Siding & Accessories
Available in diameters from 12 to 36 inches and up to 12 feet
long, Finish Free Fiber Forms leave a smooth surface on
concrete piers or columns. Unlike traditional tubular concrete
forms that leave spiral lines or other surface imperfections,
Finish Free's coated interior leaves a smooth surface without
additional surface prep. A 2-foot-diameter tube sells for about
$10.50 per foot.
Sonoco, 800/377-2692, www.sonoco.com.
J.M. Huber, manufacturer of Advantech subfloor and sheathing
panels, has added I-joists to its existing product line. Wide
machine-stress-rated flanges and Advantech weather-resistant
webs ensure straight floors and fast installation, according to
the manufacturer. With 2 1/2-inch-wide lumber flanges (I-64
series) — or 3 1/2-inch-wide flanges (I-89 series)
— the joists are available in 9 1/2- to 16-inch depths.
Prices are said to be comparable to those of other engineered
J.M. Huber, 800/933-9220,
Ceiling With Style
Although suspended ceilings provide easy access to mechanical
systems and can be renewed or repaired easily, they typically
don't have much in the way of architectural appeal. The
Techstyle Acoustical Ceiling from Hunter Douglas offers a bit
of style along with the usual benefits of drop ceilings.
According to the manufacturer, the system uses standard
15/16-inch ceiling grid, and the honeycomb panels can easily be
cut to accommodate fixtures and odd angles. The ceiling is
ideally suited for low-clearance application because the panels
swing down instead of installing from the top. The panels are
available in 2x2-foot, 2x4-foot, and 4x4-foot sizes. Installed
prices run about $4 to $6 per square foot.
Hunter Douglas, 866/556-1235,
Dual Heat Source.
climates, heat pumps are among the most efficient ways to heat
and cool a home. But during the winter in colder areas,
traditional heat pumps can't extract enough heat from the air.
To fill the gap, most rely on electric resistance heating for
backup. Unfortunately, because electric resistance is one of
the most expensive heating methods, any cost savings realized
during the rest of the year can quickly vaporize during a cold
Recently though, dual-fuel heat pumps
like Trane's XL 1200 have arrived on the scene. Instead of
using electric resistance, these units have a gas furnace that
kicks in when ambient temperatures require it, making it less
expensive to run during the winter. The XL 1200 features a
12-SEER rating, electronic ignition, and an aluminized heat
exchanger for corrosion resistance.
Trane, 800/438-2872, www.trane.com.
A great way to heat and cool room additions or
bonus rooms without running ducts or piping is with a split
heat pump like the Mr. Slim M-Series from Mitsubishi. The Mr.
Slim uses ceiling- or wall-mounted fans on the inside and
outside condensing units to provide up to 30,000 Btus of
heating or cooling per hour. The outdoor unit features a
variable-speed compressor to efficiently match the heating or
cooling load without short cycling. Up to three interior fans
can be connected to a single outside unit for effective zoning.
Installation requires a 3-inch hole in the building's exterior
for refrigerant lines and control wiring.
Mitsubishi Electric, 678/376-2900,
At about 6 feet underground, the earth's
temperature is relatively constant. Ground-source heat pumps
take advantage of that consistent heat supply to make space
heating and cooling more affordable. Water-filled tubes are
buried underground, where they can extract heat even during the
coldest days of winter. In the summer, excess heat is removed
from the building and dumped underground. WaterFurnace, an
industry innovator, recently introduced the Rock. The split
unit has two parts: an interior fan unit, plus an exterior unit
with a unique boulder-shaped plastic cover, available in five
colors, that hides the outdoor unit from view. According to its
maker, the Rock has twice the heating efficiency of ordinary
air-source heat pumps.
Water Furnace, 800/222-5667,
Comfortmaker's new EBV Air Handler, designed for its 2- to
5-ton split heat pump systems, has a variable-speed blower for
increased comfort and reduced noise. The EBV's high-efficiency
motor makes it cost effective to keep the blower running all
the time, which prevents temperature stratification and makes
humidity control easier. For maximum versatility, the unit can
be installed in upflow or horizontal configurations and
includes multiple condensate drain connections.
Hot off the Press.
have been using polyethylene and wood fiber to make
fiber-composite decking for almost 20 years. Now Boise is using
the same materials, combined under 700 pounds of pressure, to
make its new lap siding. According to Boise, HomePlate Siding
has all the attributes to make it a builder favorite. It cuts
easily without clouds of dust, it's impervious to water, it's
durable, and it holds paint well. The 16-foot lengths are 7/16
inch thick and are available in 5-, 7-, and 10 3/4-inch
exposures. Pricing is vague at this point, but the maker claims
that the siding is less expensive than cedar and brick, on par
with fiber cement, and more expensive than vinyl. As far as I
can tell, there's nothing like it on the market, and initial
feedback from builders seems promising. Time will tell.
Boise Building Solutions, 866/274-6758,
siding is durable and good looking, but the labor-intensive
installation can be a deal breaker. Nichiha's Sierra Premium
Shakes have the appearance of traditional cedar shingles in an
8-foot panel that installs much faster than traditional wood
The fiber-cement product can be
prestained in four colors (mahogany, maple, redwood, or cedar),
and the deeply textured face looks very much like the real
thing. According to the manufacturer, the panels can handle
winds of up to 110 mph when they're blind-nailed, making them a
good choice for coastal regions and other high-wind areas.
Prices vary across the country, but they should run about $240
to $260 per square.
Nichiha, 866/424-4421, www.n-usa.com.
