It’s been a while…

I guess I got so wrapped up in all my work that I failed to realize that I haven’t sat down at the computer and hammered out any recent blog posts about for my site.  Summer is in full swing and I’ve been so backed up with deck building that I haven’t even given scarcely a thought to blogging.  It seems like my evenings have been filled with spending time with the kiddos since they’ve been home all summer and I’ve been so busy hammering away during the day.

I find that I my to do list someone increases exponentially during the summer.  I’m not certain if it has anything to do with the fact that I’m not as ambitious to tackle it after putting in a long day’s work, or, if I happen to spend more time cleaning up after the kids since they are home with their mother all day?  In either case, I am certain that my kids would play outside until the sun set every day if I would let them.  I remember when I was a kid and the summers seemed to last forever.  Oh, how I long for much simpler times…

Anyways, I feel that we have been fortunate so far this year.  It seems that the sweltering hot and humid days have yet to descend upon us.  Which, is good for those who make their living outside in the summer.  I’ll have to say that I feel I’ve been much more productive compared to other summers.  I know that every year of experience gained by both myself and the crews who work for me brings about efficiency.  But, being able to work without fear of overheating has been such a welcome change thus far.

That’s not to say that we haven’t had our fair share of issues.  Several weeks ago, we had some serious super cells roll through.  I was working on a beautiful two-level Ipe deck near a massive oak tree when a massive front came in.  It brought about wind gusts in excess of 70mph and large hail.  That massive oak split right down the middle and came crashing down on the deck I was constructing and slammed into the homeowner’s house ripping a hole right in the middle of the roof above the living room.  What a mess!

Rain and hail pummeled their living room after the ceiling was exposed to the elements.  Thankfully for me, the majority of the deck I was building was spared, and I’m glad that no one was injured.  I had the difficult task of calling the homeowner to give them the report on their house as they were away at work when everything went down.

Dude couldn’t have taken it any better.  I was amazed.  He said he would get right on the phone with Allied Insurance and he’d have a claims adjuster there ASAP.

I swear no more than 30 minutes could have passed and a Ford Flex emblazoned with Allied Insurance logos rolled up.  Jason, the Allied adjuster, hopped out of his car with a smile on his face.  Two minutes later and a roofing contractor was on the scene.  They briefly chatted with each other and got out an extension latter to check out the roof.

Fifteen minutes go by and a tree service company arrives with a large boom.  The crew has a little meet and greet session.  Strangely, they all seemed to know each other.  (Must not be the first time something like this has happened).

The tree guys get to work removing the oak from the roofline by using their boom truck, chainsaws, and a crane.  I started directing the other guys in the crew with the removal of the large limbs that hit the deck I was building.  Everything was almost surgical the way it all came together.

Once the tree was removed from the roof, the roofer put up a temporary patch and said he was going on a supply run now that he knew everything he needed to put it all back together.

While he was gone, a local West Des Moines carpet cleaning company showed up.  The owner, Jeff, was absolutely hilarious.  What a cool cat!  I think he would actually have a future in the stand up comedy scene.  He said that he’d been in business 30+ years and he has worked with Jason numerous times on jobs just like this.

Jeff got to work extracting the rainwater from the carpet in the living room using his truck mounted system.  What a beast!  Then, he went through the process of pulling the carpet back, removing the pad below, and drying the subfloor with some giant air movers.  Once everything was all set up, Jeff just hung out and shot the bull because he said that, “he couldn’t rush time.”  Makes sense, he just had to wait for everything to dry.

We started talking and it turns out that he had been putting off his own deck rebuild because he had been so busy.  He loved the look of the Ipe deck I was constructing and we exchanged info and set a time to do a consult on his deck.

That’s just how business goes sometimes.  Word of mouth travels fast and most contractors easily recognize good work when they see it.

What started as a good day and turned somewhat disastrous, ended up ending on a good note for all involved.  There was still more work to be done, but that’s for another day and another blog post.  Actually, on second thought, why bore you with all the details.

Big ol fella

Spring is in the air

Now that we’re marching towards spring, the pace is really starting to clip around here. The number of contracts for decks and three-season porches always jumps through the roof this time of year, which is good for business and it’s always nice to get to tackle the new challenges that come with searching for ways to meet the different needs of each individual client. I mean that’s one of the main things I love about the job. It keeps you on your toes.


