Remodeler Product Picks

Four remodelers reveal the products they prefer for their projectcs

September 30, 2006

David Flyer

COO, BOWA Builders, McLean and Middleburg, Va.

Total annual sales: $38 million

Founded in 1988, BOWA Builders is a full-service residential construction firm specializing in high-end additions, renovations and custom homes, as well as project planning and feasibility. BOWA serves clients in suburban Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. The firm has won more than 70 awards for excellence and has 90 employees.


"We use Schluter Ditra, which provides a superior underlayment for floor tile installation," says Flyer. "By decoupling the stone from the wood beneath, this product helps to prevent movement and cracking of grout/tiles." The underlayment is also used on masonry and Terrazzo flooring applications.


When working on a deck remodel/building job, the company finds Eb/Ty handy. According to Flyer, minimizing the seams on a deck makes a lasting impression on the customer. "When installing deck boards, we find this deck biscuit system to be highly efficient because of its ease of use and aesthetically appealing bec ause of its hidden system."


It may come as no surprise that BOWA uses TyVek Housewrap. BOWA uses the housewrap because Flyer says, "it's simply the best housewrap on the market."


With steel appliances still in vogue, BOWA relies on Sub-Zero refrigerators, particularly the under-counter models. "Sub-Zero refrigerators are the only game in town when it comes to reliable under-counter cooling units. They are generally easy to install and their customer service is helpful."


The firm prefers Lutron dimmer switches because they "provide the flexibility of varied lighting scenarios," says Flyer. In his experience, prices are also a big help. "The Lutron dimmer switches are some of the most reliable and reasonably priced switches on the market."

Jeff Brinton

Residential Design, Department Director, Gardner/Fox Associates, Philadelphia

Total annual sales: $30 million

A residential and commercial contracting firm founded in 1987, the company has evolved into two parallel but distinct divisions. The Residential Division provides homeowner-focused architectural, interior and landscape design executed by professional construction project managers and multi-trade craftsmen.


For exterior protection, Gardner/Fox relies on an industry mainstay. "Tyvek housewrap is a product that we have been using on homes for a number of years. Installed properly this product performs very well with stopping air flow through wall cavities and keeping out wind-driven rain, but still allows moisture vapor to escape from inside walls."


"Azek trim is another product that we have been using more and more of the past couple of years," says Brinton. "This product performs just as the manufacturer states — it feels like wood, cuts like wood and fastens like wood but is not susceptible to weather like wood products are."


According to Brinton, "More and more of the window specs that we are using, whether they are Pella (Impervia model shown), Marvin, JELD-WEN, Weathershield, etc. are being specified as clad exterior units. Homeowners like the benefits of the low maintenance but want the authentic details that older homes have such as SDL (simulated divided light), window grids, wider brick mold casings, shoe sills, etc. These options are now readily available by the bigger named window manufactures."


A growing trend in the residential remodeling market is the installation of skylights. Brinton says: "Velux skylight windows have been exclusively used by us on our projects because of their excellent reputation and quality for years. If installed correctly, Velux skylights will be problem free."


Despite a recent shift away from granite, Brinton says, "A large majority of the kitchen renovation projects that we do still incorporate the use of granite countertops. There are a lot of similar materials on the marketplace, but the homeowners tend to like the look and feel of the natural granite when compared." The cost offset between granite and similar products is typically not that different.

Michael McCutcheon

CGBP, McCutcheon Construction, Berkeley, Calif.

Total annual sales: $8 million - plus

Formed in 1980, the company has received numerous industry awards, including Preservation Awards, from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association for work on two registered landmark houses as well as a Best of the Best Design Award from Professional Remodeler (2004) and COTY Award from NARI (2005).


McCutcheon tends to side with Pella windows. The latest Pella line, the Impervia, is made from Duracast and now offers a double-hung window. The line includes single-hung windows, sliding windows, fixed windows and sliding patio doors. An 8-foot sliding patio door is also available. "We use Pella windows for their quality, service and between-the-glass features," says McCutcheon.


The company has been using Grohe faucets for their quality, value and style, McCutcheon says. A good relationship with his supplier and overall customer satisfaction has kept him in Grohe's camp. "We especially (like) the single handle kitchen faucets with pull-out spray and the thermostatic shower valves."


With a wide variety of styles to choose from, McCutcheon relies on Toto toilets and their line of low water-consumption units.

"We use Toto toilets for their water conservation, style, quality and function. I really like their washlet toilet seats and dual-flush toilets, which save water."

Whole-house Ventilation

Instead of relying entirely on HVAC units, McCutcheon favors whole house ventilation fans whenever possible, like those offered from Nutone. "I like whole-house (built-up) ventilation fans for their improvement of indoor air quality and energy savings versus air conditioners when used in a mild climate like the Bay Area."


With an eye for the green movement, McCutcheon favors bamboo floors, such as the ones offered by Teragren, which also manufactures panels, veneers, stair treads, risers and coordinating flooring accessories. The company uses bamboo flooring for its "durability, beauty and sustainability."

Bill Bishop

Purchasing Agent, SawHorse Inc., Atlanta

Total annual sales: $5.5 million

SawHorse, Inc. was founded in 1980 and has since become one of the top design-build residential renovation firms in the United States, having won more than 100 local, regional and national awards for design and innovation in the industry. Recently, SawHorse was named 2006's Georgia Remodeler of the Year.


Bishop knows his stuff when it comes to siding. "We use (James Hardie) Hardiplank siding when we can on our projects. It is a durable no-rot product that virtually lasts forever. It is immune to water and termite damage. It blends with other siding materials so it can be put on an addition without interrupting the 'flow' of the house. It is non-combustible; contains no formaldehyde, fiberglass, or asbestos, and has a 50-year warranty."


With universal design in mind, Bishop says, "We use the Kohler Comfort Height toilet on many of our bath projects. It comes with the Ingenium flush system, which is a 1.6-gallon low noise and no-splash, high performance flush. The height is that of a standard chair that lends comfort and makes sitting and standing easier for people of all ages and statures."


Exhaust Fans


"We use Panasonic exhaust fans in virtually all of our bath projects. These fans are so quiet, it's hard to tell they are on. The motors are super efficient, so they use less energy,"

says Bishop. The fan/light combo units come with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs. "We will often use timer switches to control them since they are so quiet. This way you won't forget to turn it off. This is truly a green product."


Like the folks at Gardner/Fox, SawHorse is sticking with the appeal of granite, only with a twist: "We've been using Cambria for many of our kitchen and even a few bath projects. We like Cambria because it has the look of granite but is a synthetic quartz product. It has advantages over quartz in the fact that it never needs sealing and comes with an anti-bacterial finish. The choice of colors is greater than those of other synthetics."


"We recommend Icynene spray foam insulation to our clients, especially in attic additions," says Bishop. The spray is an environmentally friendly product that seals all air gaps because of its expansion properties. When sprayed on the roof line, it gives an insulation seal to the attic and when used whole-house, it seals the building envelope, which optimizes energy efficiency and insulating properties. "It virtually eliminates air leakage and minimizes moisture intrusion," Bishop says.

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