Products and Technologies to Speed Up the Remodeling Process

Speed your next remodel with 6 proven technologies from the PATH Concept Home that result in faster installation of plumbing, floors, switches and egress systems. Some of these technologies will also enhance the beauty and environmental performance of your project and may cost less to install.

May 31, 2007

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Concept Home Just Completed

Speed your next remodel with six proven technologies from the PATH Concept Home that result in faster installation of plumbing, floors, switches and egress systems. Some of these technologies will also enhance the beauty and environmental performance of your project and may cost less to install.

Air admittance valves allow remodelers to add a vent without breaking through walls or ceilings to run pipes to the roof.
Photo courtesy of Studor

Air Admittance Valves (AAVs)

"The number one benefit of an AAV for remodelers is that they don't have to break out walls or ceilings or stairwells to run vent pipes through to the roof," says Jack Beuschel, president of Studor, a manufacturer of AAVs. "This is especially useful in homes with historical value."

Even for a remodel in a non-historic home, AAVs make sense. "Installing a bathroom or wet bar in the basement or running a vent from the bathroom is time consuming and can be complicated," says Beuschel. "But with AAVs, you don't have to run another vent — just tie into the building drain." Remember: fewer roof penetrations equals less chance of developing a leaky roof.

In older homes, the vent pipes may be deteriorated anyway, but with an AAV, you just cap off the old vent and move the fixtures wherever you want. This saves time, labor and material costs and gives you the freedom of design and layout without having to find a way to vent fixtures in new locations — without damaging the interior of the home.

Check that the product is code compliant in your area. If not, many jurisdictions will allow the product as an alternative.

PEX Piping and Plumbing Manifolds

A plumbing manifold is useful if you're redoing all the plumbing. Installation is fast because you use the fewest possible fittings.
Photo courtesy of Viega

"Remodelers that have used a PEX system before, especially in a large home, love it because they don't have to destroy the house to do the piping," says Marissa Chandley, marketing director of Viega, which makes Vanguard Piping Systems. "You don't have to tear the walls out, don't have to worry about fire hazard, don't have to solder or glue. PEX also lends itself to working in very tight spaces, compared to a rigid system, where the fittings don't move."

PEX won't corrode or develop pinhole leaks; inhibits mineral build up; and, above all, is flexible, bending where a rigid system would require a solder or glue joint. PEX piping is quieter than metal pipes. There's also less lost heat, which saves customers energy.

If you need to redo all plumbing, also consider using a plumbing manifold, which acts much like a circuit breaker box for each fixture. The hallmark of this system is the ability to turn off the water to any one fixture during repair without affecting water use elsewhere in the home.

A manifold can speed the remodel because you have the fewest possible fittings: one at the manifold and one at each fixture. "Installation is faster, and if you make any mistakes, they won't be behind the wall where they're hard to reach," says Chandley. She advises against using a manifold if you can't install it close to the water heater because the hot water will have farther to travel, meaning energy lost.

Considering both labor and materials, manifolds together with PEX can be less costly to install than rigid pipe plumbing systems. Cost of the manifold varies depending on the number of ports, whether they include gate valves, and the materials they include.

Adding a window well egress system is faster than digging a big hole for new stairs and a new doorway and allows natural light into an otherwise dark area.  Photo courtesy of Tapco

Window Well Egress System

Your client calls for a basement remodel and wants to add a bedroom. But there's no legal egress.

You can start digging a really big hole for expensive new stairs and a new doorway, or you can install an egress well to make your job easier.

"If the customer has a livable space for a bedroom in the basement, you must have an escape other than the stairs to the first floor to meet code," says Brad Brown, product manager for The Tapco Group, which manufactures Wellcraft Egress Window Wells.

The well can be as big or small as needed and comes with a built-in ladder. To install, dig a hole and use a saw to enlarge the existing basement window, usually by maintaining the existing width but making it taller so you don't have to replace the header. Frame it, bolt the new window well to the foundation, and backfill with peastone or gravel for better drainage. The whole process takes a day or two. And you can put a window well anywhere there's an existing window. Grade is not a concern because the unit can be stacked as high or as low as you need it.

