Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder

 
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Old 12-27-2016, 06:12 PM   #1
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Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


Hi guys,

I'm going over my tools and making purchases to be more efficient for deck building. Here's my current situation so you get the idea:

I work out of an extended cab, regular box (6'6) pickup truck. I fold down the back seats and that gives me a ton of storage, which I take up mostly with Tstaks with my most used tools/fasteners. I can carry quite a bit of lumber in the back of the truck. I only have Thule racks on the cap for a canoe so no lumber goes on top. Seems I am short a few pieces of wood here and there for each deck so I end up making multiple store runs.

I live in suburbia with a single car driveway/garage with a sidewalk. This limits me as I can't have a trailer. I have a shed in the backyard that I can store a fair amount in, as well as the sides of the garage. My wife is supposed to park her car in the garage, so I have to build some shelves quick to get everything up off the floor.

As far as tools go, I 'believe' I have everything I need (at my current stage), and have thus far needed, to fairly efficiently build decks well (besides having to make store runs for short material/supplies). However, I'm always wracking my brain to find better ways/tools to move things along.

I build almost all pressure treated decks. I get the odd composite deck, but they are few and far between. I've been in business for myself fulltime for only 2.5 years. I have no employees, and have been doing everything by myself. I see myself getting an employee, at least part time, in the spring simply to speed things along (hopefully) and to take some of the physical strain off my body.

I should mention that I get NO calls for decks in the winter, so I do a lot of basement framing and small renovations to make it through the winter. I enjoy this work as well, but am trying to focus mainly on deck building. Not sure how I could efficiently market for both.

Main things I have:
Track saw with long/short track, vac (crappy) for dust collection, multiple impacts and drills, tons of batteries, all nail guns, compressor, stabila levels, pls360 laser with tripod/detector, cement mixer, concrete tools, manual hole digger, digging bar, sledge, wheelbarrow, Quikdrive autofeed screwgun, sds drills big and small, ladders, sawhorses, benches, sawsalls, dewalt oscillating tool, routers, random orbit sander, 10" and 12" SCMS, lawn signs, sketch up
I may have missed some obvious tools.

Things I rent:
Auger (different types depending on deck, and this is only when my normal hole subcontractor can't fit into the backyard.

Things I don't have:
Trailer
scaffolding
Good dust collection (necessary for decks?)
proper deck demo tool (I cut decks into sections with circular saw and sawsall rather than pull off deck boards)
Employee (plan on hiring at least part time in the spring)
Advertising other than my website (I do a little google adwords in spring/summer but nothing else, other than my website)
Salesmanship. I listen to the customers and quote what they want. I'm extremely friendly and nice when I meet them, but will then give a 'take it or leave it' attitude after the price is given. I stay busy, but I'm sure my sales is extremely lacking.

So if any seasoned deck builders here have any suggestions on anything I can improve/upgrade/buy, I am all ears.

Last edited by heavy_d; 12-27-2016 at 06:18 PM.
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Old 12-27-2016, 06:46 PM   #2
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


I think getting a shop is always something to work towards.

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Old 12-27-2016, 08:19 PM   #3
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


Buy a duckbill deck wrecker or one of the other good deck demo tools. It's amazing how much faster and how little effort is required. Figure they range from $60-$100. It will pay for itself before lunch.

While I know some may never see the utility in them, the Festool HK saw has really proven to be worth the money. So far it's replaced the circular saw, miter saw and table saw on my current project.
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Old 12-27-2016, 09:37 PM   #4
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


An easy to read and understand proposal that maintains a high level of professionalism, is imperative to the sale. When you leave the kitchen table, they need to believe you are the only one that can give them exactly what they want, regardless of price. Give them certain info that only a deck builder would know. Control the meeting with knowledge but make sure to be a good listener. That's extremely important. A customer can smell a contractor that lacks confidence.

Talk to them as a couple don't just look at one of them. Talk to both of them. I had a custom once tell me after I finished their job., She said "you know what we like about you when we first met? You made eye contact with both of us and were interested in what we both wanted. Not a hard thing to do but sometimes hard to remember.

I never make follow up contact. Not saying you should or shouldn't, but I don't like it when others do it to me, so it's something I just don't do. I feel if I do my job right at the initial meeting, there's no need to follow up.

Hope this helps. Just my .02

Last edited by Jaws; 12-30-2016 at 12:55 AM.
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Old 12-27-2016, 09:50 PM   #5
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


Quote:
Originally Posted by Californiadecks View Post
An easy to read and understand proposal that maintains a high level of professionalism, is imperative to the sale. When you leave the kitchen table, they need to believe you are the only one that can give them exactly what they want, regardless of price. Give them certain info that only a deck builder would know. Control the meeting with knowledge but make sure to be a good listener. That's extremely important. A customer can smell a contractor that lacks confidence.

