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Products, continued

Specialty Hardware

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Holy Bookcase, Batman!

Maybe it comes from afternoons spent watching the Caped Crusader enter the Bat Cave through a secret passage, but I think this is one of the coolest products I've ever seen. The SpaceXDoor looks like an ordinary bookcase, but it's actually a bifolding closet door with special hardware. Made from MDF, it can be left natural or veneered in just about any wood species. According to the manufacturer, the door can hold up to 300 pounds of books and they won't fall off when it's operated. I saw it at this year's Builders' Show. It looks well made, and the hardware looks sturdy enough for the job. It's available in widths from 48 to 76 inches in 83- and 96-inch heights. The maple-veneered version shown has a list price of $2,300. SpaceXDoors, 800/262-9464, www.spacexdoors.com.

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Better Ledger Connection.

Attaching a porch or deck ledgers to a building is one connection that you simply can't mess up. FastenMaster, maker of TrapEase deck screws and TimberLok long-length wood screws has introduced LedgerLok, a coated, structural screw designed exclusively for attaching deck ledgers. The new screw is self-drilling and uses a hex head with an integral washer to prevent stripping. According to the manufacturer, the 1/4-inch-diameter screws have greater shear strength than 1/2-inch lag screws, and the proprietary coating is compatible with the more corrosive ACQ and copper azole pressure-treating formulas. A 50-count box of 3 5/8-inch LedgerLok screws sells for $24; the 5-inch size sells for $28. FastenMaster, 800/518-3569, www.fastenmaster.com.

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Oldie but Goodie.

If "period-inspired" or reproduction hardware won't work for your customer's restoration project, you can get authentic period pieces from Ed Donaldson Hardware Restorations. The small company refurbishes antique doorknobs, sash lifts, hinges, and other common types of builder's hardware. Some of the stuff is one of a kind, but more common pieces like Antique Rim Locks and Hinges can usually be found in sufficient quantities for a small addition or restoration. The cast-iron rim lock shown is from the mid to late 19th century and sells for $75. Ed Donaldson Hardware Restorations, 717/249-3624, www.eddonaldson.com.


HVAC Controls

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Fresh Outlook.

Adding a little fresh air to a forced-air heating system is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to prevent indoor air problems in today's tighter homes. Products like Aprilaire's Ventilation Control System use an electronic damper and adjustable timer to bring fresh outside air into the return-air duct. Easier to install and less expensive than a heat-recovery ventilator, the 6-inch damper can be programmed to open from 1 to 60 minutes every 1 to 4 hours. According to the manufacturer, the controller will keep the damper closed if temperatures are below 0°F or above 100°F or if humid outdoor air could bring interior humidity levels above 60%. Installed prices run about $250 to $300. Aprilaire, 800/334-6011, www.aprilaire.com.

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Water Heater Safety Valve.

Failed water heaters cause millions of dollars in damage every year. Even though drip pans can prevent most water damage, they don't ensure the safety of your client, because the leaking water could extinguish the pilot or the burner could be heating a nearly empty tank. Installing a WAGS Valve (Water and Gas Safety Valve) could prevent such an accident. The device uses a water soluble disk that keeps the valve open during normal operation, but when a leak fills the drip pan to 3/4 inch, it dissolves, closing the water supply and gas valves. Once it's activated, a little red flag alerts the homeowner that there's a problem. The device can also be used with non-gas heaters. Installed prices should run about $350. Taco, 401/942-8000, www.taco-hvac.com.

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Hot Water Management.

Hydronic heating systems continue to grow in popularity, but balancing a new system can be a struggle, especially when in-floor loops are combined with other types of hydronic heating. You can make the balancing process easier with a TruFLOW Manifold System from Wirsbo. The solid brass manifold is adjustable for both temperature and flow and can handle up to 12 loops. The device also makes installations faster, and it looks less intimidating to tech-weary homeowners. Wirsbo, 800/321-4739, www.wirsbo.com.

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Cold Call.

While it makes sense to leave the heat or air conditioning turned down in most vacation homes, it can take a day or more to make the house comfortable again. If a day spent shivering isn't compatible with your customer's idea of a relaxing weekend, you could suggest the Telephone Access Module and T8635L Communicating Thermostat from Honeywell. With the two components, customers can call their thermostat and change the temperature over the phone. The slick device will also call out to three preprogrammed numbers if there's a heating failure or prolonged power interruption. According to the manufacturer, the system is easy to program, doesn't require third-party monitoring, and works with most heating and cooling equipment. Honeywell, 800/328-5111, www.honeywell.com.


Soffit & Fascia

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Time-Saving Vented Trim.

While perfectly functional, round aluminum and strip soffit vents aren't the best-looking exterior detail. If you or your customer is seeking an alternative, you might try the 404 Eave Vent System from Style Solutions. Combining several preprimed trim pieces and the soffit vent in the same product results in a detail that not only looks better, but also saves a lot of installation time. Premolded outside and inside corners are available. The 6 3/16-inch-tall molding has a 4 7/16-inch projection and comes in 12-foot lengths. It has a list price of $12 per foot. Style Solutions, Inc., 800/446-3040, www.stylesolutionsinc.com.

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Wood Is Good but Sometimes Plastic Is Better.

The cottage and bungalow aesthetic is increasingly popular, but the exposed overhangs and decorative details present a problem for wood millwork. If your client wants to avoid annual painting and maintenance, you might suggest Azek Beadboard. The tongue-and-groove synthetic lumber has a V-groove on one side and an edge-and-center bead on the other, making it perfect for reproducing period soffits, porch ceilings, and exterior wainscot. According to the manufacturer, the matte white finish holds paint well or can be left unpainted. The 1/2-inch-thick by 6-inch-wide boards are available in 18-foot lengths. The 1x6x18-foot boards sell for approximately $29. Azek, 866/549-6900, www.azek.com.

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High Fiber.

Fans of fiber-cement siding often tout its low cost, durability, and excellent paint adhesion. It's those same qualities that make fiber cement an excellent soffit material. Vented and Non-Vented Soffit Panels from James Hardie are offered in smooth and textured finishes. What's great is they're precut in 12- and 16-inch widths, and the 12-foot length means fewer seams. The 1/4-inch-thick panels are preprimed and have a 25-year transferable warranty. At a local yard (in northern Vermont), I was quoted about $11 per piece for 20 pieces of smooth non-vented in the 12-inch width. James Hardie, 888/542-7343, www.jameshardie.com.

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Covert Soffit Ventilation.

Unlike most vented vinyl soffit that uses exposed holes or slots, Napco's UltraSpan uses hidden ventilation slots. The slots are tucked into the soffit's center groove, and, according to the manufacturer, the hidden location not only looks more attractive, it's also more effective at resisting wind-driven rain. The manufacturer claims that the .046-inch-thick panels are better at spanning longer distances like porch ceilings without sagging. They're available in 14 colors at about $75 to $85 per square. Napco, 800/786-2726, www.napcobuildingproducts.com.