Ken Kroog’s biggest job sold for more than $100,000, and it wasn’t even that big. The challenge had to do with location. “It was a deck on a hillside,” he recalls, the highest point being 65 feet off the ground. “Three or four other guys had already said no [to the project]. It was scary.”

Attracted as much by the design challenge, which involved steel framing, as the money, Kroog spent two days in the pre-construction and discovery phase. The owner of Deckscapes, in Harriman, N.Y., conducted soil tests and submitted plans to an engineer. The deck took six weeks to build. “Once you get one of those under your belt,” Kroog says, “everything else pales.”

Economies of Scale

A big job offers big top- and bottom-line opportunities. But it can also tie up the crew that would be building six or seven decks in the same time frame, says Morris Katz, owner of American Deck Co., in Brookfield, Conn.

Price it right, and economies of scale compensate for that. “If we do one $100,000 deck vs. 10 $10,000 decks, that’s one estimate vs. 10 estimates, one proposal vs. 10 proposals, one materials list vs. 10 lists,” and so on. Other drawbacks: daily production slows, the schedule sometimes gets pushed back, and clients can feel that because they’re spending a lot they have room to negotiate price or extras.

Phil Brown, owner of Archadeck of Central Connecticut, where the average deck sells for $35,000, says he learned some time back that front-end planning makes the big job, such as the combined deck and porch the company just completed, as manageable as any other. The contractors who fare poorly with such jobs are the ones who wing it, he adds. The lesson came with some pain. A job priced at $45,000 underwent 13 separate changes while under construction. His company didn’t lose money, Brown says, but it didn’t make any either.

Down To The Last Detail

Today, Archadeck of Central Connecticut develops its proposals to the last detail before bringing clients into the showroom to look at the project on-screen, run through spec sheets, and discuss everything. And prior to the design review meeting, Brown runs that proposal past the company’s construction manager to ensure he hasn’t forgotten anything. “I’ve done projects where I forgot to put in the price of the permit,” Brown says, which could be $1,200 on some large jobs. A second set of eyes prevents that from happening.

—Jim Cory is editor of REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.