Best New Tools and Building Products for Pros
Get the inside scoop on the latest, greatest construction products
Professional contractors know the importance of keeping up on the latest homebuilding tools, materials, and products—but who's got time for that? We do! As editors at This Old House, we've been busy this past year scouring trade shows, calling on manufacturers, seeking out garage inventors, and cultivating relationships with countless product managers and engineers to get the inside scoop on the latest, greatest construction products.
The dozen selections on the following pages will help you work smarter and faster—and maybe even keep you one step ahead of the competition. But time is money, so start clicking!
Uponor Radiant Ready 30E Radiant mechanical room
This well-engineered product is a complete radiant-heat mechanical room built into a compact box, eliminating the tedious piecemeal approach to installation. The preassembled system contains a 30,000 BTU/hour/per-square-foot electric boiler, a heating manifold, a water pump, an expansion tank, a pressure-relief valve, a thermostat, and an air vent. The product is designed to cover up to 2,000 square feet of radiant-floor heating based on 15 BTU/hour/per square foot. Additional loops can be added to its standard five-loop manifold. Once it's mounted to the wall, all the installer needs to do is connect the tubing, thermostat, and electricity.
About $5,000—$6,000; Uponor
Paslode TetraGrip Subfloor Fastening System
Reduce the incidence of squeaky floors—and costly callbacks—with this specially designed pneumatic coil nailing system. It fires a radical new nail, called TetraGrip, whose 2⅜-inch barbed, threaded shaft twists as it's driven, providing superior hold-down force. The upshot? A fastener you can drive as quickly as a nail that provides the fierce gripping power of a 2-inch floor screw. The Paslode PF237C pneumatic nailer holds a coil of 120 TetraGrip fasteners.
Ascendings Contemporary Stair Systems
These striking, custom-built staircases are unlike any standard stairs we've seen. There are no stringers, for starters. Instead, the treads fit between unique riser blocks cut from 1¼-inch-thick aluminum, and the assemblage is bolted together with compression spacers. The system works by transferring the load from one aluminum riser to the next without putting undue stress on the treads, creating steps that appear to float from one floor to the next without any means of support. Ascendings can custom build staircases for the trickiest of locations, including angled and curved ones. The treads are typically made of wood or metal, but the company is looking into a glass option. Railings can be fabricated from stainless-steel rods, wood, or taut cables.
About $35,000 for straight, 13-step staircase; Ascendings
Bosch GTS1031 10 inch Worksite Table Saw
Bosch, renowned for producing heavy-duty, professional-grade portable power tools, recently introduced this portably compact 10-inch table saw specifically designed to survive the harsh conditions of job sites. But its steel roll cage serves another purpose: This is the first job-site table saw designed to be carried with just one hand. When collapsed to its smallest dimension, the 52-pound saw measures just 13 by 22½ by 22½ inches. (A folding-saw stand is sold separately for $80.) The saw is powered by a four-horsepower, 15-amp motor, and features a depth-of-cut capacity of 3⅛ inch and a rip-cut capacity of 18 inches.
About $400; Bosch Tools
Lutron Sivoia QS Venetian Blinds With Intelligent Tilt Alignment
With this blinds system, which comes with a remote-control device, homeowners can effortlessly raise and lower their Lutron-brand electronic window blinds and even tilt the slats for the desired amount of daylight or privacy. No cords to tug or wands to twist. The handheld device offers total control, including presets that automatically adjust the blinds to a predetermined height and tilt angle. Available in more than 50 different hardwood colors and 14 painted aluminum styles.
From $1,000 for aluminum blinds, $2,000 for stained-wood blinds, $3,000 for premium-wood blinds; Lutron
Bona Recoat System
Hardwood floors that haven't been properly maintained will often require total refinishing, including the time-consuming, messy step of sanding down to bare wood. Depending on the state of the floor, Bona Recoat now has a better option, which happens in three steps:
1) Apply Bona Remover to loosen and remove contaminants from the surface.
2) Use Bona Rinse to thoroughly clean the floor and prep it for the topcoat finish.
3) Refortify the floor by applying Bona Traffic wood finish.
The company says this will effectively fill surface scratches, restore the sheen and luster to the floor, and create a durable, protective wear layer. It says something that this is the only recoat system in the industry guaranteed to adhere to the floor when properly applied.
