Highlights of the 2007 International Builders?? Show: New home products offer comfort, style and convenience

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As the doors swung open and thousands of pros strolled over 1 million square feet of innovations at the International Home Builders’ Show in Orlando, I joined the treasure hunt for the year’s coolest innovations in home improvement gear. Comfort, convenience and style are repeating themes among the latest home products, and I think the following are worthy of a note and addition to your "favorite links" list.
See Photos: International Builders Show

As the doors swung open and thousands of pros strolled over 1 million square feet of innovations at the International Home Builders’ Show in Orlando, I joined the treasure hunt for the year’s coolest innovations in home improvement gear. Comfort, convenience and style are repeating themes among the latest home products, and I think the following are worthy of a note and addition to your "favorite links" list.

See Photos:
International Builders Show

Constant comfort for any home in any season

Know that line, "It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity"? It doesn’t just apply to famous subtropical destinations -- it can be the culprit in your home’s interior comfort as well. Adding Aprilaire’s Whole Home Dehumidifier to your heating and cooling system keeps the atmosphere comfy (in the ideal humidity range of 25-60 percent) and moisture-loving, health-threatening molds and other pesky microorganisms at bay. This comfort workhorse senses atmospheric changes way before you ever could, and removes more moisture from the air than an air conditioner does on its own. Aprilaire’s Whole Home Dehumidifier removes humidity, while allowing your air conditioner to focus on temperature -- without wasteful over-cooling. And it stays on duty year-round, too, which is especially handy in the spring and fall when your AC runs only occasionally if at all. Learn more about the Aprilaire Whole Home Dehumidifier at www.aprilaire.com.

Your favorite hardwood flooring style in a snap

There’s no place like home, whatever your style, with Armstrong’s new Locking Hardwood floors underfoot. All 32 products in this new residential flooring collection feature Armstrong’s exclusive NextGen™ patent-pending technology, eliminating the need for glue, staples or nails and reducing installation time. That means you can live on your new floor immediately, and even remove and replace it later if you so choose. Armstrong Locking Hardwood is 100% real wood with cross-ply engineered construction for a rigid surface that won’t shift or buckle, making it a great choice for any location from basement to loft. Armstrong engineered hardwood also adds peace of mind by controlling the floor’s natural tendency to expand and contract, enabling it to be installed over sub floors ranging from wood and concrete to existing vinyl.

Armstrong Locking Hardwood is available in 5-inch single or two-strip planks in such domestic wood species as Maple, Oak, Birch and Ash, and a range of the increasingly popular exotics like Bangkirai, Bamboo, Australian Wormy Chestnut, and Kona. See the full floor fashion show at www.armstrong.com.

Now casting: Countertops with personality

Thanks to their unique appearance, affordability and high durability, concrete countertops continue to gain in popularity in kitchen and bath remodeling schemes. And thanks to QUIKRETE’s Concrete Countertop Mix, you can cast your own design with a weekend and a much smaller budget than you’d need if you’d selected stone or hired a professional. All that QUIKRETE’s simple do-it-yourself recipe requires is the Countertop Mix, QUIKRETE Cement Colors, QUIKRETE Wet Look High Gloss Sealer, a few project supplies, and following a handful of steps to bring a custom look to kitchen counters. Find out more about the QUIKRETE family of products at www.quikrete.com.

A faucet that functions fashionably

As long as you’re considering kitchen style upgrades, why not take things to the next level with a fixture that adds ease and a touch of glamour to everyday tasks? Moen’s new Medora™ pullout kitchen faucet offers just that with a sleek, high-arc silhouette, soft modern styling and single-handle design. Its single-lever handle offers easy-to-use temperature and flow control, while the ergonomically designed pullout wand adds ease to performing everyday tasks in and around the sink. With the touch of a button, you can switch between several water flow patterns, including stream, rinse and veggie spray, or choose Moen’s patented pause feature, which instantly stops and starts the flow of water.

The Medora™ faucet also includes a fiber pullout hose with a ball joint at the end of the wand for quiet operation and easier maneuverability when rinsing hard-to-reach corners of the sink or spots outside the sink area. Add in the faucet’s stylish matte black finish and single-hole mount for beautiful blending with any countertop material, and sophistication is definitely on tap. Keep an eye out for Medora™ at www.moen.com.

For the deck of your dreams

In another move toward realism without the maintenance hassles of wood, Trex Co. has created Trex Contours™ decking, featuring a bold new grain pattern and structured profile for a lighter weight, maximum durability and years of performance at a value price hard to resist. Designed with the distinctive look of wood, it requires the same spans and installation as Trex 5/4 boards. Trex Contours™ is available in popular Winchester Grey and rich, reddish-brown Madeira, and coordinates with the Trex Designer Series Railing™ system.

As you bask in the good looks of Trex Contours™, you can also be confident in its status as an earth-friendly material. Trex® is a unique combination of recycled plastic and reclaimed wood, providing the best qualities of both. The plastic shields the wood from moisture and insect damage, so there’s no rotting or splintering, and the wood gives your deck a solid, natural feel with excellent traction and looks great year after year. To start designing the deck of your dreams and find a Trex® dealer near you, visit www.trex.com.

An underground trend in home heating

For home sites with little or no access to natural gas power, underground propane storage tanks are emerging -- or, rather, submerging -- as a practical and popular solution. So popular, in fact, that entire developments are now using underground storage, with centralized systems that feature a gas main and metered access to propane. The Propane Education & Research Council will be recognizing one such development with a special award at the Builders’ Show: Think luxury oceanfront condos in Hawaii, all operating from a 2,000-gallon propane tank delivering premium gas services to residents.

Constructed of heavy steel and painted with a mastic coating to prevent corrosion, underground propane tanks can be placed virtually anywhere on a lot, and all you see once they’re buried is a small dome with filling connections peeking out a few inches above ground. What’s more, the 500-gallon capacity easily accommodates the fuel requirements of the average four-bedroom home. Such convenient fuel also opens up possibilities for renovation and expansion, from the installation of radiant flooring to outdoor rooms. Unearth more trends and solutions in home heating at www.usepropane.com.

For more information check out my video on the International Builders Show here.

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program's Web site.

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