Talk to them as a couple don't just look at one of them. Talk to both of them. I had a custom once tell me after I finished their job., She said "you know what we like about you when we first met? You made eye contact with both of us and were interested in what we both wanted. Not a hard thing to do but sometimes hard to remember.

I never make follow up contact. Not saying you should or shouldn't, but I don't like it when others do it to me, so it's something I just don't do. I feel if I do my job right at the initial meeting, there's no need to follow up.

If you want, PM me your email address and I will send you a sample of what my proposals look like. They are very simple but professional. They need to be able to understand exactly where the money is going.

Hope this helps. Just my .02
Excellent advice from a BTDT pro.

I think it would be awesome to specialize in decks. We build quite a few every year as part of our larger projects, but not often enough as a stand alone project to get extremely effecient $$$

Once the proposal is tweaked and you become very established in your area I would imagine you will Slaughter 99% of your competition. All of our work is WOM so I can't offer anything in the way of advertising, but I can say I can't imagine anything works better than wom and an established reputation. I would spend some time networking.
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Old 12-27-2016, 10:04 PM   #6
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


Quote:
Originally Posted by Californiadecks View Post

If you want, PM me your email address and I will send you a sample of what my proposals look like. They are very simple but professional. They need to be able to understand exactly where the money is going.
The one you sent me was very helpful. Just from the standpoint of seeing how someone who does decks as a primary business arranges and breaks down the proposal.
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Old 12-27-2016, 11:25 PM   #7
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


Consider getting or making a 2 wheeled cart to move your lumber with.

Even a 4X8 fold up trailer (~1000 lb capacity) you can store at your place can make sense if you use it once or twice a month. Don't make multiple trips for materials you already know you'll need unless there isn't room at the site.
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Old 12-27-2016, 11:29 PM   #8
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


Quote:
Originally Posted by hdavis View Post
Consider getting or making a 2 wheeled cart to move your lumber with.

Even a 4X8 fold up trailer (~1000 lb capacity) you can store at your place can make sense if you use it once or twice a month. Don't make multiple trips for materials you already know you'll need unless there isn't room at the site.
This is a great idea however most of the houses have a fairly narrow path beside the house to access the backyard. I could use it on the odd job but not most. I will think about this more. Thanks.

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Old 12-27-2016, 11:38 PM   #9
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


'
I only have Thule racks on the cap for a canoe so no lumber goes on top.
'

Consider a Trac Rac

http://www.tracrac.com/pick-up-truck...g2-accessories
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Old 12-27-2016, 11:40 PM   #10
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


Quote:
Originally Posted by hdavis View Post
'
I only have Thule racks on the cap for a canoe so no lumber goes on top.
'

Consider a Trac Rac

http://www.tracrac.com/pick-up-truck...g2-accessories
Do they have such a one that goes up and around a cap? I really like having a cap.

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Old 12-27-2016, 11:41 PM   #11
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


Quote:
Originally Posted by heavy_d View Post
This is a great idea however most of the houses have a fairly narrow path beside the house to access the backyard. I could use it on the odd job but not most. I will think about this more. Thanks.

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Old 12-27-2016, 11:45 PM   #12
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


Quote:
Originally Posted by heavy_d View Post
This is a great idea however most of the houses have a fairly narrow path beside the house to access the backyard. I could use it on the odd job but not most. I will think about this more. Thanks.

Sent from my SGH-I337M using Tapatalk
The cart could be custom for you. 2 turf wheels, axle, and a U shaped place to put the lumber - you just have to get it more or less balanced as you put the lumber on, and can't put so much on it could get away from you on a slope. Probably a 2X4 is enough wood to make the U frame - axle and wheels should come in under $100.

Mostly I can back in to where I need to unload.
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Old 12-27-2016, 11:48 PM   #13
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


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Do they have such a one that goes up and around a cap? I really like having a cap.

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I was thinking cab, not cap...

No, they just have the less sturdy fixed ones for the cap.
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Old 12-27-2016, 11:50 PM   #14
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


Mike, do you haul your own material, or does your yard deliver it?
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Old 12-27-2016, 11:52 PM   #15
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


Metal connector nailer or palm nailer?

A new (to me) trick I did the other day is to clamp stringers together before cutting, and adjusting the blade a bit deep. The stringer on the bottom gets scribed with the blade, and I finished marking out and stacked it on another and cut again.

