Richard Heitkoetter: Paradise – In Your Own Backyard

We didn’t invent the great outdoors, but we sure know how to enjoy it when the nice weather comes along. All year we wait for the day that we can extend our indoor living to a relaxing space outside. Where to start? A great deck to host all the fun in the summertime and even into the cool fall months!

Picture this: It’s a summer weekend. You love gathering people at your place, so you invite some friends over. The drinks are chilling, the food is prepped and everyone is in a good mood. And no one can stop talking about the new deck. “Invite me over to play Scrabble and I might be busy, but invite me over for a barbecue and I’m there with flowers,” says Richard Heitkoetter, the owner of Serenity Decks.

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Heitkoetter started out as a structural carpenter, but soon transitioned into decks and moved on to a deck company, “because I like being outside,” he says. And then he started up his own business, Serenity Decks, about 25 years ago. “At first it was just me, a pickup truck and a few guys working for me, but it kept growing,” he says. He rented an industrial unit, which grew into a 10,000-square-foot building with a 2,000-square-foot showroom, a favourite stop for homeowners, designers, vendors, builders and contractors. Filled with a wide range of options, it’s an opportunity to look at samples and get expert advice, product info and building materials. Now Serenity Decks is one of the most respected names in commercial and residential decks.

For homeowners, Heitkoetter works with them through all stages of the design and build, and he likes to start at the beginning. “I ask questions like, ‘Do you like to barbecue? Do you like to entertain? Do you need a shaded area on the deck?’ because I want to get them something they’ll enjoy that won’t kill their budget,” he says. “They’ll have enough money left over to buy patio furniture, and they’re going to be happy, and we’re going to be happy.”

Serenity Decks focuses on quality and takes pride in its work. It really shows: the company’s referral rate speaks for itself. “We’ll start doing a deck for a family, then we end up doing decks for their relatives, then their friends and then their relatives, and so on,” he says. “Right now, we’re doing four decks in neighbouring homes on the same street.”

Heitkoetter’s best tip? Save your money and go for PVC decking. “It’s a low-maintenance product that’s guaranteed to look exactly the same as it did the day it was put down in 25 years from now,” he says. Everyone works hard, he adds, and no one has the time or the inclination that’s required to maintain a wood deck, including the annual sanding, power washing and staining. “A PVC deck is super low-maintenance; all you do is give it a good wash at the beginning of the season,” he says.

I Like To Get People The Best Possible Product For The Most Reasonable Cost, With The Best Service And The Best Warranty That I Can Give Them

Other trends coming down the pipeline include contemporary square-edge designs, customized colour options (more than 100 available), getting away from lattice screens and incorporating horizontal-line screens and interesting features like glass into a privacy wall. Deck lighting is really important, as is shading, from retractable options to pergolas, he adds. “This way, you can have the best of both worlds, including protection from the sun and rain, especially with some of the great waterproof fabrics now available,” he says. And heating options mean you can extend the season, from early spring right up to late fall, as well.

In the end, Serenity Decks is a manifestation of Heitkoetter’s guiding principles. His motto? “I like to get people the best possible product for the most reasonable cost, with the best service and the best warranty that I can give them.” That’s not all, either, as he really cares about his employees, too. “I put a lot of emphasis on safety training,” he says. “It’s super important to me; I’m sending these guys out and I want them all to come home safely at the end of the day.”

Heitkoetter follows his father’s advice. “He always told me to appreciate everybody, from the person who picks up the garbage to the person who signs the laws in our country,” he says. “Everyone needs to embrace their roles, and I’m grateful for where I am now, because I’ve worked all my life to get here.”

11 Grand Marshall Dr., Scarborough, Ont.

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