The excitement was thick in the air as the deck, dock and railing community gathered in Las Vegas for Deck Expo 2007. This year’s show was officially sponsored by NADRA (North American Deck and Railing Association- www.nadra.org ) and Professional Deck Builder's Magazine (now owned by Hanley Wood). Energy was high with 165 companies represented and 2,149 attendees—all professionals. So what was the hottest of the hot products? As I walked the show floor there were many products that caught my eye, but to give you a broader perspective I asked some fellow deck builders to tell me what they thought were the hot products.
Mike Seden, CR, owner of Nedes Construction, Inc. Kennesaw, GA
"These are the items I found at Deck Expo 2007 that will meet my deck building needs:
1) Deck Lok™ brackets help prevent deck, railing & stair collapse! Deck Lok™ is a patented bracket system that secures all critical connections, deck to building as well as stair and rail post components to the deck. Deck Lok™ meets IRC 2006 code requirements for lateral pullout and rail stability while achieving up to 1500% stronger deck connections. Available in Code Compliant Hot Dip Galvanized or 304 and 316 Stainless Steel. They are very simple to install and cost less than other rail and joist brackets currently available. www.royalcrownltd.com/products/deck_lok/index.htm
2) Trex has a new deck board, Contours. It has a more dramatic deep grain look. My customers are going to love the rustic wood texture of this composite. www.trex.com
3) SteelDeck™ framing systems also caught my attention. If someone is spending a high dollar amount for a 25-year deck, why put it on something that will eventually rot? Steel joists offer a deck framing solution that is strong, durable, efficient, economical and easy to install. SteelDeck™ Framing System is engineered specifically for use with outdoor decks, and provides the perfect complement to any top surface decking. www.xccentdecking.com/index.html
4) Another hot item was DeckTools Software. It had a crowd around its booth three to four people deep all throughout the show. This software program has quickly become the best looking, fastest and easiest to use deck design and sales software tool available. The unique DeckTools 3D Materials Library enables a product placement experience far more personal and engaging than anything I’ve been able to provide in print, TV, or on the web. It is the ultimate sales tool for dealers, suppliers, and contractors. The customer can see the impact that an upgraded product has on the design. Best of all it is presented at the point of sale in the consumer’s home by a professional contractor. www.decktools.com "
Matt Gard of Deck-Pros, Inc. in Evansville, IN
"DeckTools design software was the "big talk" of the expo. The industry has long needed a 3-D CAD software with the functions that DeckTools provides. I was also interested in a few deck drainage systems by Rain Escape and the Below Deck Systems by Spectra. Adding this type of product is an easy way to expand our business, increase our bottom line, and add a useful “dry” outdoor living space to our clients. Still though, what I found to be the best part of the show was the networking, and getting to know fellow industry partners from around the country. I would encourage anyone who is deck, dock or railing related to join NADRA and attend next year’s Expo."
Dan Troxel from Decks by Dan in Kansas City, KS
"At this years Expo, I really liked all the networking. I never leave without feeling I’ve learned something of value to my business. There are a couple of products I've been most impressed with. CorrectDeck CX allows us to replicate our style and designs as close to wood as possible. We like the wood grain embossed surface and the hidden fastener channels. What we are most pleased with is the density of the product that enables us to rip trim pieces to fit our styles of design. We also made arbor rafters from two pieces, back to back, with decorative ends. TPW has a treatment to match the CX exactly, for treating the ends and edges we expose, breaking the factory CX surface. Our Company couldn't be more satisfied with the attention and customer service that has been extended to us by all the staff at CorrectDeck. www.correctdeck.com
Swan Screw made us special colorized trim screws, 1 3/4" with reverse treads and a #20 torque head, so we don't have to change bits or break them for different length screws. All of our customers have been extremely pleased with these products."
Rick Ashcraft, CFC, Fences and Decks in Provo, Utah
"For myself as well as those from my company that attended Deck Expo the thing that stood out the most was the DeckTools program. Although we have owned this program for a number of years we have never taken the time to become familiar with and use it. We left with a renewed excitement to begin using this powerful program."
