In the fall of 2012 and the winter of 2013 I was invited for two all expense paid trips to visit two of the biggest composite decking manufacturers in America. One of them was Timbertech who is based in Ohio and the other one I’m not allowed to say because they made me sign a waiver saying I wouldn’t talk about it. That sentence right there pretty much tells you how these companies operate differently. While I have always been a supporter of the Timbertech line of decking, being able to compare the two companies operations was really was an eye opener. The main difference for me was the level of testing that Timbertech does. They seemed to have way more technicians running tests for durability, stain resistance, and fade resistance than the competitor and I could really tell they cared about making a great product. The competitor just didn’t impress me, the atmosphere was different too, like there was a bit of a dark cloud over the operations. It seemed like they were even defensive about some of my questions, it was kinda weird honestly. I asked a question about why they warrant the decking for longer than the fasteners and they said it was an insurance underwriting issue, but the fact remained they weren’t offering the same duration of warranty for the fastener as they were for the decking. It was great to meet the people behind the scenes at Timbertech however and my trip confirmed that I feel confident about using their product. Overall, it was a fun trip and I’m glad I went!
It has been a great winter for us as far as staying busy and things just keep getting better. We are the 2012 recipients of Angie’s List 2012 Super service award. We received the award for the outstanding service we provide to our customers year in and year out. Less than 5% of the service providers on Angie’s list receive this award so this is a pretty big deal for us, its the second time we have won the award. On top of that, based on our service and quality of work we have moved up from a Bronze level contractor in Timbertech’s approved contractor list up to the Silver level. Besides the recognition, this means we will receive higher priority in terms of leads sent our way from Timbertech. What a great way to start the new year!
I was contacted a couple of months back by Professional Deck builder magazine about a Redwood bath house they saw on our web site. They wanted to do a feature article on it and so of course I said yes. I gave them plenty of pictures to choose from and wrote briefly about the project and now you can see it yourself either in print in the Sept/Oct. issue or on-line at their web site:
I was pleased recently when I was contacted by Duradek recently to be featured in one of their case studies for applications of their PVC waterproof deck membrane. We had to totally redo a deck that had rotted because of a failing competitor’s elastomeric waterproof membrane. The project involved everything from drywall, to studs, to new deck, railing, and stairs. You can see it yourself on their website Duradek.com or just check it out by clicking this link: Case History 138
Well, I just got back from going on the first annual Conrad Lumber Salmon fishing extravaganza 2012. Myself and about six other contractors who purchase materials from Conrad Lumber were invited to stay at the Riverwalk Inn in Astoria and go fishing in the ocean on July 15th along with the guys from Conrad Lumber themselves. I was really excited when they invited me because salmon fishing is one of my favorite things to do and I had never been fishing in Astoria before. As it turned out, the swells were 10′ high and everyone but myself and two other guys got sick. So it was bad news for them but good news for me because I got to watch over about four rods! Unfortunately, all the fish I caught were either too small or natives so I didn’t get a keeper. All together we managed to get five keepers for ten guys. I ended up getting to take home half a salmon, which is in a brine in my refrigerator right now and will be smoked by days end. Another interesting part of my trip was meeting my direct deck building competitors. I liked everyone I met, it was a unique opportunity to swap stories and business information, it was also fun just to get other deck builder’s opinions on what materials they like and dislike. Overall, it was a great experience and I hope I get invited back next year!
We are happy to announce that we have become an authorized Duradek waterproof PVC decking membrane installer. We went up to Auburn Washington in December of 2011 to do an eight hour training at their Northwest headquarters and we are now authorized to install the product in the Portland metro area. Duradek is the industry leader in waterproof deck membranes and we can now offer a ten year warantee on any 60 mil. Duradek we install. You can see a small Duradek project we did recently in the drop down menu of our project gallery under waterproof decks. One great thing about Duradek besides it being the industry leader is that it comes in about twenty different colors. To see all the colors available and learn more about the product check out their site: duradeknorthwest.com. We feel that Duradek is a superior product to other competing products and look forward to becoming one of the main installation companies in the Portland area!
Whether you call us a deck builder, deck contractor, deck company, decking specialist, or just the deck guys, Deck Masters, llc does everything involving decks. Listed below are the various services we offer in relation to decks.