About $1.25—to $2 per square foot; Bona
Bostitch LPF-21PL Low-Profile Pneumatic Framing Nailer
This angled framing nailer features a low-profile housing just 12 inches tall, allowing it to fit into spaces most pneumatic nailers can't—like in between tightly spaced joists, studs, and rafters. It weighs only 7.6 pounds, thanks to its lightweight aluminum housing, yet it's powerful enough to drive nails into the densest engineered lumber, including laminated veneer lumber (LVL). A selectable trigger makes it easy to switch from one-at-a-time sequential firing to rapid-bump firing. The gun accepts 21-degree plastic-collated nail strips. The LPF-21PL is ideal for framing houses, nailing up sheathing, and building decks, and for workers in the manufactured housing industry.
About $240; Bostitch
Makita LXDT01 18-volt impact driver
Pure, unadulterated screw-driving power just got even more powerful, thanks to this new 18-volt lithium-ion impact driver. Featuring a super-efficient brushless motor that extends battery life by 20 percent, it also has a smooth-operating three-speed transmission that allows you to select the precise amount of torque, ranging from 220 in-lb up to an impressive 1,460 in-lb. It weighs just 3.3 pounds and comes with two 18-volt lithium-ion batteries, a 30-minute charger, a belt clip, and a storage case.
About $350; $170 without batteries and charger; Makita
Weyerhaeuser Javelin Design Software
When you're ready to upgrade your home-design software, consider this sophisticated lumber-sizing program that was originally designed for commercial lumber dealers and architects. Javelin provides a fast, easy, and extremely accurate way to specify engineered lumber and sawn lumber for new construction and remodeling projects. You can easily convert basic blueprints into detailed plans showing the precise location and size of every header, wall stud, roof rafter, and floor and ceiling joist. The 3-D modeling software also tracks vertical loads, ensuring that right-sized lumber is used to support the structure. Javelin is part of the Modus Suite, which includes Forte single-member sizing software, Stellar fabrication software, and Estima specification services.
Subscription basis: $2,400 per year; Weyerhaeuser
Emglo EM810-4M 4-Gallon dolly-style stacked-tank air compressor
A compact, stacked-tank compressor powerful enough to simultaneously run four pneumatic trim nailers, two framing nailers, two roofing nailers, or two flooring nailers is impressive in its own right—it's also from a company that's been designing and manufacturing quality industrial air compressors for the construction trades for nearly 60 years. We love the fact that the unit comes with an attached two-wheel dolly and extendable handle, so you can roll the compressor right through a minefield of construction debris and even up and down stairs. It has a four-gallon tank, an oil-lubricated pump with cast-iron cylinders, 125 maximum air-pressure output, dual soft-start valves for quick start-up in cold weather, a sight-glass vial for easily checking the oil level, a universal push-to-connect coupler for hassle-free hose attachment, and a quick-turn ball-drain valve that provides a fast way to drain condensation from the tank.
About $350; $260 without the dolly; Emglo
DeWalt ToughSystem tool storage dolly
This system consists of four well-thought-out components: three modular toolboxes and one wheeled carrier. What we really appreciate is that the components are sold separately, so you can buy as many boxes as you'd like in whichever sizes suit your needs. Made of impact-resistant structural foam, the tough toolboxes stack neatly on each other and also secure individually to the dolly on foldout arms, so you can cart one, two, or three boxes at once. A watertight seal on the lids blocks out water and grit, and the boxes lock onto the rugged wheeled carrier, which can support up to 260 pounds. The arms for the boxes fold down, so you can use the carrier as a hand truck to move supplies and materials, such as cement bags, concrete block, and joint-compound buckets.
Small toolbox: About $50; Medium toolbox: About $60; Large toolbox: About $70; Wheeled carrier: About $190; DeWalt
Milwaukee M12 ProPEX expansion tool
Finally, an extremely fast, precise way to make watertight connections in cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) tubing. Designed specifically for use with Uponor ProPEX tubing, this new tool features a compact right-angle auto-rotating head that fits into extremely tight spaces. We like the large paddle switch that allows easy one-handed operation—nice for working in tight spaces. Powered by a 12-volt lithium-ion battery, the tool can accommodate tubing from ⅜ inch to 1 inch in diameter. It comes with two batteries, a charger, lubricating grease, a storage case, and three expansion heads: ½ inch, ¾ inch, and 1 inch. Expansion heads are also available for ⅜-inch and ⅝-inch tubing.
About $400; Milwaukee Tools