Best New Materials You Don't See (unless you go looking for them)
Highlighting materials and mechanical systems that help a house function at its best
Some of the best products on display at the International Builders' Show are having their one and only moment of admiration—they're the building materials that do their work behind drywall, beneath floors, or between studs. Here are a few of the things we'd like to "see" in our own houses.QuietRock is a drywall/fiber-cement sandwich with a sound-absorbing layer of visco-elastic polymer in the same place the peanut butter would be on a regular sandwich. You'd have to hang 8 layers of 5/8-inch drywall to get the equivalent sound-reducing performance of a single 5/8-inch thick panel of QuietRock 525. Quietrock is cut, installed, and finished the same as drywall, and can withstand fire as long as standard type X (fire-rated) drywall. See Quiet Solution for pricing.
Simpson Strong-Tie makes hundreds of different kinds of metal connectors for construction, but none more ubiquitous or well known as the galvanized joist hanger that strengthens deck and house framing. In a celebration of that humble little U-shaped piece of steel, Simpson created a scaled-up version for its show booth. Tall enough for this rep to pose inside it, the hanger stands displayed next to a monster nail, ready to do some useful work holding up a giant joist. Now if only a Brobdignagian hammer can be found to install it. See Simpson Strong-Tie for pricing.
Sanding joint compound is a necessary evil that generates great clouds of fine, insidious gypsum dust. USG's latest joint compound, Plus 3, tackles that problem by adding binders that encourage the dust particles to clump together and fall to the floor. That keeps the mess in one place and makes clean up easier. See USG for pricing.
Time was, the only way to soften the harsh effects of hard, calcium-laden water was to run it through a tank of salt crystals. Since all those extra sodium and chlorine ions end up polluting our bodies and the environment Sterling invented a new water de-mineralize that holds the salt. Instead, an electrically charged titanium rod inserted into the house water main changes the calcium to aragonite, which flows through the system without leaving a residue. Over time, the Sterling-softened water dissolves lime deposits inside pipes. See Sterling Water for pricing.
This HAL 9000 of residential plumbing works like a circuit-breaker panel for your pipes. It automatically shuts off water to pipes that leak or freeze up and allows remote monitoring and control of the system. Its color-coded lights and screen display make it easy to pinpoint problems. Approx. $1,000; LiquidBreaker.
Mini-split air-conditioning systems don't need no stinkin' ductwork. That's because they pump refrigerant through small diameter pipes to a blower just big enough to cool down a room or two. Daikin's heat pump is big enough to supply multiple blowers, each of which can be precisely adjusted to the desired temperature both winter and summer. Unlike most mini-split blowers, which have units the size of dashboards sticking out of walls, Daikin's units can be hidden behind unobtrusive grilles. See Daikin for pricing.
Pactiv relies on the muscular, green-garbed Rain Drop Man to promote its new Green Guard house wrap, a woven plastic house wrap with high tear strength and vapor permeance. What makes this Green Guard different from the original Green Guard are the vertical lines of green plastic, designed to encourage the water that can collect behind the siding to drip down and drain away, before it causes any problems. See Pactiv for pricing.
On the playground, a shiner is a black eye that messes up a face. To a painter, a shiner is a glistening line of caulk that messes up a freshly painted wall. GE's new Infinity caulk, a water-based acrylic urethane, won't shine through a coat of paint, so you can spend less time painting and more time admiring your work. Approx. $5 per 10-ounce tube; GE.
Quick Qurve's segmented oval plates swivel like toy snake, making it easy to frame curved walls, ceilings, soffits, or alcoves. You pivot the interlocking pieces by hand, secure them with conventional framing nails, and then add studs to make a non-load-bearing wall. Approx. $5 per linear foot; Flex-Ability Concepts.