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Decorative Ceilings Nice View.

Few would argue that 2x2 and 2x4 drop-ceiling tiles and fluorescent fixtures — found in countless homes and virtually every commercial building in America — are architectural gems. A new product, Ceiling Scenes, makes it easy to boost their appeal. These printed light lenses and ceiling tiles create the illusion of a starry sky, a forest canopy, fluffy clouds — you name it. The company offers a library of stock images; for an additional charge, it can produce custom images. Ceiling tiles cost $46 (2x2) and $87 (2x4) apiece; light lenses cost $75 (2x2) and $150 (2x4) apiece. Ceiling Scenes, 616/546-3543, www.ceilingscenes.com

Tin Substitute.

Installing a tin ceiling can take a long time and leave your hands battered — but now you can achieve a similar look minus the bloodletting with a Tin Look ceiling from Armstrong. According to the manufacturer, the 1-foot-square acoustic tiles install easier and cost less ($2.25 a square foot) than real tin. They come in eight patterns; all feature a white, vinyl-coated surface, and none require a grid. Armstrong, 800/233-3823, www.armstrong.com

Premium Panels.

With huge expanses of drop ceiling on display and relatively little wall exposed, many casinos rely on Above View drop-ceiling panels to jazz up their interiors. No reason a residence can't cash in on that neat trick, too. The 2x2 panels — which are made from reinforced gypsum — cut like drywall and install in ordinary grid systems. And at 2 to 21/4 pounds per square foot, they stay in place without hold-down clips. Finishing options are practically endless, so prices range all over the board; generally, they run under $10 per square foot. Above View, 414/744-7118, www.aboveview.com


Paints & Coatings

Mold Management.

The M-word makes everyone a little nervous. Homeowners envision walls blackened with fuzzy growth and contractors imagine six-figure court settlements. Perhaps both groups will be able to sleep better knowing that homes have been treated with Foster's 40-80 Disinfectant/Sanitizer ($37 to $47 per 5-gallon pail). In addition to mold, the product kills a variety of viruses and bacteria on porous, semiporous, and nonporous materials, including carpet, wood, and drywall. The maker says it's also a good choice for cleaning up after leaks and flooding. Once treated, surfaces can be sealed with the company's 40-20 Fungicidal Protective Coating ($225 to $242 per 5-gallon pail) or 40-51 Mold-Resistant Clear Coat ($199 to $233 per 5-gallon pail). Foster Products, 800/231-9541, www.fosterproducts.com

Hybrid Stain.

I've never heard anyone complain about the performance of a Sikkens product. The company's Rubbol Siding Finish is a low-sheen solid stain with a unique alkyd/acrylic blended formula that Sikkens says offers the advantages of both finish types. The company claims that Rubbol often covers in one coat without a primer when used on bare wood, and that it can also be applied over previous-ly painted latex- and oil-based surfaces. My local dealer quoted me a price of $32 a gallon. Sikkens, 866/745-5367, www.nam.sikkens.com

One-Coat Coverage.

Who wouldn't prefer to do less painting? According to the maker, ProMar 200XP provides a high-build, uniform finish in one less coat. Applied at the recommended wet-film thickness of 10 to 14 mils, the self-priming paint allegedly minimizes drywall fuzz, minor surface scratches, and mud-porosity differences. The company also claims that one coat of it outlasts two coats of traditional paint. ProMar 200XP comes in a wide variety of colors in both flat and eggshell; the flat sells for about $38 per gallon at my local Sherwin-Williams store. Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794, www.sherwin-williams.com

Floor Coverings

Updated Favorite.

Like sheet linoleum, NovaLinoleum is versatile and eco-friendly. Unlike the sheet version, it comes in 7/16-inch-thick click-together planks. Each 12-inch-by-36-inch strip contains three layers: a 2mm linoleum surface, a fiber-core center, and a 2mm base of low-density cork. The flooring is hypoallergenic and easy to install, says the manufacturer. Sold in 11 colors, it costs between $5 and $6 per square foot. NovaLinoleum, 866/576-2458, www.novafloorings.com

Check It Out.

Some flooring patterns never go out of style — the classic checkerboard, for instance. Available in four color schemes — all variations on the timeless checkerboard theme — Mannington's Checkpoint features a vinyl formula designed to resist the kind of yellowing that occurs when, say, a homeowner keeps a rubber-backed mat in front of the sink for a year or two. It costs about $3.39 per square foot. Mannington, 800/482-9527, www.mannington.com

Tough Stuff.

Vinyl-composition tile — VCT — is popular in commercial spaces, schools, and hospitals for good reasons: It's inexpensive, wears like iron, and looks brand new after a good scrubbing and a couple of coats of wax — qualities that make it ideal for residences, too. Armstrong's Arteffects and Excelon tiles suit kitchens, rec spaces, and other wear-prone areas. And with over 100 patterns and colors between the two lines, design possibilities are limitless. Prices range from about $1.50 to $3 per square foot installed. Armstrong, 800/233-3823, www.armstrong.com