He also feels applications for solid surface are growing, particularly for hospitals. "We just quoted a $1.8 million wainscoting hospital job," he said. "It calls for solid surface because of its bacteria-resistant qualities. We are hearing from architects and specifiers that a regulation calling for the use of solid surface in hospital sterile rooms is coming, and that's where we'll see the biggest growth."
Like all solid surface fabricators, Eagle Fabrication has been faced with the choice of whether to get involved in stone and engineered stone fabrication.
"I'm either going to be the smartest guy in the world or the dumbest guy in the world," said DeCaro. "I've decided not to go down the stone fabrication path. I understand I'm taking a risk by not doing it. Of course we buy it out from other fabricators and resell it. We're not yet installing it. We're just passing paper."
The New Jersey market has numerous stone and engineered stone fabrication companies, limiting opportunity. Residential growth in stone use has been taking away from solid surface sales, but DeCaro feels the amount of money and time that would have to be invested to add stone fabrication to his company's roster is too high.
"We are starting to see engineered stone pop up in commercial quotes and we sub it out," said DeCaro. "I think you'll see it more in open and public areas. Like solid surface, the prices for engineered stone are probably sharper on the commercial side. I'm sure DuPont and Silestone are dropping their prices a bit to get commercial business."
Been There, Done That
DeCaro offered some parting words for companies wanting to follow in Eagle Fabrication's footsteps and delve into commercial work.
"The best advice I can offer is to be true to yourself," advised DeCaro. "Admit to yourself what your capabilities can be. Fabricators inexperienced in commercial often don't know how to price jobs. That leaves money on the table because they don't understand their cost. Then they find they are doing a job for nothing or below their cost. When they do that, they are setting a price point people will come to expect."
"If you take a hit on a big commercial job, it can put you under in a second," warned Decaro. "You can end up ruining your residential business because you are working on a commercial job that isn't making any money."
He also advised those wanting to get involved in commercial to get involved in the related trade associations. "If you are a fabricator, you should also be an ISSFA member," he said. "I can't tell you how much we have learned from fellow fabricators."