A cover is recommended to keep children and animals from falling in. Advise your clients to keep it clean because it can become too heavy to lift if it's covered with snow or wet leaves.

Modular carpet can be placed on top of many old surfaces without having to pull up the existing flooring. The tiles stick to each other and not the floor and can be moved as a unit.
Photos courtesy of Flor

Modular Carpet

Modular carpet tiles stick not to the floor but to each other, so the carpet can be picked up one tile at a time or moved as a unit. Each tile can be a different color, pattern or texture.

Customers will enjoy designing their first carpet, and when they tire of the old design, they can rearrange the tiles or order a few new tiles for a new look and feel. You also don't have to throw out the whole carpet if one piece goes bad.

Remodelers love the speed because they can place the carpeting right on top of old linoleum, vinyl, concrete, or anything else unsightly without having to pull up the existing flooring.

Measure the area, order the tiles, and slap it down. Cut with a carpet knife to install. There are no adhesives or nails.

A nifty tool from carpet manufacturer Flor allows remodelers to design the carpet online. Flor also sponsors a return and recycle program. When clients are done with the carpet, they can ship it back to the company at no cost to be recycled.

Flor says its product goes down well on just about anything, indoors or outdoors, except unfinished waxed floors, unsealed concrete floors and carpet. An antimicrobial intercept between the backing and the fibers prevents the growth of mold, so it can be used in bathrooms and basements as well.

Wireless Switches

Add a switch wherever you like without doing any wiring, demolition, patching or repainting and without disturbing any existing asbestos or lead paint. All you have to do is bring electricity to the point where the appliance is located. A receiver in a light box or outlet picks up a radio signal as much as 150 feet away. The switch operates with a batteryless remote.

In renovation and remodeling projects, PulseSwitch Systems, maker of Lightning Switch wireless transmitters, claims savings of hundreds to thousands of dollars per switch because it avoids demolition and repair costs.

You can program a 3-, 4-, or even a 30-way switch with one receiver. Some manufacturers offer dimmers.

Project Management Software

If you're still charting your remodel with pencil, paper or Excel, consider yourself behind the times. Project managers from all kinds of businesses are turning to scheduling software that helps them organize, track, and manage their project details.

Project management software helps the remodeler communicate better with suppliers, contractors, and customers. The tool allows you to view the whole project on a timeline, which can be printed either as a Gantt chart or a regular monthly calendar that shows everyone their roles—and their relationships with each other. Change one component of the project and all related components will update automatically. Now it's easy to show that if supplier A fails to deliver on time, it affects the timeline for everyone else.

"It's a way to organize your project and make sure there's accountability for each of the subcontractors," says Dennis Bilowus, president of AEC Software, which produces the FastTrack Schedule program. "It also makes the customer aware of their responsibilities, building in lead time for selection of materials. Clients can see that if they haven't made their kitchen countertop selections, the painter will be affected because he can't do the painting."

Ryan Kish of AEC Software claims that remodelers are finding the software useful not just for project management, but for bidding on new jobs as well.

"A lot of our customers are showing rough outlines of projects to a client when they make a proposal, says Kish." We are hearing this makes a really big difference for winning new business because it validates that the firm is strategic in its approach. Some remodelers are even using it to develop their long-term business plans."

FastTrack Schedule comes with about 30 templates that can be customized. One of these is a kitchen remodeling schedule, which can be modified for almost any type of project.

Speed Aesthetics Greener than the conventional alternative Cheaper to Install than the conventional alternative
Air admittance valves
PEX piping and plumbing manifolds • (sometimes)
Window well egress system
Modular carpet
Wireless switches
Project management software

 

Concept Home Just Completed

Using some of the most advanced ideas in the housing industry, PATH has just completed construction of its first Concept Home in Omaha, Neb. PATH hopes this will be the first of many Concept Homes built faster with less waste and more durable, environmentally friendly materials than traditional stick-built homes. Concept Home building technologies and techniques offer lessons for builders and remodelers on how to cut building and energy costs; increase durability and reduce maintenance; allow greater flexibility in home design for different stages of life; and reduce the impact of the home on the environment. Plans for the home are available for free online. Learn more at www.pathnet.org/concepthome.

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