replaced the truck, but he lost about 4 months of work at this critical time in his business start up. He burned up all his cash and was basically starting again.

This was 1991 and Larry is/was Lawrence Winterburn, founder of GardenStructure.com and things have changed a little in the past 20 years.

All the things that worked for me in the first year or two are now ancient history. Flyers, Yellow pages no longer work. Lawn and Truck Signs might, but that original name...my God, what a mistake that was!

I milked some opportunities, what turned out to be important ones from the bargain seeking clients I ended up meeting up with, but that Fair Deal name lead to lost opportunities, jobs with no profit and cheapskate clients that would negotiate all the way through the job. Things didn't start to get better until I changed that name.

It was just one of the reasons I didn't get the big profitable jobs back then.

I was doing all kinds of things wrong, and lucky for me, I learned from the experience.

If you want to learn how to get the big leads, and opportunity to do more profitable large projects, click this link. Starting a Deck Company

I want to help you become a success... Preferably Sooner -- Rather than later!

L

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Spring 2012

It is shaping up to be a great year!  All the crews are busy and they got a good early start.

We have openings for exclusive builder, coming up next month in Oakville. Dan took a cushy corporate job in Calgary with Stanley Tools. To be young and impetuous....Yes, I am envious. Dan did great work with us. Did a beautiful portico in Oakville and another curved deck we haven't taken photos of yet.

North York is also coming available later this spring. Brian doesn't have time for decks and fences since he is making investments in a development in India...and will be developing a subdivision there. Brian also did beautiful work with us.

We have new builders this year in Windsor, Barrie and Caledon... all brilliant craftsmen.

If you are interested in becoming an exclusive builder with GardenStructure.com call Lawrence at 888 293 8938

Friday, March 30, 2012

GardenStructure.com at the Windsor Home Show

Sal Constante is at the Windsor Home Show this weekend-- at the GM plant. Booths number 400.

Sal is one of our most talented builders and this is a chance to see some of his work up close. Bring a sketch, photos and he might have time to sketch some ideas for you while he is there!

He builds decks, fences, pergolas and decorative woodwork for the garden of all kinds!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lots of noise about Composite Decks

Linkedin is abuzz over composites. New products all jostling for position in the business. There's a great article about the current state of composites in North America here..


They talk about the expected new generations of products due out this fall, and touch on capped materials swelling at the ends and causing the vinyl cap to tear. 

Michael Dotson spent $15,000 on Geodeck materials and sent in a pile of photos of that failure--he told me that  
"I filed a claim... and had a claim number....and eventually was told we have no $$$ to pay your claim"

We are going to use all of them for a gallery of photos for the "Composite Decking Article" shortly, but here are a couple of samples.



Now, I know that the Geodeck name has been sold twice since the originators of this product had control...but this legacy will continue due to the mistreatment of their customers. When you buy composite decking you need to know that many companies have left customers with decks that look like this--and when they get sold, change their names or go out of business, you have NO Warranty!

If you have photos of a deteriorating composite deck... send them along. It may cause pressure on the company to service your warranty claim.

For GardenStructure.com's article on " Composite Decking " click here.

If you are building a deck and considering composite decking... Do your Research!

L
 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Articles; Composite Decking and Starting a Deck Company

"Composite Decking Vs Wood Decks" update.


This article has been updated for 2012. We don't typically use composite lumber in our projects, simply because their warranties don't cover labor should they make a bad batch. It just isn't something that we have faith in as a product. The major development is that a composite decking company has blinked and is now offering a warranty that covers replacement of the decking by a qualified builder for a period of 5 years.

There are a few new composite decking horror show photos sent in by clients and much of the information inthe article has been updated for 2012 with composite industry changes.

There is also a new article about  "Starting a Deck Company in 2012".



The information in the article will give the new deck builder insights into creating a winning business plan for your new deck company. It also outlines many of the advantages our "Exclusive Builders" have over the competition. Designs, Details, Tablet Portfolio and use of our photography for marketing purposes.

There is also plenty of information for the existing deck builder for improving their deck company in 2012, and insights into the economy and how it relates to trends in the deck business.

If you like what you see on this blog or on www.gardenstructure.com be sure to visit our +1 Page. We've loaded it with plenty of photos and information!  Add us to your circles-- We love to connect with other Deck Builders!



