BOB HEIDENREICH: Customer Education (part 3)
Part 3 of 3: Talking to homeowners about the importance of deck safety.
As you may know, the North American Decking and Railing Association (NADRA) is a strong advocate of deck safety—even dedicating the month of May to promoting this important topic. And as a supplier of decking products, it’s important to continue to endorse regular deck inspections to homeowners.
Most homeowners are unaware of the variety of resources that are right in front of them. With that said, a customer should never have his/her deck inspected by the person who initially built it. In fact, a homeowner should rely on a third party deck builder or trained LBM dealer. Many companies and lumberyards will do deck inspections free of charge.
By offering free deck inspections, this provides you with a business opportunity for future inquiries. At some point, decks will need to be replaced, and if you have inspected a person’s deck in the past, you’re more than likely to be the first candidate on the list when he/she needs a new deck.
When inspecting a deck, first start with a checklist. NADRA provides free checklists and evaluation forms to deck inspectors, walking you through the process (these forms can be found at nadra.org). For best results, it helps to have a report template pre-made, and it never hurts to inspect the original plans or permit of the deck prior to the inspection. Reviewing ESR (Evaluation Service Reports) standards and other codes can tell you if the deck is code-approved based on the specific products.
Upon examination, you’re looking for things such as footing connections, joist hanger connections, ledgers, flashing, and the safety of the rails and decking. Throughout the inspection process, it’s important to temper your comments about the workmanship. Definitely avoid saying that the original deck builder did a “horrible job.” In reality, don’t just point out the negative aspects of the deck—point out the positives, too. I always make sure to bring a camera, documenting all features of the deck. I try to even point out about three to four of the positives and negatives regarding the overall construction. While it is important to discuss the good things about the deck, your goal is to make sure the deck is safe.
There are times when I come across a deck that was built by a “Chuck in the Truck,” an individual without the proper deck education. These decks might be unsafe and require repairs. When inspecting a deck, it’s our job to determine if the deck was built with sloppy workmanship but is still safe, or if the deck was built with the incorrect footings, nails, etc., making it unsafe for use. Some products are not code approved; therefore, it’s crucial to have a strong understanding of the latest codes.
When it comes to products, you often times get what you pay for. Deck inspections can sometimes be an opportunity to upsell quality products such as lighting or upgraded rails. In fact, some homeowners might not be aware that they purchased products that were never tested, resulting in some big problems.
Not only can quality products extend the life of the deck, but they can also give owners peace of mind when it comes to safety. Even when you’re in the process of making an appointment with a customer, as discussed in my previous columns, you can touch on the importance of products and the safety offered through quality testing. According to NADRA, more than 40 million decks are 20 years old or older. By assisting to educate homeowners on the importance of deck safety, not only can you help your business, but you can also prevent future injuries as well. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at [email protected]