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Foundation Insulation

An easy and inexpensive way to insulate foundation walls has proved elusive for many builders, but CertainTeed's new Basement Wall Insulation promises to make the process faster and easier. Faced with reinforced polypropylene or foil, the insulation is available in 3/4-, 1 3/4-, and 3 1/8-inch thicknesses, with respective R-values of 3, 6, and 11. The insulation hung from the sill plate can be left exposed in most residential applications. Installed costs vary, but expect to pay about $.60 to $.80 per square foot.




Sturdy Stand

A well-made stand for your portable planer, table saw, or miter saw can make the difference between an easy task and complete frustration. The 6132 Work Station's 300-pound capacity and adjustable top provide a sturdy and convenient stand for most bench-top tools. The powder-coated steel frame includes rubber footpads and a leveling leg for stability. It retails for $39.




Mold- and Waterproof Paint

In response to the current concern over mold, Kwik Seal Plus Basement Paint is one of the more recent products to have Microban added to its formula. The antimicrobial additive, more traditionally used in socks, cutting boards, and kitchen sponges, provides long-term protection against mold and odor-causing bacteria, according to the manufacturer. The tintable, white latex basement paint resists water pressure up to 5 psi and is available in 1- and 3 1/2-gallon containers. It sells for about $25 per gallon.




Cut-to-Fit Basement Windows

Although not the most exciting fenestrations in the house, basement windows provide necessary ventilation and light in an otherwise dark and dreary space. Available in clear glass or privacy-enhancing glass block, Hopper Windows feature a one-piece injection-molded frame to minimize air infiltration and provide long-term durability. Most notable are the trimmable jamb and sill flanges, allowing the windows to fit openings from 32 to 33 inches wide. The units are available in white and tan. Prices start at $124 for ten or more; single units start at $175.


Simonton Windows


Smaller Sander

With a 3 1/2-inch disc, Metabo's model SXE400 Random Orbital Disc Sander works in places that an ordinary sander simply won't fit. Running at a maximum 10,000 orbits per second, the variable-speed machine weighs about 3 pounds and includes an on-board dust extraction system. The replaceable hook and loop pad orbits in a 1/8-inch pattern. The maker claims that the tool's small sanding disc is especially suited for concave and convex surfaces, and triple-sealed bearings provide longer life. The street price is $139.




On The Job

When Greg McCarren started in the hearth industry over 20 years ago, there was little regulation on air quality indoors or out. As building codes changed, he feared new regulations might eventually eliminate wood fireplaces from new construction. Minnesota and Oregon, for example, now require the installation of fresh-air systems to replace the air lost up the chimney and the air used for combustion. Such regulations are meant to address the negative air pressure created by the fireplace inside the home. Negative pressure not only causes the fireplace to draw poorly, but it's also a threat to health when backdrafting results. Because the hearth industry didn't have a product to satisfy the new requirements, Greg invented one.

His creation, the Replenum, mounts on top of a manufactured fireplace and replaces the air consumed by the fireplace with fresh air from outside the building. The replacement air is warmed by a stainless-steel heat exchanger, using heat that would ordinarily be lost up the chimney. In addition, a 110-volt inducer fan keeps combustion gases moving up the flue, eliminating the poor drafting common in today's tighter homes. Activated by a thermal switch, the unit automatically starts when a fire is lit, so homeowners don't need to remember to turn it on. When the fire dies, the heat-recovery blower continues for a short time, capturing the remaining heat in the exchanger.


Installing a Replenum requires a 37-inch-tall, 24 1/2-inch-wide, and 15-inch-deep cavity above the fireplace. The unit can be rotated on the flue collar to aid in positioning as long as a 2-inch air space from combustibles is maintained.


Keeping duct runs as straight as possible makes the recovery ventilator more efficient. The easiest way to accomplish this is straight through the back of the chase and straight through the interior wall, but the owner of this home wanted the exterior grill in a less obvious location, which required additional elbows.


It's important to balance the amount of air going up the flue and the air supplying the home. While one installer checks the measurements with a vane anemometer, another reaches inside the access panel to adjust the fan speed.


A 13x21-inch access panel is required for installation and servicing. The intake grill supplying the heat exchanger is located above the access panel, where it's less obtrusive. It's important to consider other exhaust vents, flues, and plumbing vents when locating the supply grill; otherwise, contaminated air could be drawn into the living space. The required clearances are included in the Replenum's well-written instructions.

Because the unit requires 110-volt AC power, it had to pass UL standard 127, which tests for safe operation, without electricity (when homeowners are most likely to use a fireplace). The UL standard, which all manufactured fireplaces must meet, tests how the unit will perform when the firebox is refueled every 7 1/2 minutes with special high-output solid fuel. The unit passed the test and, according to the maker, performs as well as an ordinary fireplace even without power.

Installing a Replenum adds about a half day's work to an ordinary manufactured fireplace installation. Finishing the exterior access panel also adds some time.

Presently, the unit is certified only for use with Temko brand fireplaces, because of the expense associated with UL approval. The manufacturer expects to have most other major fireplace manufacturers approved within two years. The company is also planning the introduction of a unit for masonry fireplaces in a similar time frame. The unit has a list price of approximately $1,400.