It's form over function at K/BIS

June 1, 2006
BY ROBERT P. MADER OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF You're not just washing your hands or a dish, you're living a lifestyle and plumbing manufacturers are happy to help. When the home builders met in Orlando, Fla., in January, their show was all about function (April, pg. 39). The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, on the contrary, is all about pizzazz. While the show covers everything one will find in a kitchen


You're not just washing your hands or a dish, you're living a lifestyle and plumbing manufacturers are happy to help.

When the home builders met in Orlando, Fla., in January, their show was all about function (April, pg. 39). The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, on the contrary, is all about pizzazz. While the show covers everything one will find in a kitchen or bathroom, the 60,000 designers, contractors and remodelors at this year's show in April in Chicago saw plenty of plumbing products.

High-tech plumbing
Kohler has entered the programmable shower market with its DTV custom showering system. Featuring the DTV Digital Interface and DTV Digital Shower Valve, the product offers customized shower experiences with multiple showerheads, hand showers and body sprays. The DTV's pre-set hydrotherapy experiences include up, down and wave massage, as well as temperature therapy that can either run from hot to cold or vice versa.

Hydrotherapy programs can be combined with temperature therapy. All showering components can be operated individually. Homeowners can create their own personalized showering experiences by programming customized settings. The DTV features a flow rate of up to 21 GPM and feeds up to eight showerheads, hand showers or body sprays.

TOTO has added to the cachè of its Neorest super toilet with a complete Neorest luxury bath collection. The Neorest programmable airbath has audio command confirmation. The tub is controlled with a deck-mounted color LCD touch panel control unit that will fill the tub to a precise level and water temperature. The 15-jet tub is built for two with a water cascade flowing over the headrests at either end. The Neorest RainShower Tower with body spray and hand shower is likewise programmable. The Neorest self-rimming lavatory with an integrated Smart Sensor Digital Faucet is touch activated and sends water into the bowl in a waterfall cascade. The flagship Neorest 600 1.2-GPF toilet features a wireless remote that uses fuzzy logic to learn its users' usage patterns and "re-educates" itself once a week.

Myson brought along its line of hydronic and electric towel warmers and radiators, but it featured its Hydronic Aquavision TV Towel Warmer Collection. The multi-function Myson Towel Warmer has been designed to provide warmth, beauty and a television in the user's bath or spa. The towel warmer has a 17-in.-by-12-in. flat screen TV inside in addition to keeping towels warm. When the TV is off, a mirror hides the screen. The brass Aquavision Towel Warmers are available in four different styles, are wall-mounted and deliver up to 2,819 Btuh.

Technical Concepts showed its Radius Technology that makes faucets and toilets touch-free. The technology opens a valve with a wave of a hand and can be applied to any faucet, soap dispenser or toilet.

KWC continued to show unique open-waterway faucets, such as the Emurano single-handle faucet where the water flows over a glass dish. That line now includes a tub filler faucet. The Motion faucet channels the water so it appears to be braided as it flows out of the spout. The Canyon electronic faucet is operated with touch pads, the on/off control on the right and hot/cold on the left. As water flows out of the channel, lights in the faucet illuminating the stream of water change from blue to red to visually indicate the water temperature.

Mr. Steam presented its steambaths and saunas with digital displays, programmable time and temperature with memory settings and on/off/pause modes. A wireless remote is also available, along with mood lighting, aroma therapy and in-shower speakers.

Big flushers
Mansfield continued to show off its high-performance toilets, including the Maverick line and the Contender 3 with MagnaFlush II flushing technology that features a 3-in. flush valve and a proprietary direct feed siphon jet. Mansfield displayed its QuantumOne 1-GPF pressure-assisted toilet and Eco-Quantum dual-flush, pressure-assisted toilet. The firm showed a line of complete bathroom suites of lavatories and tubs, including the Montclair powder room suite. The Heathrow bath suite includes whirlpools and air baths. The Ariance suite has three custom air massage systems, and comes with custom trim and MoodScape lighting.

Fluidmaster introduced a line for plumbing contractors only, the Fluidmaster PRO Series of 14 repair parts. The wholesale-only line includes a quieter fill valve with a brass shank, a replacement ballcock, a heavy duty, chlorine-resistant flapper with a kinkfree-chain, combination kits of these products and direct replacement tank levers for most popular brands of toilets. The packaging of the PRO line is completely different from what the homeowner has seen retail.

