Blog, All About me and Decks, Designs, and Deckadent Designs!
Hi, I am Andy Hulette the owner of Deckadent Designs. Welcome to my blog! I will be adding new features all the time so check back often, I guess that is implied in the word blog now. I will update the blog later to be in reverse order so I don't bore you with all the details of my life if you just want more information on decks and composites, trex, transcends, synthetic decking, for now click here to skip all the background info on me.
I was born in Portsmouth Naval Base in Virginia. I went to School in Chesterfield County, outside of Richmond Va.. My favorite class in high school was Drafting . Although, I liked computers most, drawing was still done the old fashioned way with a Pencil. I still have my first drafting table and still like to use it occasionally, and I continued to draw that way up until 2000. I always liked to build things from skate board ramps to tree houses. We would work for free to help clean up the scraps and haul them away on our bikes to build with. Why have there never been kids offering to haul away scraps for free on any of my jobs these days!
My first job was in 1988 for $3.35 an hour ( Min. wage at the time) and they took out a lot of taxes. I worked putting in irrigation systems, framing houses, and building decks. I was amazed at the amount of mistakes that were made, the amount of waste on jobs, and things that had to be done twice, which is especially annoying if you are the one having to do all the work, or dig a hole again in a new location for minimum wage.
I always loved the outdoors and being outside, I was always in the Boy Scouts growing up and we would go camping one weekend a month. I have been camping from Florida to Maine. I became an Eagle Scout in 1998 in the Robert E. Lee Council. I am the oldest of four kids and so we always were encouraged to spend a lot of time outside playing.
We also spent time in Blue ridge Mountains, in Allegheny County on the Cowpasture River, near Clifton Forge. Our family would spend everyday canoeing, swimming, and hiking for much of the summers . The only way to reach the house is to cross the river, there are stone docks, on either side and you climb on stone steps to the house which dates back over a hundred years. It has beautiful old southern house, with NO CENTRAL AIR. It does have wrap around wood porches on both levels, and a large stone patio because it is really the kind of place you always want to be outside enjoying the view. Also, because of the altitude you want blankets at night even in the middle of the summer. So not having air conditioning was not really a problem there.
Coming to Kentucky
The only thing worse than not having air conditioning, is having it, and your parents being too cheap to turn it on. We spent many nights on our porch watching TV, and eating dinner together. In part because it was cooler than being inside, and now I think it was because we made such a mess eating. But whatever the reason, I always liked the idea of outdoor living.
I came to Kentucky in '91 to go to school at UK, GO CATS, although I was in engineering school my favorite classes were about design or about tools. In 1993 moved to Georgetown, Kentucky to help take care of a farmhouse and work in Kentucky to get in state tuition. I went to work remolding historic houses on Main Street, and in Georgetown.. I really liked doing different things, and learning about everything from electric and plumbing to cabinet making and finish carpentry. Although it was hard work, I was able to learn a lot about all the areas of construction firsthand, what saved money, and what didn't, and developed an appreciation for architecture, and the time it took to do custom carpentry right. But the biggest thing I learned was HOW IMPORTANT PLANNING AND DESIGN is to the overall value of the finished product.
The Efficacy of Planning Ahead (go to custom designs)
I then began framing some huge houses for a couple years, in Georgetown, iron works estates, and in high point in Nicholasville. I also framed houses in Rabbit run and out Harrosburg road. I enjoyed some aspects but grew tired of always being high in the air, on roofs, and outside in the middle of winter. I also missed the challenge of more complicated custom carpentry. But as Framer's say, " we actually build houses, everyone else just adds on". I loved the gratification of having a pile of lumber in the morning and another floor up in the afternoon. I learned a lot about how important it is having a repeatable system to make construction work more efficient.
For example, look at the way drywall and framing crews on large projects, who get paid by the board, or by the square foot work and you will see the difference. Every move, every step is meant to maximize production while reducing energy outlay. The way lumber and materials are handled to reduce time, and most importantly everyone on the job has one very repeatable job to do over and over and over with all the layout, and organization done ahead of time. Walls go up already complete so no work has to be done on the ladder, etc... This system saves huge time and makes what would be extremely physical jobs less strenuous. It also showed the level of production that was possible even with a small crew.
