Show puts new products under one roof


April 09, 1994|By Karol V. Menzie and Randy Johnson

Builders' expositions are the equivalent, for contractors, of a trip to the mall. There's no place else to check out products from all the major window and door and appliance manufacturers, no place else to see all the newest products, no place else to question manufacturers' reps about specifications and performance of particular products.

So when the Maryland Home Builders Association rolls out its annual expo at the Timonium Fair Grounds, as it did late last month, the aisles are always crowded. There are booths for banks and lenders, health-care firms, cellular telephones and other services, but it's the new products that always interest us. Since ordinary homeowners and rehabbers never get invited to this trade-only "shopping center," here are a few of the products we found that might be of interest:

*Glass block has always been a favorite of renovators: It &L provides a contemporary touch, it can create a sort of invisible wall that allows light to flow through, and it can screen a less-than-inspiring view. But some people think that the glass looks cold. Glass Block of Baltimore has a suggestion: tinted grout.

Because the blocks are transparent, the color of the grout joining the blocks shows through, casting a sort of color glow on the glass. The grout can be tinted any color -- it could match cabinets or wall colors in a partition wall. Glass block has become so popular, in fact, that it's almost a cliche; the tint could be a nice way to add a custom touch.

*Another renovation favorite is French doors. But a problem with traditional swing-type French doors is that on exterior applications, it's hard to add screens. The Atrium Door Co. has a solution: a four-panel door with sliding screens. The middle two panels swing inward. The screens are the width of one panel, and can be pushed to either side when they're not needed. When either or both of the center panels are open, the screens can be slipped into place in front.

*Matching replacement windows in an old house can be a problem. Old-fashioned paned windows lose a lot of energy, but modern windows with snap-in muntins -- the bars that divide the panes of glass -- however convenient and energy-efficient, always look "new," as opposed to historic. A new window from Pozzi, displayed at the show by W. F. Mold, Inc. of Baltimore, solves the problem. It's called the Thermal Bar Divided Lite and it has detailed interior wood muntins, internal aluminum "shadow bars" and weather-resistant solid aluminum exterior muntins. The shadow bar maintains a 1/8 -inch thermal break between the glass and the grid to eliminate heat loss. It's less expensive to build than a true divided-light window, Pozzi says.

The muntins, exterior and interior, come in three or four different profiles to match existing or historic styles. The interior muntins are made of stain-grade Western pine; the exterior muntins come in three basic colors (white, bronze and champagne) and 28 custom colors to suit virtually any color scheme. The Thermal Bar windows are available in the entire line of Pozzi products, including casements, awnings, double-hung, bay, bow, horizontal, sliding and custom windows. They're also available in sliding or swinging patio doors.

*The cold, harsh winter proved a particular trial for people with heat pumps, who had to resort to expensive electric-resistance heat to stay warm. Heat-pump owners often complain that the air coming out of the vents in winter feels cold; it's about 90 degrees, which is hot enough for a house, but it does feel chilly compared with body temperature of 98.6. There's a new device called a Heat-Pump Helper. It uses an oil-fired water heater (cheaper to operate than electric) with a fan coil unit. The fan blows air across the hot-water-heated coil before it goes into heating ducts. Oil-heating trade representatives say the system can raise the temperature of the air to 110 degrees, and they claim you can save up to $500 a year by heating water with oil instead of electricity and avoiding the use of electric-resistance heat. Initial equipment investment, however may be a bit more expensive. Check with a local heating-oil company for more information about the Heat Pump Helper.

*Want to give the look of old-fashioned wood siding to a new house or addition? You might want to consider Western red cedar siding. Southern Pacific Supply Co. of Baltimore was showing a striking array of cedar siding in bevel, tongue-and-groove, channel and board-and-batten styles. The siding can even be prefinished with stain or paint for looks that range from truly old-fashioned to quite modern.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N.

Calvert St. Baltimore, 21278.

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