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Design-Focused Deck

Historic Newport, RI is a renowned luxury getaway destination and attracts millions of tourists annually. During the colonial period, the port served as a major hub for shipping and trade. The city’s latest commercial expansion will offer visitors an eclectic blend of fine dining, premier shopping and scenic coastal vistas while maintaining its timeless New England charm. The much-anticipated project is touted to transform Newport’s wharf district into an oasis for residents and visitors.

Located along the district’s historic America’s Cup Ave., Hammetts Wharf Hotel, a three-story boutique hotel, will serve as the focal point for this ambitious mixed-use expansion. The $29-million endeavor includes 84 guestrooms, a 4,000-sq.-ft. restaurant, 3,000 sq. ft. of dedicated retail space and 1,000 sq. ft. of office space. While in progress, the project has created nearly 200 construction jobs and is expected to create approximately 80 permanent jobs upon its opening.

Behan Bros. Inc. of Middletown, RI, coordinated multiple aspects of the Newport Wharf expansion, including construction of a 20,000-sq.-ft. tropical hardwood “Ipe” horseshoe-shaped deck connected to the hotel, which will provide guests and pedestrians with sweeping views of the harbor. The resilient, low-maintenance decking is three times denser than cedar, ideal for constant foot traffic and boasts similar fire ratings to concrete—but it’s not the easiest material to manipulate.

As they worked to install the sturdy decking, Behan Bros. encountered some hurdles.

The Behan crew was able to initially secure the boards with the Camo Edge fastening system—the Camo Pro Guide tool that guides a Camo Edge screw into the side of the board and joist on both sides. However, the crew still struggled with aligning the Ipe boards using pipe clamps and board-straightening tools which called for several workers. Traditional straightening tools were making it nearly impossible to simultaneously fasten the deck boards.

“Camo has a complete system of tools and fasteners that, when used in combination, can help install hospitality decking projects up to 5X faster than traditional fastening methods. It also creates an upscale look in commercial environments with a safer, aesthetically desirable fastener-free surface,” said Dani Zizak, VP marketing & branding for National Nail (Camo is the decking industry brand of National Nail).

With only several weeks remaining until the scheduled completion of Hammetts Wharf, Behan Bros. heard about a brand-new innovation from Camo’s Greg Hartmann, called the Lever—and were able to acquire several tools practically hot off the press before the official introduction.

Designed to save time and increase installation speed using just one or two workers, Camo Lever straightens, bends and aligns while it’s fastened with no strain. Other wrenches and clamps do not allow space for fastening simultaneously. With almost no set-up time and one-turn operation, Lever easily locked the deck boards into place and was an immediate hit on the Hammetts Wharf job site.

“Camo products are well-suited for social distancing because they often require only one or two crew members,” Zizak explained. “The Camo Lever, for example, aligns and straightens deck boards with one turn, without several crew members wrestling with the boards. Camo also saves workers’ backs and gets them off their knees with the Camo Drive stand-up deck fastening tool, which has an end attachment for our proprietary collated Edge Screws for square-edge boards, Edge Clips or EdgeX Clips for grooved boards, and collated wood and composite face screws. Camo also recently introduced Edgex Metal Clips for grooved boards installed on metal-framed decks, which address the softwood lumber shortage.”

Offering the versatility to handle grooved composite and even tropical hardwood decking, Camo’s Lever tool is positioned to quickly become a favorite of builders using any type of decking. It also spans both single and double joists as well as metal. Camo’s related family of fastener and installation products are specifically designed to save time and labor.

“The hotel chose an extremely dense tropical hardwood, which is very hard to drill through and can be a very slow process. The fact that they chose Camo Edge Fastening using the hand-held Marksman Pro tools and Camo Lever for alignment and locking boards in place made the job go much faster. It also allowed for a nicer look with no surface screws showing,” Zizak said.

Equipped with the Camo Pro Guide and Lever, the Behan Bros. crew was able to speed up the deck installation, finishing the deck by mid-April. Previously needing extra sets of hands to hold their straightening tool in place, the innovative design of Lever simplified the board straightening process and reduced labor needed. As an added benefit, the product allowed workers to limit physical contact on the job site.

This product arrived on the market at a time when many states, including Rhode Island, were transitioning to health guidelines for construction workers. The state’s Department of Business Regulation deemed ongoing construction projects as critical, so like all contractors, Behan Bros. will continue to adapt and implement safety precautions for crew members as they move forward.

“In the pandemic age, it’s exciting to see a strong response with both health and sustainability initiatives,” Zizak said. “Creating more expansive outdoor spaces like the deck at Hammetts Wharf and in common areas provides a safer way for patrons to congregate in warmer weather. Many outdoor hotel dining venues are also adding heaters for added comfort. In addition, designing with safeguards such as partitions and sanitizing stations, combined with natural-looking materials on the interior and exterior, will make hotel-goers feel safer and more at home as the industry rebounds.”

Using tools like the Camo Lever is just one way that businesses like the Behan Bros. will keep their crews out of harm’s way. Navigating new policies and practices brought about by the current health crisis has required contractors to adapt quickly to an ever-changing environment. Fortunately, innovative thinking and synergistic industry partnerships send a clear message—although challenges will continue—American ingenuity will prevail.