-Deck building: We do demolition of old decks and build new decks. We use all materials for the surface but the most common would be wood decks, cedar decks, composite decks, PVC decks, hardwood decks (Ipe, Mahogany, etc.), and waterproof decks (PVC membrane decks.) All framing is always pressure treated lumber.
-Deck design: Included in your free estimate is a 2-D rendering of the layout of the new deck, unless it is a square or rectangle in which case we will just list the dimensions in the proposal.
-Deck maintenance: We do cleaning, sanding, and staining of both cedar and hardwood decks.
-Deck repair: Sometimes the deck just needs a little TLC and doesn’t need to be replaced. In that case we will do whatever is necessary to bring it back to a safe and attractive condition.
-Railings: Not all decks have railings but there are various options available for decks that do. We do metal railings, wood railings, composite railings, aluminum railings, and stainless steel cable railings.
We use Crystalite.com for our aluminum and stainless steel cable railings, Timbertech.com for our composite and PVC decks and railings, and Fortressiron.com for our galvanized and powder coated iron railings. Feel free to check out our galleries to see examples of past work we have done.
After coming home from my two month vacation in SE Asia I was pleased to find that not only had Mick been keeping customers happy in my absence, but I had several new bids to attend to right away. The weather hasn’t quite broke yet but people are showing interest in getting new decks and fences built already. This is a great sign for the coming year for Deck Masters, llc. The bulk of bids usually come flowing in once the sun starts shining and the weather warms up but we appear to be getting an early start to the deck building season. If you are reading this and it is early spring I want to remind everyone that the slow season is the best time to call. Sometimes people assume we don’t work in the rain but nothing could be further from the truth. We work year round with most our business coming in the summer months. So calling in the early spring, late fall, or winter is when we are booked out less far and therefore can start sooner on your project. Give us a call today to get a free bid on your outdoor project! Here are a few pictures from this year’s vacation.
We are proud to announce that we have been awarded the Super Service Award by Angie’s List for 2010 in both the deck builder and fence builder categories! Angie’s list is a consumer review website where members can leave reviews and read about other customer’s experiences with contractors and other service providers. This site is independent, we have no control over the reviews left and only about 5% of companies listed on the site are awarded the Super Service award. So this was a great Christmas present for us to receive this year. Happy holidays to everyone and may 2011 be even better!
Most companies will have some positive reviews to put on their web site, but the more important reviews are ones posted to other web sites by third parties. These are the ones you know you can trust because they can’t be filtered by the company being reviewed. With that said, we at Deck Masters, llc would like to invite you to take a look at some other sites where we have reviews. The first is on Google Maps :
As fall approaches people are thinking about their fences and decks a little less but they are starting to think more about staying dry. We have been seeing an increase in requests for patio covers and under deck drainage systems lately. Patio covers are a pretty obvious choice for staying dry if there is nothing above your deck. But many people are surprised to find out that there are attractive systems that can be installed underneath an upper deck to keep the area below dry as well. We recommend two different systems. One is called Dryspace and is made by composite decking manufacturer Timbertech. The other is called Drysnap. Both work well and it is a matter of both the existing design of the deck and the customer’s preference of appearance as to which system is chosen. Check out the photos below to get an idea of what they look like. You can also look in the project gallery to see more photos of these projects.
Staining a wood deck every year or two is the best thing you can do to maintain the appearance and longevity of it. This crazy late summer has put many of our staining projects on hold but we are catching up! We had several jobs that we were waiting for the rain to break to get a good day in for staining and we finally got all of our backed up jobs done. Of course then it started raining again so we had to postpone some newer jobs yet again. But check these photos out of some of our latest stain jobs and see how great they look!
With the coming of the sunny weather comes the requests for new decks and fences. We have been staying busy lately but are only about a week and a half booked out. So if you have been thinking about getting a new deck, fence, or just getting repairs done to your existing structures, give us a call. This is a great time to get those outdoor projects completed so you will have them to enjoy all summer long. Also, we have been getting some reviews on Angie’s list lately and so far we have the highest rating you can get! So if you are a member, log in and check it out. People have been very happy with the type of personalized service we offer and have been letting others know. And while decks are the focus of our business, fences actually compromise nearly 50% of the work we do. So maybe we should change our motto to, “Building decks and fences is our passion. Customer service is our priority.” We probably won’t do that, but either way we look forward to serving the Portland Metro area for decades to come. Call or e-mail us today and we will get started on your project right away!
