Responsible Contractors has featured USI Custom Outdoor Living on their blog, and we couldn’t be any happier. Thank you for spotlighting USI Custom Outdoor Living, and please click here to read the article!
A background check is required upon hiring. Applicant must have reliable transportation and their own hand tools. Compensation is dependent on experience, but is very competitive. Finishers and form setters, please also apply.
We can offer 40 hours/week, an experienced supervisor, and a drama-free work environment. Call 206.482.7733.
3 things to consider when picking out railing
When diving into a new deck project, picking new deck railing is often the most exciting part.
Railing can stand out or blend in, frame everything in or be the pièce de résistance, add cosmetically or be completely utilitarian. No two homes are alike, so here are a few things to consider before as you collect pictures and ideas for your project folder.
1. Do you have dogs or small children?
This is the very first question our Lead Designer asks new clients to narrow down the railing options. If you are considering glass inserts over picket or cable, keep in mind that that 36″ of glass is going to quickly show evidence of any canine noses or kiddos’ hands on the premises. Similarly, cable railing becomes a ladder for dogs and toddlers, which can not only stretch and ruin the cable, but also turns the rail into a fall hazard.
2. Economy vs. maintenance
These two features will generally have an inverse relationship: the more economical the railing, the higher the maintenance will be in the long run.
Our Design & Sales Manager lays the choices we offer out like this:
Cedar railing with cedar pickets is a “tried and true” material for outdoor living spaces and has many benefits (read more here), but it will also require annual staining to extend the lifetime of the wood and maintain that nice, honey color.
Cedar railing with aluminum pickets will be your most economical with minimal maintenance. Aluminum pickets also allow to you add a little pop of color to your railing, leaving only the railing posts and top cap as Cedar.
Aluminum railing products with either glass or pickets are going to be even less maintenance. The baked in color can be cleaned with dish soap and warm water; just keep in mind – as mentioned above – if you have small children or pets, pickets will be the better way to go over glass.
The most expensive railing material and the lowest maintenance will be composite or PVC railing, with your choice of insert. This option is appealing if you are also installing (or already have) a composite or PVC deck, as it allows for color matching and contrasting.
Our Design & Sales Consultants are here to help point you in the right direction, but ultimately we are here to build your dream space! If you find a railing type that you love, save it in your project folder we will do our best to accommodate. Otherwise, here are our preferred railing vendors:
If you’ve thought about starting an outdoor living space, you have thought about the process of getting a building permit (or at least acknowledge that there is a process).
Half of the projects that we were contracted for last year required a permit; below is a compilation of the data we gathered from those permits, made available for you to add to your project file. Knowing ahead of time will help ensure you are padding both your budget and your schedule with enough days and dollars to accommodate a building permit and keep your project on schedule.
Each jurisdiction has their own timeline and procedure, and we did not get permits in every jurisdiction last year. Head to our Permits page for the interactive graph, as well as additional links and information on the permitting process.
Western Red Cedar remains one of the most popular materials used for decks and patios to date. It is naturally rot resistant, has anti-fungal and insect repellent properties, and can last 20 or more years with regular maintenance. Follow these steps to keep your cedar deck in tip-top condition for many years to come.
1. Clean | Schedule: as necessary or 1-3 times/week
It may go without saying, but do not underestimate the benefits of cleaning plant debris and dirt off of your deck on a regular basis. While cedar does preserve well in moist areas (ahem, Seattle), any moist material left to dry on the wood will encourage damage and decomposition. A good sweeping with your kitchen broom will usually suffice – although, my parents went so far as to send me and my sister out with screw drivers to pick out the rocks between the deck boards. Diligent maintenance practices or to get us out of their hair? The jury is still out.
Do not use a stiff-bristled brush, as it will create grooves for dirt and water to hide and rot to start.
2. Wash | Schedule: 1-2 time/year (ideally in the spring and prior to staining)
Decks and patios are prime real estate for outdoor cooking and backyard BBQs. Making sure to clean up any grease or food spills before they settle into the grain will go a long way toward preserving the quality and color of your cedar deck. You can purchase specialized deck cleaning solutions at your local hardware store, but oxygen bleach (not liquid bleach) will also work wonders and is safe for the wood and environment. Applying the cleaning soution is as easy as using a long-handled paint roller or garden sprayer. At this phase, you will want to inspect your deck for rot and/or repairs – replace boards, tighten screws or hammer in nails, etc. You may want to hire a handyman if the repairs are extensive.
3. Sand (if your deck has gone less than 3 years since the last staining, you can skip sanding and go straight to Step 4) | Schedule: prior to staining
This is often the step that causes a particularly nasty cringe among homeowners, but it is also the most important step for prepping a cedar deck for staining. Follow steps 1 and 2 first, then apply medium grit sanding to the deck surface (heavier if you’re removing paint). This can be done either by hand, or with a power sander (a belt sander will work, but an orbital is best). Be advised that sanding can remove actual wood, so only sand as much as removes debris and smoothes the wood. For railing or fascia, a fine grit sanding is recommended.
4. Stain | Schedule: 1 time/year (ideally in late summer)
Bonus points if you made it here without having to do step 3! For best results, make sure that your deck has been dry a minimum of 24 hours before application. There are two types of stains you can apply: oil-based and water-based. The preferences for stains vary as widely as the selection, but the gist breaks down to this: oil-based stains typically last longer, while water-based stains are much more environmentally friendly and have fewer toxins. Most importantly is to stay away from the cheap stuff, and read the manufacturer instructions. Every product has its own specifications, so applying the product per manufacturer instructions will lead to the best results.
