In remodeling, innovative thinkers are one of the industry’s most valuable assets. We rely on these creative minds to develop new tools for making a job easier and more efficient. And because many of these innovations arise from folks working in the industry, they are intensely practical; created by people with direct experience of the task at hand that needs improving.
The five tools featured here are a great example. All of them were showcased at the JLC Live show in Providence, R.I., in March. Each product is unique and, more often than not, there’s an interesting story behind their creation.
Back in 1975, Mike Esposito (pictured, right) entered into his first of three NFL seasons as an Atlanta Falcon. Little did he know then that he would eventually discover one of his finest career achievements in a place far from the gridiron.
After his stint in pro football, Esposito worked in education and then in the construction industry for more than 20 years. When a business partner mentioned the need for a better level, Esposito set his mind to coming up with just that. The Beny (shown, main image, above), a hands-free tool, allows contractors to plumb, level, and string lines. Esposito believes it was the result of divine providence that the idea entered his head.
The rounded Beny leveling tool locks onto building materials that are about 1 inch to 10.5 inches wide and can adjust to larger widths no matter the object’s shape. The tool allows laborers to work hands-free as it simultaneously plumbs and levels a variety of structures. Esposito expects the Beny to be patented by the end of the summer. thebeny.com
Glenn Tebo, a general contractor, patented his first invention, a deck fastener, in 1996. The creation was licensed to Spotnails, which called it the Tebo Decker. Today, Tebo still has new ideas, including his latest, the EdgeFast hidden fastener decking system.
Introduced in March, the EdgeFast decking tool was created as an accessory to Tebo’s HidFast tool, also a pneumatic decker. The EdgeFast allows deck builders to work in tighter areas and create inlaid patterns or star designs.
“[In the past] we would have to put in inlaid pieces by hand,” Tebo says. “That started me thinking on a nailer that would go in the gap between the boards.” To use the EdgeFast, operators position the tool between two boards and pull a trigger. Deck builders can also pivot the tool to fasten both boards.
“The EdgeFast can fasten any 2-inch piece of decking,” Tebo says. “Fasteners are shot in quickly and can go in very small pieces of wood.” The tool is compatible with pressure-treated wood, which Tebo says expands his business to include builders who work with PT decks—a market he was unable to reach with HidFast.
Patent-pending fasteners that are compatible with the tool are also available from HidFast. hidfast.com
After 40 years in health care distribution, Frank Homa (pictured, right) was ready to retire. But then, he was given an opportunity with Danish manufacturing company Knudsen Kilen to oversee its U.S. subsidiary, Overland Construction Supply.
Specializing in plastic shims, Overland Construction first introduced the Danish-made products to the U.S. in December of 2014. The company offers a variety of plastic shims to fit almost any type of leveling application. For contractors, one notable product is the SmartWedge Shim.
Characterized by staggered teeth on both sides that allow the shims to easily click in place, Homa says that SmartWedge Shims have the ability to level anything in a house. “You won’t have to worry about the shim cracking, molding, or compressing,” he says. One advantage of the shim is that the pieces permanently lock into place when pushed together. They can be used individually or combined to gain additional height and leveling ability.
Though individual plastic shims are slightly more expensive than wooden ones, the SmartWedge Shims can be cleanly cut in half, making each piece equally usable. overland-construction-supply-inc.myshopify.com
A few years ago, Will Kleemeier hired Ryan Malone to install drywall in his home. The first day, Malone brought helpers to carry the material into the house. The next day, he showed up alone and finished the job. Amazed, Kleemeier asked Malone how he wrapped up so quickly, and Malone showed him a tool he had developed that would eventually become the Wood ROKKpro.
Kleemeier, who has a background in bringing new products to market, partnered with Malone and co-founder, Tim Gower, to establish ROKK Tools. Launched in October 2015, the patented tool makes it possible for one laborer to finish hanging about 50 sheets of drywall in four hours. Photo: right, Will Kleemeier; center, Tim Gower; left, Ryan Malone.
“You can clamp our tool onto the studs in 10 seconds,” Kleemeier says. “Then, once you get the board screwed in at two locations, you don’t need the extra person holding it.”
When the product was first introduced, some potential customers were skeptical about it since they’d been hanging drywall the same way for years, Kleemeier says. “There are people who see the benefits, and there are people who need to be sold a little bit more,” he says, adding that contractors are usually convinced once they get the ROKKpro in their hands.
This tool is to be the first of a few products from ROKK Tools intended for drywall hanging and related tasks.
As the name implies, the Wood ROKKpro is specifically designed for use with wooden studs. The team is developing Steel ROKKpro for use on metal framing. rokktools.com
One day, while installing an outlet, Jeremy Smith was struck by an idea for an alternative to the standard plug-in night light. Working from his kitchen table, Smith went on to develop the SnapPower Guidelight.
Designed to replace electrical outlet cover plates, the Guidelight—first introduced in 2014—provides pathway LED lighting. The product serves the same function as a night light, while leaving the outlets available for use. Just like a typical night light, the illumination comes on only in the dark.
The company also makes a SnapPower USB Charger. This product enables users to plug in a USB charger to the outlet cover, which frees the other two outlets for use.
“Remodelers love it,” says Steve Friedman, the company’s national sales manager. “It adds a nice touch to a customer’s home.” He adds that the best places to install the Guidelight are at the bottom of a staircase and in hallways, kitchens, entryways, and bedrooms, as well as below cabinets for under-cabinet lighting.
The Guidelight won Best in Show at the 2015 International Builders’ Show and has also been featured on the Today Show.
The SnapPower company sells directly to consumers, so you won’t find the Guidelight at local retailers. Instead, remodelers, builders, electricians, and other construction professionals can partner with SnapPower to receive discounted pricing on SnapPower products, which can be done by registering on the company’s website. snappower.com
Got the inventor bug? Check out these two sites: