Our Favorite New-Home Products from the International Builders Show

An example of an ideal ActiClean toilet, which cleans itself thoroughly at the push of a button.

American Standard’s new ActiClean self-cleaning toilet cleans itself with an activation button for a one-minute quick cycle or a 10-minute deep clean.

If you think it’s tough to pick between three or four different cabinet styles and maybe a couple of countertop choices, your builder has an even more difficult job.

It’s a builder’s duty to sort through the dozens of offerings on the market and pick the best three or four in terms of quality and price.

But at the 2017 
International Builders Show in Orlando in January, builders scrutinized literally hundreds of kitchens and baths — plus thousands of other products — to find just the right ones for their clients.

More than 550,000 square feet of sinks, faucets, cabinets, appliances and various other building products were on display. Put another way, more than 220 2,500-foot houses could occupy the same space. That’s an entire subdivision of stuff.

Here are some of the more interesting items, some of which could eventually find themselves as options, if not standard features, in model homes this year:

• Faucet and plumbing manufacturer Moen unveiled a showering system with Wi-Fi/Cloud-based connectivity that allows users to control and personalize the unit in any number of ways. You can adjust the time and temperature and even throw on your favorite tunes.

• Pfister showed “Water Over Wire” faucets, a conceptual collection for the future that incorporate voice-activated controls, hands-free functionality and built-in LED task lighting. The company also exhibited new faucet technology that delivers both filtered and tap water from a single faucet, twice as fast as typical water filter products.

• Grohe offered foot-control technology for its kitchen faucets. The hands-free control reduces the spread of germs, said notorious germaphobe and company spokesman Howie Mandel.

• Gas fireplace makers Heat & Glo, Heatilator and Majestic showed a full suite of heat management technology that offers the ability to divert heat to adjacent areas and reduce wall temperature around the hearth. The controls “open up the possibilities for unusual installations previously thought impossible,” a company spokesmen said.

• Keeping a bathroom clean promises to be easier with American Standard’s new ActiClean self-cleaning toilet, which cleans itself. The system combines the “cleanest flush ever delivered” with an activation button for the preferred cleaning cycle, a one-minute quick cycle or a 10-minute deep clean. No more unsightly toilet brushes or in-the-tank cleaners.

• InSinkErator turned the disposal category on its nose with a new design that dispenses a refreshing scent — lime, orange or lemon — every time the unit is flipped on to neutralize odors and leave behind a light fragrance. The scent comes from a backpack that attaches to the disposer and can be refilled or changed for another aroma.

• First Alert has combined carbon monoxide and smoke alarms into a single unit offering the latest sensing technology.

• The Galley, a sink workstation invented by an unnamed award-winning kitchen designer, is a super functional unit for every task — preparation, cooking, serving and even entertainment. All in one convenient place.


• A drawer from Hafele America includes both AC outlets and USB ports mounted at the rear of a drawer, promising to keep cords untangled no matter the drawer’s position. Dedicating a drawer to charging helps keep countertops clutter free.

• For wireless charging, BA Technologies displayed a new charging unit that can be placed beneath practically any non-metal surface. DekTek can charge up to three devices at a time, even if they have different power requirements. 

• Invisidoor is a secret door that looks like a bookcase. One version opens to a hidden room or closet, while a folding unit hides a fold-down bed. Available in Cherry, Maple and Red Oak.

• BombNado, a maker of disaster shelters, offered underground shelters from $19,000 to more than $1 million. The shelters can be used as a wine cellar, gun vault, panic room or a room beneath the earth where the homeowner can take refuge during a hurricane or tornado. One model has 160 cubic feet of storage underneath laminated flooring, collapsible bunks and a couch. You can even park a vehicle on top of the discreet 3-foot-by-3-foot hatch installed flush with the ground.

• Viega brought German engineering to the show with an in-wall flushing technology that works without a tank. Instead, the toilet is linked directly to behind-the-wall plumbing. The systems offers such great flexibility that it can be installed on any wall rather than one limited to fixtures. The company also has a toilet and sink that adjusts up and down at the push of a button for owners of varying heights.

• Glideware introduced a corner cabinet solution that promises to make the Lazy Susan obsolete. Called the “Not So Lazy Susan,” it is a unique system from which homemakers can hang their pots, pans and lids, freeing up hard-to-find cabinet space elsewhere in the kitchen.

• With the trend toward outdoor living and expansive glass walls that slide or fold open, how are you going to keep the bugs out? With Phantom Screens’s motorized, retractable wall screens, now up to 40 feet wide.

• Lifts aren’t just for TVs anymore. Touchstone Home Products showed a drop-down — or pop-up — lift for small appliances. The unit stores mixers or coffee makers until you are ready to use them, and then they rise from beneath a countertop or come down from a wall cabinet.

• Wellborn displayed several new lines, including frameless cabinets that offer full access and more space than found in typical units. The Aspire line includes a wide variety of door styles, from wood to high-gloss metal. And an expansive color palette cuts across stains, paints and colors. Drawers close at the touch and shelves can be adjusted up or down.

• Described as “the ultimate farm-to-table option,” an indoor home garden from Canada’s Urban Cultivator is roughly the size of a small wine fridge that lets you grow your own herbs, vegetables and microgreens right in your kitchen.

• No one likes a foggy bathroom, so Delta exhibited a new bathroom ventilation fan that has a built-in humidity/motion sensor so you can choose a fan speed, an LED light or both.

Lew Sichelman is a nationally syndicated housing and real estate columnist. He has covered the real estate beat for more than 50 years.

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