Tools & Materials
Best New Products From the 2019 International Builder Show
Sleek Solar Shingles
Let’s face it—solar panels on the roof of a home are ugly. There are a couple products on the market that make the panels less conspicuous, but the prices on those options are considerable higher than the traditional boxy-looking solar panels. If you or your customer wants to go solar but are restrained by a budget and turned off by the appearance of most solar products, then RGS might have the solution. Their Powerhouse In-Roof Solar Shingles are installed right on the roof decking in place of, rather than over, regular shingles, so they don’t stand up awkwardly proud of the surrounding roofing. RGS estimates that their product will add about $20,000 (after govt. tax incentives) to the cost of replacing a 20-sq. roof. That may still sound like a lot of money, but it’s almost HALF the cost of similar alternatives. Find out more about RGS Powerhouse In-Roof Solar Shingles here.
Do you love the look of hand-split shake siding, but don’t want to deal with the cupping, algae, and woodpeckers that go along with them? DaVinci Roofscapes has been making composite shakes and slate roofing for 20 years. They now are offering shake siding which uses the same technology. There are a lot of shake siding products on the market, but it’s unlikely you will find more realistic looking shakes than these made by DaVinci.
Super Dry Dishes
How many of you have noticed that dishes dry a heck-of-a-lot faster if you crack the door open after a cycle has finished? Bosch obviously did because their new 500 Series dishwashers will be available later in 2019 with a new AutoAir technology. This automatic door feature slightly opens the dishwasher door after the final drying cycle to release moisture and circulate fresh air. When the AutoAir function activates, a Steam Guard keeps countertops unharmed. Now that’s smart!
Large Opening Solution
For your next build or remodel, consider this cool privacy solution for large openings. Johnson Hardware offers a pocket hardware kit that allows you to hide away two doors side by side. When you pull one door all the way out, it grabs hold of the other and drags that along as well. If you install this two-door bypass kit on either side of the opening, you can conquer a huge opening. Check out their website for more info.
Kohler Continuous Clean
Did you know that those bleach or cleaning tablets you drop in a tank wreak havoc on the guts of a toilet? They can deteriorate rubber gaskets and other important parts. Kohler has a solution called ContinousClean. Instead of dropping the cleaning tablets into the tank, you drop them into the ContinuousClean reservoir, which dispenses the cleaner only when it’s needed, which drastically reduces how often you need to replace them. Also, it dumps the cleaner saturated water directly into the bowl, bypassing the parts that could be damaged. Right now it’s only available on a couple of Kohler’s toilet collections.
Somewhere along the line it became standard that the only size of decking available to mankind, from now until eternity, had to be six inches wide. Apparently TimberTech did not get the memo, because the AZEK Vintage Collection now offers decking that is four, six, and eight inches wide (technically 3-1/2, 5-1/2 & 7-1/4). When you see your first deck built with these varying-width boards it will absolutely stand out and look amazing, simply because it’s so unlike what we’ve been used to since the dawn of time, (well, for a long time anyway). This was really a, “Duh, why didn’t someone think of this earlier,” moment. Way to go, TimberTech!
Safe & Sound…and Smart
Everyone and their grandmother makes a smart home device. Some make more sense than others. Here’s one that makes all sorts of sense. It’s made by BRK, the same folks that make First Alert smoke and CO detectors. And that’s exactly what the Onelink Safe & Sound device is; it’s a smoke and CO detector, but its also a smart device that’s compatible with Alexa and other virtual assistants. It also has a quality speaker, so you can listen to music anywhere one of these devices is located. And that’s the beauty of the whole system! Your need smoke and CO detectors all over the house anyway, so why not make a couple/few of them more helpful. All the detectors installed in homes built after 1992 had to be hardwired. That means there are no batteries to mess around with. BRK is going to sell a ton of these. They cost around $200, and you can get yours right here.
