What's trendy in building trade? New products range from floating floors to automatic roof designers

Home Work

March 23, 1997|By Karol V. Menzie and Randy Johnson

THE NATIONAL Association of Home Builders' conventions are the place where builders, building suppliers and others in the industry showcase their latest ideas and products. The shows are held twice a year in places such as Las Vegas and Dallas. This year, the winter show was in Houston, and a friend of Karol's brought back a bounty of material from the show.

Marketers go all out for these events. There are standard press kits, binders full of product specifications, design books, slides, photos and CD-ROMS to acquaint builders with what's new in the industry.

Here are some of the things we found of interest when we went through the material on a snowy, not-quite-spring day:

Professional Builder magazine sponsored the construction of two "Design Trends" houses, one in a traditional style in brick, and one in a French Chateau style.

If you're thinking of building, renovating or rehabbing, here are some of the features of these trendy homes: smaller rooms designated as studies/offices; exercise rooms; media rooms or "theaters"; game and card rooms; garages for three cars, split for two and for one; two-story spaces; wood floors; front and back stairs; multiple French doors instead of windows; and master suites with palatial baths and room-size closets.

Broderbund has upgraded its 3D Home series with 3D Home Architect Edition 2. Randy has been using an earlier version, which allows you to design a space and then "walk" through it to see what it looks like at eye level.

The new version has an automatic roof designer that generates standard roof as well as specialty styles. This feature will make it easier to design multistory buildings, and to create exterior elevations -- things the original program didn't do.

Broderbund also has set up a Web site with sample plans that can be downloaded and a message board that allows users to ask questions of designers or one another. The program should be out soon at a price of $49. The Web site address is http: //www.broderbund.com.

An Indiana entrepreneur has designed a new type of towel rack that fits behind a door.

The rack's fittings replace the hinge pins in the door. Hinge-It comes in several configurations and the Eurorack version is heated, like those lovely accessories in Continental baths.

Look for the racks in home catalogs and in stores such as Wal-mart and the Container Store. A simple rack costs about $30 in white metal, about $35 in birch.

Randy finds it difficult to pass up mention of anything Swedish. Pergo, makers of laminate flooring, have just opened a factory in Garner, N.C., their first outside Sweden.

The floor boards are quarter-inch thick and come in 34 designs. The surface layer is made of high-pressure melamine laminate, and its thin profile allows it to be installed over a lot of floors without altering or cutting down doors. The company also makes baseboards and transition thresholds to match all of their designs.

The product has a 10-year warranty against wear, fading or staining. It is available at 7,000 flooring specialty stores across the country. Customers can call 800-337-3746 for store locations and product information.

Speaking of floors, Bruce Hardwood Floors has introduced a new line of floating floor products that offers 14 colors and wood species. In floating floors, boards are glued together, but not nailed down to subflooring. Instead, they "float over a surface such as concrete, foam pad or some form of insulating underlayment" and are held in place by the baseboards.

The flooring, called Coastal Woodlands, comes in strip-like panels in styles of oak -- nutmeg, butterscotch and natural -- and cherry -- country cherry or natural. Look for it at wood-floor outlets and home supply stores.

Those of you who have sanded drywall can appreciate a relatively new type of tool from Porter Cable. It's a sander that can be hooked up to a Shop Vac for sanding walls and ceilings. The company says it should make sanding three or four times faster than conventional methods.

Other companies also are making versions of this tool, and the good news is that Randy has seen these tools at local tool-rental stores, so you don't have to buy your own. The Porter Cable version only weighs 8 pounds and is 62 inches long, so a 10-foot-high ceiling can be sanded from floor level.

Weck Glass Block has introduced some new product lines to that old favorite of architects everywhere. Weck is making glass block in four "Eurocolors," subtle shades of peach, green, blue and gray, and in a gold toner.

Weck is also producing an aluminum frame system to make glass block easier to install. We have used glass block, and it was expensive to have even a relatively small window made. The Weck system may save time and money and allow some flexible, do-it-yourself installations. With a beautiful glass-block window, you may not even notice that it is snowing outside on the day before the first day of spring.

Randy Johnson is a Baltimore home-improvement contractor. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail us at homeworlark.net, or write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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