At Deck Masters, LLC I strive to make the construction process as smooth and hassle free for the
customer as I can. I own a small company and almost always answer every call immediately and always return calls within the day. That is the first point to stress, I don’t have the large overhead or size of business that can cause frustrations in the building process. It’s very simple, you deal with myself, Chris Marquand. I will meet with you at your house, give you your bid by e-mail usually within two days, and I will be personally involved with each job from beginning to end.
I use quality materials, quality craftsmanship, and quality employees. We take the time to get it right the first time so there are no call backs later. I truly enjoy constructing decks for people and I think it shows with the final result. There is no better feeling than walking away from a job site knowing you created a beautiful space for people to enjoy for decades to come. It is truly rewarding for myself, my staff, and my customers. So give me a call today, I look forward to building you a great deck. At Deck Masters, LLC, “Building decks is our passion. Customer service is our priority.”
At Deck Masters, LLC we take pride in the fences we build. My name is Chris Marquand and I am the owner.
Chris Marquand, Owner
of Deck Masters, LLC. We are not some large company that sends out hordes of untrained crews to throw together hastily built fences. We are a small business where the owner, myself, visits every job site. I believe that quality materials, quality craftsmanship, and a focus on customer service is the way to build a better fence.
To start with, we use true 3/4″ Western red cedar for our fence boards whereas many companies only use 9/16″ or 5/8″ boards like you find at home improvement centers. The size matters because a thinner board is more likely to warp or break and the species matters because the wrong type of wood won’t last as long in the Oregon rain. Another important fact is the source of the fence boards. Our fencing will actually have deep reds and pinks in it indicating it came from older trees, has more protective oils in it, and will thus last longer. When we finish building you a fence your yard will actually smell like cedar, it is a wonderful aromatic smell that only comes from high quality cedar. For the structure we use pressure treated 4x4s for posts and set all our posts two feet deep in concrete so that the fence will never lean. We also use pressure treated 2x4s for our fence rails because they last the longest.
One of the biggest fence companies in Portland actually uses standard Hem-fir rails for their fences (the cheapest option) and doesn’t even offer the option of using pressure treated rails. When I discovered this fact I called the company to ask why. The salesman I talked to told me that pressure treated rails weren’t necessary because the rails don’t contact the ground and that the standard Fir rails would last just as long. That is interesting, basically he was saying that while they use cedar for the fence boards because they lasts longer and pressure treated lumber for the posts, untreated Fir was just fine for the structural rails. If that were truly the case, why wouldn’t they just use Hem-Fir for the fence boards too? The answer is that consumers are educated enough to know that cedar is the appropriate material for fence boards but not as educated about the rest of the fence. By using standard Fir 2x4s for the rails a company can save themselves around fifty cents a foot on the cost of materials, that is the reason they do it. We only use standard untreated rails when requested, otherwise we recommend pressure treated rails.
Another issue that differs between fence companies is the gates they use. We use black metal no sag gate kits that not only ensures the gate won’t sag but look really nice as well. For six foot tall gates we also use
Back side of gate showing gate hardware
thumb operable latches that are lockable and can be opened from either side and have a decorative look. Some companies go the cheap route and use the little latches that you have to use a string or wire to open from the other side. They are awkward to use on a tall fence and should only be used on fences that can be easily reached over. Another important factor that is often overlooked is the type of fastener used for the fence. Obviously regular “bright” un-galvanized nails or staples shouldn’t be used because they will rust and the fence will fall apart. But what most people don’t know is that galvanized fasteners also have problems when used on cedar. Cedar has acidic oils in it that react with the chemicals in galvanized fasteners and cause them to “bleed” down the face of the board. This results in unsightly black or red streaks down the face of the cedar at every place where there is a fastener. The only fastener that should ever be used in cedar is stainless steel. Stainless steel is more expensive but it lasts forever and is well worth the extra cost. It also doesn’t cause any bleeding so you don’t get ugly streaks on the boards. We exclusively use stainless steel fasteners on our fence boards.
