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March 2012
Outdoor Living at Its Best
By Suzanne Fulton

     With the addition of attractive and functional outdoor improvements, homeowners can enjoy their yard year round and even feel like they’re relaxing at a high-end resort.

     Adding and enhancing outdoor living environments has been a popular trend in home ownership for quite some time, but it is definitely on an upswing driven by the soft real estate market and renewed appreciation for home—and yard.

     Especially here in the Carolinas, where the climate has made it one of the top retirement destinations in the country, the improvement of outdoor spaces not only adds value, but may make the difference between your home selling versus another of equal value.

     Aware of the ever-widening array of outdoor surfaces, products, furniture, water features and design options, increasing numbers of homeowners are seeking professional help to enhance the space a few steps outside their doorways. That’s where the designers at Archadeck of Charlotte come in.

     Owners Eric and Susan Kent assist customers with everything from determining which improvements to choose, to drawing up structural plans, to choosing suitable materials, to…well, making it a reality—in both a cost-conscious and expeditious fashion. In addition, they keep on top of what’s hot, like outdoor fireplaces, fire pits and fire features (no pun intended), as well as the new building materials and convenience innovations as they come along.

     “We are probably the largest builder of outdoor fireplaces in the city, and we are also building a lot of outdoor kitchens,” notes Eric.

 

Architecting Archadeck

     Archadeck of Charlotte has been building decks, porches, sunrooms, fire features and related outdoor living structures since 1988. Under Eric’s leadership, the company has grown to be the 89th largest in the nation for volume of business (Qualified Remodeler magazine) and has earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau of Charlotte as well as multiple industry awards.

     Running 30 to 40 projects concurrently, Archadeck of Charlotte has long been the largest of parent Archadeck’s more than 60 franchisees in the nation and one of the oldest. In fact, Archadeck of Charlotte has been recognized each year since 2007 by Qualified Remodeler as one of their Top 200.

     The Kents and their employees have been the recipients of multiple awards from Archadeck for largest sales volume, top selling franchisee owner, second place salesman of the year, rookie salesman of the year, outstanding marketing achievement, president of all franchises, and achievement in design.

     We consider our employees like family,” notes Susan, vice president. “We took them all with us on a cruise last year to reward their stellar achievements.”

     Employees earn high praise from customers, too. Laudatory comments like those of “Judy M. of Charlotte” are not unusual: “We LOVE our roof! Dave and Valentino were wonderful...their attention to detail was superb. They were conscientious at cleanup and even made sure the gate was closed when they left. Please thank them for a job well done. We can’t wait to show off the final project.”

     Eric’s background is in the construction field, having been hired out of college by a manufacturer of siding and windows. When he established Archadeck of Charlotte, he decided to focus solely on deck and screened porch design and construction in the early years. As such, his company was a subcontractor to major homebuilders like Ryland Homes and Mattamy Homes.

     In 2007, Eric began to expand the company’s offerings and services beyond decks to the greater outdoors—creating living and entertaining spaces that feature shade, functionality, fire and water features, stone surfaces and more. As licensed general contractors who work together, Eric and Susan have credentials to ensure that all steps in the design/build process are completed, meet current building codes and satisfy customer requests.

     Adds Susan, “All of our sales and design staff members have construction experience. We are blessed with talented people.”

     Their own depth of experience, plus access to advice from the parent Archadeck to help solve complex design issues or unusual construction challenges, allows Archadeck of Charlotte to meet an array of design requests.

 

All Plaudits On Deck

     Archadeck of Charlotte has designed and constructed well over 20,000 projects over the past 23 years. Susan points out that referrals are by far the biggest driver of new customers to their company. Eric adds that repeat customers contribute substantially as well. In fact, some outdoor projects are planned to progress in stages, either to see how improvements “feel” before adding the next stage, or purely for financial reasons.

     The many testimonials they’ve received reflect customer appreciation for Archadeck of Charlotte’s employees’ professionalism and attention to detail as well as the overall execution of design and construction.

     “S. Newman of Charlotte” praises the firm saying, “Just when you begin to wonder if words such as craftsmanship, workmanship, pride, and quality are things of the past, along comes a company like Archadeck that restores your belief that yes, even today, you can get your money’s worth, and more.”

     Real estate broker Marjory Bell applauded her new outdoor feature, emphatically stating: “Working with the folks at Archadeck has been a joy. From the moment we met with Eric Kent we knew we were in good hands. The construction crew was dependable and on time! Their attention to detail was impressive. The end product, a gorgeous arbor, is beautiful. I heartily recommend Archadeck and know that the consumer will never be disappointed with this company.”

     Another satisfied customer “M. Trunk of Charlotte” lauds: “The investment turned out to be an excellent one both financially and aesthetically.”