It was now the mid ninety's and everyone who could get a loan from the bank was deciding they were a builder. I did a few more job for Builders who had bought a set of plans out of a mail order catalog who had no idea the time, and what was really involved in doing a job right. We would build 5000 square foot houses and we would trim them out in a couple days, a couple other subs would come slap in a vanity, or some light switches, cabinets and flooring and wall la you have "5000 square ft. custom house".
Truly Custom Projects
I thought that there must me more challenging projects that I could help design and build truly custom projects, one of a kind, unique houses and spaces. This happened to coincide especially well with the economic bubble, so there were several huge elaborate projects that I worked continuously on from 1995-2000 . I guess it's a good problem to have, more work than you could ever do, and to get to work with the very best electricians, plumbers, cabinet makers, master carpenters, and builders. We built some incredible things over the years for incredible prices! Because the projects lasted for a year or two, you worked with the same people everyday, and learned all the tips and tricks of the trade. As you can see from the pictures I learned a lot, and it was a lot of fun!
In 2001 I decided to undertake a large remodeling and additions project on Lemons Mill. I helped restore a structural brick house that was 200 years old, and RESTORE not remodel. There is a huge difference, I worked for unique client, who put a lot of truly unique elements in their house. We cut down trees and milled and dried them to build cabinets on site , quarried rock to make counters and walls, restored plaster, remanufactured custom trim, added an 800 amp service entrance, built a really unique ipa curving pergola, replaced and rebuilt original windows. It was a lot of fun to build such a unique combination of styles, and to work on a house with so much history.
It was during this large project. I found a piece of land on Delong Rd in Fayette Co. Kentucky with a little farmhouse that badly needed repairs and I started to tear down the little house...(more about how I built my own house soon)....................................................
Transition to Deckadent Designs
I began building quite a few decks, a little after 2002. I built a big(over 2000square ft.) commercial deck at Housewarmings in Wood Hill Shopping center. I gave them a discount of a couple thousand dollars off the project if they would display a sign and business cards, and people really responded to the unique deck and I was very busy building decks for the next year. I had always loved outdoor designs and I saw a real need in Lexington, and Fayette County for custom designed outdoor living spaces.
The need to advertise, no matter how good you are recommendations can only take you so far, although they continue to be a valuable part of our company I saw the need to advertise to homeowners directly in 2003 for the first tme, in order to save people money on their next project, and increase volume at the same time.
That's when Deckadent Designs was born:
I thought that if I concentrated my advertising on one specific service, I could compete with the bigger companies on a large scale in Lexington, and soon all over Kentucky. I came up with the name Deckadent Designs, myself, and it seemed to combine everything I was looking for in a name. I for the first time took my name out of the companies name, had logos and brochures made, and tried to market on a small budget around Lexington and the surrounding areas. I new I had the best prices and offered an unparalleled level of customer service because of my small size. I thought if only there was a way to make people know about me.................
I started Deckadent Designs website with help from by brother Forest in 2006 and for the first year although I did get a little traffic, from referring sites and other customers it was mainly a way to show people work I had done as part of sales. It really generated no leads on its own. I kept busy doing remodeling at the store in Keene, and building a deck, and a few other projects out near Troy Kentucky. I did some repairs at Walmac farm for a while as well as built and worked on a couple horse barns and indoor riding arenas.
I launched my keywords campaign with goggle with $200.00. I guess it was a gamble but by the end of the first week I had 10 quote forms, by the end of the first month I had the suspend the campaign until the fall because I didn't have time to even give all the estimates from the first month, now two years and 1 million impressions later we are relaunching deckadent designs on the national market providing deck plans, and designs to people all over America! (more about recent events) coming soon
The Importance of Designs
I have seen people spend a lot of money on building a project and it turned out nothing like what they had envisioned, because your vision is useless to anyone but yourself without the ability to accurately represent it. Many people know what they think they want, but when you see it really all come together there is not enough room for there couch or there grill depending on the design. Lack of Detailed drawings is the Number 1 reason for cost increases on a job which never makes home owners happy! The old saying a picture is worth a thousand words is very accurate. Accurate drawing are essential in determining an accurate price.
Small details in designs can make a big impact in how finished a project looks, materials don't have to be expensive to give the best impression, sometimes more is not more when it comes to design, the latest trends are toward having a blend of materials to add a lot of visual interest. Having someone experienced in designs and construction usually will end up saving you money.
