Underdeck Helps Homeowners Capitalize On The Outdoor Living Trend

Out is the new in for homeowners today. Creating outdoor living spaces is the second most popular home improvement project according to Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.

Underdeck, a new product in the home improvement industry, allows homeowners to turn the existing space under their deck into usable, functional outdoor living space.

The new outdoor living space needs to accommodate a range of activities from cooking to reading and relaxing. Underdeck allows homeowners to create a space that can accommodate any of these activities.

A maintenance free vinyl ceiling drainage system, it attaches to the underside of any second level deck. The use of a deck drainage system allows a homeowner to install ceiling fans, lights, speakers, video electronics, and furniture, under an existing deck. The once unused space becomes outdoor living space that is safe from the elements

Another benefit of using a system like this is that it can be installed by the homeowner, and should take a team of two approximately four hours for a typical 12′x12′ deck. The ease of installing it makes it a logical choice for a weekend do-it-yourself project.

As the outdoor living trend continues to grow, sales of outdoor living products and services have reached over $62.5 billion, products like this will continue to gain in popularity and usage.

Additionally the square footage created by Underdeck can help make a home more saleable in the tightening real estate market. Underdeck provides homeowners with an affordable way to add square footage as well as creating flexible space. Surveys show that flexible space is one of the top things homebuyers are looking for.

Home Improvement – Hot Bathroom Trends

Remodeling a bathroom can cause some to gnash their teeth in frustration, but others see it as an opportunity to remake this piece of their home into something unique. One of the most important, and used, items in the bathroom is the toilet. Now when most people think of a toilet they picture the iconic porcelain bowl. While this may be the most common design, it is far from the only.

An entire industry has sprung up designing specialized toilets. Computerized toilets have been in development for the past decade or so, but the most recent models are truly amazing. Options include an mp3 player, heated toilet seat, motorized toilet seat, and automatic washer. The latest Japanese version will even analyze urine and give you an immediate detailed read out sugar levels, body fat, and blood pressure. Prices range anywhere from 1000 to 3500 depending on the number of options you choose. Not all options are targeted for technology lovers.

There are dozens of unique designs available. For fish lovers Oliver Beckert has a fish tank toilet. Perfectly normal in all respects except that tank on the back is an actual fish tank. The Dagobert Throne toilet has a throne shaped mahogany seat featuring a pull chain flusher and even candle holder in one arm. And just to prove there’s something for everyone there are toilets that look complete standard, except for the tabbed toilet seat. If desired you can assign a specific tab for every member of the family.

Brave New Worlds – Landscape Industry Trends

“To begin with, it’s worth noting that all the insanity around us notwithstanding there will be a moment when this age will start to make sense: That brave new world will look very different than it does now…”
-Joshua Cooper Ramo, author of The Age of the Unthinkable

It’s the Economy
Yes, the economy is in shambles. One large U.S. investment bank has disappeared while the remaining four have been acquired or become conventional banks. As of the end of 2009 one hundred forty banks have closed. In 2010, twenty-seven banks have closed through March 11th. The Wall Street Journal reports that the FDIC expects the bank closure rate to increase this year. The New York Times reports that beyond the $700 billion TARP bailout, the government has committed to spend about $12.2 trillion to prop up the sagging economy. The residential housing market has collapsed and the commercial property market is on the brink of disaster.

What does this mean to our industry? In interviews with contractors, suppliers and manufacturers across the country, the overall U.S. landscape industry declined between 25% to 30% in 2008. Keeping at the current pace, it appears that the landscape industry has declined an additional 30% in 2009. Overall, this contraction to our market over the last twenty-six months is between 40% to 50%. The West Coast and East Coast have been hit the hardest. The Midwest, with the exception of Michigan, is experiencing the least amount of decline. Even in areas with lesser amounts of decline, such as New England, the pain is still present.

In Texas, the Midwest, and New England, companies focused on the residential market felt the pinch early last year. This year, companies focused on the commercial market are feeling the economic crunch. Overall, in the last eighteen months, the landscape market in Texas is down 30%. While not as bad as California or Florida the decline is still frightening.

The only bright spot is commercial maintenance and mowing contractors. Dan Diehl, with Consumer Manager for Kenney Equipment says, “With the unusually wet weather over the last two years, the commercial mowing market has stayed about the same. However, everyone is being very cautious and prices have dropped as companies struggle to stay in business.”

