Everything AND the Kitchen Sink

Mid-Century Kitchen From Kohler

This mid-century kitchen image from Kohler is an excellent visual of just how far we’ve come.  Or have we? The need for good, efficient workspace in kitchens remains the number one priority for most people, when asked what they want.

Efficiencies drive most innovations because time is the most important luxury – even more so now – in that way we have changed. Even though many families are so busy they aren’t able to sit down together for dinner – people still congregate in kitchens and the kitchen remains the heart of every home.

So what innovations have been made? Let’s start with kitchen sinks. Stainless remains the number one material for sinks; it’s stain-resistant, virtually indestructible, and reasonably priced. When it comes to stainless….you only need to know that 16-gauge is the best. The rest is personal design choice; single bowl, double bowl, undermount, accessories.

Kohler has an amazing amount of stainless sinks to choose from. Here are a couple:

Kohler's Strive Series of Stainless Steel Undermount Sinks

These sinks comes in all manner of shapes and sizes…it’s about as well-rounded a collection as you’ll see. It even comes in a ‘Farmhouse’ style, apron-front model.

Kohler's Vault Series Stainless Steel Apron Front Sinks

If you want to use a different material – depending on your budget, you can use marble – as with this lovely Farmhouse sink from Kallista. It is not inexpensive – but again – it sure is lovely and like stainless, it’s virtually indestructible.

Kallista For Town Collection Of Marble Sinks

Fireclay is another material option – according to Rohl, Fireclay  sinks are made of a unique clay capable of being fired at extremely high temperatures. These high temperatures cause the clay and glaze to fuse together, virtually creating an entirely new form. This clay is found in limited regions around the world, making true fireclay sinks some of the most durable sink options. Resistant to acid, alkali, scratches and impact many fireclay sinks outlive the very spaces for which they were created. Here is one of theirs:

Rohl's Allia Fireclay Sink

Once you’ve figured out if you want stainless or engineered stone or marble or fireclay, your next decision will be which accessories to choose. Never before have there been so many options for devices that help keep preparing food and cleaning up efficient. Check out these integrated cutting boards and drain racks!

Kohler Prolific Stainless Sink With Accessories

This innovative stainless-steel sink features three graduated ledges in the basin, so you can place the bamboo cutting board, multipurpose grated racks (two), colander, and washbin exactly where you want them for maximum efficiency as you work. The sink comes with all five accessories included. Sounds good to me!

Not every accessory has to be integrated into the sink. There are many that you can buy separately, and here is one that falls under the ‘why didn’t we think of that’ – who doesn’t need this sponge caddy?

Kohler Reset Sponge Caddy

In our next blog post, we’ll tackle kitchen faucets – because surprise, surprise — the options there are as plentiful as they are beautiful.

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Tubs And Tile – What You Need To Know Now

Kohler Freestanding Tub

Are bathtubs soon to become a thing of the past? We asked around, and the answers we’ve found make us believe that the answer is a resounding no! Families with small children, athletes, even the ageing population all love tubs.  Is there anything more soothing than a good, long soak? We think not!

If you are remodeling, and you have the space, you should consider a tub. Space is really the main consideration. For the sake of this blog, we are going to assume that you do have space so we can discuss the various types of tubs. If you’ve learned anything in the design field – it’s that there is never “just one type” of anything!

Here is a quick rundown on the various types of tubs:

Alcove, drop-in, freestanding, integral and undermount. If you want a more in-depth description of each of those, American Standard has a great website with drawings to help you understand.

Once you’ve decided that your room can support the size of a tub, you need to decide on the style. If your home is more traditional and you love the look of those claw-footed tubs – you are in luck. They are still quite popular and easy to find. Kohler has a number of versions of this particular style.

Alcove tubs might still be the most popular, given the sizes of bathrooms. You don’t have to settle for ‘just’ the tub however – there are wonderful tubs with built-in whirlpools to give you a spa feeling at home.

Kohler's Clawfoot Tub (person not included)

Here’s a great example of an alcove tub with integrated whirlpool – from American Standard:

As far as the tub materials – here is a little bit of information about the most popular:

Enamel On Steel/Porcelain

Enamel-on-steel tubs (or porcelain-on-steel as they’re sometimes called) have a similar look to cast iron tubs except that they’re lighter. Their surface is easily cleaned and maintained and their lighter weight means they’re easier to muscle into a remodeled bathroom than a heavier cast iron tub.


Acrylic in simple terms is a form of plastic and is another material used to make bathtubs. Benefits include its high gloss finish and lighter weight. It can be scratched more easily but these scratches can also be repaired more easily than a porcelain enamel surface.

Fiberglass Gelcoat (FRP)

Another material used to make tubs is fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) that’s covered in something called “gelcoat”. You’ll find some whirlpools and air tubs made from this material because it can be shaped easily. The gelcoat provides the smooth, glossy surface of the tub and offers an easily cleaned surface. It’s a lot like acrylic but usually not as durable, as it can be scratched and/or cracked if it’s struck hard enough.


Many brands now use composite materials. These tubs are made with proprietary engineered composite materials that form the backing of the tub itself. The finished surface of the tubs are enameled. The intent with these kinds of tubs is to achieve the benefits of cast iron, like heat retention and a durable surface finish, without the weight associated with cast iron. These composite tubs can weigh about 1/3 as much as cast iron, something to think about if you’re replacing a 2nd story bathroom tub.

And now tiles –

So now that you’ve chosen your tub – let’s move on to tiles. The possibilities here are as plentiful as you would imagine! From subway tiles to glass, porcelain, wood-look and metallic-infused, tiles have come a long way from the horrible pink and black of the 50′s.

Daltile Skybridge Glazed Ceramic Tiles

The best bet when looking at, and choosing tile for a bathroom is to make sure you choose products that will last a long time and need little in the way of maintenance. Porcelain and ceramic tiles come in so many variations, and are so easy to maintain that your main concern will be choosing the colors! Many people choose subtle colored tiles for floors and add accent colors to the borders or they choose to make a mosaic pattern on one wall.  Here are some images to give you inspiration – from Daltile.

Daltile Aria Ivory and Peridot

Here is a bolder use of tile:

Random Mosaic in Silver Shore

If you want a strong, bold look – you can use tiles that give the look of slate – like these field tiles:

Deep Grey 20 x 20 field tile in a brick-joint pattern

We hope we’ve given you some food for thought (and not overwhelmed you). As always – your best solution would be to visit showrooms and speak to experienced salespeople.

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So You’ve Decided you DO want to Remodel Your Bathroom

Contemporary Bathroom Design From Kohler

We’ve all been there – looking at old, cracked wall tile and stained grout, or perhaps you are still using the vanity/sink/faucet that was in place when you bought your home. It’s hard not to want to upgrade when you know that there are products that are not only beautifully designed but energy efficient and perhaps even healthier for the environment. When you’ve reached that point where you just HAVE to remodel – take a step back and breathe. Then take a step forward and start doing research. US News & World recently published a trends report, with information from respected industry experts like Ilyce Glink, author of numerous real estate books, including “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask.” Glink has found that trends in bathroom design now include “larger shower spaces with all the trimmings, such as aromatherapy steam showers and more.”We are seeing a trend toward incredible shower experiences, with big, round rainwater showerheads. We are seeing places to sit in the shower and more elaborate shelving. Lots of glass tile and multispray heads,” Glink says. These shower spaces can include built-in containers that allow you to preload your shampoo and conditioner.

All of that being said, let’s break down some of the product choices that abound in the world of bathroom design. Since the report mentioned steam showers, let’s begin there.

ThermaSol's Steam Showers Have Many Benefits

Steam Showers:

Steam has been shown to have many benefits aside from post-exercise relaxation. We’ve come a long way in the understanding of what a true steam shower can do for your body. The heat helps aching muscles relax and open the pores for detoxification and skin rejuvenation. Those with respiratory problems enjoy steam therapy because it has been known to help soothe throat irritation, loosen phlegm in the lungs and loosen mucus in the nose. If you are remodeling your bathroom, you might think about adding a steam shower unit for the reasons mentioned above. ThermaSol is one manufacturer that works very hard to make figuring out what type of steam shower unit to purchase very easy!

ThermaSol's MicroTouch Controller

ThermaSol’s product offerings also include aromatherapy oils, and they’ve made sure to produce their controls in finishes that complement virtually every faucet/shower finish on the market – so you don’t have to worry about your steam controller looking out of place. They also offer Bluetooth capability and their MicroTouch controller works in the same way as a smartphone – technology continues to advance!