Friday, February 24, 2012

Wood Fencing - Common Mistakes

Wood Fencing is a subject lacking any professional grade information in books on how to build for durability. On top of that, nearly everyone oversimplifies why fences stand up they way they should. There are many thousands of books and most of the information is recycled from information put out by lumber yards over the past hundred years.

The "Art" of building fences is indeed becoming lost in a sea of mis-information.  We are sharing the basics in a work in progress, "Fence School". We'll be filling in content over the next year to teach good basic fundamentals to builders as well as home owners that want to "Do It Yourself".
This wood fence is located on a commercial property in Barrie Ontario and is one of the best example of a wood fence failure. The fence was built lacking vertical support, and someone added vertically oriented 2x4's after the fact.

Since there was not enough support, and just 2x2's nailed to 2x4's oriented on the flat, the fence sagged causing the boards to come loose. When it comes to commercial wood fences you need to build much stronger to resist snow being plowed and wind that whips across open parking lots.


 These guys didn't consider that trees grow, and this seemingly harmless small tree pushed a rail and the lattice out over the next few years.


 When they added the extra rails, they didn't bother to connect them to the posts, thus, adding weight to an already failing fence, rather than adding vertical strength.


They also didn't consider that in this frost prone area, concrete curbs will lift a couple of inches each season. This aggravated the issue. Mounting rails too close to the ground is a common flaw. Ground swells as moisture within it freezes putting stress on wood fences.

You can read more about fences in this blog by clicking here. Wood Fence Articles
See our DIY Plans and Fence Instructions at GardenStructure.com
We design many very unique wood fences - See our Gallery of Fence Designs

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Do you check on your decks and fences after you build?

I drove past this Wood Trellis Fence that I built in about 1995 just last fall and was shocked at how good it looked. Yes, this client took good care of what I built, and says that people still stop to photograph it 17 years after it was built. Still standing strong, and looking much like when I built it.



More importantly, he still loves the look of it, and relishes the thought that it was designed just for him and his wife. The process worked the same back then as it does now. Customer gives us a wish list and a design retainer, and we come back with options, elevations and layouts.

Without examining the decks and fences you built in the early days you cannot be sure that your methods were sound. This is an extreme being 17 years, however, every good deck and fence builder needs to drop in and see their work a few years after construction. Only by seeing the flaws can we correct our designs and methods. Putting your head in the sand means you just don't care about your  product.



This was one of our first attempts at changing suburbia, and I wouldn't likely design something that looks like this today--however, houses don't look the same as they did then either. What matters is that the customer is as happy today as they were when it was built.

Many builders just cut out pictures and designs from magazines--Short cuts don't make your company stand out. You may not be as prolific as www.gardenstructure.com , however the sense of accomplishment from coming up with your own designs is gratifying.

Don't be afraid to try something different when it comes to decks and fences--you might come up with something that will make you famous!

That said, we excel at unique designs and details, and we do share it with select builders. If you think you have what it takes to work with us, click "Exclusive Deck and Fence Builders" for more details.



Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hot Spots 2012- Building Decks and Pergolas in Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Boston Mass

We have top ranking local web pages that you can use if you are a builder of decks, fences and pergolas. No waiting... we can edit them for your company in a week or two and your phone will start ringing instantly. The photos you see are actual screen shots of Google results. You need to know a couple of things about how google works before you can get the same results.

Google now adjusts your results based on your profile--so if you have a deck company, and you registered that on google places, or you have a google account then they know who you are. With a static IP they will give you results that make you think you have the top rank. When someone searches for decks, fences or pergolas and where you live, they will see the "Virgin" results, not the skewed results you see at home, and you may only be on page 5. So, to see the actual results, you may have to go to an internet cafe--or a friend's house. Clear the browser cache, make sure you are not signed in to Google... and do the searches.

