If you try to take it in all at once, the annual Home Builder’s convention can be daunting. A few weeks ago, I attended the show and spent some time looking at the new and improved building supplies, fixtures and appliances. Here are some of the hot new products that will soon find their way into your new home:

Stainless, stainless everywhere. If you look at all the kitchen appliance manufacturers, a common theme is stainless steel. Everyone wants their appliances to have a professional look and to manufacturers like Amana, Kenmore, and SubZero, that means incorporating a sleekness imparted only by highly-polished stainless.

Viking Range Corp. (601-455-1200), a company known for its professional gas ranges, has introduced a new product line to match. You can now buy a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, an undercounter ice machine, and a 24′ wide undercounter wine cooler, all in stainless steel. Viking also introduced an electric cooktop.

Cast Original. Ever see an old English Tudor home with beautiful cut limestone lintels, fireplace mantles, pillars, and columns? You might not be seeing the real thing. Classic Cast Stone of Dallas, Inc. (214-276-2000) is a company that allows you to reproduce your favorite hand-cut stone designs at a fraction of the cost. The company can cast anything you like, or choose from several hundred designs.

The product weighs 140 pounds per cubic foot, is enormously strong, and can be cut with a diamond tip masonry saw. It is installed like brick and comes in white, gray, buff, and custom colors.

Wet All Over. Unlike other companies who were using scantily-clad young women to show off their products, Rio Plastics, Inc. (210-831-2715) had senior men and women showcasing their Aqua Swim ‘N’ Spa, a 14-foot swimming pool with a controllable current. Essentially, you set the water current for how hard a workout you want, and then swim in place. Think of it as a treadmill for swimmers.

You can get the unit on its own, or you can attach a 5-foot spa to the end of it. The cost is approximately $10,000 plus shipping and installation. The largest model weighs approximately 1,100 pounds and can accommodate a total of 1,800 gallons of water, for a total weight of 15,000 pounds. That kind of weight may require special support, a company spokesperson said.

Save A Tree, Put Down A Used Wood Floor. Carlisle Restoration Lumber (800-595-9663) believes in reusing old lumber. At the convention, the company showcased a beautiful wide-plank floor made from a century-old sunken freighter. The company specializes in floors with the rustic ambiance of an 18th century New England home, right down to the hand-hammered iron nails and wood pegs used to keep everything authentic.

Of course, such political correctness will cost about twice as much as standard, pre-cut wood floors. You can expect to pay about $3 per square foot for hand-cut, pre-finished (with high-resin oil) wood floors.

A Roof By Any Other Name. A slate roof might last 100 years before needing to be reshingled. Cedar shingles might last 40 years. A copper roof might outlast them all, but will be enormously costly. And, unless the house is built to support the weight of the metal, a copper roof could ultimately cause the roof to cave right in.

Several years ago, an Italian company called Tegola (800-598-8936) started manufacturing copper-clad roof shingles. Nifty looking and relatively light weight, copper shingles are essentially copper foil (think of tin foil) wrapped around a standard asphalt shingle, nailed together with copper nails and glue. They are installed the way you’d normally install a shingle roof, and the copper foil eventually takes on that nice green patina copper lovers everywhere crave.

Copper shingles will run about three to four times the cost of a regular asphalt shingles (about $4 per square foot plus $1 per square foot to install) – which doesn’t exactly make them cheap – but they’re a little less than a slate roof, and far less expensive than a solid copper roof ($12 to $15 per square foot). Also, they’re light enough so almost any roof will be able to support them.

Here’s the kicker: The company guarantees the copper foil for 150 years, but the shingle is expected to last only 35 years. Once you sell the house, the warrantee dies.

Finally, here’s some consumer information you may find helpful.

Cleaner water, every time. According to a 1995 Money Magazine survey, “clean water” is the number one consideration of homeowners when choosing a place to live, ranking above “low crime rate” and “good schools.” With that kind of message on the horizon, it’s no wonder consumers have been buying water filtration systems in bulk.

Kinetico, Inc., a leading manufacturer of quality water systems recently launched a toll-free consumer hot line. If you have questions about your water quality, or need information about water treatment options, call (800) 944-WATER. Ask them to send you their two free pamphlets, “Consumer’s Guide to Protecting The Water Your Family Drinks,” and “Consumer’s Guide To Better Water.”

Financing Made Easy. If you’re buying a home or refinancing your mortgage, you probably need some basic information about mortgages and how to find a good lender. Fannie Mae, a federally-chartered private corporation that provides financial products and services that increase the availability and affordability of housing, has created a new web site to provide you with the information you need to make the loan process a little easier.

Homepath.com visitors will find a number of useful tools to help them begin the home buying process, prepare for a loan application, and reach additional resources through an online directory of mortgage lenders. Information on the web site is free, and can be accessed 24-hours a day.

Published: Feb 10, 1997