The Great OutdoorsEarth-conscious products dominate the exterior category

  • By Victoria Markovitz
  • Source: BUILDING PRODUCTS Magazine
  • Publication date: 2010-06-20

Last year, giving home buyers a green outdoors went far beyond the color of the front lawn. Many of the exterior products that sparked reader interest were those that save water, reduce runoff, improve the home envelope, or otherwise promote sustainable living.

Managing rainfall is a concept many pros likely took little notice of until recently, but, judging from reader interest in products that collect rainwater--Aaron's Rain Barrels (No. 14)--and those that reduce runoff--Soil Retention's Drivable Grass (No. 18) and Boral Brick's permeable pavers (No. 99)--it's an idea that's catching on fast.

Moisture management also is the key component for a handful of products on the list designed to help builders construct rainscreen wall systems, including the Rainscreen Clip package from Wood Haven (No. 43) that provides the products needed to construct a hardwood rainscreen system; Cor-a-Vent's Siding Vent System (No. 48), which includes plastic furring strips and siding vents to construct a rainscreen wall 8 feet high by 36 feet long; the Delta-Dry weather barrier from Cosella-Dorken (No. 79), whose dimple-and-groove design creates a drainage path on both sides of the membrane; and G.P. Williams' HDPE Drain-Plane ventilated strips (No. 72), which create an air space between a wall assembly and cladding.

Among some of the eco-friendly options on the list were EcoClad exterior cladding from KlipTech (No. 35), a 50/50 blend of FSC-certified post-consumer recycled paper/wood fiber and bamboo fiber, and SRS Energy's Solé Power Tile (No. 61), said to be the industry's first building-integrated photovoltaic product designed specifically for curved-roof systems.

In the rush to offer sustainable products, the desire for curb appeal has not been left behind; readers expressed interest in a range of eye-catching siding and trim products in materials including fiber-cement, composites, PVC, and vinyl. Decking materials--including Simpson Strong-Tie's DTT2Z deck tension ties (No. 29), A.E.R.T.'s EcoShield composite deck tiles (No. 53), and Ecolife boards from Viance (No. 82)--also were top of mind with pros, who are being asked more and more to expand the living area outdoors with relaxing, low-maintenance spaces homeowners want to use nearly year round. --Victoria Markovitz

#61 SRS Energy. Solé Power Tile is the industry's first building-integrated photovoltaic product designed specifically for curved-roof systems, the company says. The barrel-style tiles install alongside US Tile's traditional clay tiles, blending seamlessly to allow for the collection of solar energy without interfering with the roofline's aesthetics. The product provides 500 watts per 100 square feet. The Power Tiles are tested for durability, UV stability, color fastness, wind resistance, and more. 267-515-5895.

#18 Soil Retention. Drivable Grass consists of tile-like, 2-foot-by-2-foot concrete squares connected into a mat by a grid system. Landscapers can plant grass through lattice-style holes and cracks that let roots penetrate through the mat into the soil, anchoring it firmly in place, the manufacturer says. The mat's porous nature enables moisture to filter into the underlying soil, reducing runoff while allowing water to be absorbed on site. 800-346-7995.

#14 Aaron's Rain Barrels. The manufacturer's rain barrels are made from 20 pounds of recycled plastic or 110 pounds of oak, brass, and steel. The barrels have two spigots and connect directly to a home's downspouts. A removable zinc irrigation spigot can attach to a regular garden hose and has a shut-off valve so the homeowner can leave it open for drip irrigation. The 58-gallon plastic rain barrel is fully enclosed for safety. The company's wooden whiskey barrels (shown) are reclaimed from Kentucky distilleries. 978-790-1816.

#20 James Hardie. The Artisan Matrix fiber-cement panel boasts crisp, clean edges that allow for a layout with consistent architectural reveals on all sides, the firm says. The panels are installed on fiber-cement furring strips, which allows installers to use finish nails and creates a rainscreen to drain moisture. The sanded surface is flat and smooth, and the panels come pre-primed. 888-800-7864.

#29 Simpson Strong-Tie. The DTT2Z deck tension tie is designed to provide strong guardrail-post and deck-to-house connections. The component connects the railing post back to the deck framing, not just to the rim joist, creating code-compliant guardrail reinforcement. The DTT2Z also can tie the deck to the house for a stronger ledger connection. 800-999-5099.

#22 Kleer Lumber. KleerSnap Post Wraps are made from extruded cellular PVC and feature locking joints and notched edges to give the finished look of wood. Impervious to moisture and insects, the pieces can be cut and drilled with traditional tools and can be fastened with nails or screws. Kits come in 4-, 6-, 8-, and 10-inch sizes. 866-553-3770.

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