Best Building Products Made in America
TOH general contractor Tom Silva shares his favorite construction materials manufactured in the United States
Q: My wife and I are planning a renovation and we'd like to use products made in America. Can you recommend any that would help us? — Daniel Sawicki, Newburyport, Mass.
A: Tom Silva replies: There are lots of great building products being made in America these days, with more and more coming out every year. Here's a list of some of the best ones I've used over the years in my business and on This Old House TV.
Simpson Door Nantucket Collection
Made in: McCleary, Wash.
This door is made of American-grown black locust or Nootka cypress and built with sturdy, pegged mortise-and-tenon joinery to withstand the nastiest of nor'easters. I think it's beautiful, too.
Classic Gutter Systems
Made in: Kalamazoo, Mich.
We put up metal half-round gutters on the Manchester TOH TV project. They go perfectly with vintage American homes and also drain faster than the flat-bottom K style.
James Hardie Hardieplank
Made in: Peru, Ill. (and other locations)
I use these cement-based clapboards all the time because they look like wood, are impervious to rot and termites, and need little upkeep. The factory paint job has a 15-year warranty.
Quikrete Concrete Mix
Made in: Grand Junction, Colo. (and other locations)
Concrete sold in sacks is an American innovation that delivers all the dry ingredients mixed in the right proportions. Just add water. It's what I use for small projects, like pouring deck footings.
Made in: Spokane, Wash. (and other locations)
My tiling contractor, Mark Ferrante, wants tiles to be consistent in size and quality. That's what Daltile delivers, along with great customer service. The company's website even specifies the town where each style is made.
Sherwin-Williams, Emerald acrylic latex
Made in: Garland, Texas
I'm amazed by how much water-based paints have improved in the past 10 years. For example, this 100 percent acrylic has a lifetime warranty against peeling; is GreenSeal compliant, for its low VOCs; and can be applied down to 35 degrees F.
Made in: Agawam, Mass.
These skinny screws are stronger than ⅜-inch lag screws, but I can easily sink them into wood with an impact driver and no-slip bit. That means I don't need to bother with pilot holes or washers.
Azek Building Products cellular PVC
Made in: Scranton, Pa.
This stuff looks, cuts, and nails just like painted pine but isn't harmed by insects, moisture, or sun. I keep an eye on the thermometer when installing this kind of trim because it grows longer in hot weather and shorter in cold weather.
Trex Transcend decking
Made in: Winchester, Va. (and other locations)
When my clients want a minimal-maintenance deck, I steer them toward capped composites with a wood-plastic core. The cap protects against dirt, stains, and mildew and cleans up with soap and water. This decking comes with a 25-year warranty against staining and fading and meets California's tough fire-resistance standards.
Grace Ice & Water Shield and Vycor
Made in: Mount Pleasant, Tenn.
This super-sticky, rubberized-asphalt membrane stops water cold. Drive a nail through it and it will ooze back around the shaft, sealing the hole. I apply Ice & Water Shield (above) on roofs; the Vycor strips protect the rough sills of windows and doors.
Benjamin Obdyke HomeSlicker
Made in: Horsham, PA.
It's just a roll of corrugated plastic mesh, but when I put it under wood siding, it creates an air gap that allows excess moisture to escape. Houses stay drier, paint lasts longer, and shingles don't curl.
Natural Stone Veneers International
Made in: fond du lac, Wis. (and other locations)
We used this New England Fieldstone, which is quarried in Pennsylvania, to cover the foundation at the Weston TOH TV project (find it at thisoldhouse.com/jul2014). Because it's real stone, every piece has a unique shape and color.
Made in: Flora, Ill.
When wood needs a little help to look its best, I'll brush or wipe on some stain to deepen its color and highlight the grain. This brush-on product, born in the U.S.A. in 1984, combines stain pigments and polyurethane in one can, making for fast finishing.
Weyerhaeuser Trus Joist
Made in: Eugene, Ore. (and other locations)
Here's another product invented in the U.S.A.: engineered wood joists. Even though they're up to 60 percent lighter than sawn lumber of the same size, they're just as stiff and won't bow, shrink, twist, or split.
Atlantic Premium Shutters Architectural Collection
Made in: Latta, S.C.
We used these shutters on the New Orleans TOH TV project (find it at thisoldhouse.com/jul2014) because they look just like painted wood. But they're actually made of fiberglass, a tough, low-maintenance material that never needs painting. And if you need to protect your windows from hurricanes, the reinforced versions meet Florida's building code.
