Thanks for having me here tonight.  Great to see so many of you after we’ve all done a hard day’s work.

Thank you to Megan and the Committee for making us a Bronze Sponsor.  We thoroughly enjoy dealing with landscapers as every project is more creative.

A some of you know, I am getting on a bit in age.  I asked a mate of mine of a similar age the other day: At our age which would you rather have – Parkinsons or Alzheimers?  He replied Parkinsons, as it’s better to spill half an ounce of Scotch than forget where you keep the bottle!

Thanks to Elio from Bremick, and Colin from James Hardie for coming along tonight.  We have long-standing relationships with both companies and greatly appreciate their support.

First up, an important question for all of you. What are you actually selling to your customers?

 Is it  316 Grade Stainless Screws?  Rougher Headed F7 Treated Pine?  Sustainably sourced timber decking?

No!  You’re selling a beer and a steak on a summer evening with family and friends on a beautifully designed and built deck or in a spacious outdoor room. That is the vision that your customers have, and they do not want to be involved in the choice of the materials and fixings that go to create that dream.

So, why is it important to use good quality materials and higher quality workmanship?  It’s so that they can enjoy those beers and steaks for years to come, and tell all their friends, so you get more work, and you buy more timber from me!  We sometimes lose sight of what our customer really wants as an end product.

Timber is still a marvellous accompaniment to a beautifully designed and executed landscape plan.  It’s a natural product in a natural setting.  We need to look at what materials we can use to ensure the long life and good performance that the customer is wanting.

That needs to be sorted out at the design stage.  Where is it located?  How much sun does it get?  What is under it?  Drainage and reticulation?  Water tanks?

These aspects will determine the layout of the structure, the materials to use, and the fixings to put it all together.  In some cases, we might decide that Hardiedeck is a more suitable product than timber, and that we need specialist advice on screws, bolts and anchors.

Always remember that timber is a natural product.  It will move with changes in moisture content.  Cupping is caused by the bottom of the board having a higher moisture content than the top so ventilation is CRUCIAL! If you have water tanks under a deck, they will keep the air cooler, with a higher moisture content. If you cannot get cross flow ventilation, think about putting a feature chimney into the project to draw air from under the deck.

Selection of timber:

Merbau is still the most reliable choice.  It’s great to use local products but there are some challenges.  Local decking is generally run by mills that are producing flooring, so they tend to back cut the boards to get an attractive feature on the floor.  However this causes difficulties with decking, as you get more shrinkage in a back sawn board. This in turn can cause cupping and if a piece of timber decides to cup, there is little that you can do to prevent it.  So limit the width to 90mm if possible. Build your sub-floor structure in re-dried F7 Treated Pine.

Elio will back me up in recommending 65mm screws into treated pine joists, and batten screws for wider deck, e.g. 130-140mm boards.

We also sell several species of timber in 40 x 19mm for screening.  We find that we are selling more dressed and primed treated pine for posts and pergolas these days.

We could spend a night on paints and stains!  But you do need to remind your customers that their decking will need recoating every 12-18 months.  No decking stain will survive continuous exposure to sun and water.  The simple equation is that the more you can see of the grain of the timber, the less protected it is.  Paint hides the timber but in doing so provides maximum protection.  Stains allow you to see the colour and grain but need to be renewed regularly.

Your timber and hardware supplier should be able to advise you on all of these aspects. If you have any reservations about a particular project, talk to your supplier (preferably O’Sheas Timber!) at the design stage. It is easier to change a drawing than to rebuild a deck or pergola!