It's been a quiet and–for hardware–swift revolution. Levers have been replacing knobs on residential doors at a relatively rapid pace for the past 10 years.
"It's what we are seeing," says Patrick Foley, director of product management for Schlage. Since the late 1990s, Schlage has been tracking the number of door knobs versus door levers sold. At the beginning of the 20th century's last decade, knobs were beating out levers on interior doors 80 to 20. Now the numbers are closer to 50-50, Foley says, with exterior door levers lagging behind knobs by 10 to 15 percent because they are considerably more expensive.
The lever's ascent into popularity began after 1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act passed into law, requiring public buildings to be more accessible to the disabled. One of the requirements was that many doors needed to replace their traditional–but difficult to grip–knobs with easier-to-use handles. But that was mostly a commercial construction phenomenon at first, according to David Lowell, director of training and certification for the Associated Locksmiths of America.
"In the commercial area, it is happening almost everywhere," Lowell says. "You almost don't see any commercial construction that has knobs, and that really has to do with the ADA."
But at some point during the 1990s, the trend began to creep over into the residential market. Like most trends, it was first marked in the high-end custom home arena, says Schlage's Foley. A wider adoption of levers has yet to migrate down to the starter production home because levers still tend to be more expensive than knobs–partly because they are a new product and partly because they require more materials and heavier-duty mechanisms. The same traits that help them open a door more easily also make it necessary that they be built stronger, especially for keyed exterior doors where there are security concerns.
Foley says lever-handled exterior keyed locks cost approximately 50 percent more than knobs, and interior ones are between 25 percent and 30 percent more.
Still, more builders are offering levers because their customers find them both more attractive and convenient than knobs. "There is an aging population, and levers seem to be easier for the elderly to open," says Foley. "We also think there is a fashion element to it. Just as people have used door knobs as a decorative element, levers are a decorative element."
And it's not just those with knob-gripping issues who find levers handier. "We have found out that the convenience of opening your doors is a big thing as well," says Foley. "The more we have our hands full coming in and out of doors, the handier [they become]. ? You can open a lever with your elbow."
Of course, in response to demand, Schlage has introduced more and more levers to its product line. "I would say the majority of new products that we have added since 2003 are lever, three times more levers than knobs."
As mold claims have tapped the resources of builders and driven up insurance costs, a plethora of building products has emerged to prevent or discourage the nuisance.
Drywall is no exception. Many gypsum board manufacturers have introduced products treated with mildew-killing agents in the facing paper to help discourage mold colonization. But Georgia-Pacific Gypsum has come up with a product that eliminates paper–and the glue that holds it in place–entirely.
DensArmor Plus panels replace the paper and glue with fiberglass mats that are imbedded in the gypsum when it's wet, so the crystals form around the fiberglass strands. "We have taken away the food source for mold," says Warren Barber, manager of Dens products for Georgia-Pacific Gypsum.
While there are five or six gypsum wall board manufacturers that now offer mold resistant products, they still have paper and glues that attach the paper, according to Barber. "There is no other paperless wall board manufacturer," he says.
The DensArmor Plus panels also have another advantage: Because they are more moisture resistant than paper-faced drywall, the drywall can be hung before the house is dried in, something that could improve construction schedules dramatically in some cases.
"We have in place a weather exposure warranty," says Barber. "It's all about getting a house closed faster and then getting on to the next one."
DensArmor Plus installs like regular drywall; one of the only differences is that the fiberglass mats make the texture slightly rougher, requiring a more careful priming before painting.
While the product has been gaining market share, it is more popular commercially than residentially, according to Barber. "But we have had a number of builders in the Midwest who use it in basements, and it's obviously more successful with the custom builder whose clients can afford an up-charge," he adds.
While the up-charge would add less than 0.10 percent to the project's total cost due to the fact that drywall isn't an expensive item in home construction, "On a per-piece price, it's considerably higher than traditional drywall," Barber notes. "But if you can close six or eight weeks earlier on the house because you have used paperless drywall [the benefit could be worth the up-charge]."
To better educate builder professionals about all its paperless products, Georgia-Pacific has created a Web site, www.buildpaperless.com, that offers information on preventing mold growth during the construction cycle, keeping construction projects on track without delays from weather, sustainable building, and resources for education credits.
Centex's Former Supply Chief Lands at ProBuild Holdings
"Because of ProBuild's scale, national reach, and technology infrastructure, we are uniquely positioned to provide tremendous benefits to both our customers and our vendor partners through efficient supply chain operations," says Bill Myrick, president of strategic initiatives for ProBuild. "This is a key area of strategic focus for us moving forward. Paul's leadership, experience, and national builder perspective will help us to accomplish the goals we have set in this area of our business. We are delighted to welcome him to the ProBuild team."
Dodge left Centex, where he had worked for nine years, in September. Before joining Centex, he worked in the wholesale and retail sectors. He was division vice president of merchandising at Builders Square, director of national accounts for Weyerhaeuser Building Materials, and president of Builder Marts of America.
Dodge earned a bachelor's of science degree in forestry utilization from the University of Maine and an MBA from Clemson University. He also graduated from the Executive Program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.