No two decks are alike, with all of the different variables to take into consideration. You’ve got to look at the structure that’s already in place, and it’s an entirely different game depending on if you’re looking to build a deck up from scratch, do a conversion into a three-season porch, repair an existing deck, or sometimes scrap a poorly-made (or just simply worn out) deck and start over. Plus you’ve got to take a look at the foundation and prep it for building, select from different building materials that are available, get all the right permits…the list goes on. For some people it’s a headache, but for me it’s a puzzle. It’s all part of the mental game—planning and strategizing—that appeals to me.


A few weeks ago, we were in the pre-planning stages of this contract for a three-season porch that a client wanted to add as an extension to their house, out into their backyard, and we ran into a challenge that I hadn’t had to deal with in a while: namely, tree placement—bad enough that I started off the bat by telling the client that we were probably looking at needing to contact a tree service if we were going to be able to move forward with the project.


At first the client was a little bit resistant. We’d already marked out the footprint of where the porch would be, and the tree was about 4 feet outside the tape, so he’s thinking that’s enough space. But if you’ve been in construction for any amount of time at all, you know the risks of starting in on a big project without taking all of these factors into consideration (even those factors that might seem small).


So I tell him that yes, it’s possible that we could build the porch and it would be just fine. The tree could potentially live out the rest of its life without causing any kind of potential harm to the surrounding structures. But, you can already see some structural defects in the tree, these things called “cankers” where the bark looks like it’s sinking in and some of it’s gone altogether. And I remember (from when I had this in one of the trees in my own yard) that this typically means the tree is sick with some kind of disease, and since it’s already visible on the outside it’s anyone’s guess as to how deep this damage goes.

Just what is a tree canker?

The bottom line is, you’re better protected if you get this checked out and dealt with before we jump in to the construction process, especially since I can tell you that it’s going to be a lot easier (hence cheaper) to get a tree service in to remove this tree (if necessary) before they have a brand new porch to worry about in terms of collateral damage.


After we talked it out, he agreed with me, saying that if he was going to invest in a new porch it certainly does make sense to do all these preparations first and then at least there will be no surprises (and potential financial pitfalls in the future). So he hires a crew to come in from Des Moines called “The Tree Doctor,” and they are over there within the hour for an examination. Sure enough he points out the wound around the trunk, says sometimes these types of structural faults can heal themselves, but only if it’s less than 25 percent around the trunk, and as you can see this one is at least 40-50 percent.


This is why, he says, you can already see some of the branches have started to die high up and the tree. And it’s not a foregone conclusion that the tree will necessarily suddenly crack or lose limbs, but as time goes on and those branches get weaker and weaker, it becomes a bigger and bigger threat that high winds are likely to cause some pretty huge damage.


It was neat to hear him explaining what was likely to happen to the tree as the disease progressed, and he showed us some other symptoms that I hadn’t noticed myself, wouldn’t have known to look for, but now I can add to my repertoire for future pre-planning. My client decided to have the tree removed, so my project was put on hold for the rest of the day while they got a crew out to take care of it. But stay tuned for future updates on the project as we move on from here and get closer to commencing physical construction on the porch.

Time to give this blog thing the college try

Hi all. My name is Tim Notes and this is my blog. I’ve been following a lot of good blogs for a long time, and I’ve been thinking about doing some writing of my own for a while, so I thought why not? And here we are.


A little bit about me:


I’ve been working in construction for over 15 years now, focusing mainly on deck building. My dad was an all around handyman, so anytime anything wasn’t working right around the house, he’d sit down with it, take it apart, thoroughly examine the components, make notes, then finally get the necessary tools, equipment, parts, before making the fixes.


I was fascinated by the whole process, and I’d sit down with him and watch and ask questions. He was pretty patient I gotta say, didn’t mind telling me what each part was, walking me through what wasn’t working and why he thought so. He’d hand me the pieces, let me feel them as he explained what it was and what it did and how it could break. Eventually I’d get to help fix things around the house with him, and sometimes even help diagnose the problem itself.


So this was my education and my introduction to the world that would eventually become my career and my passion. Now I’m fortunate enough to have a son who seems to share the same interests, and now that he’s old enough, he even accompanies me on my construction projects when he’s available, proven himself on multiple occasions to be on his way to becoming a capable craftsman himself.

So this blog is for anyone else who’s fascinated in craftsmanship, the process of building, repairing, learning how things work, working and re-working strategies, challenges, and sometimes, of course, just showing off a job well-done.

Ipe deck with bench