The 2022 International Builders' Show proved that live events are back. Estimates of the number of number of attendees ranged from 45,000 to 70,000 (though I'm guessing it might be closer to the lower number, it was still impressive), with some 1,500 exhibitors spread across 600,000 square feet. It's a daunting show floor to cover and we can hardly say we covered it all, so this is an incomplete list, to say the least. But of everything our team saw, these were the favorites.
Water-Impervious Wood Alternative
Acre - a trim, siding, decking, and panel material made by Modern Mill -competes with cellular PVC in the exterior trim market, composites in the decking and siding markets and MDF in the cabinet market. It is way more convincing as a wood product … but has no wood content at all. The bulk of the material by volume is rice hulls, making for a sustainable, ground-contact, water-impervious wood alternative.
Rice is produced in six U.S. states, so there is a huge, quickly regenerating supply of hulls as a waste product with a lot of intrinsic value as a building product. As Chandler Delinks of Modern Mill explained, the hull is an inedible organic material that surrounds the edible kernel, protecting it from water and mold when the plants are fully submerged in water. As the plant matures, the hull also protects the kernel from UV-light. What's especially convincing to me is how this material works like wood. The sawdust is not static-charged like you get from cellular PVC. Though there is PVC mixed with the rice hulls, the dust is more granular, and falls to the ground. And maybe best of all, the material cuts and mills with ordinary woodworking tools, leaving a consistent edge. The samples I saw showed no open cells in the core, so you can rip it, plane or sand the saw marks away, knock down the corners, and you have a finished edge just like you get with wood.
It’s fairly light to carry, won’t snap under its own weight, and you won’t need to keep a separate set of tooling like with TruExterior (a.k.a. poly-ash, formerly known as Boral). Acre reportedly doesn’t expand or contract as much as PVC materials, so long runs don’t need to be gapped quite as much. It comes in 4’x8’ to 20’ panels in ¼” to 1” thicknesses (a nice alternative to MDF that actually will holds a screw on all surfaces, including edges); 5/8-, 3/4- and 1-inch (actual) board thicknesses in 3,4,5,6,8,10,12,16 (nominal) widths in 8’ and 20’ lengths; and 5/4x6 decking boards (with siding profiles coming soon). Reportedly, the price of trim boards is comparable to cellular PVC.
In the debate over ventilation rates, perhaps the smartest solution is to modulate fan speeds and ventilation rates relative to the actual pollutants in a home. That approach requires ventilation controls that can actually sense indoor air quality, and that seems more and more possible.
Panasonic has teamed up with Swidget, a control company that is producing a line of inserts with different functions that plug into specialty wall switches and outlets. So, for example, there are inserts for a night light, USB charger, and such that extend the functionality of the switch or outlet. But there are also control sensors - a motion detector; motion, temperature and humidity sensor; and an air quality sensor, among others (see image below). These sensors, along with the manually operated wall switch, are intended to control the Panasonic line of ventilation products.
To me the most interesting of these is the air-quality sensor, which senses carbon dioxide, humidity, and VOCs. So far, the Panasonic/Swidget air-quality sensor does not sense PM2.5, though that is reportedly in the works. (For more on PM2.5 pollutants, see "Don't Forget to Breathe," Oct/2018). Apparently, today's state-of-the art PM2.5 sensors are still too large to fit in an ordinary sized wall switch or outlet. This is why the Broan-NuTone has taken a slightly different approach with their air-quality sensor controls.
The Broan-NuTone Overture controls, which sense humidity, VOCs, smoke, carbon dioxide and PM2.5, are larger, and plug in externally to an outlet (see the center and right plug-in sensors in photo below).
Broan-NuTone gave a sneak peak of the Overture control system at the last in-person IBS in 2020, and launched it between shows. The complete system, which combines sensors, switches and connected plugs to control bath and whole-house fans, range hoods, and ERVs to exhaust polluted air and (in the case of the ERV) introduce fresh, filtered air.
Both the Broan and Panasonic systems can be managed with a smart-phone app, allowing users to monitor a home (or individual rooms) and record historical data.
New Ice Membrane
Given Huber's success with ZipSystem tapes and flashing, and the company's focus on sealed roof systems, it seems natural that they have now introduced Peel-and-Stick Underlament. The rubberized asphalt membrane has a split-back release liner with a pull-cord, and, like many other ice membranes, requires no fasteners to install. It reportedly seals around fasteners and has a slip-resistant surface. The most interesting feature of this product to us is that Huber Engineered Woods offers a "leak free" guarantee if you use the membrane on all eaves edges and valleys (at least) over a complete ZipSystem roof. This applies to roofs with a 2:12 or steeper slope framed 24-inches o.c. or less that include Zip roof sheathing, and have all seams sealed with Zip tape. As a final requirement to qualify for the guarantee, you have to register the product on their website.
Barette Outdoor Living is a fairly new name in the deck/outdoor living market, but the company has been around for years, selling railing (under the RDI name) and various types of composite decking. It has rebranded and smartly consolidated its offerings under a unified concept trademarked "The Outside Company." Debuting the fresh company at IBS, Barette Outdoor Living introduced a number of intriguing deck products, including an "outdoor flooring system" dubbed InstaDeck. For me, the best offering is the company's line of decorative panels that can be integrated into its railings and as outdoor privacy screens.
The polypropylene panels, which come in two sizes—2- x 4- and 3- x 6-feet—can be integrated into the company's deck railing or it's aluminum pergola. But they can also be built into the side of a porch (photo above) or (what I like best of all) used to screen the base of a deck in lieu of lattice.
Durable, Installer-Friendly Door Frames
Endura, which is known for making smart door components like a replaceable metal threshold and rot-resistant jambs, has introduced a fully featured door frame that is designed to provide optimal resistance to the elements but also make installation easier and less dependent on the condition of the wall.
In new construction and old, exterior walls are often not plumb nor very flat, which has caused many a carpenter plenty of grief for time immemorial. It's tough with standard pre-hung units that come with the brickmold attached, as it requires installers to do all sorts of tricks to get opposing shims in the right place and at the right thickness. The Endura Fusion Frame comes with an adjustable brickmold. In the photo above, we see the snap-on cover for the brickmold, but the whole brickmold itself comes off so you can set the jamb plumb, shim the frame from both sides, and then fit the brickmold in place, regardless of the wall condition. The frame itself has an engineered wood core that is reportedly not as prone to thermal changes as a composite frame. This gets covered by removable jamb and brick mold covers that hide the fasteners, making for a clean install all the way around.
Endura does not make doors, but specializes in the components that go into door units. The products can be ordered through BetterDoor.com, but are most often available from door companies that use the components.