Kim and Linda Katwijk, Deck Builders, Inc., in Olympia, WA
You’ve heard from these fellows, now it’s my turn. Hottest on my list was Calise (Cal-ee-see) Outdoor Kitchens. What makes Calise unique is that they have a modular system of unfinished cabinets. Each modular cabinet is covered with a flexible exterior of cement board. This makes them light and easy to deliver into any backyard. With Calise modular system it allows you to design any shape and size of outdoor kitchen island with a complete line of stainless steel accessories such as gourmet grills, refrigerator, sinks and all the way down to the paper towel holders. In fact, they have over 60 different modular cabinets and bars giving home owners 1.9 million possible configurations. They are easy to level and assemble on any surface, including decks. Just add the exterior finish (which could be anything from stucco to stone), install countertops, insert the stainless steel accessories, and it's party time! I was so impressed with the quality and construction of these cabinets, I have become a dealer for them. www.caliseoutdoorkitchens.com
In the decking department the introduction of Luxrae™ cellular vinyl composite decking was the talk of the show. Luxrae™ has hit an aesthetics home run with their exotic line of natural looking wood finishes in six different colors. Let me tell you, looks are everything with my clientele. Luxrae™ has incorporated nanotechnology into their Luxshield coating that protects the surface from moisture, stains, scratches and UV rays. Like other composites, cellular vinyl does not absorb solar heat. But unlike most other composites, there is no wood fiber in Luxrae's decking that could induce mold or hold grease stains. Luxrae™ has a 25 year limited warranty. I have already asked my local lumberyard to begin carrying it. www.luxrae.com
Tamko® building products launched two new decking lines. EverGrain® Vibrance collection features five new multi-colored deck boards with deep compression molded wood grain texture. The new Elements extruded decking line will give a better price point for the more economically minded clients. I’ve been using Tamko’s EverGrain decking for 8 years. I recommend it first and foremost to my clients. I’m extremely happy with the reliability of the product and ease of working with this company. www.evergrain.com
In the railing department, Atlantis railing systems caught my eye with their clean contemporary lines of railing. They use a 2 inch polished stainless steel tube as their top rail with a unique and easy to use turnbuckle that hold’s horizontal stainless steel cables. This railing can fit between any types of posts like wood, composite, vinyl, or stainless steel. The Atlantis Mariner line incorporates a polished stainless steel top and bottom rail with polished stainless steel balusters. This railing system will be going into many of my decks that look over the water. www.atlantisrail.com.
As far as deck accessories, HighPoint Deck Lighting, LLC out of Black Hawk, Colorado really lit up the show. We’re talking about top quality lighting fixtures at reasonable prices. I haven’t seen anything better. I've installed plenty of lighting in my high-end decks over the past eleven years. No aluminum here to be eaten up by the ACQ in the substructure lumber. HighPoint deck lighting has a wide variety of fixtures to satisfy any client, and their quick ship catalogue is full of fixtures that you can get in a hurry. www.hpdlighting.com
As a NADRA board member I invited a few companies to come to Deck Expo to find out about NADRA and see if they would want to participate in next year’s Expo. I was so impressed with two of them that I have to share them with you. Heatcon has been manufacturing flexible heating blankets and controls for the aerospace composite repair industry for the past 25 years. They have developed a unique bending kit that will allow deck builders to bend any composite by heating up the decking. With Heatcon’s HC 99 - 300 deck forming kit, the deck builder will have unlimited artistic creativity at his hands. He can bend handrails on curved decks, do a ribboned deck board around the outside of a curved deck, do curved stairs, or interlace an artistic deck board through the deck. To test out their kit, I bent an EverGrain composite deck board for a handrail. It worked great and was very easy to use.
The second company that impressed me was One TIME® wood protector. I spent a day with Scott Fishelle, president of One TIME®. I had received some stain from them few years earlier. As we talked, I discovered that it had been six years ago. After returning home I went to my test pile where I had the cedar samples on which I had tested 29 stains. To my surprise the One TIME® sample was not growing any mold or mildew. All the other samples I had tested were growing one type of fungus or another. Here in rainy Olympia Washington mold will grow on you if you stand still long enough. It is saying a lot for a product to be fungus-free after six years out in the weather. One TIME® is a urethane based product with 100% solids. One TIME® penetrates deep into the cellular structure of the wood and is cured by UV sunlight. It uses nanotechnology, which produces thousands of microscopic spikes that pop spores of mold and mildew. One TIME® has four colors to choose from. I will be using and recommending this stain to all my clients who have wood decks. www.onetimewood.com
My pace was fast and furious for four days, and before I knew it, Deck Expo was coming to a close. I could have spent at least 12 more hours on the show floor. Well, I'll just have to wait a year for March 3 through 6, 2008 in Orlando, Florida. Maybe you can come and meet me there. www.deckexpo.com