One Paint For Many Surfaces
Got some vinyl siding that is faded and chalky but otherwise in good shape? Why not paint it? ZAR has just introduced an Exterior Urethane Finish that adheres to all sorts of surfaces including fiber cement, panel and lap siding, vinyl, and doors made of fiberglass and steel. Not only does it stick to just about anything, it also dries in just 15 minutes! That’s a huge deal when painting outdoors with one eye fixed on the sky. Find out more here.
CAMO has come up with a super-fast hidden deck fastening system called EdgeClip. It’s designed to be used with grooved deck boards. It has little legs that straddle the joist, so you don’t have to hold them in place while you fasten them down. Another thing you don’t have to do is fuss with the screws because they’re already in the clips ready to go. And one more thing you don’t have to do is fumble around trying to line up the drill bit with the screw head because every box of fasteners comes with a Never-Miss Guide which funnels the bit right onto the fastener head for a perfect alignment every time. CAMO also just released the CAMO DRIVE drill extension, so you don’t have to bend over to secure EdgeClips. CAMO DRIVE works on other fastening systems as well. When using both the CAMO DRIVE and EdgeClip products, you can actually install the fasteners on a bunch of boards, and then screw them all down at the same time while standing up. That’s great news for your back. CAMO makes a similar clip for angled decking called EdgeXClip. A container with 90 EdgeClips costs about $ 39.95. Find a dealer at the CAMO website, and check out their great video as well.
Fabric Footing Form (Fab-Form)
Okay, this product has been around for a while now, but this is the first time we’ve seen it. It’s a fabric footing system that has some compelling advantages:
- 100 times lighter
- Cuts way back on the amount of dimensional lumber needed
- Prevents ground contamination
- Adapts to uneven ground
- Prevents ground moisture from wicking up into the concrete
- Slows down cure process leading to stronger concrete
Find out more about this unique product here.
LP Fencing (Elements)
LP SmartSide has been around long enough now to have earned its reputation as a durable, long-lasting, easy-to-work-with, exterior building solution. Now LP has jumped into the Fencing space with its Elements Performance Fencing. LP engineered products are more durable than natural wood and vinyl, won’t bend, warp or twist, and requires no special tools to install. Plus, it’s engineered and tested to hold up under hurricane winds up to 130 mph, while also withstanding decay, termites, hail and other small projectiles. Keep an eye out for more information on LP Elements Performance Fencing later in 2019.
Wall and floor vents in modern homes have been pretty much the same for a while now, so it was only a matter of time before someone came along with an innovative new design. One of those someones is Aria Custom Vent Solutions, a company that has developed wall and floor vents with a minimal, simplistic design. The low-profile appearance of these vents looks great, and they can be used along with pretty much any building material. For more information and to learn where you can buy Aria Vent’s for your next home build or remodel, click here.
Amazon and LiftMaster partner for in-garage delivery
Chamberlain, the company behind LiftMaster, is teaming up with Amazon to create “Key for Garage,” an app that will allow an Amazon delivery person to actually open your garage door so they can place your packages in the garage away from potential thieves and nosy neighbors. You receive a notice when the door has been opened and another when it’s closed. If this concept makes you nervous, you can get an optional Amazon Cloud Cam, to help you keep an eye on things. Click here for more information.
Brilliant Wall Switches
As smart home applications become more and more commonplace, it’s increasingly important for contractors and home builders who want to offer their customers the latest innovations to stay on top of tech trends and innovations. One such innovation is the Brilliant Smart Home Control, a one-stop command center for all smart-home devices and appliances. Tons of companies are now producing smart products, and keeping track of all the different applications that control them all can get complicated. Brilliant’s Smart Home Control simplifies all of that by connecting to all of the applications and bringing them together into one control panel. It installs in minutes (in place of an existing light switch) and requires no additional hubs, wires, battery packs or programming. Once installed, the Smart Home Control’s touch screen can control lights, music, locks, thermostats, and more of the ever-growing list of smart home products. Plus, it has Amazon Alexa built in and all of the features that smart home technology brings with it. The Brilliant Smart Home Control base model is available now starting at $299. For more information, click here.
