Builders get preview of products Retaining wall, stove among items at show


A natural retaining wall, a new Euro-style stove in a sleek modern design and a high-powered home whirlpool bath were among the products shown to about 5,000 homebuilders and industry professionals recently at a trade show in Timonium sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Maryland.

Permacrib is offering what it hopes will be the natural alternative to concrete retaining walls. The Permacrib product is a timber retaining wall system that is assembled like a toy log cabin.

Made of southern yellow pine, the wood barrier is assembled in an interlocking design that can be built as a solid wall or with open slats to allow room for plants to grow inside the wall.

The wood is treated with a preservative that Permacrib says is 2 1/2 times stronger than the average amount of treatment used for a standard wood deck.

For the past 1 1/2 years the company has been exporting the nTC wall-system materials from the company headquarters in New Zealand to the United States for highway retaining walls and industrial sites. With the completion of its factory in Elizabeth City, N.C., the company is marketing its product for home use. Scaled-down packages will be available this summer in local garden stores.

Alan G. MacKinnon, general manager of Mid-Atlantic Permacrib, based in Annapolis Junction, said the wood retaining walls cost 40 percent less than the concrete retaining walls often used to border highways.

He said the wood wall has been used for 15 years in Europe. "It's not a new idea, the Romans also did this," Mr. MacKinnon pointed out.

Inside the house, there are new products for kitchens and baths.

Gone are the days when the cook was shunted off to an isolated region of the house.

Kitchens have been claiming center stage in many new homes and taking over more space as people remodel their old kitchens. A center island to provide more cooking space is now a standard feature.

A popular feature in trendy kitchens is a Jenn-Air stove and grill. Jenn-Air has a down-draft ventilation system that eliminates the need for a ventilation hood over the stove.

Introducing its first major redesign in 20 years, Jenn-Air is showing a new Euro-style line of stoves with cook tops that are inset into the counter, so the cooking surface is flush with the counter and comes with lids to provide more counter space when the stove is not in use.

The modular stove units can be mixed and matched to create 240 combinations. Options include a grill, griddle, wok and a high-temperature burner that is suitable for canning or for steaming crabs.

The new Jenn-Air collection initially is available only with electric cooking elements. The gas version will be on the market soon.

If you love the whirlpool at the health club and haven't been able to find a substitute for your home spa, Pearl Baths Inc. may have what you are looking for.

While most home whirlpool baths have side jets that circulate 6 to 10 gallons of water per minute, professional whirlpools that are used for hydrotherapy in hospitals and athletic centers have larger jets that move 45 gallons of water per minute in a fast swirling motion.

Pearl Baths Inc. is marketing a bath in the Baltimore area that has jets placed diagonally at the ends to move about 30 gallons of water per minute in the same swirling motion as the larger professional models.

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