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Escape Hatch

May 08, 1999

Doorway to the Stars

Skylights can turn dark spaces into bright, sun-filled rooms, but most don't provide egress in an emergency. The Roto Frank of America Roof Door (about $440) changes that.

This skylight opens from the side like a door and meets building-code egress requirements for emergency exits. The unit (29 1/4 by 46 1/2 inches) can be opened completely or in two ventilating positions and comes in either right- or left-opening options.

Laminated, low-e, argon-filled glass comes standard on the window, which is covered by a lifetime guarantee. Roto Frank of America, (800) 243-0893.

Tougher Turf

A trickle-down product from commercial landscaping, PermaTurf Lawn Panels provide a solid foundation for grassy areas subject to erosion or heavy traffic. That makes them a great choice for walkways, driveways and parking areas, as well as on patios.

Grass growing in the rigid-plastic honeycomb cells can support very heavy loads (up to 100 tons per square yard) without rutting--even in wet conditions. When laid over a prepared base, the porous system absorbs surface water and promotes drainage.

The 13-by-13-inch panels are available in boxes of 10 (about $30 per box), which covers 10 square feet of ground. The panels snap together for easy installation. Once they're filled with topsoil and seeded, and the healthy grass fills in, the panels are invisible. PermaTurf, (800) 498-4116;

Cutting Corners

Finishing drywall corners with joint compound and paper tape is a time-consuming, messy chore. Now there's a neater, easier way to achieve straight, smooth corners in half the time: UltraFlex Prefinished Drywall Corner ($50 for a 100-foot roll) is a 4-inch-wide paper tape bonded to a plastic membrane.

The tough, thin membrane is hinged to conform to inside and outside corners of any angle. And, because UltraFlex is prefinished, it requires much less joint compound to conceal it. As a result, the corner dries in hours, not days.

You can even use UltraFlex on outside wall corners instead of metal corner bead, which can help eliminate nail pops and ugly dents. Grabber Industries, (888) 662-6281.

Reprinted from the pages of Today's Homeowner magazine. To receive more expert advice on improving your home, call (800) 456-6369 or visit the Web site at

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