The next factor is craftsmanship. I make sure that we take the time to do every job right by visiting every job myself.
This fence built by an unlicensed contractor sagged in the first year.
I personally train every employee and make sure the work is done right. Another startling issue I discovered when researching one of the biggest fence companies in Portland is that they pay their employees per job rather than by the hour. This is a great technique for efficiency within the company, not such a great technique when it comes to quality. Think about it, if an employee is getting paid the same amount regardless of how long it takes them to do a job, they are encouraged to rush through it. If they get paid by the hour, they have the incentive to do the job right.
The final issue I stress is customer service. I provide my personal cell number so that I can be reached at any time, I check and respond to my e-mails every day, and I am generally quick to respond no matter what the issue may be. I also hire friendly approachable people so that any customer will feel comfortable approaching anyone on the crew. That’s what I call customer service.
This article may be geared towards do it your selfers more than someone looking to hire a contractor, but its good to share the knowledge nonetheless.
Before a discussion about composite decking fasteners can be started, we need to cover the characteristics of composite that make it unique. The primary difference to be considered when installing a composite deck is that composite and pure PVC decking expand and contract length wise with the change in temperatures.
This fact needs to be noted both in the design of the deck itself and the choice/ installation of fasteners. For this reason it is also highly recommended that you hire a licensed contractor if you want to have a composite deck built.
This is a picture of a composite deck that was built by an unlicensed contractor, it shows just how bad things can go wrong.
Because of this movement there is a risk that traditional through the face fastening can lead to the screws breaking over time. For this reason, stainless steel fasteners are recommended as they are the strongest type of screw. There are non-stainless screws on the market but they are less strong in the long run and we don’t recommend them.
If you are building a deck yourself, it is better to pre drill the holes for composite, although this isn’t necessary for PVC decking. Pre drilling gives the screw more space which makes it less likely to break and also leaves less mushrooming on the surface of the deck. PVC decking has a different cell structure with more “give” so to speak and just doesn’t require the same technique.
If you are buying screws at a home improvement store or even a local lumber store, we don’t recommend using any screw that has a, “V” shaped head.
These screws are more likely to mushroom the decking and are more of an eye sore than the better looking trim head type screws. These screws have a smaller head that is flat on the bottom and top with rounded edges.
We have used two different company’s composite deck screws, one is Swan Secure’s Dexxter, and the other is made by Splitstop.
We have found the Dexxter stainless steel 3″ screw to be the best bet for composite. We had issues with the Splitstop screws breaking during installation through pre drilled decking, and hardly any problem with the Dexxter.
You may be tempted to get the 2.5″ screw instead of the 3″ but don’t do it. The 3″ screw grabs more of the framing below for a more secure connection. With all of that said however, the most attractive and best structurally speaking fastener of all is Timbertech’s Concealock hidden fasteners. They are made specifically to be used with Timbertech’s grooved decking, are stainless steel, are virtually invisible, and allow for more expansion and contraction without breaking any screws.
Hopefully this has been informative for anyone looking to choose the right fastener for their deck. Here at Deck Masters, llc we recommend you give us a call if you are in the Portland metro area, but if you choose to do it yourself, good luck!
Wow, when I first wrote this blog back in either ’09 or 10 the products offered by Timbertech were quite different. They have dropped the Valueplank and created the Reliaboard, they now have a plastic capped surface on the Earthwood series, there are several new colors, and there is more to offer in the railing department too. I was just looking at how many clicks I get on this article and I realized I better update it so it has current information. Timbertech is a very innovative company and is constantly coming up with new products. For your information, I am currently updating this in February 2012. Whenever I talk to someone interested in getting a new deck built people usually have a lot of questions about composites. Many people are interested in a long lasting maintenance free deck, but composites are a fairly new technology so there are still questions to be asked.
This article isn’t meant to be a complete guide to all composites, there are too many to list and new ones are coming out all the time. Rather it is just our opinion gained from our experience in installing composite decks and from the research we have done.
