Screwheads Decking started in 2000 and brothers Ron and Greg Porasik, co-owners of the Racine, Wisconsin, business, did pretty well until the Great Recession hit. When it did, Ron Porasik recalled in an interview Wednesday morning, the retail stores from which the company bought materials began to close.
“Racine had the state’s highest unemployment rate at that time,” Porasik said. The city’s three lumber yards all closed and it looked like the Porasik brothers would have to start driving 25 miles north to Milwaukee to buy decking and other supplies.
Instead, they opted to open their own retail store, Screws and Decking Lumber Sales, in 2009.
“We were trying to open a store in the worst economy – at least the worst I had ever seen – but we made it through,” Porasik said.
Initially, the brothers looked for cross-selling opportunities. Why not pitch Screwheads Decking to handle construction when customers came in to shop for decking. Those kinds of sales do happen – “the store and the construction side help each other” – but Porasik says the brothers quickly recognized that “it’s hard to get consumers out of the big box” retailers.
Contractors, including landscapers, are the store’s main customers, he says. “The landscapers do a mix of everything,” said Porasik. “We just build decks.”
As the recession began to loosen its grip, Screwheads Decking participated in the growth of outdoor living projects. In fact, since its founding 16 years ago, the company has built about 800 new decks.
Business remains solid today, Porasik said. “We’re showing good growth this year vs. last year, and last year was better than the year before. I’m hearing that from landscapers and other deck builders, too. They’re all super busy.”
Screwheads Decking runs three two-man crews to keep up with demand. Small jobs may require only two days while others can last for weeks, depending of course on the size and complexity of the deck design.
Porasik says the growth in deck construction is owing in part to the development of new, essentially maintenance-free decking. Screwheads Decking uses composite decking, which contains both wood and synthetic material. DuraLife Decking and Railing Systems’ Siesta brand decking is Porasik’s favorite.
“The composites like DuraLife have a better price point and they’re more durable,” he said. “I use the best products because of peace of mind. Decks are not something to be Mickey Moused – there are building codes to keep decks from falling for a reason. Some of these decks are 8 feet up. People’s lives are on the line.”
Porasik says most of the companies Screwheads Decking competes against are reputable, professional outfits, “but I’ve also seen shortcuts – hacks – and it’s a reminder that people should always use a professional, licensed contractor.”
While he’s a committed DuraLife fan, Porasik notes that whatever decking material is chosen should be studied closely. There are many producers of composite decking out there and paying a little more for top quality is the wise move.
“Why would you go cheap?” he said. “It makes no sense. Using the DuraLife – the best capped composite materials – we have fewer callbacks,” as well as satisfied customers who remain the company’s best source of new business.
“This is a major investment for people in their homes,” said Porasik. “We build it to last 30 years.”