Specialty Deck Boards.
Carpenters and deck-builders who use hollow composite decking such as GeoDeck often saw conventional deck boards into their own unique profiles for trim details. Now GeoDeck offers a pair of new ready-made profiles designed to eliminate much of the custom cutting. The Perimeter Strip (top) is commonly installed like a skirtboard to hide the decking's open ends. The Feature Strip (center) is a T-shaped profile used for hiding a long row of butt joints, as in the center of a chevron pattern; it allows the decking to move with changes in temperature. (Be aware, though, that the installed strip will be slightly higher than the surrounding boards.) The Feature Strip costs about the same as the conventional 5/4x6 GeoDeck decking profile; the Perimeter Strip costs about 10 percent more. Kandant Composites, 877/804-0137, www.geodeck.com
It's All There.
Replacement sash and balances are great for upgrading windows with sound frames and trim, but sometimes you have to replace the whole unit. Crestline's Replacement Window with Applied Brickmould can be ordered in just about any size, which isn't unusual for such products; more exceptional is that the unit includes the window frame and exterior trim. Made with a 49/16-inch vinyl frame, it comes with a pine, ash, or white interior. Pine and ash interiors can be prestained in one of four finishes at the factory, and the exterior molding can be outfitted with an accessory trim to cover the expansion gap required with vinyl siding. A double-hung 2'-6" x 4'-0" unit with standard insulating glass and a screen lists for $520. Crestline, 800/552-4111, www.crestlinewindows.com
Small roofing projects — installing a skylight, flashing a chimney, and the like — don't usually require huge amounts of self-stick underlayment. Grace's Detail Membranes are 9- and 18-inch-wide versions of the company's popular Ice and Water Shield; they have a two-piece release paper — same as the full-sized roll — but their smaller size makes them easier to handle. Plus they cost less: 9-inch rolls sell for about $24; 18-inch rolls for about $49. Grace, 866/333-3726, www.graceconstruction.com
Better-Looking Vinyl Accessories.
The days when "vinyl siding accessories" meant color-matched J-channel and corner posts are past. Today's siding manufacturers offer good-looking trims and accessories that transform the look of vinyl. CertainTeed, for instance, has rounded out its line of Vinyl Carpentry accessories with Cornice Molding, Corner Post Caps, and Bay Window Corner Posts. The new products coordinate with CertainTeed and Wolverine siding and use a low-gloss finish that the maker says looks more like real wood. CertainTeed, 800/233-8990, www.certainteed.com
For many years, the name "Fypon" was practically synonymous with poly-urethane millwork, but now the manufacturer is branching out. Its cellular PVC trim and sheet-stock products allegedly cut and machine just like wood and won't absorb water or attract insects. They're sold in 5/8-, 3/4-, and 1-inch thicknesses in both wood-grained and smooth styles. Preformed corner boards and beaded stock are also available. The company says that its prices are comparable to those of other cellular PVC products. Fypon, 800/446-3040, www.fypon.com
The next time you need to trim out an arch-top window or other curved trim element, consider using cellular PVC in conjunction with Heatcon's Heat Blankets. These 5-inch-wide by 64-inch-long flexible heating elements can warm a piece of cellular PVC trim to the required 300°F in about 15 minutes. Once heated, the trim is flexible enough that it can be easily formed around a premade template. The Heating Blanket kit for cellular PVC sells for $930; it includes a 110-volt, 15-amp thermostatic controller, two heating blankets, insulated gloves, and a carrying case. The company makes larger blankets as well, but most require a 220-volt circuit. Heatcon, 800/556-1990, www.heatcon.com
Whole-House Audio & Video
Keep It Simple.
Sometimes simple is better. Many homeowners just want a way to listen to their music anywhere in the house without a lot of technological wizardry. For these folks I'd recommend a basic whole-house audio system like Audioplex's Contractor Series Whole House Package. The manufacturer says the kit contains all the components needed for a six-room house, including cable, volume controls, switcher, and speakers. It costs about $1,300. Audioplex, 800/257-2077, www.audioplex.com
All in One.
As someone who grew up watching The Jetsons, I'm a little disappointed that we still don't have flying cars, robotic maids, and meals at the push of a button. However, Leviton's Digital Distribution Center — part of the company's Entertainment and Application Platform — provides some consolation. Also known as an entertainment server, the distribution device can make an entire music, video, and digital photo collection accessible from any network-compatible TV, stereo, or computer in the house. The manufacturer says it's safer and more reliable than PC-based systems because it isn't affected by personal-computer viruses and crashes. The product package includes an eight-zone residential gateway, a 120-GB storage device, and four USB 2.0 expansion ports. It costs about $1,640. Leviton Mfg., 800/323-8920, www.leviton.com
Got a client who's looking for an integrated audio and video system but doesn't want to spend a fortune? Show him Sony's CDP-NW10 in-wall audio system and DVP-NW50 in-wall home theater. The company claims the systems are easy to install, requiring only a low-voltage power supply and a Category-5 Ethernet cable connected to a router. Both products offer shared audio, conventional audio, and intercom in a single platform. According to Sony, the CD version with speakers sells for about $1,000 per room, installed; the DVD version with speakers (installed) costs about twice that. Sony, 866/337-6226, www.sonynewhome.com
Stronger Rail Posts.
Most common rail-post connections fail at about 200 pounds, or roughly half the required force for tested connections. A simple way to beef up this structural element is with a DeckLok Bracket. Available in hot-dipped galvanized and stainless versions, the bracket ties the rail post to a neighboring joist. It can also be used to strengthen stair stringer and ledger connections. Hot-dipped costs $10, stainless $20. Morse Technologies, 866/617-3325, www.mtdecklok.com
Did you know that conventional washers can pull through framing members in high-wind and seismic events? You can boost the strength of these connections with oversized 1/4-inch-thick washers like the BP 1/2-3 and BP 5/8-3 from Simpson Strong-Tie. The rectangular washers' larger bearing surface increases pull-through resistance. They come uncoated or with a hot-dipped galvanized finish for $2.33. Simpson Strong-Tie, 800/999-5099, www.strongtie.com