VitrA emphasized its toilet technology, including its new Dual Flush that features two separate flush volumes with choices of 0.8 GPF or 1.6 GPF. It can potentially save 2,500 to 15,000 gal. of water annually. VitrA's pressure-assist model uses just 1.0 GPF. The firm also showcased its new 17-in. high ADA Corina V3 Technology system. V3 stands for "Vortex, Velocity and Vacuum," and the company said the gravity toilet has a performance comparable to pressure-assist systems, while being quieter.

Eljer presented its Titan line of toilets, including the Elite, One-Piece and the Triangle that fits neatly into a corner. The Titan line, in plain and elongated fronts and regular and comfort heights, earned top marks from "a leading nonprofit consumer testing magazine." The line boasts of an advanced flushing system with dual water jets that feed the inside walls of the bowl to create a 2.5-second flush. A streamlined trapway increases siphoning action. The Titan has a large base to cover up marks on the floor from the old toilet.

Bathroom style
Delta Faucet showed off its Water-Efficient Showerhead with H2Okinetic Technology. The showerhead uses only 1.6 GPM at 80 PSI instead of the standard 2.5 GPM, but the water is sprayed in a way that creates the illusion that there's a lot of water. The showerhead produces larger droplets delivered at a higher velocity with a broad spray pattern. According to Delta, bigger droplets also retain warmth better. Aimed at the hospitality market, the showerhead is available as part of shower systems sold under the Delta and Brizo brands.

American Standard introduced its Speed Connect drain that has only four parts. The product is shipped preassembled with a flexible and durable stainless-steel cable attached to the faucet body. This replaces the usual pivot and extension rod, making it much easier to install even in tight spaces. Because the Speed Connect's drain stopper is preset, no adjustments are required during installation, and a foam gasket provides a watertight seal without plumber's putty. Among the benefits are a factory-installed internal seal that eliminates common leak points and a stopper that holds water in the sink without seepage.

American Standard also introduced the EverClean finish that prevents dirt and water spots from adhering to the faucet surface. Nanotechnology employed in the protective finish makes water bead up and wipe off cleanly.

Moen showed its Velocity rainshower showerhead, an 8-in. showerhead that features Moen Immersion technology, a self-pressurizing system that increases the force and flow of water delivery. The Velocity is adjustable, allowing consumers to adjust the water delivery from the spray nozzles, concentrating it into 30 nozzles or expanding the flow out of as many as 100. The showerhead is designed in a transitional style and available in chrome, brushed nickel and oil rubbed bronze finishes.

Moen's Show House luxury brand expanded its popular Bamboo powder room collection into a full line of open waterway roman tub and conventional tub filler spouts. The faucets come in brushed nickel.

Hansgrohe introduced the BodyShower, a shower panel with body sprays that doesn't need to connect to existing waterlines at the back of the panel. The shower panel connects at the top where the showerarm comes out of the wall. Users simply unscrew their showerarm and then replace it with BodyShower's extension.

Hansgrohe's Axor Montreux collection reflects the "belle èpoque" era at the turn of the 20th century. The collection uses a combination of clear, geometric shapes and traditional elements, such as filigree cross handles, exposed piping and ceramic components.

Jacuzzi showed the Semi-Custom Luxury Shower System by Oben, a lower cost "dream shower" with the body sprays and technology integrated in the architecture of the enclosure. The lip between the interior shower pan and the room is pre-plumbed and connects to new or existing water lines. Two body spray nozzles are mounted on the metal frame that also supports the glass walls. The system comes in round corner, curved single door, curved offset door or flat offset door in popular sizes.

Chicago Faucet, a Geberit company, showed its new finishes for the lavatory. On display were polished nickel, brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze and polished chrome.

Danze unveiled the Sirius Collection, featuring a ribbon-like shape of the spout and handles mounted on a rectangular base. The Sirius Collection includes five lavatory faucet options in either single-handle or two handles for both deck and wall mounting. Shower faucets feature both thermostatic and pressure balance technology. In the kitchen, the Sirius line offers singlecontrol and two-handle versions.

Symmons showcased the Elements Canterbury Suite that was initially created using Symmons' Signature Design Studio, where the ideas of architects and developers are brought to life. The Signature Design Studio allows the customer to design unique bathroom fittings that match the vision of any project. Designers can work off existing fittings or create their own concept and, with the help of Symmons engineers, advanced CAD systems are used to finalize the design. The Signature Design Studio helped create fittings for some of the most exclusive hotel properties in the world, including the Mandarin Oriental, the Four Seasons and the Ritz-Carlton. The Elements Line is a collection of the results from Signature Design Studio, now available to the residential market.

