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Green The New Black In Home Remodeling

Green, gray and outdoor themes are dominating the remodeling industry.

About 315 exhibitors showcased their wares at Hanley Wood's annual Remodeling Show at the Baltimore Convention Center. The trade show, which runs through Friday, spotlights the latest trends in remodeling, from the functional and basic like drills and foam insulation, to the sexy and new like freestanding baths and the latest Kohler faucets.

GREEN GALORE

Green is the new black in the remodeling industry as energy costs soar and global warning takes center stage.

"It's clear we're living in an era of scarce resources and we have to adapt to that," said Rick McConnell, senior vice president of Hanley Wood Exhibitions. "That's more and more reflected by the companies in the exhibit."

Geocel introduced its green sealants and adhesives at the show, while other manufacturers slapped a green label on their older products.

For example, the Icynene Insulation System promises to slash energy costs by up to 50 percent if you replace the conventional foam in walls with its soft-foam variety.

"Obviously, high energy prices are driving the bus," said Ron Hruz, regional sales manager.

Even those exhibitors without green credentials, from bathroom accessory suppliers to home finance companies, got in the act and offered tote bags that could double as environmentally friendly grocery bags.

BOOMER BONANZA

Suppliers and manufacturers are ready for the onslaught of seniors as Baby Boomers turn gray.

"Baby Boomers are doing more for their parents now than for themselves, but they have it in the back of their minds for down the road," said Jason Multanen, national sales manager for Best Bath Systems.

His company offers stylish tubs with doors and wheelchair roll-in showers accessible for everyone. The systems are backed by plywood thick enough that grab bars can be installed without extra reinforcement.

Similarly, AKW Medicare showed off its barrier-free showers and a half-height shower door that allow a caregiver to help bathe an individual.

ROOM WITHOUT A ROOF

Contractors are taking their skills outside as decks, porches and terraces become the next popular "room" to redecorate. The show even offered a deck design competition with winners to be announced Thursday afternoon. Next year, show organizers plan to combine its Deck Expo with The Remodeling Show.

Making its debut at a U.S. trade show, Norway's Kebony unveiled its durable wood products for beautiful decking or siding. Regular wood is infused with a bio-based liquid made from agricultural waste from sugar cane production. The result is a stronger and more stable version of the wood, which retains its natural grain.

"It's like taking pine up to the hardness of oak," said Douglas Murray Jr., Kebony's head of North American operations.

The product also wards off termites better than poison-treated wood, Murray said, because the bugs end up starving to death on the agricultural waste. To boot, it's environmentally-friendly too, Murray said, because it uses bio-waste and doesn't leech off the environment like rain-forest wood that's now popular in high-end deck design.

HOT & TOASTY

You can keep your hands and feet warm with technologies rolled out by two companies at the show.

Watts Radiant Inc., based in Springfield, Mo., introduced its electric underfloor mats. Heating coils are woven into the mats, and regulated by a floor sensor, which can be turned on or off at any time. The cost for an underfloor mat run about $800 and up, per room, and operating costs average about a dime a day.

In the bathroom, MTI Whirlpools provides tubs and showers with radiant heating systems. The shower's floors and seat offer two heated areas for comfortable entry. The tub has two similar areas, along the back and on the bottom, so a bather doesn't have to sit and lean against a cold tub. It also can come with an air-jet system that gives a light, full-body massage.

ODDS AND ENDS

Avoiding that kitchen makeover because of the hassle? A solution is in sight.

Dwyer showed off its freestanding, temporary kitchen for homeowners in the midst of a kitchen renovation. The portable unit looks like a large stainless steel island with overhead cabinets. Depending on the model it can feature a breakfast bar for seating, a dishwasher, one or two cook tops, a sink and a microwave.

But your contractor might not shell out for this convenience. The price tag: it starts at $6,495.

By J.W. Elphinstone

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