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Rooftop Problem-Solvers.

Flashing a manufactured metal chimney can be difficult with some roofing materials. To make this important job easier, Selkirk recently introduced the Metalbestos Platinum Series line of flashings. The Universal Metal Roof Flashing Kit (top left; $32) adapts standard shingle flashing kits for use with most profiles of metal roofing. The Universal Rubber Boot Flashing Kit (top right; $181) allows you to use rubber flashing boots (commonly used for vent pipes) with a metal chimney. And Dead-Soft Aluminum Flashing (right; starting at $100), designed for tile roofs, conforms to the undulations of concrete and clay tile. Selkirk, 800/992-8368,

Easy Masonry.

A manufactured chimney that combines the durability of masonry with the easy installation of metal may sound like a pipe dream — until you check out the DM44 Dual Module Chimney from Isokern. Made from lightweight volcanic pumice and suitable for both gas-fired and solid-fuel applications, Isokern chimney and fireplace components take up less room than site-built masonry and stack like building blocks. The system even includes offset chimney blocks for snaking the flue around obstacles, plus blocks with a brick ledge for adding stone or brick veneer at the top. Because of shipping costs, prices vary by region. Isokern, 904/363-3417,

Sturdy Construction.

Detractors of manufactured chimneys like to argue that manufactured components have a shorter life span than site-built masonry and suffer from unsightly and potentially dangerous corrosion, especially in coastal areas. A SuperPro Stainless Steel factory-built chimney vanquishes those concerns. Made entirely from 304 stainless steel, the product boasts a non-prorated warranty for the first 10 years and prorated coverage for another 15 years. I found 36-inch lengths of 6-inch pipe at an online vendor ( for $89 each. Selkirk, 800/992-8368,

Outdoor Lighting

Brilliant Eras.

Historic restoration is so much more than simply slapping on a period paint scheme. Every detail matters, down to the style of the exterior light fixtures. Rejuvenation, a company that specializes in period lighting and hardware, carries reproduction outdoor lighting from every conceivable era, from the jazz to the jet age. The elegantly simple Silverton (far left; $111) suits homes built in the first half of the twentieth century. The Otis (left; $120) is perfect for postwar ranches and other modern suburban styles. The Mission-style Timberline (right; $259) complements Arts & Crafts bungalows. And the Hathaway (far right; $335) is a good choice for Tudor-style homes. For all lamps, glass patterns and finishes may affect price. Rejuvenation, 888/401-1900,

Good Aim.

Designed to combat light pollution, Dark Sky-approved fixtures reduce the amount of glare aimed at the night sky. Acculite DT Trapezoidal and DR Semicircular lights from Juno satisfy Dark Sky requirements and use compact fluorescent, metal halide, or high-pressure sodium bulbs. Spirit levels built into the fixtures' mounting brackets simplify installation; with the bracket secure and level, two hidden set screws hold each fixture in place. Acculite DT and DR lights come in white, bronze, and black finishes. The DT — with a 32-watt compact fluorescent — sells for about $226. Juno, 847/827-9880,

Lean Lines.

Although they're quite popular, polished-brass and wrought-iron coach lights aren't right for every project. If your customer is looking for a less obtrusive outdoor fixture that still has some flair, you might suggest the wall-mounted 101 Series from Besa. This lamp has a clean, contemporary look and lasts a long time — even in salt air — thanks to its stainless-steel housing. It comes in brushed stainless and powder-coated bronze finishes and measures about 20 inches tall, 9 inches wide, and 5 inches deep. Pricing runs between $225 and $250. Besa Lighting, 800/446-2372,

Time-Saving Towel Bars.

A bathroom's finishing touches — towel bars and paper holders, for example — can take a surprising amount of time and patience to install. Moen says its Pro-Fit Installation System — designed for use with the company's line of bath accessories — reduces that time by more than half. The system uses a plastic template with a built-in spirit level to position the product line's special mounting plates. Once the plates — which contain integral hollow-wall anchors — are fastened, you slip metal posts over them; the posts lock into place without set screws. The installation tool sells for $15; prices for 24-inch towel bars start at about $8. Moen, 800/882-0116,

Electronics Garage.

Are your clients tired of pawing through the tangle of wires cluttering their kitchen counter — or some other chaotic space — in search of MP3 players, PDAs, and cell phones? The iCove from WireTracks provides a charging and docking station for all sorts of electronic wizardry. Designed to keep the devices handy and manage their associated snarl of wires, the iCove is a 5-by-7-inch recessed niche with a built-in 110-volt AC outlet. It's available in black or white, and fits within a standard 5-by-7-inch picture frame supplied by the customer. At $199, this product is a clever low-cost feature that can make your clients' lives just a little easier. WireTracks, 888/886-9473,

Structural Sheathing

Easy-Breathing Sheathing.

In my western Pennsylvania hometown, just about every house built during the postwar building boom was sheathed with fibrous Celotex under a brick veneer. I worked on plenty of these homes 20 to 30 years later, and even though they were commonly built without housewrap or building felt, I found that the sheathing was almost always in good shape. Brown Celotex Sturdy Brace sheathing is still around, and it satisfies most requirements for corner bracing, wind shear, and seismic conditions. As an added bonus, Sturdy Brace is rated at 20 perms — compared with 1 to 2 perms for plywood and OSB — which helps wall assemblies dry out if they should for some reason get wet. The sheathing sells for about $9 per sheet. Knight-Celotex, 847/716-8030,

Structural Silver.

Fiberglass-reinforced gypsum sheathing has been a mainstay of commercial construction for nearly 20 years, but when plywood and OSB prices shot through the roof several years ago, some builders started using gypsum sheathing panels for home construction, too. Now there's a gypsum sheathing panel designed specifically for one- and two-family residential dwellings. DensGlass Silver — with fiberglass mats on both sides — qualifies as structural sheathing when you use the fastening schedule specified in IRC Section R602.10.3, method 5. According to the manufacturer, the 1/2-inch-thick product is suitable under most exterior claddings, including wood, brick, vinyl, and stucco — but it's not a nailing base, so you'll need to fasten siding to the framing. A drywall supplier in North Canton, Ohio, quoted me a price of 48 cents per square foot for 60 8-foot sheets. GP, 800/947-4497,


If you're looking for a sheathing product that provides code-required racking strength, easy installation, improved mold and fire resistance, and a cheaper price tag than plywood or OSB sheathing, you might want to consider StructGuard TS. Available in 1/2-inch and 5/8-inch thicknesses in 8-, 9-, 10-, and 12-foot panels, the gypsum-based product has antimicrobial additives designed to resist mold growth. An Austin, Texas, yard quoted me a price of $13.10 per sheet. Temple-Inland, 800/231-6060,

Make a Connection.

Washer outlet boxes have existed for years, so I'm surprised someone didn't think of a dryer box sooner. At 14 inches wide and 51/2 inches deep, the DBX1000 Dryer Vent Receptacle installs in standard 2x6 framing and includes a pair of knockouts for 4-inch round ductwork and a smaller knockout for a gas line. According to the manufacturer, the DBX1000 is also good for recessing gas lines behind the kitchen stove, ice-maker water lines behind the fridge, and receptacles behind wall-mounted televisions. Depending on the dealer, the box sells for $20 to $25. Construction Solutions, 866/270-8240,