Kitchen & Bath
Out of Sight.
layouts typically include a microwave oven mounted either over
the range or below an upper cabinet. Where else can you put
this common but bulky appliance? Sharp Electronics offers
another option: in a drawer. Microwave Drawers come in 24- and
30-inch-wide models that can be built into standard lower
cabinets. Both draw 1,000 watts and boast a one-cubic-foot
capacity, which is large enough to hold a 9-inch-by-13-inch
dish. Stand-alone models list for $850. Combined with a ceramic
cooktop, the drawer lists for $1,700 to $1,800, depending on
Sharp Electronics Corp., 800/237-4277,
smaller houses and smaller kitchens — which puts an even
greater premium on counter space. If you're trying to squeeze
the most out of a really tiny kitchen design, check out the
line of flip-up cooktops from Alpes. When they're not needed,
these appliances flip up out of the way so that the counter can
be used for other tasks. Several gas models are available
(though the manufacturer is still awaiting UL approval); at
$1,870, the two-burner unit (shown) is the most popular.
Hot and Healthy.
Cooking with steam
no longer requires lugging a pot of water to the stove.
Gaggenau's steam cooker can be installed right in the
countertop. It comes in 15-inch-wide (VK411) and 12-inch-wide
(VK230) models. Both deliver steam without pressure to cook
vegetables, shellfish, meat, and rice; Gaggenau says this
process allows food to retain more of its nutrients. Cookers
can be connected directly to a drain for convenience. The VK411
costs $1,960; the VK230, $1,730.
Warm and Dry.
backerboard may be just fine most of the time, but when you're
looking for a waterproof panel that also insulates, consider
Wedi's foam building panels. Lightweight and German-made, they
consist of a core of extruded polystyrene reinforced with
fiberglass and a cementitious coating. Available in several
thicknesses, the panels are completely waterproof and have an
R-value of 4.3 per inch. The company says they also help to
suppress cracks in large tile installations. Special prescored
panels can be used for curved tile surfaces. A 1/2-inch panel
lists for about $2.30 per square foot.
Wedi Corp., 770/366-6835 (916/387-8500 on the
West Coast), www.wedicorp.com
Down in a Flash
. Looking to speed
up your next tile job? Consider EasyMat, an underlayment
available in a peel-and-stick version that goes down quickly,
can be cut with a utility knife, and is much lighter than
standard cement board. The maker says the crack-suppressing
substrate is suitable for both tile and stone floors. It won't
absorb water, resists mold and mildew, and helps attenuate
sound. EasyMat comes in 4-foot-wide rolls and in three
thicknesses — 3 mm, 5 mm, and 12 mm (or slightly under
1/8 inch, 1/4 inch, and 1/2 inch). The 5-mm peel-and-stick
costs between $1.30 and $1.70 per square foot.
Custom Building Products, 800/272-8786,
waterproofing membrane now meets ANSI requirements for crack
isolation. It can be applied by brush, trowel, roller, or
airless sprayer over a variety of materials, including dry
concrete and plywood. According to the manufacturer, the
membrane restricts the growth of mold and mildew when applied
beneath tile. The company also says the product dries quickly
and can usually be tiled over in about four hours. Bonsal
B-6000 is premixed and comes in one-gallon and 31/2-gallon
containers. It costs about $45 per gallon.
Bonsal American, 800/738-1621,