Vinyl siding scores points for low cost and low
maintenance, but it can break easily in cold weather, and it
doesn't do much to reduce noise. The Fullback Thermal Support
System is a collection of profile-matched, insulating panels
that fit behind many popular vinyl sidings. According to the
maker, the polystyrene panels improve vinyl's impact
resistance, rigidity, and sound-deadening qualities. Vinyl
siding that uses the insulating panels is available from
several manufacturers and costs between $85 and $115 per
square. Pricing depends on the siding thickness and
Progressive Foam Technologies, 800/860-3626,
fiber-cement siding with wood inside corners seems like a bad
idea to me. It's unlikely that the wood will last as long as
the siding, and future replacement will be tough. Tamlyn's
Permacorner is a vinyl inside corner that should easily last as
long as the siding. Available in 10- and 18-foot lengths,
Permacorner's 1 1/2-inch nailing fins allow easy fastening
without splitting. The UV-stabilized product can be left
unpainted or can be coated with a solid-body stain or paint.
The manufacturer claims that the product is better than wood
corners at preventing water infiltration. It costs about $10 to
$12 for a 10-foot piece.
Tamlyn and Sons, 800/334-1676,
They don't give
as much light as an electric fixture, they're more expensive,
and they're harder to install, but gas lights provide a warm
glow that customers love. It's a look that you simply can't get
from electricity. Cunningham Gas Products offers a whole line
of post-mounted and wall-mounted gas lighting fixtures. The
most recent addition to the catalog is a Malumai Torch. Malumai
is Hawaiian for "party," and the dancing flames should be a
welcome addition to your customer's next gathering. The
cast-aluminum torch requires a 3/8-inch supply line and sells
for about $220.
Cunningham Gas Products, 800/833-5998,
Most residential can lights are huge
energy wasters, especially in vaulted ceilings. Not only does
the unsealed housing increase the home's heating load, but the
escaping air can lead to ice damming on the roof and
condensation problems indoors. If your customer has this
problem, the TCP Recessed Can Retrofit Kit could be the answer.
It seals up drafty housings, making them more energy efficient,
and replaces the incandescent bulb with a fluorescent one. The
kit costs about $34.
Technical Consumer Products, 800/324-1496,
You can accent cabinets, media rooms, decks,
and landscaping with Round RopeLED lighting. The LED strands
have bulbs spaced every 1.1 inches, and the 1/2-inch-diameter
tubing can be cut to length at marked intervals. Colored
strands, which are available in red, blue, green, yellow, and
white, can be combined for special effects or visual interest.
Both 110-volt AC and 12-volt DC varieties are available, as is
specialty mounting hardware. Prices range from $9 to $42 per
customers are looking for something with a little more class
than the stamped-metal light fixtures found in every home
center, you should mention the good-looking Hand-Forged
Lighting Fixtures from Hubbardton Forge. The well-made fixtures
come in sconce, hanging, and outdoor styles. Some models are
available with adjustable stems (down rods) and canopies for
easier installation. And they come already assembled, unlike
the home center variety. The manufacturer also makes matching
kitchen and bath accessories. The Three-Light Prairie Pendant
shown goes for $525 list. Shades are sold separately (about $65
Hubbardton Forge, 800/826-4766,
If your customer
is looking for interior millwork that's out of the ordinary,
you might suggest Architectural Details from Century
Architectural Specialties. According to the maker, the molded
millwork is easier to install than competitors' products
because higher manufacturing tolerances eliminate field
trimming and sanding. And unlike other brands of urethane
millwork, most orders are shipped within 48 hours. Prices vary
considerably, but the maker says they're consistent with those
of other manufacturers.
Century Architectural Specialties, 877/262-1999,
Coffered ceilings can be a testament to your
skill, and customers love them, but the work can tie up your
best carpenter for days. The EZ Beam from Ferche Millwork
speeds the installation of coffered ceiling and decorative
beams. What makes this product notable is a lock joint milled
into the beam sides and bottom. The joint holds everything
stable while you fasten, and it ensures that the sides are
properly aligned with the bottom. EZ beams are available in
several wood species and in widths designed to slip over a 2x4
or 2x6 nailer. Standard heights go from 3 1/2 inches to 9 1/4
inches. Custom sizes are also available. A cherry EZ Beam with
a 3 1/2-inch bottom and 5 1/2-inch sides sells for about $20
Ferche Millwork, 320/393-5700,
Beaded ceilings and wainscoting are the kinds of
timeless details that look as good today as they did 100 years
ago. However, timeless details usually translate into
time-consuming details on the job site. If cutting and
installing a bunch of individual boards is too much for the
budget, GP's Ply Bead Wood Panels are a great way to install
beaded ceilings and wainscoting with minimal effort. The
3/8-inch-thick southern pine plywood's 1.6-inch spacing looks
very much like traditional beaded lumber, and, once painted,
it's tough to tell the difference. Just make sure to include a
well-placed beam or molding when you need to go more than 8
feet; otherwise, butt seams make the 4x8-foot panels look too
much like plywood. Currently, my local yard in northern New
England sells it for about $28 a sheet.
Georgia Pacific, 800/284-5347,
That Measure Up.
Value engineering and mass production
have taken their toll on building materials for decades, and
moldings are no exception. Although simplifying profiles and
reducing dimensions have increased production and reduced
costs, modern moldings just don't have the appeal of classic
designs. WindsorOne Moldings have profiles and dimensions based
on traditional pattern books and classical architecture. The
thicker and more detailed profiles reproduce four distinct
architectural periods: Classical, Greek Revival, Craftsman, and
Colonial Revival. All the periods feature crown, base, and
casing, making it easier to get a coordinated look. The company
even offers a packaged display kit so you can show your
Windsor Mill, 888/229-7900,