Stay Up On Building Codes To Keep Deck Sales Rolling
By Diana Hanson
This article originally appeared in the 2/2010 issue of Building Products Digest.
As a decking dealer or distributor, you are dependent on manufacturers
to not only produce products that are up to standard, but also products
that are acceptable to the consumer.
The manufacturers have a lot on their plate when they bring something to
market. You as the dealer take a calculated risk every time you make a
purchase. The decking materials you stock are affected by decisions made
in the building code arena.
Every few years a new version of building code is issued. Building code
is developed in cycles that provide a platform for anyone to submit
changes to the code. In attendance at hearings are building officials,
members of industry, engineers, university professors, government
officials, members of coalitions, and consumers. That's a lot of people
with a lot of different concerns - and sometimes agendas - all pushing for
changes to the code.
It is important to make certain that the products you are purchasing for
resale not only meet the testing requirements in place in the industry,
but also that building code is not changing in a direction that makes
the product difficult to sell.
Until recent years, the decking industry was given only cursory
attention in the code. Largely due to the fact that decks are exterior
structures and often separate from the house, they were not considered
to be within the purview of the code. That perspective has now changed,
and there have been many changes that affect decks entered into building
code. Coverage of decks in building code is far from complete; however,
there are already sections of code that are difficult to interpret and
enforce on the job site.
As a dealer, you trust your supplier to be vigilant and watchful of code
development. Some manufacturers may think that because they submit their
products for testing through the ICC-ES or another evaluation service,
they have done what is necessary to protect the salability of their
product. This is simply not true. Building code operates separately from
evaluation protocols and testing. The manufacturer may do everything
right as far as going through the process and spending their budget on
evaluation; yet they can get blown out of the water by a code change
that makes their previous testing inadequate.
How active in code development are your suppliers? Are they protecting
their and your interests in the building code arena? Simply stated, what
affects one member of our industry affects us all. The more we work
together, the more likely we will be able to protect our industry, while
at the same time provide a safe, enjoyable home improvement option that
the consumer desires.
Specifically relating to decks and railings, dealers must be aware of
the direction that code has taken toward more restrictive regulations.
Even if you are a distributor of decking boards, and the code change has
to do with ledger attachments, you will still want to be informed, as it
affects the completed structure (the deck). If building code for decks
becomes overly restrictive, consumers may very well choose to build
something less difficult to get a permit for. They may put in a patio or
rock instead of a deck.
Check with the code representatives of your suppliers and find out what
is going on that might affect your sales. You can also do some research
yourself using the International Code Committee website, www.iccsafe.org.
Diana Hanson is co-owner and operater of deck contractor Woodpile
Construction, Meridian, Id.
She is active in the North American Deck & Railing Association
and frequently writes for industry publications. Contact her at