When shopping for composite or engineered decking material, most people are only concerned with how the decking looks, what it costs, and how long it will last. Not enough people consider heat. When exposed to full sunlight, engineered and composite decking can get very, very hot. And the darker the color, the hotter it gets.
MoistureShield has addressed this toasty issue with their CoolDeck composite decking that they claim keeps deck boards up to 35% cooler on blazing hot summer days. In addition to comfort, cooler decking doesn’t expand as much, which makes it less susceptible to deflection that can lead to dips, bows and an all-around wavy deck. Excessive expansion and contraction can also lead to large unseemly gaps.
So if you’re shopping for composite decking, you might want to check out MoistureShield. It would be kind of a disaster if you built a deck that your dog couldn’t take a nap on or your kids couldn’t walk on with bare feet.
We’ve talked about OLFA utility knives before because we are fans. OLFA knives are well-made and dependable, with a sleek design and blades that get the job done. OLFA’s newest line of MXP Series Die-Cast Aluminum utility knives share all the same great characteristics of earlier models, now built into an extra-durable aluminum body. Each die-cast aluminum handle is just one, uniform piece, making them sturdy and tough enough to hold up in the harshest job site conditions. There are two versions of this new utility knife: the MXP-AL, which features an auto-locking mechanism so that the blade extends to the perfect length every time, and the MXP-L, which has the classic ratchet locking mechanism shared by other OLFA knives. Both of these knives are available now for around $17.
Keep reading for a recap of the best tools from the 2018 International Builders Show
LP Long Panels
LP just introduced a new cedar textured SmartSide Panel. It has no grooves and is intended for use on board & batten projects. The stand-out feature is the size, 16-ft. x 16-in. The advantages of longer panels are obvious: less conspicuous horizontal seams on the wall. Of course you may need an extra set of hands to handle these beasts on a super windy day. Ask your lumberyard about the LP 38 Series Vertical Siding or find out more here.
Tubing cutter twofer
Ridgid was showing off it’s new C-style close-quarter tubing cutter that slices through both 1/2-in. and 3/4-in. tubing, which means one less tool to carry and fumble around for. The cutting wheel is spring loaded so it needs no adjustment as you spin the cutter, and the outside surface has screwdriver slots for getting leverage in tight spaces. The 1/2 – 3/4 Rigid tubing cutter costs $32 and is available at plumbing supply stores and online retailers.
That’s one tough corner
Patching a hole in drywall is not a big deal. Patching a dent in a drywall corner usually means replacing the corner bead—that IS a big deal. CertainTeed has a new tough drywall corner called NO-Coat that stands up to some serious abuse. The corners are a three layer sandwich: the bottom layer is joint tape; the center is a high-strength copolymer plastic, and the top is a surface paper designed to resist scratches and abrasions. At the CertainTeed booth, one gal demonstrated the toughness by whacking corners with a small wooden bat. The paint on the corner showed the impact, but the corner held up great. The NO-Coat corners are applied with joint/taping compound and come in various lengths and profiles.
There was a big crowd, rocking music, and a lot of excitement over the Extreme Post-it Notes at the 3M booth. Apparently these things stick to wood, hot stuff, cold stuff, wet stuff, brick, metal, plastic pipes, ladders, stair treads, flooring, the side of a truck, copper, tools, siding, co-workers, concrete, tile, drywall, asphalt, house wrap, light fixtures, switches, cabinets, leather belts, windows…well, you get the idea. Post-it Extreme Notes will be available at major retailers beginning in March 2018.
German style building blocks
A newcomer to the show was Comfort Block, which is manufactured by Genest, a company that has been creating masonry products since 1927. The 16-in. insulated blocks are similar to products popular in Germany. Comfort Block is a wall system that delivers up to an R-30. Each block is precision ground to achieve a uniform size, which means that if the first row is level and plumb, each addition row will stay level and plumb. They are so uniform, in fact, that they can be stacked using masonry adhesive instead of mortar! The lintels for openings are made of precast concrete. The blocks have built-in conduits for running wires vertically. The exterior walls are ready for stucco, and the interior walls are perfect for a skim coat of plaster. Find out more at comfortblock.com.
