Homeshow features cool innovations, neat ideas

Published on Thu, Mar 11, 2004
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Home show features cool innovations, neat ideas

Got an extra room that’s a little cool on these nippy spring nights? How about a nice cherry or pine corner bookcase with a 16,500 BTU gas fireplace in the top? Building a new house? How about using a technique that saves money and time and provides insulation whose R value ranges from 45 to 60 and can be used from the foundation to the roof peak?

That building technique uses what’s known in the trade as insulated concrete forms (ICF). It will also sound-proof so well that you’ll stop objecting to the neighbor kid’s rock band. You won’t even know about it.

These and a lot of other ideas were presented at last weekend’s 25th annual Whatcom County Building Industry Association’s home show at the Lynden Fairgrounds. Over 200 exhibitors showed their stuff to “about 13,000 folks, probably more, said Nick Hartrich, the show’s coordinator. “It was the biggest one we’ve had,” he said, “and it’ll grow again next year, I presume.”

If there was a theme, it might have been something like “the little guy.” The buildings were filled with independent, local contractors, people who wanted to deliver service as well as a sale. Over and over again one could hear “Well, we’ll stop by and take a look at your situation and help you think of some things you can do.”

For personalities, the show featured gardening guru Cisco Morris from Seattle’s KIRO to answer questions and generally promote anything green except the Green Giant. The Hemplers, Birch Bay meat mongers since the 1930s, had their kielbasas waiting and ready to deliver dripping with sauerkraut and onions for the footsore and show-weary.

Innovations for Quality Living in Bellingham had the fireplace in a corner cupboard at their display. They called it a “bed and breakfast” model since it’s designed to heat a 650-square-foot room, or one that’s about 25 feet by 25 feet, something to keep in mind if you’re turning your garage into a study. And in the model they had, it was in the top of the cabinet, not the bottom, so you could show it off like a sculpture.

The fireplace goes for about $1,200 and the cabinet is about $900, and while it’s beefier than most for the weight of the fireplace, there’s no clearance requirement for the unit once installed. Darryl Jones of Innovations said that there are lots of installation options. “We’ll sell you the cabinet, or give your contractor the specs, or teach you to frame it in yourself,” Jones said.

The ICF construction technique involves using a double wall of styrofoam that’s joined together with metal cross-ties that are fitted into each side with a webbed base. The space between the vertical walls is then filled with concrete. Because the load that puts on the styrofoam walls from the inside is so well controlled with the cross-ties, “we can continuously fill the wall, moving around and around the structure, instead of having to wait for it to dry as in regular concrete work using wood forms,” said Eric Stroschein of Pacific ICF in Mount Vernon. “The R value approaches 60 on these walls, and they’re sound proof,” he said, “and recently our product was chosen for building by a Habitat for Humanity project in Olympia because of the energy savings the new owner will realize.”