A year and a half ago, Bridge Street Building & Design, in Linden, Mich., was engaged in a renovation project that included building three decks -- one cedar, the other two ipe, or ironwood. The clients, married medical professionals, had been talking to a friend and told Bridge Street vice president/production Dave Caslmon that they wanted the decks built with hidden fasteners. "They said it was because they didn't want to blemish the look" of their expensive wood, he recalls. It was the company's first such request. It wouldn't be the last.

Widening Popularity

Hidden fasteners have been around for a while, but many contractors who build decks tend to shy away from them, and many companies still screw deck boards down as standard procedure. Erwinna, Pa., remodeler Joe Billingham, owner of Billingham Built, thinks he knows why. "Carpenters are put off by anything they haven't done before." Billingham says that on those occasions when he's called on to build a deck, he regularly specifies a hidden or "blind" fastener system, even though that specification almost doubles his labor cost. "To me, this is the way to give the deck its best appearance," Billingham says. "When a neighbor who's got a deck of pressure-treated wood with galvanized nails walks up on yours and it's this clean expanse of wood, it's a night-and-day difference. I get jobs because of my reputation, and you're only as good as your last job."

Upscale Materials

Two factors hold contractors back from using hidden deck fastener systems: the initial learning curve and the cost added to estimates as a result of additional labor hours committed to the project. But for clients who want their decks built of composites, cedar or redwood, or tropical hardwoods such as ipe, the extra cost is easily justified by the unmarred surface finish that results. Caslmon, for instance, says the clients who asked for hidden fasteners were told the cost would be greater. They were not phased. "They had quite a bit of money, and they knew what they wanted," he says. Having forewarned the client, Caslmon says the contract allowed the company some leeway. "We did our first one almost on a time-and-materials basis," he says, with extra hours built in to account for learning the system. The deck was built in just under the amount of time Caslmon had calculated.

For more product information, visit ebuild.com, Hanley Wood's interactive product catalog.