Angela Wolf, owner of Deck Dogs, LLC, is a Deckorators® Certified Pro Elite and premier deck builder based in Madison, Wisconsin. Deck Dogs services the south-central part of Wisconsin, including Madison, Waunakee and Verona. They provide decks, screened porches, pergolas, sunrooms and almost anything that a homeowner could possibly imagine for their outdoor living space.
Q: When was Deck Dogs created? Are there any unique stories about getting started?
A: Deck Dogs was officially trademarked in January of 2017. Before that, we were running Two Dogs Construction, the parent company of Deck Dogs. As we progressed with our construction business, we headed into the deck-building business. People were asking for outdoor spaces with pergolas, screened-in rooms and sunrooms – more of that outdoor living space that is very short-lived in the Midwest. That’s when we came up with Deck Dogs. We branched off of Two Dogs Construction and ran with it and it stuck. Since then, the company has been growing rapidly.
Q:Is there anything unique about your service area that is a challenge or an opportunity? How have you solved that? Is there anything specific to this area that makes how you build, what you build or the products you use unique?
A: There are a lot of builders in this area and it is a very competitive area to be in, not only from a deck-building standpoint but the house-building industry in general. We work with our clients as much as we can. One of the biggest things that set us apart from other builders in this area is the fact that we don’t take any money up-front. We want them to be comfortable with us. We want them to know we’re confident that we are going to give them the best space possible. We don't collect any money until the customer is satisfied. We do not want to have a product that is an inferior product -- we just can't do it. We stand by the product we use 110%. We strive for quality. We look to provide quality customer service, and we look for durability.
Q: What is it about Deckorators products that do well in this area?
A: Deckorators products are great because there are a wide range of products. Here in the Midwest, with harsh temperature changes, Vault and Voyage Decking are some of the best products that we can offer. It has cooler temperatures in the blasting sun and the best texture that we have found, which helps with rain and snow. It’s lightweight and durable. The colors are amazing because people want to have a unique space but not at such a high price that they can't afford it. Vista Decking is amazing because it’s right in the middle in terms of cost, texture and colors. Trailhead Decking is a great option for an entry-level deck or for customers who want to go with a wood deck because they don’t think they can afford a composite. That makes it a great product for this area as well.
Q: How many decks do you typically build in a year and what does your crew look like?
A: We typically build around 80 decks in a year. Since the pandemic hit, the labor shortage is the hardest part of any business, especially the construction industry. You don’t have many young people that want to spend their lives in the construction industry. It’s hard on your body. It’s a tough job. Currently, we have five full-time employees, including me. I take care of sales, accounting and management. We have two crews that we run, each with two people. In the summertime, it looks a little different because we hire high school help, which is very important to us. We hire high school kids from our local high school who are interested in the construction business. They want to earn some money and get that knowledge. That being said, our crews are all very knowledgeable about what they do. They aren’t there just on the jobsite to pick up lumber or scraps. They all have a specific purpose. When we get to the jobsite, everybody knows what they need to do.
Q: Talk a little more about the high school labor and why you do that and the benefits of having that program.
A: Hiring high school kids is a way for us to give back to our community. The community that we run our business out of is very trade-specific. We have a lot of alumni from our high school who are in the trades and we have a lot of FFA groups and groups of that nature that run out of our high school. So for us to employ high school workers, we hope that they will learn to love the trade and eventually go into the trades, whether it be working for a company for their career or starting their own company in the trades. It teaches proper work ethic. A good work ethic right now is hard to find and when you give young kids an opportunity and put them in an industry such as construction. They learn quickly what they can handle and what their limitations are. If we can take two or three kids every year and show them this is what it takes to run a business, to create spaces and to satisfy a homeowner, that’s priceless.
Q: What has been your experience with Deckorators mineral-based composite products?
A: The biggest difference between the mineral-based composite decking and a lot of other competitor products is that there is very little expansion and contraction. That is huge in the Midwest area where we have a lot of seasons. Again, the texture, I can’t talk about the texture enough because that is something that everybody wants to feel comfortable with. With every age group walking out on their deck, they want to feel comfortable having their dogs go up and down the stairs. The product itself checks every single box of what you would want on a deck that is going to last and will look amazing for years to come.
Q: What are the benefits of being a Deckorators Certified Pro? What value do you see in the Certified Pro program?
A: We became a Certified Pro in November 2020. One of the biggest benefits of being a Certified Pro is the collaboration with the Deckorators team. They listen to us. We somewhat have an ear into Deckorators, and they value us, which is huge being a contractor that installs Deckorators. One of the biggest benefits is probably the spectacular point system. It’s unlike any other point system or any other rewards program. We also enjoyed going to the Pro Summit for the first time last year. It was amazing. It was a great experience to just sit in a room with other deck builders, with other Deckorators team members. We collaborated and talked about the future of Deckorators, and what’s coming down the pipeline. We also were able to talk about the struggles of being contractors and then, of course, after that we got to go out and play, which was another amazing part of it. It was a lot of fun but a lot of business at the same time. For Deckorators to do that is a huge benefit for us. It shows us that Deckorators truly cares about their Certified Pros.
Q: What does the future of Deck Dogs look like and how does Deckorators play a part?
A: The future of Deck Dogs is up in the air at this point. With the environment that we are living in right now with the labor shortage, we hope that we can continue to gain more employees and grow more experienced. We are very busy in this area and we want to keep it that way. We’re hoping that our company will continue to broaden the spectrum of what we can provide to our clients. We might dabble into some other outdoor spaces and landscaping options. The future of Deck Dogs is yet to be written, it’s yet to be foreseen, so we are just going to take it one day at a time and see where it leads. When it comes to the future of Deck Dogs with Deckorators, I think that relationship will continue for as long as possible. We hope that we will continue to grow as a company, to grow along with Deckorators, and we’ll both continue to be successful in what we do best.