New kid on the block
There is now one more choice when shopping for an electrical service panel. Leviton has jumped into the game with its Leviton Load Center. Here are some of the noteworthy features:
- All branch wires terminate at custom lugs in the panel
- Making wiring easier and neater
- Eliminating the need for pigtails
- Entire panel can be terminated at rough-in
- Switching out branch circuit breakers requires no rewiring
- LED indicators remain lit, even when tripped
- It’s the only true power denial circuit breakers (Other AFCI and GFCI breakers, under the right/wrong condition, can be reset but not provide protection)
- Easy install—more room for hands on either side
- Optional glass front
In addition to all these benefits, the new Leviton Load Center just plain looks cool!
Cortex just put the “fast” in its fasteners
Many, maybe most, of the deck builders we talk to absolutely love the Cortex Hidden Fastening System. The system is strong, won’t void warrantees, and looks fantastic (or it would if you could actually see it). But the love affair isn’t without its drama. Unanimously, installers hate dropping the tiny plugs, or having them roll and get stuck between the cracks. They don’t enjoy trying to match up the grain, or appreciate bludgeoning their fingers over and over. But what they complained about most was the fussy process itself and how much time it took. It’s amazing that a plastic strip could solve all those problems. Cortex is now available in corrugated strips! Let’s all shout out a collective: “YAY!”
Control your dust with… magnets
Keeping the mess contained is one of the most important parts of a remodel. Zipwall has been helping us do just that for many years, but now they’ve made it even easier with their Magnetic Dust Barrier Door. It uses specially designed magnetic strips instead of zippers to create a self-closing barriers and enclosures. This means that walking through is as easy as well…walking through. No more zippers to stop and fuss with. And the system wont’ break down or lose integrity after extended use. The base package includes one 7′ 2″ x 4′ 7″ door panel, six magnetic strips, one header bar, and a carry bag for $269.99. For more information, click here.
Hassle-free ceramic drilling
Drilling into tile is sort of a three hand operation: hold the drill, spray the water, and make sure the water stays were it’s supposed to. The Aqua Shot from Miyanaga is a great solution to your ceramic drilling woes. The Aqua Shot drill bit has a built-in water tank that feeds water to the drill as you operate, making the whole process much smoother. Just load the chamber up with water, flip a switch and drill away. The Aqua Shot works with impact drivers and the individual tips can be replaced when they get worn out without having to replace the whole tool. The Aqua Shot is available online for $82.80. Click here for a video of the Aqua Shot in action.
A multimeter/infrared combo platter
The FLIR DM166 is the next must-have tool for electricians and HVAC technicians. It includes all the essential measurement features you would expect from a high-end multimeter including True RMS AC/DC voltage and current, non-contact voltage detection, VFD mode, and more. It also has a built-in thermal imager that can visually help guide you to the precise location of potential problems. At $499, the DM166 is the most affordable multimeter with built-in thermal imaging to date.
Streamlined shower installation
“Goof Proof Showers”, a product line from Mark E Industries, is a system of 8 different shower installation products designed to simplify shower installation. While each technique is not necessarily revolutionary, they combine to make the whole shower building and tile installation process much easier, less time consuming and less expensive.
Goof Proof makes the pouring shower floors with the proper drainage slope much less complicated with the Quick Pitch Float Stick System. Shower floors need to have a minimum drainage slope of 1/4 –in. per 12-in. run. Quick Pitch is a stay-in-place screeding guide system with the slope built into each 3-ft. long piece. You just layout the pieces out on the shower floor, cover with concrete and screed using the Quick Pitch pieces as your guide.
Another convenient part of the Goof Proof Shower system is the String a Level. String a Level conforms to the wall, creating a continuous, level reference for you to stack tile on as you build vertically. This gives you a quick, straight base to work off of so you can knock out tile installation in a jiff. For more info on Goof Proof Showers and to see the rest of the system, click here.
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.