Swanstone exhibited its textured wall panels that come in a kit of four panels that can be used to retrofit a bathtub area with a shower. The company also displayed a new granite kitchen sink.

Sterling introduced the Ensemble line of 60x30 shower receptors, in left and right drain configurations, for retrofitting bathtubs with standalone showers. The Kohler division also added Deep Bronze to its palette of frame finishes for its shower doors. Sterling also introduced two affordable double-basin stainless steel kitchen sinks in 18- and 20-gauge.

Bemis showed its line of toilet seats with Easy-Close hinges, with some seats made of sculpted wood and others formed from Coralink, a man-made material from Bemis that it says carries the quality of vitreous china from the toilet bowl to the seat. Coralink is scratch and fade resistant, fire retardant and will keep its shine for years, Bemis says. The firm also showed seats with its Easy-Clean hinge that allows the seat to pop off quickly for cleaning.

In the kitchen
In-Sink-Erator says it has reinvented the garbage disposer with its Evolution PRO Series line, including the PRO Excel, PRO Essential, PRO Compact, PRO Cover Control and Septic Assist, featuring MultiGrind, MultiGrind Plus, SoundSeal and SoundSeal Plus technologies.

The MultiGrind system cuts up food in three stages, and the Plus version contains a computer chip that senses a potential jam, then increases torque by 500% and begins pulsing the grinding mechanism 60 times a second. The SoundSeal, claiming to be 60% quieter than a conventional disposer, uses a thin film of water over the opening of the disposer to cap noises from below.

Danze introduced two kitchen faucets in its Victorian-style Opulence Collection, a deck-mount pot filler and a twohandle wall-mount faucet. The new deck-mount pot filler offers an alternative to wall mounted pot fillers that require plumbing behind the stove wall. Installed on the counter surface and plumbed from below with a cold water line, pot fillers can now be installed next to an island-mounted stove.

Everpure showed a line of commercial-grade water filtration products for the home, including an undersink drinking water system and a bathing filter that cleans up water, but not to drinking quality. The firm presented undersink water chillers, water heaters, a bar and prep sink system and drinking water faucets in brushed nickel, antique wine and oil-ribbed bronze.

Elkay expanded its Asana vessel collection to include three new models made from cast brass with an aged-bronze finish. The vessels are available in three shapes that mirror nature, a sphere, an oyster and a basket weave bowl.

Elkay added four new undermount kitchen sink models to its Avado collection. One features a sink with a stationary middle-integrated work surface with a textured design. Another new model offers an offset shaped bowl. The Muse kitchen faucet line features a high-arc spout and joystick handle, which sits parallel to the countertop. The high arc of the Muse faucet makes it well suited for watering plants or filling large pots.

Gerber showed off its newest toilets, the Avalanche and Viper, with frequent demonstrations. The firm presented a full faucet line, including the Abigail, Pomeroy and Wicker Park collections. The Abigail is traditional, making it a good choice for remodeling, the company says. It's available for kitchens, bars and baths. The Pomeroy lavatory and bath line is described as "cutting-edge" and contemporary. The Wicker Park lavatory and bath line is designed for urban multi-unit dwellings.

Artisan Mfg. showed its kitchen sinks in 16-gauge, 304-heavy-gauge stainless steel. Artisan offers 10 styles and 18 sizes with depths up to 10-1/8-in. and a numberof widths, including single and double-bowls, offset sinks, bar sinks and extra-deep bowls. The sinks feature fully coated underparts and extra rubber pads for sound deadening and maintaining water temperature. Artisan's solid brass bathroom sink collection comes in scalloped, smooth and floral shapes. Three models are available in depths up to 5-3/4 in. and widths up to 19 in.

Blanco showed its Steelart line of 22 kitchen sinks in 18-gauge 304 stainless. The line includes sinks with satin polished-finish, extra bowl depth, rear drain placement and sound deadening insulation. The firm has a line of optional integrated custom accessories. Blanco also introduced its Blancoprecis Silgranit sink, a man-made material made from 80% natural stone. The sinks are available in biscuit, metallic gray, white and "anthracite," a dark gray color. To top them off, Blanco showed kitchen faucets from Victorian styles to ultramodern.

Dornbracht showed only kitchen faucets, all of them modern in styling. The rounded Elio single lever with pullout spray transforms from aerator to spray with the push of a button. It comes in single lever or two-hole mixer. The Lot faucet is formed from a single piece of metal and is available in two-hole mixer or wall-mounted mixer with cover plate. The square Maro comes in single-lever or two-handle designs.

The 2007 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show returns to Las Vegas next spring, May 7-10.

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