April 24, 2012 | Why would a deck builder be so afraid of trying a new material for his next project? Isn’t being up on the latest technology a dream come true. Perhaps, but are you taking risk in the process? Some guys I know would say yes to that. They would no sooner use a new product then throw themselves off a bridge. Some I know embrace the new stuff and love it. I have been both of those guys. With a few years under my belt and input from so many of my counterparts, my stance is that I will try a new product in a limited application until some time passes and I am reassured that it will last. What about those new nifty labor warranties? I am a huge advocate for that and it does help me to decide how much if any of a new product I will sell. But let’s dive into this a little more.

Let’s say that you built a deck in 2003 out of a new treated product that has hit the market after the whole CCA thing. You installed a cutting edge composite product from a national tier 1 manufacturer on the deck and trimmed it out with a rail product you trust. Then let’s say that 8 years later you get a phone call from the homeowner saying that the treated is rotting. Surely not…..after all these years in making treated lumber, you’d think there is no way that could happen….since the treated is what holds the deck up, safety is now a concern. Inspection reveals that yes indeed, the treated is rotting. “While you’re at it, that is while you are replacing my deck” the homeowner says “replace that garbage composite that you installed. It is nowhere near the color they said it would fade out to, has spots all over it; slumps between joists, and the wood grain wore off of it.” It’s claim time…..yey!! You contact the lumberyard who contacts the treater who was bought out by another treater who doesn’t want to honor the material warranty let alone the labor. You contact the composite board manufacturer who sends a letter back saying that those items are natural weathering and that they are not covered. Mind you that no rep bothered to visit the site and look at this 1200 square foot deck that is 10 feet in the air and passed inspection when you left it. They didn’t bother to realize that you and your customer not only have a financial investment into this project but also there is a huge safety concern. The unfortunate problem with this story is that it is true and I am dealing with it right now. Good thing we only built 4 or 5 decks out of that stuff. Others in town built many more.

Am I afraid of new products… No. Am I afraid of the companies that make them… Yes. For me to use a new product I want to see that the company making them is going to be on the hook when, not if, but when there is a problem. I don’t want to see a massive manufacturing firm that makes materials under a subsidiary LLC or S-Corp that they can bankrupt if there is a problem. I don’t want to see a guy extruding decking in his garage financed by a 401K. I don’t want to see a building materials company that “tinkers” with materials and then abandons ship when they realize they aren’t making any money. In case anyone thinks I am pointing at any one manufacturer or material category, I am not. This issue covers the entire industry from wood to nails to clips to polymers to railings and so on.

The call to action is for manufacturers to execute diligence to the industry by writing their warranties with fewer loopholes, set aside funds so you can fix issues, be responsible for what you produce and take care of the guys who have to help fix the problems. Many of them do now and do a great job at it but many don’t like the two above. I will tell you that I have used products from manufacturers even after failure issues solely based on how they dealt with the claim. Protect us and we will help you succeed. Thanks for reading.

If you have comments send them to Davidelenbaum@gmail.com.