We have 3 locations with top ranks in Google already, where someone else paid us to create the web presence, and for some reason they are no longer there... These 3 spots are busy areas and any deck builder that wants to grow their business or cut their marketing costs will be well served.
Boston's economy is on the mend--and plenty of people call asking if we have a builder yet. Our designs fit well with the East Coast Architecture... You will be popular!
 Not very often you can jump into an exclusive deal and we already have #1 spots in Google. This isn't just recent... we've held top ranks there for years.
 Vancouver had a couple of slow years after the Olympic Games and when they brought in a new oppressive tax. That means pent up demand for decks and pergolas-- It is a great time to be building in Vancouver and our Canopy System should be a big hit there since it rains fairly often there!
 Vancouver Island is right next store, and Art is a big part of the culture there-- We get nearly as many calls from the Island as the main land, so that should be a very busy area as well.

 Vancouver Island loves their pergolas-- you should be the one to supply them!
 We can pretty much make you rank highly in Google anywhere in North America. That's only part of what we do. Our exclusive builders get to use our portfolio for tablets, design resources and support from head office.

You can learn more about becoming an "Exclusive Decks and Pergolas Builder" for GardenStructure.com here.

You can also call 888 293 8938 and ask for Lawrence for more information. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What is a privacy screen? What are the rules for building privacy screens?

Privacy Screens



What exactly is a privacy screen. What is the difference between a trellis-work and a decorative screen and a privacy screen?

In the eyes of a local building department--nothing. In the eyes of a committee of adjustment or a tribunal... there is a world of difference.

When what you build ends up being an eyesore, you will always lose your case. When a well built and obviously architecturally inspired privacy screen is in place, they nearly always side with you. 

A privacy screen is typically "A visual barrier to provide privacy". It can be an 8' solid fence, an intricate trelliage, a semi private fence or even fishing line that trains vines skyward. If you call it a privacy screen--generally a building department or bylaw enforcement agency will see it as such.

Rules for building privacy screens vary from town to town, borough to borough. Your first step should be Google and second should be visiting your local city hall.

If you are reading this you have likely landed in this situation where a neighbour has complained, or you are planning to build a privacy screen and you want to know if you can legally build a privacy screen on your property.

This is another case where building departments are flying by the seats of their pants to paint something they really don't understand as "This" or "That".

Can you dig half a hole? Not unless you define the hole.

Leaving judgements up to low level managers leads to stress among homeowners. In one area we can build anything we want if it it contains 3" spaces, and 3 miles away they could make you tear the same thing down because it has been deemed to not fit within specifications by a single clerk's interpretation of a more or less identical bylaw.

When it comes down to it most areas bylaws were created to address a certain situation that occurred that resulted in 2 neighbors arguing.



When you are dealing with the building department or municipal bylaw office or even the zoning department you need to take copious notes. It is always best to take a sketch of what you want to build and get their opinion there. The plans examiners and bylaw enforcement officers know the commonly enforced rules and should be able to give you  enough information that you can plan a privacy screen with confidence.

You need to get a business card or write down the names of everyone you speak to. While you go through this process you will discover something magical. If you ask someone at the building department for their card or name they may immedietly call someone else over. This means that you were speaking with someone less experienced at first contact and you may have been wasting your time or about to get inaccurate information.

If they tell you that you cannot legally build the privacy screen you want--you need to ask questions. What can I legally build. Ask for interpretations and definitions so that you can design something that fits your requirements and yours. There is always a large grey area within bylaws.

If you live in Ontario you can speak to Dave Macilius (289) 339-9600 (Hamilton-Burlington) , Mark Schwarz (519) 669-2972 (Kitchener Waterloo), Paul Corsetti (416) 455-5515 (Toronto + GTA). These guys are talented designers that can help you interpret the rules in your favour.

Across Canada and in the US you will want to speak to me, Lawrence Winterburn. (888) 293-8938. I can help you design suitable privacy screens that will meet local code requirements.

To see more Privacy Screens check out our Gallery of Privacy Screens and our Decks Gallery

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Some Decks from Tennessee

Rod Brooker shared these photos of recent work he did in Chattanooga Tennessee. These decks are all of his own design.




This deck is of virgin vinyl PVC "Composite Decking", which is really the only type of composite materials our builders use. He built in tables with stone tops, planter boxes and lighting.





I really like the benches. Many of you in the northern states might not know that the skirting around the deck can run right to the ground when you don't have frost to worry about...

Here's a second level deck by Rod with a red cedar pergola ( Arbor ) built right into the structure!

To see more of Rod's work in Chattanooga Tennessee please click here.