     Or, as one customer remarked succinctly, “Until we met Archadeck we thought a deck was a deck.”

     “We want our clients to get the outdoor structure they’ve always wanted so we offer a free, no obligation design consultation that explores their individual wants and needs. Based on those requirements, we custom design each project,” says Eric. “Our 3D software design capability for architectural renderings shows the client exactly what their finished project will look like.”

     Eric points out that once a contract is signed, the customer will be protected by two separate guarantees, constituting the most expansive customer protection plan in the industry: “Every outdoor living project we design and build is backed both by an Archadeck warranty and the National Guarantee Corporation. The Archadeck warranty includes a one-year workmanship warranty and a five-year structural warranty. The National Guarantee Corporation guarantees that our structures will be completed to the agreed upon specifications, no matter what.”

 

Many, Many Offerings

     The National Association of the Remodeling Industry points out, “There’s a lot more to be gained through remodeling besides increased functionality, new appliances, efficient systems, updated décor, additional space or the pure enjoyment of making your home your own. There’s also the increased value your home receives when you make improvements.”

     Home improvements will generally yield some percentage return on investment. According to the 2011-12 Cost-Value Report by construction industry publisher Hanley Wood, homeowners in the South Atlantic region can recoup 45 to 75 percent of the money spent on a remodel or addition, depending on type.

     But customers do need to be aware of their homeowner association covenants which can challenge or thwart many improvement efforts. Says Eric, “Fortunately, that is not as much of an issue as it used to be, since our designers can use 3D renderings to show exactly what the improvement will look like and garner speedier approval from homeowner associations as well as municipal authorities.”

     Eric remembers one particular project: “We worked with a customer to conceptualize their vision for stone work integrated with wood as well as a fire feature for the back of their house. We were able to get their association’s approval because of our 3-D renderings of our design. The project took less than two months to construct and yielded a handsome covered, raised patio accented with a metal rail and a stone outdoor fireplace that compliments the treetops visible in the background. In the evening, the soft built-in lighting draws eyes to the stone work of the soaring chimney.”

     The Kents have listened and responded to customer requests to take care of a wide variety of projects. They have strategically expanded their menu of services and products over time. One new venture of theirs is an enterprise that focuses on remodeling and handyman services, Value Remodelers & Handyman Services.

     A natural extension of their existing business, the remodeling and handyman offering is enabling them to meet customer requests and better utilize employees—like electricians and carpenters—who are already on board, an important element that helps everybody’s bottom line and engenders trust by all parties. Projects range from room remodels and additions to basement beautification—even simple tasks like faucet fixes.

     Eric says landscaping services will be the next offering—and soon. He has recruited two established and reputable companies to join forces with his to provide landscape design and architecture. With artistic license, he says, “Landscaping will be the ribbon on our package!”

 

Show and Tell

     Archadeck of Charlotte has innumerable offerings: decks, sunrooms, screened rooms, screened porches, pool decks, spa decks, gazebos, pergolas, porches, loggias, arbors, privacy screens, fencing, planters, benches, ramps, bridges, walkways, docks, garden structures, outdoor kitchens, outdoor rooms, and much more.

     While there are many photos of Archadeck’s completed projects on their website, a tour of their showroom and yard environment on Village Lake Drive offers an excellent opportunity for customers to make design, material and hue selections based on touch as well as sight in real light. An array of types and colors of surfaces are on display inside and out.

     Many types of hardscapes, walkways and decking materials are set up juxtaposed to each other in the display space just outside of the showroom. For example, a shopper can compare the look and feel of low maintenance, wood-look-alike decking up close against the real thing on a much bigger scale than by merely comparing one plank to another.

     Or they can look below their feet at uniform sized pavers and, in the next few paces, stained concrete or a unique arrangement of stone slabs, and so on. A family can also walk into the sunroom on display and touch the Eze-Breeze system that combines vinyl and screening on the floor-to-ceiling windows.

     Notes Susan, “Customers say they have a much easier time choosing materials when they come and walk around our outdoor display.”

     Eric and Susan Kent have raised their family in Charlotte and are active members of the community. They give back by donating to church and school and a few years ago, they participated in an Extreme Makeover-Home Edition project. Eric recently accepted an invitation to serve on the board of directors of the local chapter of Better Business Bureau.

     Archadeck of Charlotte has many projects to its credit all over, serving the metropolitan Charlotte area from Lake Wylie to Lake Norman with an extended footprint over many North and South Carolina counties.

     With comments like, “You delivered exactly what you promised, on time, to a much higher standard of quality than I dreamed possible…” and “The whole experience with your company was super…” and “Thank you, Archadeck, for turning our rather dull backyard into a showcase that we can be proud of,” you know they’re doing something right!

Suzanne Fulton is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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