The array of faucets on the market today is enough to make anyone dizzy – so before you become overwhelmed, it’s best to try to narrow things down using a few criteria:

  • Contemporary styling or Traditional? Or somewhere in between (called Transitional)

Kallista One Basin Gooseneck Faucet

Kallista Tuxedo Faucet from Barbara Barry

  • Do you want low-flow aerators to ensure that you are being kind to the environment? Most faucets do have aerators, and in fact a ‘Low-flow’ faucet today is made so well you would never be able to tell that you are saving water.

Kohler Cruette Single Hole Faucet

  • Single-hole or widespread. Do you like having ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ handles separate or would you prefer a single hole faucet?

Once  you’ve narrowed these criteria down in your head (and perhaps by looking through magazines or online), you will be better prepared and less likely to become frustrated or overwhelmed by the choices.


The average toilet gets flushed nearly 2,000 times a year. And in the U.S., one-half of all toilets are older, less efficient models that waste up to 1.6 billion gallons of water every day. That data is from Kohler, the manufacturers of some of today’s most efficient  (and stylish) toilets.   Here again, as with faucets, you’ll want to do a bit of research first:

Kohler's Adair One-Piece Toilet with Elongated Seat

  • One-piece versus Two-piece toilets
    One-piece toilets integrate tank and bowl into a seamless, space-saving design that is easy to clean. Some low-profile models can be installed under a vanity extension when space is at a premium. Because of their special design detail, most one-piece KOHLER toilets ship with a complementary Quiet-Close™ toilet seat with Quick-Release™ functionality.

Two-piece toilets feature the traditional design of a separate tank and bowl. Two- and three-bolt installation systems provide a sturdy, level connection between the tank and bowl, making installation easy.

Kohler's Cimarron Comfort Height Two-Piece Toilet

  • Bowl Shape
    Compact elongated one-piece toilet designs enable an elongated bowl to fit in a round-front space.

Elongated bowls provide added room and comfort for adults. These will have the abbreviation “EB.”

Round-front bowls require less space and are good for small children. These are also referred to as “plain bowls” with the abbreviation “PB.”

  • Flushing Types
    Kohler offers two main toilet flushing types: gravity and assisted. Gravity flushing comes in two types: siphonic, which uses the flow of water and the s-shape of the trapway to create a siphoning action, and washdown, which uses the force of gravity to send all of the water through the rim and out. Assisted flushing moves water from the tank to the bowl and out of the trapway using electricity.

If all of this seems overwhelming – your safest bet is to gather every photo you can of things you like and head into the showroom.  A trusted showroom (and the well-trained staff) should be your one-stop shop. No need to run from one to the next – a good showroom has a great selection of products in ALL categories (faucets, fixtures, furniture for the bath, tile, even lighting.)

Next time, we’ll tackle tubs and tile!

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Everything Old Is New Again –Building Versus Renovating

April is many things to many people and industries: to gardeners it’s yard clean-up and bulb-planting, to the fashion world it’s spring and summer fashion (a bit too soon for bathing suits but we can’t fight that tide) and for the home design and building industries it’s New Homes Month. In December, we spent a fair bit of time talking about many of the options to consider when building or remodeling. However, we didn’t touch on the economic aspects that go into such decisions. According to data compiled by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in November 2014, the median home price of a newly constructed home was $280,900 while the median price of an existing home was $206,200.  That is a pretty big gap (36% to be precise.)  There could be many factors at work here, the biggest being the lack of new housing stock. Existing home prices continue to climb as well leaving buyers to question whether they should even consider moving or rather upgrade and renovate their existing homes.

There two primary advantages to buying an existing home are convenience and cost. If you are pre-approved for a mortgage you can take your time and see what’s out there.  The drawback would be having to make any major upgrades and renovations to an existing home, where if you built from scratch, you are able to specify the house to your exact needs (budgets  notwithstanding).  Timing may be an issue as well: 7-12 months is the average time it takes to build a house, which includes finding the land and choosing an architect and a contractor. You will need those for renovations as well – so we are back to costs, timing and availability of land (unless you buy an existing home as a tear-down.)

