Decksouth Wins First Place at NADRA’s 2020 National+ Deck Competition with an Impressive 1,000 Square Foot Project

For Decksouth’s owner John Lea and his team, making a client’s vision come to life is always rewarding in itself. From mid-size projects to the largest-scale jobs, Decksouth provides the same attention to detail and craftsmanship in order to not only meet but also exceed expectations. As a result, the team won overall first place in NADRA’s 2020 National+ Deck Competition

Before we jump into the project details, we wanted to speak with John to learn how a small-town boy from Georgia ended up winning the largest deck competition in the world. As a child, John hoped to be a ballplayer but also loved shop class in high school. His grandfather was also a role model, and his cabinet shop helped inspire him to start working with his hands and creating. From toy boxes to treehouses and deer stands, and even loft beds in college, his ability to create continued to evolve over the years.

In addition, hard work and work ethic both started at an early age. Growing up on a chicken farm, John quickly had his first job helping out. His entrepreneurial spirit evolved at the age of 12 when he used his father’s lawnmower to start a small business of his own. By putting flyers out and speaking to neighbors in the area, he soon had five houses to mow, weed, and trim. These first customers brought him close to $200 per weekend, teaching him the value of a dollar and what it takes to succeed.

Another key lesson about the value of money and savings came when John got closer to the legal driving age. A big fan of trucks, he aspired to have a Chevy S10 pickup and wanted to save up in order to purchase one. His father told him that he would match John’s savings dollar for dollar in order to help. As a result, his motivation to save and work continued on and flourished.

The history of Decksouth

As for Decksouth, John began the company in 1998, leveraging those years of hard work and invaluable lessons growing up. For the first 12 years of the Marietta, Georgia-based business, he worked hard to build relationships and to provide exceptional decks for his clients. Working hands-on at every project, most jobs consisted of himself and a small crew. As the company’s reputation grew, Decksouth’s growth propelled, allowing John to hire more staff to assist with projects.

By 2010, John hung up the tool belt full time to work on the business, rather than being so hands-on in the day-to-day operations. He began focusing on managing jobs with his project managers, handling the designs, and also assisting with sales. In a short period of time, Decksouth’s team grew to five crews, with many staff members who have been a part of the team for years. For example, one employee has been with Decksouth for 21 years, others for 14 years and 12 years time. This experienced and retained staff helps the team knowledgeably navigate any challenges that may arise.

When asked to provide advice to other members on employee retention, John stated, “Everyone gets paid before I ever get paid. That might sound like a small thing but it translates into other things within the company. I believe in order to be a good leader, you serve first.”

Additionally, John Lea acknowledged the importance of this project being recognized by NADRA and by other industry members. This recognition has directly impacted sales and has helped with marketing his company. A charter member of NADRA since 2005, Lea is a strong proponent of the association. As he mentioned, NADRA has also helped with industry networking and finding solutions to safety and other issues, and has provided a ton of value to his bottom line. “NADRA is well worth the time and investment,” stated Lea.

The story behind the award-winning project

From the moment John stepped foot on the property and was greeted by the homeowner and future client, he knew that the potential for something special was there. As he said, “to have the opportunity to build really cool projects, you’ve got to have really cool clients that want something special and will go all in.”

Built on a cliff in an exclusive neighborhood, the property had an existing 19’ tall retaining wall and a small backyard. With a national forest behind the property, the engaged owner felt that there was so much more potential for something special and wanted to go all in to make his visions a reality. Besides the 1,000 square foot Trex deck, the client wanted to incorporate a submerged hot tub on the upper level, install a fire pit, include a complete outdoor kitchen, an infinity-edge pool with a Riverflow current system, the list goes on. This project and client were a builder’s dream!

Once the project got underway, the comprehensive process of designing the deck, working with engineers, and handling the permitting process took close to one year. Due to the challenging layout of the property, below-grade engineering costs exceeded $200,000. From geotechnical engineering and plans, to soil tests, structural engineering, helical piers, and even hydro-engineering for the pool that was to be built, it was vital to ensure everything was anchored correctly on the side of the hill to support the above-ground work.

After the below-grade details and plans were finalized, the work was able to commence. The Decksouth team built the large deck using only eight massive footings, each with two helical piers. For the pool area, 44 steel helical piers were installed to provide the necessary structural support. With 60 total Cantsink helical piers, the foundation was solidly set as the shafts were deeply anchored into the bedrock.

From there, the pool and decking work began to take shape. Over the course of the next nine months, the experienced team faced numerous challenges and was quick to find the necessary solutions to meet the client’s requests. For example, a curved handrail was required to fit the deck design. However, the railing manufacturer Fortress stated that their AL13 railing could not be curved in that manner and where it was possible. John and his team were committed, and within 5 days of working the railing at the Decksouth shop, the curved railing was successfully created. The team at Fortress was pumped!

As a result of their creativity and willingness to get the job done by all means necessary, the Decksouth crew completed the project and surpassed the client’s expectations. Their dedication to the craft, attention to detail, troubleshooting and problem solving, and overall work ethic was worthy of the NADRA 2020 National+ Deck Competition’s first-place award.

Other features for the project included:

  • Decksouth’s watertight system
  • 7″ custom gutters to carry the 1,000 square feet of rainwater off of the deck
  • 8′ diameter spiral stairs with LED lights hidden within the handrail
  • Hot tub that sits 35′ in the air and cantilevers over the 20′ wall
  • 90 square foot putting green and living space

On the products and materials side, the Decksouth crew utilized:

  • Trex Transcend composite decking in Spiced Rum
  • Two steel 27’ I-beams that were craned over the house
  • 2800 square feet of Hartstone tile
  • Fortress AL13 rails
  • 12’ Naturekast cabinets
  • Fire Magic Echelon 1060i built-in grill
  • Fortress LED lights
  • Hot Springs spa
  • Phantom power screens
  • Synergy Wood products tongue and groove ceiling
  • Kamado Joe smoker
  • Summer Classic furniture

We would like to congratulate John and the Decksouth crew once again for their 2020 overall first place award! We look forward to seeing future designs and projects from the team. To learn more about Decksouth, visit their directory page here or call 770-452-3325.