George Fritz
Horizon Builders, Crofton, Md.

For fine detail work and for quick removal of material from sensitive areas, custom builder George Fritz says that many carpenters on his crews depend on their Fein MultiMaster tools. These hand-held, variable-speed tools feature a wide assortment of accessory attachments that let users handle multiple tasks that would otherwise have to be done manually. The MultiMaster's oscillating motion allows for both delicate and aggressive work, depending on the attachment used.

“It really works well. My carpenters are very keen on it,” says Fritz. “I have guys with 15 to 25 years of experience, and you don't just throw any tool in front of them.”

Courtesy Fein Power Tools USA

Fein's MultiMaster tool comes in three versions: the corded starter kit, the cordless model, and the pneumatic model. Fritz says that Horizon's carpenters especially like to use the tile-cutting blades that Fein offers in a separate accessory blade kit for cutting stone and tile and removing grout. Fritz says that using the MultiTool in Horizon's building and renovation jobs has helped resolve several issues during construction.Fein Power Tools USA. 800.441.9878.

Rich Kligman
Superb Custom Homes, Plymouth, Mich.

Richard Kligman builds homes that price out between $650,000 to $2.5 million. In that range, it should come as little surprise that many of his clients are acquainted with the pleasures of resort spas. Kligman lets them take a bit of that experience home with them by building in amenities like Kohler's Sok tub, a 75-inch-long, 24-inch-deep soaking tub with a number of unusual features. “To get that spa experience you can fill the tub to the top,” Kligman says. Overflow water falls into a trough at the perimeter and is reheated and circulated back into the tub. Special small air jets create a fizzier froth than standard whirlpools. An optional chromotherapy package of in-tub LEDs tints the water various colors in a sequence that may or may not be therapeutic, but definitely is cool. “We're getting very positive feedback on it,” says Kligman, who likes to spec the tub with a filler that delivers water through a spout in the ceiling. “It's pretty dramatic.”

Courtesy Kohler

Kohler. 800.456.4537.

Randy Rinehart
Rinehart Homes, Charlottesville, Va.

Randy Rinehart's custom home business caters to the growing active adult community in his Charlottesville, Va., market. Its success stems from his belief that universal products can enhance the look and functionality of a home, not detract from it. “Universal design is not only about the design of the home but about small individual features that add up to the end result of making a house easier to live in,” he says. That's why his homes are equipped with items such as 3-foot-wide doorways, lever door handles, raised dishwashers, and lowered cooktops.

Courtesy Whirlpool
Courtesy Creative Specialties International

When it comes to the laundry room, Rinehart says, he likes to use Whirlpool's Duet front-loading washers and dryers because they are extremely easy to load and unload. Rinehart recommends the optional pedestal drawer that raises the units by 13 inches.

Rinehart also likes universal products that can do double duty, such as a grab bar that can act as a towel bar. “When I talk about grab bars, most people see stainless steel in a commercial bathroom. In today's residential world, they come in a variety of sizes and colors. They tend to blend in,” he says. Fitting the bill are the Decorator and Kingsley collections of ADA-compliant grab bars from Creative Specialties International, a division of Moen. Each grab bar is available in a chrome finish with interchangeable polished brass accent rings in six sizes from 12 to 42 inches in length.

Whirlpool. 800.253.1301.
Creative Specialties International. 800.882.0116.

Owen Roberts
Owen Roberts Group, Bothell, Wash.

Owen Roberts is a big fan of insulating concrete form (ICF) construction. “I'm building my own house with that,” he says. “We used ICF on all four floors, and we've found it works great.” After a thorough scan of ICF brands on the market, Roberts settled on the Quad-Lock system, which consists of expanded polystyrene panels and polyethylene ties. Panels are available in three thicknesses, with insulating values from R-22 to R-40. The ties have flat tabs on both ends for the attachment of interior and exterior finishes. Plus, Roberts says, “You can do radiused walls.” Of the systems he has seen, “This seems to be the simplest and most flexible. The stuff works great.”

Courtesy Quad-Lock

Up on the roof, Roberts has found another product that suits him. “For flat roofs we always used a double layer of modified, torched down,” he says. But insurance rates rose due to the risk of fire during installation, so Roberts switched to a roofing membrane from IB Roof Systems. This 80-mil PVC and co-polymer alloy material is seam-sealed with a heat gun, rather than with a flame. And while Roberts began using it out of necessity, he prefers the new system. “We've gone from a ¼-inch buildup to 1/16 inch,” he says. He does miss torched-down roofing in one sense, though. Fewer fires mean fewer restoration projects. “That took away a profit center for us,” he jokes. “We rebuilt a couple of those. One was for a roofer.”

Quad-Lock. 888.711.5625.

IB Roof Systems. 800.426.1626.

Turko Semmes
Semmes & Co. Builders, Atascadero, Calif.

Courtesy Heat Transfer Products

“Our specialty is energy-efficient housing,” says Northern California custom builder Turko Semmes. And for supplying hot water for in-floor hydronic heat systems, Semmes has found nothing to top the tiny, 95 percent efficient Munchkin boiler from Heat Transfer Products. “We use that a lot. It's probably in over 50 percent of our projects,” Semmes says. “The whole thing is about the size of a box of oranges, and it can heat a 3,500-square-foot house.” Matched with the company's Superstor Ultra, a super-insulated stainless steel storage tank with heat exchanger, the Munchkin also handles domestic hot water and pool heating. “We can invest in one system and use it 12 months out of the year,” he notes. The Super Stor also comes with a lifetime warranty, “So you never have to change your water heater.”