If you want to learn more about hidden costs, check out The Builder’s and Remodelers Association of Greater Boston (BRAGB). This trade organization has tons of helpful articles and insights.

Since we cannot make this decision for you – we are going to talk about what we know best – products! Because regardless of whether you build or renovate, you should be looking at purchasing products that not only fit your budget but will also save energy (and therefore costs) and last a long time.

Below is an interesting chart that shows the cost per hour for various appliances – you can see that the clothes washer/dryer are the second highest, after central air. Being in New England, we can guarantee that you likely use the washer/dryer a LOT more than your central air; depending on time of year. So it makes sense to invest in products that are as efficient as possible, which is where Energy Star comes into play.

Common Electricity-Consuming Appliances

Energy Star is a term that everyone has heard; you’ve probably seen their labels on many appliances. The ENERGY STAR program was established by EPA in 1992, under the authority of the Clean Air Act Section 103(g). Section103(g) of the Clean Air Act directs the Administrator to “conduct a basic engineering research and technology program to develop, evaluate, and demonstrate non–regulatory strategies and technologies for reducing air pollution.” In 2005, Congress enacted the Energy Policy Act. Section 131 of the Act amends Section 324 (42 USC 6294) of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, and “established at the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency a voluntary program to identify and promote energy–efficient products and buildings in order to reduce energy consumption, improve energy security, and reduce pollution through voluntary labeling of or other forms of communication about products and buildings that meet the highest energy efficiency standards.

There are lots of options for appliances — here are some that are Energy Star rated (or compliant):

Bosch has some of the quietest dishwashers on the market. A bit pricier than some others, but depending on your budget – it might work.

Bosch Energy Star Rated Dishwasher

General Electric’s products are always dependable.

GE Refrigerator

Of course Sears carries a lot of Energy Star rated appliances (as do most big box stores). You can go right to Energy Star’s website and do a comparison there of many brands.

LG Energy Star Rated Electric Clothes Dryer

There are so many considerations – whether you decide to build from scratch or to renovate, using ‘green’ or Energy Star rated appliances and more efficient toilets, plumbing fixtures and electrical fixtures allows you to save on costs down the line and will make for a healthier environment in the long run.  We can’t fight Mother Nature, but we make our own homes as comfortable as possible.

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Vanity Countertop Options Are Plentiful

There was a time when people in the home design industry looked down their noses at anything that wasn’t granite or wood or other ‘natural’ materials. We think the backlash began when homeowners moved into homes that had Formica countertops left over from the 1950’s with peeling edges and colors not found in nature. Who wouldn’t shy away from that?

All of this began to change once solid surface materials were introduced by DuPont in 1963, with their product named Corian. Since then, the term ‘solid surface’ is used almost as much as any brand name – the same way we ask for a Kleenex, when we mean tissue.  Originally designed for use as a countertop, this versatile material is now being used for showerpans, shower and tub walls, floor tiles, tabletops, cutting boards…the list goes on.

We love it for exactly that – its versatility. Virtually impervious to stains or chips, it is one of the easiest surfaces to clean and price-wise it is less than granite (but then again everything seems to be less than granite!)

The palette of colors has grown as well as the design flexibility; everything from calming neutrals to eye-popping rich and saturated colors.

You cannot tell us that this countertop isn’t lovely – especially paired with that vanity.

Swan Vanity top in Crystal White

Swan is a brand that has been producing solid surface countertops for more than 40 years! You might recognize the brand name Swanstone – which they introduced in 1987. A proud ‘Made in America’ product – there are a number of reasons it continues to gain in popularity: it’s very easy to clean and is resistant to all household cleaners. Because it’s a homogenous material (that means it’s a non-porous material with color molded throughout), stains can be polished or buffed away, because the surface will be the same underneath as it was before the stain. We also love that it’s available in 35 colors!

