Starting a Deck, Fence and Pergola Company
a deck Company
This is a great time for starting
a deck company. 3 years ago, before the stock market
correction and recession, construction of decks, fences and pergolas
was at an
all time high. Anyone with the will and a station wagon could make
building decks and fences. Since then, all the weaker deck builders are
They have been washed out by competition from highly skilled
renovators that were building decks and fences to keep their companies
Now, North America is getting back
to work, and more
people are renovating and doing additions rather than moving. Money
that people used to spend on upgrading to bigger homes is now put into
improving what they
Dream decks and pergolas with all the bells is just part of that trend.
Now that the builders and renovators are getting busy leaving
a glut of work, and a shortage of talent in the decks,
pergolas sector. During the recession, the prudent buyers bought low
that work needs fixing and they simply don't want to build something
to replace in a couple of years--they want something fabulous and built
If you have ever wanted to start a
deck company--Now is
the perfect time to do it!
Business Plans (for deck companies)
Creating a business plan for your
deck company is
crucial. Considering the information in this article and put
numbers and expectations to your deck company business plan. This
identify problems with your strategy so that you can address them up
Once you have your draft plan,
meet with your accountant
and banker and ask them for candid advice. You will be very surprised
reaction. Not enough people go through this step when they start a
your mentors will likely be flattered that you asked them for
Demographics and Your Deck
Who buys decks? Many people buy
decks--normal decks may
get purchased by first time home owners--however they are often the
go withy the low bid.
When it comes to Nice Decks-- High
End Decks, these
people can decide if they like the way
looks without asking their friends. Our clients are artistically
perfectionist personalities that range from upper middle class to
millionaires. In general, they golf,
they appreciate fine automobiles and they live in the nicer areas and
communities. Often it is the wife that initiates the call to us more
the man of the house.
We have found that areas with
sprawling low rise suburbs
are prime for our brand of decks and fences. Areas near the major
to generate the most leads.
Seasonality and your Deck Business
In many northern areas where we
get winter snowfall, the
business will be seasonal for decks and fences. You may find that you
supplement your income doing renovations or snow plowing.
Built in home theaters and finished basements
can be a fine lucrative addition to your business in the winter
We created the Carpentry
Contractor Blog to help our deck
and pergola builders market those services in the off season. If you
exclusive builder for GardenStructure.com you have access. Send us a
article and photos, and we will edit and post it with your contacts and
Competition in the Decks
If you are starting a deck company
that builds more basic
structures, you may be more concerned with what your competition is
you are in an area where there is a large undocumented work force
price of basic decks and fences down to unprofitable levels this is a
concern to your new deck business.
If you are planning to become an
Exclusive Builder for
GardenStructure.com it is less of a concern. Our builders get leads
other builders get to see. Generally the potential clients have found a
our web site that they fell in love with, and since the competitors
done anything of that caliber, they are disqualified from being
In general, our
design builders are in competition with
Landscape Architects and exclusive quality builders of fine outdoor
Even if there is a great builder of unique decks in your area, the
them even being found in Google is slim. Larger deck companies like
and Hickory Dickory Decks simply cannot match our design prowess and
quality of detailing. Our builders are known for selling jobs against
types of companies, and usually we do it without giving a lower bid.
Company Marketing Strategy--Your
Why should people hire
your deck company over the
competition? What makes you so special? Most builders will tout quality
creativity as their premier assets. Do you really want to hinge your
the same thing everyone else in the deck business does? How will that
Examining why people buy decks,
and why, will help you
come up with a strategy. Here is what we suggest our "Exclusive
Builders" use as headlines on Adverts.
The #1 way of selling
a client on your company is coming up with a design that makes your
cringe. Building designs so inspired and beautiful that they want to
business when they see it. Something
that looks so different, that it was beyond the client's
that compliments the home beautifully. If you are going it alone it
decades to create a repertoire of details. I know some big deck
cut their details out of magazines… That's just not our
style. We started from scratch about
20 years ago and started designing our own details. Our "Exclusive
Builders" benefit from using our designs and photography in their
Future Value of Decks and
What will what you build look like
in 3 years? Have you
visited your past customers? 5
years? 10? When you have a deck company this is
something you have to do. It is how we learn what works and what
you never hone your techniques, you will never develop as a deck
We share our methods for improving
durability and making
our projects age gracefully with our "Exclusive Builders".
This is something that takes
time-- confidentially, to
sell against young upstarts I often suggest that a deck company that
been in business for 6 months has no business offering a 5 year
Nothing they have built has lasted that long yet, so you as the
nothing to look at that they have built.
Another reason you may choose to
align yourself with a
company that has been around for decades.
As you build projects, ask for referrals, ask for testimonials, and ask
them to put recommendations on your Google places page. (We help our
set that up). Referrals, References and
Testimonials are how you prove that you are the best deck company to
Many of our builders have a list printed out of past clients, and
potential client call just 3 of them at random.
