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An around-the-garage roundup

BY HBSDealer Staff

For this month’s roundup, HCN took exit 10 off the Turnpike for a visit to Ken’s New Jersey Garage, the setting of the fastest new product show on the Internet. But take your time reviewing this month’s products in print.

Bosch Daredevil framing blade
Designed to satisfy the framer who appreciates fast, clean cuts, the Bosch Daredevil circular saw framing blades combine the benefits of thin-kerf blades with an extra-hard steel play. Hence the slogan: Starts sharper, stays sharper. Micrograin carbide teeth resist impact damage. The growing Daredevil family also includes spade and auger bits. A 10-in. and 12-in. blade are coming in early 2012. The Daredevil sells for about $10. The 7 ¼-in. blade shown here sells for about $10. (boschtools.com)

Johnny Jolter plunger
From K-CO Products, the Johnny Jolter Professional Plunger draws water into its large chamber, allowing the plunger arm to work its brand of magic. The 3-step value proposition is very clear on its packaging: one push, no mess, toilet clear. It even disassembles for easy cleaning. The made-in-the-USA product sells for about $30.
(kco-innovations.com)

Coast HP7 LED Flashlight
Flashlights continue to get better and brighter. Here’s a particularly bright new product from Portland, Ore.-based Coast Products. The 5.5-in. aluminum casing projects 251 lumens of light with a beam distance of 643 ft. in high mode. But it’s not only bright; the HP7 has a Pure Beam Focusing System and Fingertip Speed Focus Control. By moving the front bezel back and forth, the user controls the breadth of the beam from spotlight to wide angle. It comes with four AAA batteries and sells for about $50. (coastportland.com)

Irwin Torpedo Level
Irwin’s 250 Series Magnetic Torpedo Level has more than a few handy features, starting with rare earth magnets allowing for hands-free steel construction work. A cutaway section along the edge allows a clear view into the vial when the level is in the plumb position. In addition, a handy yellow button pops out to provide a reading for quarter-inch-per-foot drainage inclines. The 9-in. tool sells for about $25. (irwin.com)

Channellock 18 ‘N 1 Screwdriver
Packaged with eight double-sided drill bits that are stored in a compartment in the handle of the screwdriver, this hand tool has a high-torque grip bolstered by a ratcheting-action handle. The screwdriver comes equipped with slotted Phillips, Torx, hex and nutdriver bits — 18 different sizes total (some bit heads perform double duty). The Code Blue 18 ‘N 1 with the distinctive red and Chanellock Blue handle sells for about $19. (channellock.com)


Grime Boss hand cleaning wipes
Here’s a product for every garage — Grime Boss Heavy Duty Hand Cleaning Wipes. The active ingredient is a moisturizing formula known as Pro-Klean. Not just a wet paper towel, the Grime Boss is designed with a tough scrubbing side that removes stuck-on residue and a smooth gentle side for cleaning hands and arms. The “2 in 1 Action Scrub” is tough enough for the big messes, and it also smells of citrus. The resealable package shown here has 10 wipes. A package of 10 10-packs sells for about $20. (grimeboss.com)

Loctite Ultra Gel Control Super Glue
Some super glues have a tendency to drip all over the place, including on the fingers. But Loctite’s Ultra Gel Control Super Glue’s no-drip gel formula combined with the “Control” applicator brings ease-of-use to new heights in this category. The formula includes the impact resistance of pure rubber to provide a more durable bond, according to the company. The Henkel product sells for about $4 for a 4-gram bottle. (loctiteproducts.com)

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2012: Is the home improvement glass half full or half empty?

BY Fred Miller

There is an old curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Unfortunately for the economy, the last several years have been “interesting times.” Home improvement has weathered this storm better than some areas (notably new-home construction), but the industry has clearly been impacted. Twice a year the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) publishes a detailed size-of-market forecast for home improvement product sales. A review of historical data spanning the period 1977 to 2007 shows only two years when the home improvement market declined. That was in 1982 with a 0.2% drop and 1991 with a 4.5% decline. That is one impressive track record! Well, the economy along with the housing crisis hit the industry in an unprecedented way. The market shrunk for three straight years (2007 to 2009) with a peak-to-trough decline of 15.5%.

The home improvement industry started its rebuilding in 2010 with a 2.3% growth, and it continued into 2011 with an estimated 2.8% gain. So from the low point in 2009, the industry will be up more than 5.0% over two years.

Consistent with the HIRI estimate for 2011 is the trend of retail sales for building material and supply dealers (NAICS 4441). For the most recent 12 months, ending in October, this grouping of retailers was up 4.0% over a year ago. The most recent month was even stronger at +6.1%.