You can use it as countertops with vessel sinks, or as an undermount sink just as easily:

Swan undermount bowl in granite gray

Terestone is another manufacturer of products designed to give you the look of cultured stone (in this case marble) but without the high cost and with better options for customization. Founded in 1968, Terestone is one of the oldest and most experienced manufacturers of cast polymer products. What IS Terestone you ask? Their product is actually named TERE-STONE® and it consists of natural stone, resin and a proprietary component (secret ingredient.) Scratches can be easily removed simply by buffing and polishing the surface.  With a material composition and consistent color throughout the base material, similar to solid surface products, damages to the surface can be repaired utilizing a consumer-friendly patch kit. As with Swanstone, TERE-STONE Vanity Tops with integral bowls will not crack or craze. Terestone offers a 10-year warranty and like Swan, the products are also made in the USA. These countertops really look like marble, don’t they?

Terestone Custom Vanity

Here is another beauty:

Terestone Vanity in Cinnamon Toast

Ceramic Countertops

Kohler excels at many things, so you shouldn’t be surprised to know that they too offer a countertop solution.  Their Ceramic/Impressions line of integrated countertops offers style and functionality in numerous design options.  Why do we love ceramic as a choice? It too is easy to clean and because of the way it’s made and finished, it is very resistant to scratches which means it will look factory-fresh for years to come. We really like their Poplin and Jute collections, each of which provides a warm feeling because of the wood tones.Of course being Kohler, they make it a point to offer a number of complete solutions; vanities,  coordinating faucets, toilets, accessories. That’s Kohler!

Kohler's Poplin Collection

Kohler Jute Vanity

Kohler even has great options for smaller bathrooms, when you need a vanity to fit (24″ is a great size)

Kohler Alberry 24" wide vanity with integrated top

The choice…or really choices…are yours.

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Spring Refresher Course for Your Bathroom

Well, it’s here – or almost here – Spring! We New Englanders have suffered an awfully long time this winter (and about 100” worth) – so to say that spring fever is upon us might be an understatement. It’s about this time that most homeowners whip open their windows, shake out their carpets and look around to see what else can be tossed or perhaps refreshed.
This makes it the perfect time to look at your bathroom and see what can be easily updated or refreshed in this room. Bathroom accessories are the easiest way to give a room a fresh and clean look.
If you are feeling as though you never have enough places to hang towels, or robes – there are a number of interesting Robe Hooks that are designed to match various decors (traditional, contemporary or transitional) and they do a fine job of holding things together!

Brizo has many options, but we like these three, because, as we said, one is contemporary (Odin), one is more traditional (Virage) and their Vesi Channel is a double hook that would work in a number of environments. Brizo has nine finishes, which means that there should be one that complements any existing faucet and cabinet pull finishes you already have.

Brizo Odin Robe Hook

Brizo Virage Robe Hook Traditional Style

Brizo Vesi Channel double robe hook

Kohler has something that actually looks like a hanger – they call it a Valet (the Margaux Valet to be exact)- interesting!

Margaux Valet Hook from Kohler

Need even more space in the bathroom? Shelving is the answer – easy to install, you can add as many as needed and they all help a bathroom maintain a neat and tidy appearance.
Shelving for bathrooms are usually tempered glass (easier to clean and sturdy) and supported by solid brass fittings. They come in a variety of lengths and they are perfect for items that you need in easy reach. In fact, they can be ‘staged’ to look like lovely tableaus…go ahead and put ALL the nail polish on one shelf and see how colorful you can make it.

Kohler Margaux glass shelf

Another way to freshen your bathroom design is to switch from a straight shower rod to a curved rod. These are wonderful for smaller bathrooms; they really give you the sense that your shower is oh-so-roomy – without changing the dimensions at all!

Moen has a number of curved rods to choose from – you just need to select the size and finish.

Moen Curved Shower Rod

Spring is here! Out with the old, in with the ….ahhh….

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The Whole House – Options to Consider When Building or Remodeling – Part 2

In Part 2,  we will evaluate heating & cooling options, appliances, faucets & fixtures and cabinets & countertops.  Some of these categories have evolved over the last ten years to minimize their environmental impact.