Pella Architect Series
Made in: Shenandoah, Iowa
All the well-known window brands are making good units these days. I always tell people to go for the company's top-of-the-line wood or wood-clad models, which have thicker jambs and better detailing.
Hunt Custom Milled Wood Floors, White oak
Made in: Emlenton, Pa. (and other locations)
Quartersawn white oak is one of my favorite types of flooring. It's beautiful, with its straight grain and dramatic ray fleck. It's also more impact resistant than flatsawn wood and more stable. I'd say it's a true American classic.
USG Sheetrock Plus 3 Lightweight Joint Compound
Made in: Gypsum, Ohio (and other locations)
For convenience, you can't top this all-American invention: premixed joint compound sealed in a 5-gallon bucket. I'm a fan of this version because it weighs about 30 percent less than a regular premix and spreads and sands nicer than the heavy stuff.
Velux No Leak Skylight
Made in: Greenwood, S.C.
People love skylights for the light they let in, but they're not so excited about leaks. This one goes the extra mile to keep water out, with a redundant, multilayered flashing system that virtually eliminates the chance of water getting through. A 10-year installation warranty backs it up.
Lennox Ultimate Comfort System
Made in: Marshalltown, Iowa
To get the most comfort and savings out of a heating-and-cooling system, all the components need to communicate and work together smoothly. And that's what this system is designed to do, from the variable-speed air handler (far left), which helps hold temperatures to within 1 degree F of the set point, to the ozone-destroying air purifier (near left) to the super-efficient outdoor condenser. It's the complete package.
GAF Timberline Lifetime shingles
Made in: Michigan City, Ind. (and other locations)
I like the look of a wood or slate roof, but their cost is, well, "through the roof." These asphalt shingles have random layers of material and carefully positioned color granules that create the appearance of deep shadow lines along each course. Plus, they're guaranteed to last as long as you own your house. Can't beat that.
DAP 3.0 for kitchen, bath, and plumbing
Made in: Dallas
It's nearly as stretchy as silicone, but unlike silicone, it's paintable, doesn't leave behind a greasy residue, and has a 10-year warranty against mold. DAP also makes 3.0s for sealing cracks in driveways and around doors and windows.
Logix Insulated Concrete Forms
Made in: Johnson City, Tenn. (and other locations)
We used insulated concrete forms (ICFs) at the Auburndale TOH TV project (find it at thisoldhouse.com/jul2014). These blocks, made of lightweight foam, stack like Legos and are a snap to install. Filled with concrete (above), they're energy efficient—up to R-28—and strong. Houses built entirely with ICFs stand up to hurricanes and tornadoes.
Clopay Door Reserve Collection
Made in: Russia, Ohio
So many houses have garage doors right on the front that it makes sense to find one that looks as good as this one does. Made of western red cedar to resemble carriage-style doors, it still rolls up and down using a standard garage opener. We used one like it to dress up the Newton Shingle-style TOH TV project (find it at thisoldhouse.com/jul2014).
WindsorOne Classic American Moldings
Made in: Willits, Calif. (and other locations)
Not only are these finger-jointed pine moldings uniform, crisp, and perfectly primed, they're also historically accurate, with profiles from the colonial era and the Greek Revival and Craftsman periods.
The list of building products made in the U.S.A. is too long for these pages, but here are some of our favorites.
Cast-stone veneers: Eldorado Stone
Made in: San Marcos, Calif.
Barn-door hardware: NW Artisan Hardware
Made in: Kaysville, Utah
Construction adhesives: Loctite PL Premium
Made in: Mattawan, Mich.
Made in: Louisville, Ky.
Made in: Racine, Wis.
Entry-door hardware: Baldwin locksets
Made in: Wyomissing, Pa.
Made in: City of Industry, Calif.
Grouts and mortars: Laticrete International
Made in: Bethany, Conn.*
High-velocity HVAC: Unico System air handlers and miniducts
Made in: St. Louis
Pocket-door hardware: L.E. Johnson Products
Made in: Elkhart, Ind.
Structural connectors: Simpson Strong-Tie
Made in: Stockton, Calif.*
Switches and outlets: Leviton, Decora brand
Made in: Morganton, N.C.
Ventilation: Broan, QT Series bath fans
Made in: Hartford, Wis.
* and other locations