August Products - Ion Lithium

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    Quiet Please: This Ultra Silent humidity-sensing fan costs about $60 less than the previous model and is easier to install, the company says. The components are sold in packs and are purchased when needed. They come fully assembled so builders will not have to disassemble, store, and possibly damage components. The unit, which senses a rapid rise in humidity and activates automatically, operates at 1.5 sones and exhausts 100 CFM. Broan-NuTone. 800-558-1711. www.broan.com.

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    High Style: Designed as a package, First Professionals puts the company's stainless steel appliances within a more attainable price point. The package consists of a 36-inch bottom-mount refrigerator, 30-inch convection oven, 36-inch cooktop, 24-inch dishwasher, and 36-inch range hood for the tidy sum of $15,000. Gaggenau. 800-828-9165. www.gaggenau-usa.com.

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    Stone World: In an effort to help builders deal with the slow market, the manufacturer has introduced ProStone, an affordable engineered veneer stone. It's available in 13 colors and textures and comes in flat and corner pieces of varying sizes. Owens Corning Masonry Products. 419-248-8000. www.owenscorning.com.

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    Pick up the Pieces: The manufacturer uses its Silestone scrap to produce the MURO line of tumbled mosaic backsplashes. Priced at $10 per square foot, the line is available in 20 colors and made with 1-inch-by-1-inch, 1-inch-by-2-inch, and 4-inch-by-4-inch tiles. Pieces are mounted on mesh sheets for easy installation. Cosentino North America. 800-291- 1311. www.silestoneusa.com.

We’re in a declining housingmarket, and builders should build accordingly. But what does this mean exactly? It may not be what you think.

For one thing, it means that this is not the time to be cheap; it’s time to be smart. It’s time to build good homes with cool products that stand a better chance of getting noticed.

That may seem counterintuitive, but consider this: A few years ago, fly-by-night builders could put up a house of questionable quality and expect that it would sell. Today, this is no longer true. Buyers have more time to examine and identify flaws in plans, shortcomings in execution, and poor choices in product selections. These are negatives that can skunk a deal.

The trick, of course, is finding products that will add wow to your world without breaking the bank. Manufacturers feel your pain and have responded with kitchen and bath products to help.

Take the MURO backsplash that Stafford, Texas–based Cosentino North America recently launched. The tumbled mosaic backsplashes are made from bits of the company’s quartz-based countertop material that have been captured from the manufacturing process.

“Developed from Silestone materials, Silestone MURO is a decorative solution that is easy to install and provides multiple application possibilities,” says Roberto Contreras Jr., CEO of Cosentino North America.

Toledo, Ohio–based Owens Corning Masonry Products has proffered ProStone as an option for trimming out tubs and exposed walls in the kitchen. An affordable veneer stone, ProStone will go a long way toward helping builders “add beauty, substance, and affordable differentiating features—without compromising quality,” masonry products division president Chuck Stein says in a release announcing the line.

Even high-end manufacturers are doing their part. Earlier this year, luxury appliance manufacturer Gaggenau in Huntington Beach, Calif., unveiled a five-piece appliance package called First Professionals that will sell for $15,000. The price, to be sure, sounds high, but when you consider that a refrigerator alone can cost $8,000, it sounds downright reasonable. For luxury buyers, especially those familiar with the brand, this is likely to be good news.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.