Heating & Cooling

Living in the Northeast requires that homes have a functional heating system.  In many of the older style homes, furnace are used.  Furnaces can be gas powered or oil powered.  A furnace is designed to call on its designated fuel source, burn it to create heat and distribute the heat throughout the house via a duct system.  Most of the innovations in furnaces have come from gas fired furnaces.

furnace system

Innovations have included exhaust heat exchangers, flame modulation and high efficiency blowers.  Boilers burn oil, natural gas or propane to heat water. The heated water is then pumped through out the house to baseboard heaters, radiators or a radiant floor.  High efficiency boilers have many of the same features of the high efficiency furnaces.  They can be up to 50% more expensive, but those costs are gained back over time due to having to use less energy.  One of the green systems that has gained a fair amount of traction over the last five years is geothermal systems. A geothermal system is a form of heat pump that transfers heat to and from the earth.  An efficient geothermal heat pump is able to move three to five times more energy than it consumes.  It can be used in both warm and cold climates.

example of geothermal pump


Today most new appliances have the EnergyStar or EnergyGuide label.  These designations indicate to consumers that the manufacturers of certain appliances are working to meet high efficiency standards without compromising performance.  The appliances that put the most demand on energy resources are refrigerators, washers & dryers, dishwashers and cooktops & ovens.  Refrigerators are always on, so they are the worse offender of energy consumption.  Today’s refrigerators can be up to 75% more energy efficient than ones built just 15 years ago.  Refrigerators also do a better job of storing food.  There are compartments or bins in the new refrigerators that can regulate the humidity and air flow to help minimize spoilage.  When it comes to washers and dryers,  the important aspect for washers is water consumption and for dryers, it is electrical use.  In fact, as of 2015, the Energy Star specifications for clothes dryers goes into effect.  Washers can be loaded in two ways: top loaded or front loaded.  Front loaded washers will use up to one third less water water than a top loaded washer and because of their design, they reduce the wear on clothes. They also save on electricity costs.

front loading washers & dryers

Dishwashers will consume a both a fair amount of water and electricity, because the dishwasher goes through a a few rinse cycles and it uses electricity to run its motors to heat the the water for more efficient cleaning.  According to EnergyStar, dishwashers produced before 1994 typically use 10 gallons per more than modern units.  The modern units will also provide an option for boosting the internal temperature for drying purposes or dial in an energy saving mode.  Another factor for dishwashers is sound.  Increased insulation and sound proofing has reduced the decibel level on most modern dishwashers.  Cooktops & ovens can run off of electricity, natural gas and dual-fuel.  One of the most significant innovations with stove tops is induction cooking. Induction cooking heats a cooking vessel by electrical induction, where only the heat gets transferred only to the metal.   You could place your hand on the surface of an induction stove set it on high and you would not receive a burn.

induction cooking

Faucets & Fixtures

The Ultimate Bath Store is all about faucets and fixtures and their trained sales consultants are by far the best resources for what products will work best for your bathroom or kitchen project.  Many of the manufacturers that the Ultimate Bath Store works with, have already developed products that carry the WaterSense label.  Stop by one of stores today and learn how the bath and plumbing industry is conserving one of our most precious resources:  water.

Cabinets & Countertops

The manufacturers of cabinets have been slow to adopt sustainability standards in their industry,  but over the last few years, there has been an internal push to establish some guidelines.  When thinking about cabinets, the homeowner should stay away from particleboard cabinets with a veneer.  Solid wood construction is the way to go.  It may cost a little more, but in the end, it is the best option.  Countertops come in many forms: stainless steel, granite, laminate, concrete, tile and engineered stone.  Granite provides the most interesting options in terms of looks, but it is pricey and not always the best, in terms of durability.  Too get that high end finish and toughness without the cost, engineered stone is an excellent option. Concrete has also made significant inroads as a viable option. Surface like countertops are really critical to your kitchens overall look & feel, so play through the choices before making a decision.

concrete countertop

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The Whole House – Options to Consider When Building or Remodeling – Part 1

This two part series will provide the homeowner with some ideas to consider when considering any type of project related to your home.  In this first part, we will tackle exteriors, roofing and windows.


The exterior of your house takes major abuse.  If the weather isn’t beating down with UV rays and water, it can become a potential habitat for critters.  It has to be durable and resistance, especially to fire.  Above all, it needs to be pleasing to the eye, because as they say, ‘you never get a chance to make a first impression.’   Some of the products that meet this criteria are brick, wood, engineered wood & fiber cement.  Brick is forever.  Made of clay and shale, brick is very durable.  Due to its thickness, it provides excellent insulative qualities.   It can be expensive, but once it is in place, it is low maintenance and forever.