After checking out the prices, appearance, track record, and innovation of various composite companies, we at Deck Masters, llc have come to the conclusion that Timbertech is the best overall composite decking manufacturer. In case you are wondering, no, they don’t pay us a dime and we don’t get any special manufacturer’s discount.
We like their product for a variety of reasons. First, they have a few levels of different price ranges and appearances to their decking products. The entry level is the Reliaboard, it comes in the two colors of Cedar and Grey, cannot be used with their hidden fasteners and runs approximately (to my company specifically, we do get a contractor’s discount FYI) $2.10 a foot as of 2/20/2012. Next up is the Twin Finish board, it comes in the same two colors as well as Redwood but can be used with the hidden fasteners and runs about $2.70 a foot. New for 2013 is the Terrain series. This is a low cost plastic capped board that is actually the same price as the Twin finish. It will probably put the Twin finish series out of commission eventually. Now that you can get a plastic capped deck board for the same cost as the non-capped twin finish, why bother? The way they have made it lower in cost is by removing some material from the bottom of the board, but it is still rated for installation on 16″ joist spacing. The next level is the Earthwood Evolution series, it is the most realistic looking and beautiful composite and comes in Pacific Rosewood, Pacific Walnut, and Pacific Teak. There are intentional color variations in this series that make the boards look like exotic hardwoods and the boards are capped with pure plastic so they are very stain and fade resistant. So much so that the Evolution series is actually the first composite by Timbertech to come with a fade and stain warantee. Plastic capped composites are being made by all the major manufacturers now and it seems to be the way of the future, it is a little more expensive but the added scratch resistance, fade resistance, and stain resistance is well worth it. This series runs about $3.19 a linear foot. Actually, new for 2012 Timbertech has added three new colors to the Evolution series but they are solid colors instead of streaked, so they aren’t imitating exotic hardwoods in appearance. The new colors are slate, brick, and brownstone. They are made in colors to compliment the original colors of redwood, cedar, and grey and can be used in combination for a nice border. The other main category we will cover here is their pure PVC decking which they refer to as their XLM series.
While PVC decking is not a true composite because it has no actual wood fiber content, it is included here because it is a decent product and is often used in place of composite material. Update 8-20-12: We have recently had reports of XLM turning chalky or dark in color and having to be replaced by Timbertech. The good news is that they pay for both new material and sometimes labor, the bad news of course is that this means the product isn’t as stable as we thought. With this information in mind we no longer recommend PVC decking, XLM or any other company. We will still install it if requested, but we think the Earthwood Evolutions line is better.
So why use PVC instead of a composite board?
That’s a good question. In the early days of composite manufacturing there were mistakes that were made and lessons learned. One problem was that boards would “delaminate” or come apart after being used for a few years. This was caused by problems in the manufacturing process such as unequal moisture contents in the wood being used, the wrong types or amounts of plastics being used, or inconsistent ingredients in general.
Fortunately those days seem to be a thing of the past. Some companies went out of business and some had to replace some people’s decks, but now everyone seems to have their manufacturing process down and problems like those are much less likely (although I was just called in the summer of 2011 to provide a quote on replacing a five year old Trex deck that was delaminating, so apparently it is still a problem for some companies.) One of the responses to those early problems however was to go with an all PVC board so that there is no chance of it coming apart.
PVC decking tends to look more like plastic and less like wood so that is a drawback for some customers, but it is very long lasting, stain resistant, and scratch resistant. Invariably when presented with this option, people ask me which is better, Earthwood Evolutions or XLM? In terms of durability they are about the same except that you can’t leave a rubber mat on the XLM because it does something weird and the moisture that gets trapped underneath turns it white. The white can be cleaned off though. In terms of appearance, I personally think the Pacific Teak, Pacific Walnut, and Pacific Rosewood are the most attractive because thy look the most like real wood and have rich fade and stain resistant colors. One other thing to note is that Consumer reports came out with a review of the XLM series in 2010 and said it was slippery when wet, so while I have not noticed it to be a problem myself, I want to note that report.
