Q: With new construction and residential remodeling red hot in many markets, what do you see as the biggest opportunity for LBM dealers?
A: The biggest opportunity we see is increasing the overall ticket per deck project. Decks continue to be a strong investment for homeowners. A well-designed outdoor space adds value to a home and stays current much longer than some other popular home improvement projects. Dealers should ask homeowners specific questions about how they plan to use their deck, and offer up solutions that will help them enjoy their space and realize the benefits of their investment if they eventually sell their home. This approach is very similar to how kitchens have been sold for years. While it’s important to be respectful of homeowner budgets, dealers should be confident about showing decking items that may be a good fit for the homeowner and how they plan to use their outdoor space.
Q: The flipside of that question—What do you see as the biggest challenge?
A: The capacity of labor is still the biggest issue looming in the industry. While this is a fairly new development, it’s refreshing to hear the industry channels begin to change the discussion on labor. We have moved beyond the complaining-about-it phase and are looking for ways to be a part of the solution. Manufacturers have a much better sense of how something installs on the job site and are incorporating those insights into how they design and offer products. The same goes for dealers and distributors. Those who can help contractors keep their projects on time with fewer callbacks are helping to increase the building capacity of decks to meet the strong demand we’re experiencing right now in our industry. Deck builders will continue to make room in their portfolios for decking products that are easy to work with and save installation time. Examples include composite deck boards that are strong yet lightweight, pre-assembled railing systems, low-voltage lighting with simple wiring, and solutions that combine weatherproofing and fastening in one product.
Q: What advice would you have for dealers who’d like to grow their share of their local decking market?
A: The whole process of building a deck is something homeowners typically do only once or twice in their life, and it’s not easy. It’s important to meet homeowners where they are in the process of investing in a deck for their home. Many homeowners do their research ahead of time and then seek out advisors who can help them be sure of their decisions and offer advice on additional options based on how they plan to use their deck. If a dealer can be a resource and help make the process as easy as possible, it goes a long way. Our industry still operates heavily on word of mouth. If a homeowner’s decking project goes well, they will tell their friends and family about their experiences. The same can be said about projects that do not meet their expectations.
Q: Deckorators made a splash when it expanded its Structural and Stain & Fade warranties to include labor, with a 25-year limited removal and replacement warranty. Do you think labor coverage will become more standard in building product warranties?
A: That will depend largely on contractors and end users of the products. If they start to demand warranty coverage for their entire project, then it will become more prevalent. Consumers typically look at the duration of their warranties and do not always dive into the fine details of what is specifically covered and what isn’t. Those items are important for an investment like a high-end deck.
Q: Composite decking has been among the most dynamic building product categories. From your perspective, should we watch for a ‘next big thing,’ or incremental improvements over existing products?
A: We are still in the incremental phase but it’s inevitable that smart home-type items will work their way into the outdoor space. As that happens, it will be exciting to see how they will be incorporated into a deck. The industry channels have been very focused on the front-end side of planning and installing a deck. How consumers enjoy their deck on an ongoing basis will become important as well.
Chris Camfferman is the Category Marketing Director for Deckorators, a manufacturer of composite decking, railing, balusters, post caps and related products. Camfferman has enjoyed being a part of the decking and outdoor living industry for nearly 20 years.