Wood is typically the siding of choice for most contractors.  Wood products don’t require a lot of energy to produce.  Wood is a renewable product that might make up nearly half of all raw materials manufactured in the U.S., but it’s share of energy consumption is only 4%.  Engineered Wood is made from wood strands that are coated with a resin binder and compressed to create a strong board. It is resistance to termite and decay.  Fiber cement siding is composed of sand, cement, clay and wood pulp fibers.  It has a smooth textured finish of wood, but it is long lasting, fire resistance and rot proof.

wood siding

fiber cement siding


Asphalt shingles dominate the options for protecting your roof.  A good asphalt shingle should last a maximum of 25 years.  It is a petroleum based product and it is tough to recycle, which doesn’t help is green appeal, but it’s affordability will keep it in the pole position for many years to come.  Metal roofing products are mostly made of recycled steel.  New designs and long durability have made metal roofs the new fashion statement.  Unfortunately, metal roofs can be easily damaged if there is impact activity on the roof.

asphalt shingle

metal roof

Wood shingles can provide a rustic look, but they are susceptible to water damage and fire unless chemically sealed.  Clay or concrete roof tiles would appear to have it all: good looks, fire resistance and excellent durability.  The only drawback and it is a fairly big one, the cost.  The materials to make it are expensive and it is very labor intensive to install.

concrete roof tiles


Of all products related to home both interior and exterior,  windows have made the most technological advances.  Today’s windows can vastly improve the energy efficiency of an old house with older windows.  All windows manufactured in the past few years have to adhere to strict codes, which requires them to be double glazed and absorb UV rays.  Having just started the process of replacing windows, I have already noticed the difference between the replacement windows and the original windows that were installed over 20 years ago. Of course, just replacing the window is the panacea.  Having a competent carpenter install them makes a big difference.

replacement window

Join us for our next post, when we review energy efficient products for the categories of heating & cooling, appliances, faucets & fixtures and cabinets & countertops.

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Product Highlight: Thermasol – Superior Steamshower Systems

Thermasol was the creator of the first steam shower unit for the home.  This was back in 1958 and today, they offer the only 100% digital, fully networked steam systems in the world.  They are also one of the only steam shower manufacturers to include Bluetooth® technology in their steam shower packages and offer a mobile application for controlling everything from temperature to light and music via wireless telephones and tablet devices.

We had the opportunity to connect with Martin Siwy, Thermasol’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing and do a little Q&A.

The steam generator has evolved over the last 10 years, is it a more accepted part of a bathroom redesign?

In October 2007, ThermaSol was the first manufacturer in the category to incorporate a 100% digitally networked system. We chose the CAN-bus protocol which is used in automotive applications, aerospace, industrial automation, advanced medical equipment, and much more. Today, we are still the only steam manufacture to invest in the upgraded digital network while others continue to use analog systems. The undeniable advantage of our system… it’s designed and engineered in-house for plug and play connectivity; simple with unparalleled safety and efficiency.

There are many factors making steam showers more and more popular. All the manufacturers have realized that aesthetics are extremely important to keep with evolving trends. Competition has everyone reaching higher thus benefiting the consumer.  Steam manufacturers are promoting the category by providing continuing education along with field training.  This awareness of steam has improved product awareness and customer understanding. Restrictive codes like CALGreen are also fueling growth, showrooms are looking for alternatives to improve the spa experience since limitations are being placed on water usage, number of shower heads, etc.

Are they more energy efficient and how?

We patented and introduced SmartSteam™ in 2007 on the Pro Series generators; saves energy and makes the steam room more enjoyable with no annoying temperature fluctuations.

Think of SmartSteam™ as a cruise control for steam. Instead of the unit working at 100% of its kW, then turning off when the temperature is reached, then turning back on when the temperature falls by a degree, the ThermaSol’s PRO Series generators modulate the amount of power to maintain the precise temperature setting.  SmartSteam™ is patented, and only available from ThermaSol.

Click on the image and learn about Smart Steam with Sol

How difficult is it to install a steam generator?

The installation process is very simple. Key elements are: 1) use water & vapor proof materials, 2) create a seating area with a flip seat or bench, 3) have an exhaust fan outside the steam shower, 4) place the control close to the seating area,  5) install the steam head away from the seating area, and 6)  include a transom glass window to allow airflow when the shower is not in use.

