‘The time is perfect for replacement decks,” says Jim Craig of Craig Sundecks and Porches, based in Manassas, Va. “CCA-treated wood came on strong about 30 years ago and was the primary decking until recently. These decks will need replacing over the next 20 years. During that time, the ‘retro' market, as we call it, will be huge.”

Craig Sundecks and Porches does mostly new decks, but about 30% of its business is in tear-offs — those requiring new stairs, railings, decking surfaces, and band boards. If the original deck is less than 10 years old, the posts, beams, and joists might remain intact. But on nearly all of these jobs Craig's company converts uncovered decks to screened or open porches. “We are not even having to up-sell this trend.” Craig says. “Customers are tired of dealing with bugs and cleaning off their outdoor furniture.”

Outdoor Leisure Space Craig's clients have also figured out that a covered porch is a good investment. Craig cites Realtor's figures that suggest that a return on investment of 80% to 120% can be recouped from a covered porch in the resale value of a home. “A screened porch is not included in the square footage of a listing, but in people's minds, it's an extra room,” he says. “It registers as additional living space.”

In many markets, the upgrade from an open deck to a screened porch can boost the resale value of a home. While not adding square footage to the listing, it is perceived as additional living space.Craig Sundecks and Porches In the booming metro Washington, D.C., market, focusing on “outdoor leisure spaces” has allowed Craig to grow his company to meet an extraordinary demand, and the return has been nothing short of amazing. For the past several years, his company has averaged more than $4 million per year in deck and porch building.

“We are taking advantage of the consistency of our experience.” Craig explains. “Because we focus our operations on one type of work, we have become the best in this market. Our crews have become extremely efficient — nearly perfect — at what they do. And that means they can cut significant time off each job.”

Fat Referral Base Craig recognizes that another crucial ingredient to success in a specialized field is having a large metro market. Near D.C., Craig serves several of the fastest growing counties in the country. Given such a booming market, he feels that his focus on just one type of work is an obvious evolutionary step. “In a large residential market, specialization is what makes the most sense,” Craig argues. “If you're doing every type of remodeling, you can't become the best in your field.”

For Craig, being the best is not just a source of pride; it generates leads. “I have become a leader in this field. I'm not just patting myself on the back saying that. People say, ‘He's the guy you want.' As a result I have generated a very fat referral base. I do all my business without spending a dime on advertising. If I did everything, I'd have to advertise. I'd have a much thinner referral base for deck jobs.”

In addition, Craig's expertise allows him to exploit technology advances better than others can. “The deck business today is driven by new materials,” he says, referring principally to composite decking and railing and solid PVC trim.

“Some new materials are not that good; others are great. The wrong product can overexpose a customer to problems — both aesthetic and performance related. Some of these decking products feel like a Fisher Price play set — they have a cheap appearance with a not so cheap price. There are other products available that perform well. We are able to identify these and learn how to use them. We know the questions to ask and can get to the bottom of problems quickly. If we didn't spend 100% of our time solving deck issues, we would never be able to respond so well.”