Labor of Luxe: High-end items for the well-heeled market
The home improvement retailing and building materials industry fared much like the rest of the country during the recession years — with the exception of those at the very top of the chain, everyone felt the squeeze. In other words, high-end customers are still looking for high-end items, with everyone else placing a high premium on value and price. Backing up that claim is a recent Harris Poll EquiTrend survey, which found that luxury brands received a nice boost in brand equity over the past year and typically fared better than their middle-of-the-road counterparts. Sources in the industry told HCN editors a similar story. With appeal remaining strong for luxury goods, here’s a quick snapshot of this relatively stable (and visually pleasing) segment.
Diamond Spas Ellipse Soaking Tub
For customers with an industrial chic design profile, this copper and stainless steel bath from Diamond Spas can be custom-sized with a flat or bowed-top ledge to fit any space requirement.
Mediterranea ICE Porcelain Tile Series
In partnership with Serenissima, an Italian-based manufacturing plant that recently announced a major factory renovation, Mediterranea has been cranking out these sleek, innovative porcelain tiles for the U.S. market and expects further growth in the years to come.
Fairway BP Standard Vinyl Railing
This vinyl railing, in special-order khaki with Square balusters, makes for a high-end option among those who place a premium on customization. Luxury customers are keen on highly individualized, distinctive products, and a custom order for this very large home means high dollar sales.
IndusParquet Wood Wall Tile
Who says walls can’t get the luxury hardwood treatment? IndusParquet, a manufacturer of Brazilian hardwood flooring, offers a wood wall tile made from 100% recycled exotic hardwood end pieces.
Every year, select brands in the home improvement and building product distribution channel are recognized for the value they bring to the industry. Accolades range from prestigious awards — including HCN’s own Golden Hammer and David Weekley’s coveted “A,A” Partner of Choice — to recognition in the press or high-profile events like the National Hardware Show. In honor of all of 2013’s high performers, here are some that are representative of this year’s batch of overachievers.
Rheem Prestige Series Condensing Tankless Water Heater
Rheem: David Weekley Partner of Choice
The heating and cooling systems manufacturer was one of this year’s newest “A,A” ranking entrants, earning an “A” for both quality and service. Rheem’s tank-type and tankless water heaters crank up the energy-efficiency standards of David Weekley’s EnergySaver homes.
RBPT’s “Awesome Products Made in the USA”
Locally made, environmentally responsible and aesthetically pleasing, Fireclay Tile was named one of Residential Building Products & Technology’s “Awesome Products Made in the USA.” The company’s products are often made from recycled materials and are handmade in San Jose, Calif.
WomenCertified Women’s Choice Awards
The universal appeal of GAF’s residential and commercial roofing products was certainly appreciated by its female customers in 2013. GAF’s client-centric business model means more attention to customers, a leading value proposition for WomenCertified.
Apex Tool Group
An Ace Hardware “Vendor of the Year”
Apex Tool Group, based in Sparks, Md., was one of seven vendors to receive a vendor award from Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware for commitment and service during its 2013 Spring Convention in New Orleans. Representative of the company’s products is the Crescent X6 seven-piece combination wrench set with “Rapid Ratcheting” action. The packaging hammers home the functionality.
Best Product Launch Awards, Gold Award
The National Hardware Show is typically a prominent venue for new product launches, but it seems like the Grillbot was everyone’s darling this year. The automatic grill-cleaning robot — an R2D2 for the grill, as some say — wowed viewers with its innovative ease of use.
Golden Hammer Award, Plumbing Fashion and Fixtures
Moen has memorably positioned itself as the faucet one buys for looks (and life). This savvy branding didn’t fall on deaf ears at the 2013 National Hardware Show, where Moen received a Golden Hammer Award for its design and lasting value.
When it comes to specifying insulation, the type of product isn’t really an issue as far as the building codes are concerned. The codes don’t really care.
Go to any website that shows required insulation levels by Climate Zone, and you won’t find recommendations for foam over batts, or batts over cellulose. Instead, you’ll see target R-values. It’s the builder’s job to select the materials to hit that target, balancing budgets with preferences.
Foam offers superior penetration, air sealing and labor savings because there is no added work required to do air sealing, but it comes at a price. Batts cost less than foam on a square-foot basis, but if you have sloppy or expensive labor, those savings are quickly eaten up by having to redo the work that’s been installed incorrectly.
When choosing from among insulation types, a batt’s a batt, right? Not quite. A survey of insulation manufacturers — Johns Manville, Knauf, CertainTeed, Owens Corning and Icynene — shows that companies are highlighting the differences as they aim to win business. Here are some of the differentiation categories:
Recycled content: Many batt manufacturers include recycled content into their labels. Just 30% recycled content meets EPA guidelines. Knauf’s EcoBatt insulation Glass-wool boasts a 61.9% recycled content.
Binder: Binders are all formaldehyde-free now, and acrylic binders are now common. Knauf said its Ecose binder technology reduces its embodied energy by 70%, with no phenol, formaldehyde, acrylics or artificial colors.
Mold: Both ASTM and UL offer anti-mold standards for insulation. Johns Manville treats it with an EPA-registered preservative. Owens Corning applies a biocide to its QuietR duct board.
Smart membranes: CertainTeed’s Dry-Right batts feature MemBrain Smart Vapor Retarder & Air Barrier Film, a vapor retarder that changes permeability based on humidity.
Physical flame and fire retarders: The hot thing in fire protection today is intumescent coatings, used for foams, not batts. An intumescent coating swells with high heat, increasing its volume but decreasing its density, which can delay or even prevent ignition. Building codes rate un-faced batts as noncombustible. Still, Johns Manville FSK-25 faced batts offer a foil-scrim-Kraft facing that yields a 25/50 fire hazard classification.
Foams: Today’s foam manufacturers differentiate by their sustainable and green attributes, not by their R-value per inch, which is largely dictated by the physical properties of the foam. Look for foams without PDBE, a chemical flame retardant that is a bio-accumulative toxin.
This blow-in natural fiber insulation is engineered for use in wall and attic retrofit projects. (greenfiber.com)
EcoFill Wx is an unbounded glass wool blowing insulation with post-consumer recycled content.
EcoTouch fiberglass insulation for exterior wall cavities is easier to cut and split with less dust. (owenscorning.com)
The company’s faced batts and rolls fiberglass insulation are lightweight and offer thermal and acoustical performance. Products are bonded with a formaldehyde-free binder to promote better indoor air quality and come in a variety of R-values. (jm.com)
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