Semmes also likes the heat that comes in free, through the window. But low-E glass—great for keeping the heat in—can pose a problem. “Most low-E coatings block the sun pretty seriously,” Semmes says. Many window manufacturers supply different low-E coatings to different regions of the country. Colder areas get a coating that maximizes solar gain. Markets in the sunny Southwest, where Semmes works, get a coating that shades more of the sun's rays. To tune his homes for maximum passive solar performance, Semmes prefers to specify the coating himself, according to the window's exposure. South-facing windows, which he shades with long overhangs to block the summer sun, get a minimal-shade coating. Those facing west, where low-angle sunlight is impossible to control with overhangs, get the higher-shade coating. Milgard Windows allows Semmes to specify the coating window by window. “Milgard has been the most proactive at supplying these,” Semmes says. “We can get either kind of low-E. We just have to spec it.”

Courtesy Milgard Windows

Heat Transfer Products. 800.323.9651.
Milgard Windows. 800.645.4273.

Courtesy Quantum Windows & Doors

Alan Gelet
Engelmann Inc., Ketchum, Idaho

Alan Gelet builds high-end custom residences ranging from log mountain cabins to Craftsman bungalows to contemporary homes. He needs a custom wood window manufacturer that's equally flexible. So far, Quantum Windows & Doors hasn't let him down. “They can pretty much make anything you want,” says the Ketchum, Idaho-based Gelet. Quantum uses its 20 years of experience to help builders, architects, and homeowners select types of wood, glass, finishes, and trim, and their list of options is extensive. They'll also build mixed-species windows; Gelet recently commissioned a set using walnut for the interior trim and teak on the exterior. Quantum is located in Everett, Wash., 30 miles north of Seattle, and serves clients all over the U.S. and Canada.

Quantum Windows & Doors. 800.287.6650.

Peter Tamburello
Keystone LLC, Fairfax, Va.

Courtesy James Hardie

Low-maintenance has become something of a mantra among Peter Tamburello's Northern Virginia clients. That's why he likes Hardiplank lap siding, a paintable fiber-cement product from James Hardie whose stability is guaranteed for 50 years. “That stuff is fantastic,” he says. “It has a masonry fire rating and comes in lots of colors.” Tamburello has also been specifying Huber Engineered Wood's AdvanTech flooring panels recently, preferring them to OSB and plywood for subfloors because of their moisture-resistant properties. With the engineered wood panels, he says, “you end up with a smoother floor because there's less likelihood of a delamination. They won't soak up the humidity like OSB.”Though the Mid-Atlantic climate is less extreme than in many parts of the country, winters there can still bring frigid temperatures. Tamburello has noticed that many of his clients are opting to use Icynene, a spray-in soft foam insulation that delivers a high level of energy efficiency. “A lot of our higher-end clients choose Icynene,” he says. “It's more expensive, so sometimes we'll just use it in the parts of the house where you really need it.”

Courtesy Icynene

James Hardie. 888.542.7343.

Huber Engineered Wood. 800.933.9220.

Icynene. 800.758.7325.

Dan Rockhill

Rockhill & Associates, Lawrence, Kan.

Architect/builder Dan Rockhill loves to create everything he can for his clients' homes—his firm even does steel and glass fabrication. Doing it himself helps control the budget while allowing him to produce just the right aesthetic for his warm yet industrial designs, plus it's fun. So when he does spec a manufactured product he goes for excellent value or stunning good looks. One of Rockhill's favorite lookers is the Metropolis sink by Neo-Metro. Made from heavy-gauge stainless steel, this conical pedestal basin comes with either a circular bowl for wall-mounted faucets or a D-shaped bowl for a deck faucet application.

Courtesy Neo-Metro

Another sleek addition to any bathroom, according to Rockhill, is one of the Philippe Starck bathtubs designed for Duravit. This oval model from the Starck 3 series stylishly updates the classic washtub form and can be used as a freestanding or built-in fixture.

Courtesy Duravit

Finally, for both attractiveness and extreme value, Ikea cabinets can't be beat, says Rockhill. “We can make our own cabinets, but we can't come close to meeting their quality for the price.”

Neo-Metro. 800.591.9050.

Duravit. 888.387.2848.

Ikea. 610.834.0180.

Richard Wodehouse
Wodehouse Builders, Telluride, Colo.

As a green builder with high-end clients, Richard Wodehouse is always on the hunt for products that deliver a luxury experience while conserving resources and energy. In his opinion, Metlund's D'mand hot-water circulating pump system scores in both departments. Unlike loop systems that require a separate return line to the water heater, the D'mand system splices a pump and remote temperature sensors into a conventional plumbing layout and runs only when hot water is needed. Activated by a manual button, door switch, or motion detector, the system quickly delivers hot water at the point of use while reducing water sent down the drain before the hot water arrives.

Courtesy ACT Inc. Metlund Systems

Conditions outside the house pose a different challenge. “Up here in the mountains, concrete deteriorates pretty fast, especially when states are using magnesium chloride on the roads.” To prolong the life of concrete walks, driveways, and stone pavers, Wodehouse uses Masonry Boss, an environmentally friendly sealant manufactured by Weather-Bos. After testing it for weather exposure and resistance to absorption of coffee, wine, and grease, Wodehouse gives it the thumbs up: “It repels moisture and it repels stains.”

ACT Inc. Metlund Systems. 800.638.5863.

Weather-Bos. 800.664.3978.

More about Fein
Find products, contact information and articles about Fein
More about Icynene
Find products, contact information and articles about Icynene
More about Milgard Windows
Find products, contact information and articles about Milgard Windows