Can Your Deck Do This?
I had a fun time yesterday talking on the phone with a man named Garland Gravely. Gravely builds decks in South Carolina, around Clemson. Back in the 1980s, after a couple of decades as a manager in the forest products industry in the Carolinas, he bought a franchisefrom, Archadeck, a big national deck-building company.
Most deck builders don't get many chances to go back and look at their product later. Typically, they only go back if there's a complaint. That's sort of what happened to Garland recently: "One of my decks got hit by a small tornado," he says.
Actually, if you look at the pictures, it doesn't look like the deck took a direct hit from a tornado. What happened, really, is sort of a chain of cause and effect: the tornado blew over a big tree that fell on the deck.. Any way you look at it, though, Garland Gravely has to feel pretty good about the results. I'm not sure all of us could drop a big tree on our product and have it look this good.
The tree did take out a section of railing. But really, all Garland has to do is patch a few things. Structurally speaking, the deck's all there.
"Some people think I overbuild my decks," says Garland. They may have a point. But he's not far from the mainstream in the Archadeck world — the company has a two-volume manual of structural deck details that all the franchises use as a recipe book. The details have been fine-tuned over two decades of use by deck builders all around the country. And typically, the field offices make design sketches and send them in to the main office in Richmond, Virginia, for design engineering — so these decks get more attention than your run-of-the-mill deck.
Now, the news wasn't all good. There was this other section of free-standing deck in the yard that didn't fare so well. "I don't think they're going to build that one back," says Garland. Chalk that one up to learning.
But hey, cut the man some slack: It was a tornado.