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Shine On.

In hot climates, radiant barriers can significantly reduce cooling costs by reflecting much of the heat that would otherwise soak into a home's interior spaces. According to its maker, foil-backed Thermostat Radiant Barrier Sheathing reflects up to 97 percent of the sun's radiant heat and can reduce cooling costs by 17 percent. Prices for the 4-foot-by-8-foot panels — which come in 1/2- and 5/8-inch nominal thicknesses — vary by region but generally run $3 to $4 more per sheet than regular plywood. Georgia-Pacific, 800/284-5347,

Tall Order.

Since most new homes have 9-foot ceilings on the first floor, traditional 8-foot sheathing panels just don't measure up. One solution is 1/2-inch-thick FiberBrace sheathing, which now comes in 10-foot lengths for taller walls. It satisfies building code requirements (ASTM C208) for racking resistance and costs less than plywood and OSB. Although prices vary by region, 4-foot-by-10-foot sheets tend to run about $9. Temple-Inland, 800/231-6060,

Green Board.

More and more home-building and remodeling clients want assurance that the wood products used in their homes come from sustainably managed forests. That's the impetus behind the various third-party agencies — most notably the Forest Stewardship Council — that have sprung up to monitor forest operations and certify that forest products bearing their logos are harvested in an ecologically responsible manner. Potlatch offers just such a product. Its FSC-certified Douglas fir plywood comes in thicknesses from 3/8 to 3/4 inch and costs about 15 percent more than standard plywood. Potlatch, 509/328-0930,

Metal Roofing

Old School.

Long ago, terne metal — an alloy of lead and tin — was the classic tin-roof material. It fell out of favor when cheaper materials were invented and the risks of lead exposure became widely known. Terne II offers the look of a traditional tin roof without the lead; it's coated with an alloy of tin and zinc. It comes in nine preformed profiles, including shingle, flat seam, and standing seam. Unlike most modern metal roofing, it must be coated as soon as possible and maintained with paint. Pricing starts at about $90 per square. Follansbee Steel, 800/624-6906,


Clay-and-concrete tile roofing is durable, fire-resistant, and attractive, but at 1,000 pounds per square it can really stress a structure during high-wind and seismic events. Customers looking for a lightweight alternative that doesn't sacrifice aesthetics should consider Metro Roman Tile. This 150-pound-per-square stamped-metal roofing boasts a 120-mph-wind warranty, a Class A fire rating, and Class 4 hail impact resistance. Material prices run about $250 per square. Metro Roof Products, 866/638-7648,

Wood Replacement.

Living beneath a wood roof in Western wildfire country could interfere with a good night's rest, seems to me. Gerard's Shake Roofs look like cedar shingles but carry a Class A fire rating and a 120-mph-wind warranty. Made from 26-gauge steel, they come in five colors and, says the maker, can often be installed over existing roofing. Costs vary by region; in Southern California, prices range from $450 to $650 per square. Gerard Roofing Technologies, 800/237-6637,


Smart Insulation.

Vapor retarders are designed to prevent moisture from getting inside wall cavities — but they also prevent it from getting out. CertainTeed's MemBrain is different: Its permeability increases with humidity. Ordinarily, the clear plastic film has a perm rating of about 1, but that increases to a maximum of about 30 when humidity within the wall cavity reaches 90 percent. Originally launched as a stand-alone vapor retarder, the film now comes on the company's DryRight insulation, which is sold in R-13 and R-19 friction-fit rolls and batts. DryRight purportedly costs about 50 percent more than conventional kraft-faced insulation. CertainTeed, 800/233-8990,

Stone-Coated Foam.

Making exposed polystyrene foundation insulation look good is one of the challenges faced by builders and remodelers every day. An easy way to deal with this problem is to use FP Ultra Lite Foundation Insulation Panels. Available in 1-, 11/2-, and 2-inch thicknesses in 2x4, 4x4, and 4x8 sizes, the panels come precoated with either an aggregate or stucco finish. They can be cut with a break-away knife and installed with foam-safe construction adhesive or plastic drive anchors, says the manufacturer. Prices run about $1.75 per square foot. Styro Industries, 888/702-9920,

Crack Filler.

When it comes to boosting a home's thermal performance, nothing beats gun-dispensed spray foam. Hilti's CF 812 and CF 810 are compatible with the industry's first specification (ASTM C1620-05) for aerosol-foam sealants. The low-pressure 812 formula suits doors and windows, and the high-yield 810 handles gaps, cracks, and openings. A 12-can case of either costs about $200. Hilti, 800/879-8000,