So 2011 has been a reasonably good year, but what is the outlook for 2012? In short, it is cautiously optimistic. HIRI’s forecast done in September is for a 4.0% gain. While, the most current data that feeds HIRI’s forecasting model are somewhat weaker, growth is still expected. Areas of concern are the weak income growth and the destabilizing possibilities of the European debt crisis.

What is the outlook from the consumer? Overall consumer confidence has been rising recently, but how do they feel about home improvement? Monthly, HIRI conducts a survey regarding consumer plans for home improvement activity. The following chart has data through December 2011 and shows one of the measures from this monthly study — planned project incidence among homeowners. This measures the percent of homeowners planning to do one or more projects over the next three months.

Very noticeable in the graph is the seasonality in planning projects. As we exit the winter, outdoor projects become very popular. This increases the proportion of homeowners planning to do projects. The peak in planning comes in April, and then the level declines slowly, reaching a low in December.

After declines in 2009 and 2010, the level of project planning stabilized in 2011 with some months even showing growth. Since January, the project planning incidence for homeowners has been positive or just slightly below the previous year. This is true for our most recent month of data, December 2011, which showed 1.4% growth from the prior year. So it seems likely that the bottom has been found and 2012 may offer growth.

Beyond these numbers, there are several other factors that can drive growth in 2012:

• Consumers remain very pessimistic that this is a good time to sell their homes. So, homeowners are likely to think less about moving and more about improving their existing homes.

• Bigger-ticket, more discretionary projects have taken the biggest hit. Should the economy demonstrate improvement, there has to be pent-up demand for home improvement projects that were deferred over the last few years.

• Household size has been growing with multiple generations living together. The decline in homeownership rates reflects this trend. People losing their homes to foreclosure is a key driver in building average household size. The pressure of additional people in the same household can create home improvement needs.

So 2012 has the makings of a good year for the home improvement industry. Consumer attitudes are stable, and a variety of factors could contribute to growth. Major risks still exist, but this could be a good time to start feeling that the glass is half full.

A 24-year industry veteran, Fred Miller is the managing director of the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI). He can be reached at [email protected].

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KPT drywall lawsuit settled

BY HBSDealer Staff

A landmark settlement in toxic drywall cases was reached last month, one that may bring relief to thousands of homeowners and put an end to hundreds of state and federal cases filed against insulation manufacturers. 

Judge Eldon Fallon, United States District Court in New Orleans, presided over a consolidation of cases involving Chinese imported drywall that homeowners claimed have created a toxic atmosphere in their homes. Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) and Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin (KPT) jointly agreed on terms that will put an end to all future litigation against Knauf and its subsidiaries.

The settlement is intended to cover all plaintiffs in the drywall litigations in both federal and state court whose homes or businesses have KPT drywall. Approximately 5,200 plaintiffs have specifically alleged that their homes contain KPT drywall; of these, some 2,700 have submitted in some form evidence of the presence of KPT drywall. Plaintiffs include homeowners, commercial owners and tenants, among others.

The Remediation Fund has three options:

Program Contractor Remediation Option: The Program Remediation Option provides the class member with the convenience of having Moss & Associates, who has been approved by the PSC and the Knauf defendants, remediate the class member’s property.

For more information on the drywall remediation program, visit mosscm.com/drywall.

Self-Remediation Option: The Self-Remediation Option provides the class member with the choice to select his or her own qualified contractor to remediate the property

Cash-Out Option: The Cash-Out Option provides a cash payment with no obligation to remediate the property, but the amount of cash will be less than the amount that would be expended under the two remediation options. In addition, the homeowner must take steps to assure, among other things, notice to subsequent purchasers of the presence of KPT drywall.

The scope of the remediation repair will cover all affected drywall, and with limited exceptions, unaffected drywall, will be removed from the home and replaced with domestic drywall; the electrical wiring, smoke alarms, fire alarms, and other safety systems will be replaced; and the parties have agreed on a protocol for replacement of built-in appliances, such as refrigerators and microwaves.

A stipend will cover the costs of moving and storage during the remediation, and help pay for damaged personal appliances.

Stephen Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University Law School and an expert in mass tort settlements, reviewed the settlement terms, stating that “the settlement is a very creative solution to a very complex problem.” He added: “The plaintiffs received complete remediation — all costs covered — with no reduction in plaintiffs’ recovery for attorneys’ fees or costs. It is unlikely that plaintiffs will do better in separate litigation. It is, in short, a settlement that appears fair, comprehensive and just.” 

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