The year 2016 saw its share of momentous events, if you care to recall: Britain voted to leave the EU, Russia interfered in the US presidential election and North Korea conducted nuclear tests. At that time, the world was still in an economic expansion and Americans were still living their usual busy social lives — which in most cases meant a daily commute to work or school, shopping, eating out once or twice a week, and planning fun adventures for spring and summer vacations.
Back then, no one would have predicted that almost everybody would be stuck in their homes throughout most of 2020 working and going to school remotely, often desperate to fashion some private or quiet space for themselves, their kids and their partners. As weeks of sheltering at home stretched into months, possibly through the end of the year, people began to reexamine where and how they work and study at home. The business and schoolwork once done outside the home is now conducted at kitchen tables, in bedrooms or on patios and decks — anywhere one can find a quiet and connected space to perform their responsibilities.
Four years ago — back when we were still able to conduct in-person meetings with colleagues — my team gathered statistics on the total number of decks in the country, the increase in deck collapses, and the proliferation of deck codes to help reduce the number of unsafe decks built. Viewing all that data, we realized there’s a huge need to educate people on the ways they can increase the strength of their existing decks with fasteners, connectors and concrete anchors and on how to build brand-new decks without compromising either function or beauty.
We pored through YouTube’s catalog and discovered, despite the millions of videos uploaded daily, there was a lack of educational videos that walked people through the important steps of building a safe, strong, beautiful deck. We decided we could provide builders and homeowners resources to help them understand how to do it. And so the Build a Stronger Deck video series concept was born.
We knew we needed to find a home with a deck in really bad shape so we could point out all the places where it was unsafe. After we filmed all the flaws, we would demolish the deck and replace it with one that would last as long as the house. Finally, after an exhaustive search, we found the perfect deck for our purposes in Seattle — a part of the country where the weather changes are frequent and sometimes extreme.
We asked the homeowners about their ideas, styles and preferences. Once we knew what they wanted, an external engineer was hired to design their deck to be beautiful, strong and appealing to homeowners from many different climates. We also partnered with TREX, and TREX Rain Guard in order to use the most durable material for an often-wet environment. The last step was to find a licensed contractor who was familiar with the local building codes so the deck build would flow as smoothly as possible. With all the teams in place, three years after conception, we sent our camera crew out to the jobsite for three weeks to film every single step (and every installation variation within those steps) of the build process.
The video series follows the order of the deck build. We start with framing foundations in concrete and installing the post bases and then move on to the ledger followed by beams. The videos take viewers through various building approaches and types of connections based on how the deck needs to be built, as well as the best options for fastening those connections. The videos give product options for each section of the build and conveniently display the product names. (Simpson Strong-Tie has so many product groups and so many hierarchies and products within those groups that we resort to a lot of acronyms, which can be a little hard to remember for someone who doesn’t work with our products on a regular basis.) After watching the entire series, deck owners should feel confident they can build or retrofit a deck that will last.
While we can’t predict the future of anything, one thing we are counting on after producing this video series is that there will be more safe, strong decks built in the years to come to keep our fellow Americans healthy and safe as they work and play outside on their decks.