In the piece below, REMODELING's editor-in-chief Craig Webb discusses why replacement contractors and remodelers are the perfect people to test-drive new products.
Happy 100th birthday, Sheetrock! Back in 1917, what’s now called USG Corp. first put the Sheetrock name on a product consisting of gypsum sandwiched between two sheets of plaster. This new wallboard invention not only saved countless hours of installation time compared with slapping wet plaster on lath, USG notes it also made homes safer in fires. In addition, wallboard insulates better—something I notice every winter day in which I run a hand along the only plaster wall left in my 115-year-old home.
Since then, wallboard has become lighter, stiffer, and more water- and fire-resistant than ever. It’s one of the tens of thousands of products that make homes far more pleasant places to live in than in the age of gas lamps and sleeping porches. But despite these advances, builders are widely perceived as disliking change. I once heard an executive from K. Hovnanian Homes say residential construction in America consists of 300 years of history and zero years of innovation. Given all the Colonial saltbox homes across the country, you’d think he’s right.
I say that it’s time to change this perception. And I believe remodelers are the group to do it.
You can’t rely on production builders to lead the way here, for two reasons. First, they’re paralyzed by the thought of being held liable for product failures. That makes sense; installing the same bad product on hundreds or thousands of homes can have disastrous financial consequences. But the other reason is that too many builders have only scant knowledge of how to build a home. They often are more into land development than building science.
You and your fellow remodelers, on the other hand, arguably know more about good construction than anyone else in your neighborhood. That makes you the most logical person to conclude whether a new product will succeed. And given how full-service remodelers do just a few jobs at a time, you’re in a good position to test-drive a new product.
Manufacturers are busy today creating breakthroughs for the next 100 years. Take the lead and check them out.