Skill Set for Building Decks
Are you a brilliant carpenter? Can
you come up with
concepts for decks, fences and pergolas and format them so that your
can envision what you propose? Are you a good manager of
Can you estimate the value of decks, fences and
There are a few decent books by
Taunton Press that can
teach you the basics of framing, trim and deck building. When it comes
fences, you can buy a few DIY fence plans from www.gardenstructure.com
will get you up to speed on professional techniques, and also some
for pergolas that will inspire you to build better.
There is software available to
render decks if you are
not good at sketching by hand, or AutoCAD, or, learn Google Sketch up
create great drawings. We are hoping to transition our drawings into
in the coming year. When it comes to learning to design concept plans,
something that comes with experience. Start simple, and work your way
you are one of our Exclusive Builders, we will share some resources.
Marketing a Deck Company
A former President of Amex Bank of
Canada shared his
philosophy with me years ago. (William White). "Market
when you don't need the business". This enables you to have more leads
than you can deal with and allows you the advantage of picking and
most profitable and or prestigious jobs.
A good on-line presence markets
your business while you
are sleeping, on vacation or off with the flu. Today this needs to be
centerpiece of any marketing strategy for a deck company.
There have been huge changes in
the marketing business.
Direct mail has always been a favorite of the deck companies and if you
compelling photography to use, we can provide it.
Not so long ago we all had Yellow
Page Ads, however, very
quickly the viewership for these antiquated directories has crashed.
waste your money on phone directories.
Google is now the source for all
marketing on line.
Facebook is the up and comer.You can pay them just like you did the
book--or you can create inspired content to build your reputation. Both
cost. GardenStructure.com gets 1 million targeted visits for decks,
pergolas every year, so we can certainly help you get leads as well.
If you are planning to start your
own Website, you need
to understand something that most webmasters will neglect to inform
websites, once Google finds them, are not searchable for many months,
months normally). This is because there are companies that produce
content to game the Ad sense system of ad production. They are capable
producing many thousands of low quality pages from diverse domains.
So once you create your website,
and you have done
everything right, and waited until you get out of Google's sandbox,
get to see how well you have done. You may find you are on page 20, and
case you won't get any traffic. In about another 6 months, if anyone
to your site or pages you will achieve "Page Rank".
Page Rank is Google's judgment
mechanism and is an
important part of their Algorithm which decides where to show your
If nobody links to your content telling
Google that your content is good, it will take longer to climb in the
engine ranks. It could literally be years before you get a rank good
get visits and actual leads from your website.
In short, banking on a new website
to get you traffic is
erroneous. It is something you should do, however it is a long term
Not instant. Getting set up as an "Exclusive Builder", with
GardenStructure.com will get you an online presence that may get you
within days (for existing content on our site), and if we create new
it could take 2-3 months. Numerous areas are already set up for
Boston, Charleston SC, Vancouver BC and Houston Tx. Call us to find out
long it will take.
Once you have more leads than you
can deal with, you can
filter these down to only the most profitable prospects. Small and
basic jobs will
have more competition from handymen and relatives, so you really need
less time on them. Small jobs like 3 sections of fence can be good fill
work; however you have to remember that these take the same planning
to do--with less profit. They need to be marked up accordingly to
We have devised methods for
dealing with small job leads,
and qualifying clients over the phone before attending the site.
Free Estimates or Paid
What exactly is your time worth?
If it isn't worth
anything, maybe you should reconsider being in the deck business.
you will likely have to offer a free visit to be considered, however
complex jobs, like multi level decks and pergolas, or decorative gated
entrances will require more expertise and planning.
You need a
strategy to get paid for your time even when
you don't get the job. It has to do with perceived expertise. People
someone they deem an expert to help them plan their project--and if
is you, you get paid for your time and will be placed on the short list
share our strategies with
all our "Exclusive Builders".
Visiting with clients
Presentation Materials (Meeting with new clients)
So how do you prove to your client
that you are an expert
in your field and deserve to be paid to help them plan their dream
pergolas? This has to do with presentation.
When you arrive you will have the
finest photography of
the most creative designs in the business. You will have examples of
working drawings and photos of the completed projects. You will have
sheets at the ready. You will show up, listen to the clients needs and
thoughtful suggestions that they likely hadn't considered. We
share these photos with our Exclusive Builders in an optomized format
for display on Tablet Computers. (below)
You will have a design agreement
at the ready if they
want you to create concept drawings.
80% of the time when you do a paid
concept drawings--the job is yours.
We have created a basic set of
detailed drawings and
photography formatted for tablet presentation so that you can look more
professional at estimates. Get in touch for more information about
presentation materials for deck companies.
Designing Decks and Pergolas
Some people ask me how our decks
manage to look so
different than everyone else's. Back 20 years ago I decided to
subscribe to the
ostrich school of design. Stick my head firmly in the ground, ignore
everyone else is building and concentrate on coming up with my own
which I could copyright and protect. When I did this, I really didn't
would take quite so long to accomplish, but now we have our own unique
for decks and have made great strides in improving durability.
Many builders enjoy using
composite, however are often
disappointed to see what they built a few years later. See; "Composite
Decking vs. Wood Decks". The truth is that we can get better
and less maintenance from wood decks than composite can offer.