Azek PVC vs. Timbertech PVC
Besides being a decent product by itself, Timbertech went the extra mile when developing its XLM series by giving it an extra thick outer layer of plastic. When you look at a cross section of PVC decking from any company, you will notice the inside is softer than the shell. If you look at the shell you will notice that Timbertech’s PVC decking is about 1/16th of an inch vs. competitors who only make theirs about 1/32nd of an inch, so the XLM decking will last longer and is more scratch resistant. Depending on which color you go with, the XLM series will run about $2.95 to $3.80 a linear foot. The newest decking to hit the market is usually the most expensive and right now it is the Harbor stone decking which has dark streaks which imitate a stone look. The darker colors are more expensive than the light colors and the ones with color streaks in them are the most expensive of all.
Back to our discussion on true composites though, there is still the issue of inconsistent moisture or wood content in the composite deck boards being made. You hear a lot about using recycled materials in composite and how this is good for the environment. We agree that recycling is an important part of the solution for taking care of the planet, but what we choose to make out of the recycled materials is another question altogether.
In other words, given the issues that plagued some composite companies early on, does it really make sense to use recycled plastic in an outdoor building product instead of virgin plastic that is more consistent? We agree with Timbertech and the answer is, in general, no. Timbertech products are made with about 78% virgin plastic because it makes a better more long lasting product. It might feel good to install a recycled material deck, but if it has to be replaced in ten years neither the homeowner nor the Earth benefits from the added materials and resources being used. A deck board gets more abuse than any other part of a home. It gets walked on, rained on, blasted with sun, and even frozen, so this isn’t the best place for using a potentially inconsistent product. Timbertech uses a maximum of 22% recycled plastic both to keep the cost of the product down and to meet green standards. (Updated as of 4-8-13)
This brings up another point as well, what about the wood fibers used in the manufacturing of the boards? Again, many companies advertise and use all recycled wood for their composite decking. This is another potential mistake because the content of the recycled wood is less consistent and therefore more prone to problems. Timbertech gets around this by using a minimum of 70% pure maple with about 30% oak, coming from the end cuts from hardwood furniture manufacturers so that they can monitor exactly the type of wood being used and the moisture content of that wood. This is wood that was headed for the recycling plant anyway, they just get it before it gets co-mingled with everything else. As a result of taking these measures in their manufacturing process, Timbertech is able to offer a 25 year warantee on all its decking products. No one has a longer warranty in the industry and this is one of the reasons we feel confident using their product. One more thing to note is that there are two other categories of decking made by Timbertech, one is the Docksider board which is extra thick for docks and the other is the Floorizon board. We don’t recommend the Floorizon board for use in this area but the Docksider board is great if you need a dock.
The final reason we think Timbertech is the best composite board out there is their hidden fastener system. Most companies require you to use a third party hidden fastener system in order to fasten their boards, Timbertech is the only company that designed their own Concealock fastener to be used exclusively with their own product and it is the best made hands down. It is stainless steel, powder coated brown or black to make it virtually invisible, and installs quickly and securely. In short, Timbertech is a great innovative company that makes some of the best composite and PVC decking on the market.
We hope this has been informative and will help anyone who reads it understand some of the qualities to look for when choosing a composite decking material. Good luck if you are planning a new deck and don’t hesitate to call us if you would like a quote!
Outdoor construction typically goes down in the winter, but this is particularly so in the Portland area. People just don’t think about their decks, fences, and outdoor living areas when they aren’t enjoying them. There is also the issue of people having the misconceived notion that contractors don’t work in the rain, not true. We at Deck Masters, llc work year round whenever there is work to be done. Just yesterday we finished a second story cedar deck and had to work right through the rain until it was completed. We set up a temporary tent for a dry cut station, wear appropriate rain gear, and basically make due. What we want people to understand is that there really is no better time to get work done on your deck, fence, or other outdoor structure than during the winter months. The reason for this is that when there is less demand, prices drop both on materials and labor. Also, when there is less work you get better customer service because we have more time on our hands to give it to you. Invariably every year that first burst of nice weather comes sometime in late spring or early summer and everyone starts calling us at once. It goes from us barely having work in the winter, to getting booked a month or more out. If those same people would have just called in January, Febuary, or March, we would have had almost immediate availability to attend to their needs. So our words about construction in the winter are: Yes, give us a call, we are here to do your building!