Three identical stringers made me happy. (I don't do a lot of stairs, and I'm a poor sap without a tracksaw.)


It was kind of fun using my Mag 77. I used it to cut a metal door down about 4 months ago, but before that, it had been over a year.


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Old 12-27-2016, 11:58 PM   #16
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Metal connector nailer or palm nailer?

A new (to me) trick I did the other day is to clamp stringers together before cutting, and adjusting the blade a bit deep. The stringer on the bottom gets scribed with the blade, and I finished marking out and stacked it on another and cut again.

Three identical stringers made me happy. (I don't do a lot of stairs, and I'm a poor sap without a tracksaw.)


It was kind of fun using my Mag 77. I used it to cut a metal door down about 4 months ago, but before that, it had been over a year.


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Thanks Mordekyle. I do have both a palm nailer and hanger nailer already. I am quick at tracing and cutting out stringers already with wormdrive and dewalt cordless oscillating tool. But good tip!

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Old 12-28-2016, 01:20 AM   #17
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Mike, do you haul your own material, or does your yard deliver it?


I have to haul most of it. Not because I want to, but because of all the view property I build on, the truck can't get into. I can get 2000 lbs on my racks. But I also pick up material in stages as well. I love the jobs I can get material delivered on.
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Old 12-28-2016, 03:17 AM   #18
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


I'd look at trading for a long box 3/4 ton pick up, or even a crew cab flat bed.

ladder racks and lumber racks are fine, but always cut your fuel mileage and increase wear and tear.

Is there any lots with garages in your area? Its time to move up to a shop, or at least a place for your inventory and larger equipment.

You and the wife should be look for some Real Estate that serves your job in the same school district if your kids in school....

Talk with an accountant and tax pro about deducting business parts of homes.

How do you haul anything longer than 12'?

maybe trade some work for parking spot for a trailer for a year or two....
Yard and house care for a garage spot from an elderly couple?

Just the saving one trip a day gives you a 10% plus pay raise.....
Or hire a driver to haul while you work, older,retired, and or disabled maybe?

Time to shine up the Home for resale and upgrade to more business friendly neighborhood.

Last edited by Fouthgeneration; 12-28-2016 at 03:21 AM.
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Old 12-28-2016, 09:01 AM   #19
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


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I'd look at trading for a long box 3/4 ton pick up, or even a crew cab flat bed.

ladder racks and lumber racks are fine, but always cut your fuel mileage and increase wear and tear.

Is there any lots with garages in your area? Its time to move up to a shop, or at least a place for your inventory and larger equipment.

You and the wife should be look for some Real Estate that serves your job in the same school district if your kids in school....

Talk with an accountant and tax pro about deducting business parts of homes.

How do you haul anything longer than 12'?

maybe trade some work for parking spot for a trailer for a year or two....
Yard and house care for a garage spot from an elderly couple?

Just the saving one trip a day gives you a 10% plus pay raise.....
Or hire a driver to haul while you work, older,retired, and or disabled maybe?

Time to shine up the Home for resale and upgrade to more business friendly neighborhood.
Excellent post. A couple questions.
My truck does everything. Takes me to work, quotes, etc. If I got a flatbed, how would I transport my medium sized tools like mitre saw, levels etc?

16'ers I make sure to order enough, but I have opened up the back window and stuck them through to the dashboard. Not the best but it works for a few sticks.

I believe I operate in a fashion leaning towards Mike. I take what I need for that day and at the end of each day make a list of things to take for the next day. Sometimes I all of a sudden finish the deck and I have to pack a ton of stuff into the truck including scraps and leftover material.

I'm considering renting a storage unit. There are some fairly close to my house. It could serve as a spot for my big tools that I don't frequently use like cement mixer, table saw, and I could put leftover materials there too and free up my garage for my wife.

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Old 12-28-2016, 09:49 AM   #20
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Re: Becoming A More Efficient Deck Builder


If you're going to haul material, make it the overage that you're returning to the lumber yard, not the few pieces that you were short.

For that matter, if you have a good relationship with your lumber yard, they might come and collect your leftover material for you; mine does.

Having many times worked from just a pickup, I can't imagine not having an 8' box, and frankly think that having a well outfitted trailer improves efficiency dramatically. Part of your bid should be a requirement for access to the property to park your trailer for the duration of the job. Most clients are fine giving up a spot on their driveway, or even on the front lawn, for a few days. Maybe where you live it's permissible to park a trailer on the street for a limited amount of time? (Many bylaws prohibit this unless attached to the tow vehicle though...)

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