>>If you would rather hire this step out, we know several painting and staining companies who would be honored to have your business. Email us for a referral!<<
All of the great Undercover Systems colors are now available in bead board! This classic finish will add a dynamic touch to your under deck ceiling and personality to your outdoor living space, perfect for Pacific Northwest porches and decks.
Schedule your free estimate today – show this blog post to your Sales Representative and receive $50 off your order of Undercover System in bead board!
The Undercover System is completely warrantied against leaks, but – like many outdoor fixtures – can require a little TLC for any number of reasons (all completely fixable):
Reason #1. The system was just installed
Reason #2. A clogged system
Reason #3. The natural settling of decks and pergolas over time
“My system was just installed and I found a leak.”
While we do our very best to ensure there won’t be any missing seals or leaks, the surest way to know is with a weather test. Conduct a careful inspection of your system following installation during a heavy rainfall, as any sealant gaps will be easily spotted. Walk the perimeter of the deck, paying close attention to the gutter area. Should you spot a leak in your system, it is especially important that you mark the area with tape (masking tape or electrical tape work fine as long as it is not directly covering the leak).
Once the leak has been marked, simply fill out our service repair form and we will provide you with a 24 hour notice of a service repair technician’s arrival. While it is not necessary that you be present for the repair, please indicate in the notes if access to the system is an issue and we will coordinate with you on the service date.
“There is water coming out over the front of my Undercover System.”
The Undercover System is designed to overflow should it become clogged with debris. This is harmless to the system, but should be addressed as soon as possible. You will know that the system is clogged as oppose to leaking if you see water exiting the system from the front. If this is the case, please request a cleaning and we will schedule a time to remove the clog, clean the panels, and reinstall the system as soon as possible. We recommend a panel cleaning every 3-5 years as a preventative measure.
“My Undercover System was installed a few years ago, but there are some leaks.”
Not a problem! Decks and pergolas do have a tendency to settle with the ground over time, so this can happen. We are happy to come out and reseal any leaks.
Gore-Tex, check. Rain boots, check. Hoodie and/or umbrella, double check!
The Farmer’s Almanac predicts this winter will be on the warmer, wetter side. If you’ve patched your roof, unclogged your gutters, and fixed the drainage in your yard, you’re probably thinking this winter will be a breeze (pun slightly intended). And it should! Just don’t forget about your outdoor living space.
Be it cedar, composite, or hardwood, protect your deck against this year’s long, wet winter by following the following steps:
1. Clean thoroughly
Decks are exposed to the elements all year long, but tend to incur the most use during the summer months. Cleaning off BBQ drippings, bird/animal leavings, and other debris will help prevent mildew, rot, and decay. This can usually be accomplished with a good pressure treating, but for the more stubborn messes, regular dish soap or another non-bleach household cleaner can be applied and cleaned with a non-wire brush or rag. TimberTech recommends these cleaners for their composite deck materials:
2. Stain & seal
If you have a cedar deck, sanding & staining is the best way to ensure its longevity. The debris is lifted by the sanding and the staining will help to seal and protect your deck from the elements. It is at this point that many homeowners decide to make the switch to a lower-maintenance composite, but cedar decks that are well taken care of can last decades. If you have a hardwood deck, applying a Penofin oil treatment will not only preserve the wood quality, but preserve the original color as well.
3. Make repairs
While you’re cleaning, take some extra time to inspect your deck for loose boards, faulty flashing, and rotting joists or beams. Making these repairs sooner than later can save your deck and home from future damage caused by rain.
4. Cover it
Adding a custom cover over your deck will also go a long ways to protecting it (and you!) from the elements. Not only will it preserve your deck and anything on it, but it extends the usable space of your home and the amount of time you have to enjoy it. While chilly, there are peaceful fall and winter evenings that can be spent out on your deck cooking or relaxing by an outdoor fireplace.
It is fun and exciting to plan and decide on the scope of your backyard project – all the way down to the stamp of your concrete and the color of railing top cap. While it may seem thorough and proactive to chart the course of your project down to the fine details, it is not always to the advantage of your project to do so. There are certain details that end up being more beneficial to wait on deciding until right before it is ready to be built or installed.
Details like railing color or the number of skylights can be difficult to absorb looking at samples or seeing the floor plan, and projects make such drastic progress over the course of each day of construction; you may find you have a change of heart halfway through.
Customers often find themselves making different choices standing on their newly built deck or under where their patio cover is going to go than they would have before the project started.
While this may result in some change orders (and, depending on the degree of change, it can extend the projected construction time of your project), your level of satisfaction once your project is completed will be much higher if you have the ability to make these decisions as the structure is being built. By all means – clip the magazine pictures, create those new pin boards, and sketch out your ideas. They provide the designer with a much clearer idea of the direction you would like your design to go. Just think about holding off on committing to some of those finer details until you can start to see the final the product and then make your decision.
What started as an Undercover Systems franchise has evolved into a full tilt general contracting company. In celebration and thanks to our past, current, and future customers, USI would like to offer a few special discounts that will be available over the next month to register for, and redeemable through December 17th, 2014. Please click below to view the details of each special and to register!
NOTE: Registering for the coupon does not obligate you to purchase. The coupons will only be available through August 17th, so please register if you may want to redeem one or all of them before the end of the year.