In the short term, competition is fierce as competitors drop prices. Margins are being squeezed. Surviving companies will be lean and extremely efficient. Can companies reinvent themselves in a down market? The list of companies that have started in down economies is legendary. Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Dell Computers are all companies that started in down economies. Reinvention is possible. In the 1950′s AT&T reinvented their telephone network. Businesses today have a unique opportunity to rethink how they conduct business. The smart companies are doing this. They have changed. Smart companies are accepting the economic chaos and are seeking hidden opportunities.

Survival – The companies that survive will have these attributes:

1. Adaptability
Companies that are incredibly quick and responsive will survive this crisis. “In nature, it is not survival of the strongest or the smartest of the species but the species that is the most adaptable to change,” said Charles Darwin. Adaptability also speaks to the need to be incredible efficient. Companies across the nation are reducing costs at an alarming rate. Those companies, which understand most effectively where to reduce expenses without reducing essential services will prosper.

2. Great Customer Service
Great customer service never goes out of fashion. Take care of your existing customers while your competition offers panic driven discounts. Know your customers. Talk to your customers. Great customer service is all about communication.

Great customer service also means great quality. The value proposition of your company depends upon delivering what a customer wants. It also depends on delivering it when your customer wants it. Finally, delivering all this at a value a customer expects is what separates you in the market. Quality has never been more important.

3. Courage
Great leaders know tough times create opportunity to drive change and innovation. Historically, the companies that invest in marketing and sale fare best in economic downturns. Increasing sales and marketing expenses when your company is slashing everything feels counter intuitive. It takes courage. Your competition is cutting expenses in sales and marketing making your marketing efforts even more lucrative. Your marketing will standout. How do you communicate with potential customers without marketing and sales?

4. Transformational Leadership
Transformational leadership requires the courage to hold a vision and an inspiration that people can follow. Transformational leadership is driven by sustainability and not simple efficiency. Decisions are open and transparent. Transformative leaders use consultation and participation as a process to create change. The change required is not in what we do as a business. The change is about how we do business. Transformative leaders empower people.

Address the Environment
In the landscape industry, green was simply what we called our industry. Twenty years later, green is the one of the hottest growing trends in the world. Faith Popcorn, of the BrainReserve, places this in terms of Save Our Society (SOS). It is a growing trend towards social responsibility. People buy brands that help society. People want to work for companies that help society. People are willing to commit a certain amount of time to help society.

Environmental issues have dramatically changed from conserving precious natural resources into creating a sustainable environment. We in the landscape industry can play an important role. Conversely, if we do not play an important role, the environmental issues will dramatically change our industry. In 2007, seventeen Canadian communities banned commercial lawn care applicators and in 2008 another 124 followed suit.

We often think water conservation is reserved for the arid West. In the late 1980′s we saw the advent of low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads. In Massachusetts today, most area communities impose water restrictions to meet the 2004 state standard setting the maximum per-person usage rate at 65 gallons per day. Massachusetts also adopted the first low-flush toilet ordinance. With the average U.S. household water usage at 78 gallons per person per day this regulation has the potential to put the Massachusetts landscape industry out of business.

What is our role? Through landscapes, we create sustainable sites. Several organizations have identified “green” industries as the number one growth industry.

Simply plant trees. The EPA reports that tree planting sequesters carbon and enhances the quality of soil, water, air and wildlife. If every family planted just one tree, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion pounds annually. One tree will absorb about 10 lbs. of air pollutants, including 4 lbs. of ozone. Trees planted around a home can reduce air conditioning usage by 30%. Over a 50-year lifetime, a tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion.

Vegetative roof surfaces, or greenroofs, are an additional opportunity. Greenroofs are growing at a rate of 35% this year. Greenroofs improve stormwater retention, save energy, and reduce noise levels in a building. Environmentally greenroofs mitigate the urban heat island effect, reduce dust and smog, produce oxygen and act as a carbon dioxide sink. Financially, greenroofs increase the life expectancy of the roof, contribute to LEED® points, and may be eligible for government incentives.