The founder of one of the largest
deck companies in North
America confided in me that he never designed anything. He simply cut
pasted pictures out of magazines and books, and emulated what other
spent time designing. This strategy can work, if design is not your
point, however GardenStructure.com can offer you a better set of
drawings which you can draw details from, or pass the details on to
draftsman or architect.
Designs and Details,
The Taunton Press has a few titles
that may offer
"Deck Ideas" and details. They are likely the most trusted large
publisher since they are primarily composed of builder editors. Sadly
produced nothing worth referencing on the subject of Fences or Pergolas
"Design Elements", our book of
deck, fence and
pergola concepts and "Historical Drawings", our most popular plans in
11x17" format, will give you many details to work with.
There are also many DIY and
Professional level plans at
GardenStructure.com under the DIY Plans heading. These fully detailed
will offer unique detailing and full size templates for the printed
There are plans for pergolas, arbors, fences and gates, trelliswork,
well as decks.
Many of the existing titles on
decks and deck design that
you will find at book stores are sorely lacking and contain many
errors in both technique and specification. Even the Taunton books
details I would take exception to, so if it doesn't look right to
Our custom design service can
supply you with concept
drawings for projects like decks, pergolas, gates and privacy screens.
loading in 3-$400 for concepts, (elevation and layouts), you will be
offer your client a genuine design that blends with your client's home
matches their budget and keeps your margin of profit intact.
GardenStructure.com is producing
articles and focused
information for our "Exclusive Builders". Details for attaching decks
and pergolas to stucco, floating foundations, retractable canopies,
decks and design guides are all available for the asking.
Deck Sales is a process. It is the
rare occasion in the
decks business that you can show up and sell a deck, pergola or fence
in one visit.
Old fashioned high pressure sales tactics have fallen out of favor with
consumer. They want to go slow, learn a little about the project, plan
carefully and feel entirely comfortable in order to sign an agreement
their chosen design builder.
These days, paying a designer to
help plan their project
is palatable, because it also means that they don't have to commit to
builder or budget until the project is planned to their satisfaction.
empowered when they can show the plans to 3 or 4 builders for
quotes. In my experience though, if you
design the project, you will build it 80% of the time.
Paperwork- Agreements, Change
Orders, Warranty, Waivers, Design Agreements
Every deck company
needs clear and professional
paperwork. These days we print on demand and everything is laid out in
Microsoft Word or compatible word processing software.
Agreements should protect you in
the event of non-payment
or cancellation, disaster, death of a client and delays caused by
of control. A good deck company client
contract should spell out who is responsible for obtaining a permit,
will be done, of what materials and should have working drawings and
specifications list attached. It should spell out clearly, who owns the
materials brought on site and numerous other issues that may spawn
disagreements between you and the client.
Change orders will protect you
from not getting paid for
additional items or changes that occur during the project. It
is common courtesy to communicate the cost
of additionals and extras before going ahead and doing them. If it is
that needs to commence immediately you can communicate that to the
verbally today… and get it in writing with a signature within 24
I like to keep a few blank change orders in
the truck just in case.
When a client doesn't want to
obtain permits--a waiver
will excuse you from responsibility if charges are laid. Composite
companies often exclude labor and disposal from their warranty. If the
wants composite, you need a waiver so that they acknowledge that you
responsible should the composite decking fail. That way you cannot be
responsible for labor to replace the decking should the worst case
Design Agreements will outline
what details and drawings
you agree to provide at what cost. If the client is paying you for the
of their decks or pergolas or any feature, you need to spell this out
terms that protect you in the case of disagreement.
critical in this litigious society of today!
vehicles is simply a good value. Compelling
graphics and branding can get you many low cost leads. People use their
these days and if they are interested in a consultation they can type
web address or just take a photo of your vehicle to reference later. We
provide high res photos for use on vehicle wraps as well.
Sales and Service
Many deck companies now sell
everything from barbecues to
furniture, outdoor kitchen appliances and cabinets, landscape and deck
as well as hot tubs and other accessories like heaters and umbrellas.
Our builders get solid discounts on
Shade FX Retractable
canopies that are designed to be installed under our pergolas.
If you have the budget
manpower, you should
consider running a post hole auguring service. You get your footings
dug and set for the lowest cost, and you can cover the cost of the
and labor digging holes for private clients and your competition. Quite
when your post hole dig and set clients realize that you build as well,
will end up doing the entire job for quite a few clients.
Many deck builders are also
supplying stain application
services. From pre-finishing deck and pergola parts, to scheduled
of decks and pergolas, you will get plenty of profitable repair work to
your crews busy.
A solid workmanship warranty can
offer confidence to
buyers. We ask our builders to offer a full 5 years. Materials are
excluded, however if 1 board doesn't live up to expectations we suggest
dropping in and changing it. It is inexpensive to do and can lead to
referrals and an excuse to drop in on the client--keeping you top of
If you take pride in your work,
offering 5 years doesn't
mean much. Any grievous errors will show up in the first year so the
years is free.
Other Resources by
WILL ALSO FIND links to
articles on building decks, pergolas and fences
more information about becoming an "Exclusive
Design Builder" in your area please contact
or 888 293 8938.
information about our builder group (click)