Composite or wood? People ask me this question all the time, and it's not a simple answer. It really depends on three main factors: That being said, my answer is neither, see synthetic decking below!!!!!!!!!!
1) Can you afford to spend about twice up front? If yes go to next question. Not only do composite deck boards cost a little more than even the best wood, you have to build the structure differently and there are usually additional trim boards applied that you don't have with wood so the total cost of the deck is about double.
2) Are you willing to spend a weekend a year on maintenance? If you say no ,than you really need to factor a couple hundred dollars a year in for cleaning, and sealing even for a small deck. This means that for example you have a small 12x12 deck for just under $2,000.00 you will spend another thousand in maintenance every 5 years. Therefore, a composite deck and wood deck will end up costing about the same in about 5-10 years. So they would cost about the same so I would say. So the Cost is really the same this is not a factor at all! So, if you answer no go to the next question. If you answer yes you may still want to consider composite.
3) Will you be barefoot on the deck a lot? If you have a pool, hot tub, or will be barefoot on the deck a lot composite really excels. Most manufacturers have a warranty against splinters and you can slide across them barefoot ten year later, DON'T TRY THAT ON A WOOD DECK. If you answer 2 yes Composite is for you!
Composites have a lot better colors and styles now so you have a lot of choices to match your house or your next design. Composite handrails are typically three times the cost of a wood handrail. There are some other good alternatives as well like aluminum, and PVC. Deckorators makes some great balusters we can integrate with most composites. Severe weather also makes a good handrail, and so does Backyardamerica
Composites Strong Points:
Composites never rot, don't have problems with termites, are non toxic, never splinter, good choice of colors, less maintanence than wood, holds value over time, can be stained similar colors.
Composites Weak Points: Unnatural look, high initial cost, stains with grease, leaves, wine, etc.....,can easily scratch, MILDEW, weaker than wood, does require some maintanence, fading. Fading and Mildew are peoples biggest complaints because composites still contain wood they are susceptible to mildew and require a light cleaning, and sealing with clear water sealer helps prevent mildew too. Additionally, leaves that are left on composite for extended period, will stain the composites from the tannic acid in the leaves.
Introducing Synthetic Decks:Trex has introduced Transcends now available in Tropical finishes in January 2011. Additionally, timber tech and azek, have similar products easily available in Kentucky. Transcends, has a 25 year warranty against fading, staining, and mildew, since the shell contains no wood. It is considered a green alternative. If you are thinking about a composite deck I would highly recommend this instead. It does cost a little more than composite but it offers a truly worry free solution.
Fasteners: We have used several different types of hidden deck fasteners. We highly recommend hidden fasteners for all synthetic and composite decks. " the difference is clear" and "the difference is what you don't see". With no penetration through the top of the board for water to enter, and no screw to see at all we HIGHLY recommend people use hidden fasteners. When it comes to installing hidden fasteners from a pros point of view Tiger Claw, with their complete anodized stainless steel fasteners, are the way to go. They save time and money and keep the surface or your deck free from ugly screws, or nails.
We have the latest TC-G nail gun which allows us to install a deck board in as little as 60 seconds, it saves us time and you money, while allowing us to get very consistent spacing.
Screws vs. Nails
When it comes to pressure treated wood we can install hidden Fasteners, but you would be surprised to know that we recommend that you nail the decking down. Not only does it save you hundreds on the total cost of the deck. It also looks neater because the nails shoot into the wood so fast it is harder to see them than screws. Most people who don't want nails have had a deck where they hand nailed or nailed using a gas gun that only gets the nails flush with the surface. Then the wood dries out and shrinks and all the nails pop up and catch on your feet. We eliminate that now with the best nail guns that fully sink the nails, which looks better and is cheaper. That being said screws are stronger and keep the board from twisting when the wood is not maintained properly. They do show more however, and cost a few hundred extra than nails.
The new ACQ treated wood is even harder on fasteners than CCA treated wood so it is important that you make sure that all nails and bolts are galvanized and approved for contact with ACQ. Aluminum flashing is not approved for contact with ACQ. We recommend plastic, copper, or galvanized flashing rated for acq with building paper between them and the house band......... wow good reading if that wasn't enough...............
(more about recent events) coming soon