Here’s a scoop… we haven’t announced our new online ThermaSol Solution Center but it’s coming soon… it assists the installer/homeowner with step-by-step instructions on how to create the ultimate steam shower experience. Our tutorials will be available 24/7, they’ll help troubleshoot an issue or simply show you how to use or program your system.

Temp-Touch Plus Kit

What is ‘Simple Sizing’?

This is an immense ThermaSol advantage. All other manufactures require the client to know what building materials will be used within the steam shower and some require even more: how many external walls, how many glass panels, is there a window or skylight, etc. These questions cannot be answered in the early planning stage. In order to pre-sell the idea, and to put steam on the budget at the initial stages of the project and make it easy for the salesperson, ThermaSol came up with Simple Sizing.  All you need to know is the Length x Width x Height of the shower = cubic footage. That’s all you need.

What sets ThermaSol apart from its competitors?

The quick answer is everything. Reviewing the Timeline (http://www.thermasol.com/about/timeline) in our brochure you can clearly see that ThermaSol’s innovation and advancement has and continues to lead the steam category. The competition is constantly  trying to imitate our features and options.  There are a number of things that set us apart from our competitors: SmartSteam™, Simple Sizing, PowerFlush, CAN-bus communication network, Infrared Temperature Sensing (ITS), Lifetime Warranty on Parts and Labor, and a Zero Tolerance Internet Policy.

Proudly manufactured in the USA with patented leading edge technologies, a Zero Tolerance Internet Policy – there isn’t another manufacture in the industry that can say this.

What is the health values of a steam shower system?

Steam showers provide the most health benefits of any appliance installed in your home. Steam rejuvenates and leaves skin with a healthy glow, cleanses the skin, opens pores to expel toxins, lubricates and hydrates dry skin. It’s also known to relieve stress, encourage relaxation, promote deep and restful sleep. If you are physically active it soothes muscles after exercise, removes lactic acid from overworked muscles, increases blood circulation, and boosts metabolism. Steam opens nasal passages, soothes the throat and assists the respiratory system. Your steam unit does all that, and more!

Thermasol Aromatherapy

How has steam generation evolved into the digital age?

The generators are becoming “smarter” as we’re keeping up with today’s quickly changing technologies. In 2011, we introduced Bluetooth connectivity so users can stream their music to their steam shower. In 2012, we introduced the Solitude WiFi Module which allows the Solitude Mobile App to operate the entire system, available from the Google Store and iTunes.

What are some of the innovation that ThermaSol has rolled out in the last few years?

Mentioned above. On September 9th, we introduced the most advanced steam controller yet. The MicroTouch Capacitive Touch Technology (CTT) used on mobile devices, the in-shower MicroTouch control allows you to easily control: power on/off, temperature, PowerFlush system, or recall your previous steam setting. NEW Infrared Sensing Technology* reads temperature more accurately and much faster than standard contact temperature sensors. MicroTouch was designed with a low profile, crisp and clear screen display, and a high-end visual appeal. It is offered in five styles in 14 finishes to match nearly any faucet or plumbing fixture on the market today.

What are some other products that ThermaSol is bringing to the bath & plumbing industry?

We have several new and industry leading items on our plate. I can’t say too much yet; however, you will see a new steam shower control that no one has ever attempted before. We’ll be bringing more options, and the latest technologies with more ways to relax. I hope that helps, I’m biting my tongue because I’m super excited on what we are going to launch soon. Stay tuned!

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TUBS Newest Showroom: Colchester, Connecticut

This store seamlessly integrates technology and a beautiful layout designed to provide customers the opportunity to interact with live, working products and specially built suites that help them decide on the right products for their home. Enhancing their shopping experience are strategically placed LCD monitors providing real-time, custom detail about the world-class brands we feature. When they are ready, customers then can sit down at our multimedia work-stations (including Wi-Fi and Tablet technology) where they are expertly guided through the process of purchasing products. This approach allows customers to have both a traditional and technology-driven shopping experience in one location.   The Colchester showroom has been nominated for an Innovative Showroom award.  Please take a moment to vote for the Colchester showroom. Voting begins 11/10/14 at 12AM and ends at 11:59PM on 11/14/14.  Vote for the Colchester showroom

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