Rain gardens, bioswales, and rainwater harvesting technologies provide additional “green” opportunities. Rain Gardens are water-retaining areas planted with native or low-maintenance vegetation. A properly constructed rain garden allows rainwater to runoff from impervious surfaces like rooftops, driveways, and sidewalks. This reduces stormwater runoff – allowing captured rainwater to soak into the soil instead of running into storm drains. Rain gardens can reduce non-point source pollution running into local streams and waterways. Rain gardens improve water quality, aid in flood control, and encourage wildlife.

Bioswales, similar to rain gardens, have an additional element of a subsurface under drain – usually a corrugated pipe that feeds into the stormwater system. A landscape with properly designed rain gardens is cost effective when they eliminate the need to construct curbs, gutters, storm drains and retention ponds.

Rainwater harvesting system is an old idea seeing an increased interest in the U.S. as an alternate water supply. The City of Tucson, Arizona recently passed the first commercial rainwater harvesting requiring new commercial development to obtain 50% of their landscape water requirement from rainwater harvesting.

Currently, rainwater harvesting is seen as a method to conserve the amount of water used in a landscape, however, stormwater mitigation is the largest benefit from rainwater harvesting. Like rain gardens and bioswales, rainwater harvesting takes the landscape from an aesthetic to a functional aspect. Developing a functional landscape essential for sustainable site development.

“The over-borrowing, over-consuming, and under-innovation is now in the US…” Antonio van Aqtmael said in an October 2007 issue of Newsweek. Every organization has the power and the talent when unleashed, will result in dramatic change. In order to create success, drive up your mental tenacity, keep a positive attitude, and drive fear out of your organization. The best way to work with change is to create it.

Tom Barrett is an accomplished corporate growth and change agent with over thirty years experience with the landscape industry. Tom’s leadership experience, holding executive level positions, drives corporate revenue growth through change and innovation for business start-up’s, corporate expansions, and divisional turnarounds. Tom has been delivering dynamic presentations and training for over twenty years. These presentations empower people to become masters of change rather than victims of circumstance by developing tools for transformative thinking.

Your Major Home Improvement – The Secret to Get Your Remodeling Project Started

You know what you want. You’ve been dreaming and planning for months or, has it been years now? But, what holds you back? More importantly, what would get you started on the path to making that dream home creation a reality?

Guess what. You are not alone. Your procrastination is probably not your fault. If you’re like many, the decision to pull the trigger is complicated by not having a plan of action that gives you the confidence that you’ll succeed.

You have decided that you want to save money so you don’t want to hire a General Contractor (GC). But, where does that leave you? Can you really go it alone? This can be paralyzing. Enter, the home building coach!(Typically much, much more affordable than a GC.)

I really want you to consider a coach if you’re planning to be your own builder.


One of the major benefits of hiring a GC is that he brings a plan. While you may not be happy with the cost, you at least have a certain amount of faith that he knows how to get started and finished. Don’t worry, there’s a little known better way.

A new trend is blossoming in the custom building and remodeling industry. For most, it’s still a big secret. People are beginning to use a Home Building Coach to help them be their own builder and manage their own project. Armed with an experienced home building coach you are suddenly empowered to take that first big step and get started!

In other articles I explain more about what a homebuilding coach can offer but a huge advantage is that you now have a plan. Before the coach, your ideas were there but you just didn’t know how to organize them into a real plan of attack. Think about these advantages, which a custom home coach can bring:

Refining Your Ideas: A professional home remodeling/building coach can easily bring together your ideas, dreams, and questions into a logical picture that helps you evaluate the entire project and its complexity.

Prioritizing Your Goals: Once your ideas are laid out and clearly evaluated, your coach will have you prioritize the most important goals. This is a vital step because when compromises are needed (due to conflicts, cost issues, and design issues) you’ll be able to decide quickly.

Estimating the Cost: I’ve found that one of the top reasons for not moving forward is a lack of ability to assess the project’s entire cost. A building industry coach can do this for you. You’ll find it very useful.

Preparing the Process: Getting the procedures down on paper. The coach will be able to structure a system that provides you a step-by-step approach including step number one!

These are tremendously helpful “project starting” benefits provided by a homebuilding coach. Having everything laid out for you changes the whole picture and makes the decision to pursue your dream an easy one.
So, if you’ve decided to be your own builder but didn’t know how to get started, this could be just the ticket to help you finally get going.