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On the House

Building Products Get Big Boost From Technology

April 28, 2002|JAMES CAREY and MORRIS CAREY | ASSOCIATED PRESS

It's estimated that the average American home has 10,000 individual parts and components--and uses another thousand or so specialized glues, fasteners, caulks and sealants in the process of being built.

If you're fascinated by home construction, remodeling or improvement--especially what's new--the recent 2002 International Builders Show in Atlanta was the place to be.

Starting at the front door, technology is giving Mother Nature serious competition with products that look, act and feel like the real thing--only better. Fiberglass doors have been evolving over the last few years, steadily improving to a point where they now rival traditional wood and steel ones for beauty, strength and durability.

Today you can have the deep, rich grain of premium natural wood doors without swelling, cracking, warping and splintering. Or the smooth, sleek look of steel without the dents, dings, scratches or rust. Today's fiberglass doors offer energy efficiency, are maintenance-free and come in an array of styles and decorative glass options.

Many new products at the show focused on health and environmental features.

For example, a number of building products contain urea formaldehyde--from glues and insulation to particleboard to carpeting--and its residual fumes can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, nausea and, for some, serious skin rashes.

Johns-Manville removed formaldehyde as a "binder" in its insulation manufacturing process. Then it fully encapsulated its line of batt insulation with a 360-degree poly-film wrap to make it more installer-friendly, with less itching from airborne particles.

To make installation faster and easier, Johns-Manville also introduced batts with rows of vertical perforations every few inches--running top to bottom--so insulation easily can be pulled apart to fit narrow or nonstandard-size framing cavities, rather than requiring tedious and time-consuming hand trimming.

Usually such basic construction products as adhesives, caulks and sealants are not big trendsetters, but this year even they are changing. Ever-tightening federal regulations regarding the volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, present in all solvent-based products, which pollute indoor air and the environment, have manufacturers seriously reformulating to comply. And while they are at it, they're making these products better, stronger and longer-lasting.

Since the upgrades are too numerous to list, stop by your local hardware store or home center to see what's new--or go to the Adhesive and Sealant Council Web site (www.ascouncil.org), or visit Adhesives and Sealants Industry Online at www.adhesivemag.com.

Another area receiving a boost from technology and smart thinking is the lumber and sheathing used for everything from framing and roofing to flooring and decks. For example, Louisiana-Pacific's new TechShield radiant barrier roof sheathing is an aluminum sheet that blocks 97% of the sun's radiant heat--leaving attics up to 30 degrees cooler.

Georgia-Pacific's new G-P Plus Plywood Sturdi-I-Floor offers tongue-and-groove edges and a smooth, fully sanded face for direct application of floor-covering products.

There are many new options for deck building as well, with a wide variety of maintenance-free engineered composite materials--both for underfoot deck planking and for railings. These systems blend new technology with multiple design options for easy-to-build, long-lasting, maintenance-free decks.

For more home improvement tips and information visit www.onthehouse.com. Readers can mail questions to On the House, APNewsFeatures, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020, or e-mail Careybro@onthehouse.com.

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