The excitement of home renovation can quickly turn to panic when you realize just how many products and materials go into the project. What’s the right countertop for the kitchen? Which fixtures will work best in the bathroom? Is now the time to switch to alternative energy? We get it! That’s why we launched the first ever Good Housekeeping Home Renovation Awards. Whether you’re planning a major remodel or just looking to simplify your home’s maintenance, you’ll find plenty of solutions in our roundup of winners.
Take it from us: There is a lot happening in housing. Even before the pandemic, home improvement was a red-hot industry, with more millennials becoming homeowners and older Americans making upgrades to stay put in their existing homes. Then came COVID-19, and all those months stuck at home spurred even more activity, to the point where spending is now approaching half a trillion dollars a year, up from $300 billion in 2017.
The surge in spending has prompted more R&D investment from manufacturers, hence the incredible array of building materials, systems, technologies and more on today’s market. But just because something is shiny and new doesn’t mean it belongs in your home. Enter the home pros at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Through more than 5,000 testing hours, our experts and consumer testers took a close look at the scores of submissions that poured into the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab. Only products that will truly make your home better — whether easier to operate, more energy-efficient, safer, more stylish or some combination of them all — earned a place on our winners’ list.
The picks are arranged by area of the house to help you sort through them ahead of your next big project.
Meet the Judges
How We Tested
Experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute got hands-on with every product submission, often in more ways than one. In most cases, we started by calling in samples for Lab testing— for example, running stain and abrasion tests on countertops, decking and flooring. We also enlisted our army of consumer testers to evaluate products under the real-world conditions of their homes — say, running a digital air monitor for weeks on end or using a generator to power up appliances. Our Institute engineers also completed thorough reviews of technical data provided by manufacturers to verify claims around performance, safety, sustainability and more. Our home design editors, meanwhile, weighed in on style and aesthetics — for example, assessing the pattern of new tile or the palette of various siding materials.
For added power tool insights, we brought in the expertise of Roy Berendsohn, senior home editor at Popular Mechanics, our partner publication; Roy and his team tested about a dozen tools at PM’s testing facility in Easton, PA. Finally, we teamed up with an outside judge, homebuilder, developer and author Fernando Pagés Ruiz, who installed an array of product submissions, from flooring to fixtures, on a new home build in Nebraska, then gave us his expert take on installation, performance and aesthetics.
Kitchen All-Stars / Garage Wonders / Excellent Exteriors / Smartest Home Tech / Genius Home Monitors / Hottest Home Decor / Lawn & Yard Saviors / Perfect Power Tools / Biggest Energy Savers / Top Window Enhancements / Brightest Electrical Ideas / Best in Bath
Occupying one point of the kitchen work triangle along with the fridge and the cooktop, the kitchen sink is a prime piece of real estate that’s put to use only when you’re washing dishes, rinsing vegetables or doing some other faucet-focused activity. That’s why our design pros are huge fans of Delta’s new Workstation Sink with its bevy of space-saving accessories, from cutting boards to roll-up dish-drying racks. Available in a range of sizes and configurations, the sink can be retrofitted to just about any layout. It also comes in various materials, including stainless steel and an engineered composite that has the look of natural granite.
Lab Results: Our Lab experts performed a thorough evaluation of the Workstation Sink. They were impressed by the quality of the sink itself, with its high-gauge stainless steel construction and soft-shoed bottom grid. The accessories, including the cutting board and drying rack, were also of top quality and fit neatly into the sink’s integrated ledge. “Especially in a small galley-style kitchen, this sink will be a serious space saver,” one tester noted. Sound-absorbing pads on the stainless stainless version we tested helped minimize noise and vibration, good for a sink that’s sure to see a lot of action.
Quartz has become a favorite countertop material of our experts, thanks to its combination of beauty, durability and low maintenance requirements. Cosentinio’s version, called Silestone, boasts handsome hues and lustrous finishes, and that continues with Sunlit Days, its latest line of Mediterranean-inspired patterns. Cincel Grey, a fine-grained gray, plays to the trend around muted hues in the kitchen, while vibrant Cala Blue and verdant Posidonia Green are bold choices for homeowners feeling a little more adventurous. Beyond the alluring looks, there’s a sustainability angle to Sunlit Days, as the manufacturing process uses 99% reused water, 100% renewable electric energy and at least 20% recycled raw materials.
Lab Results: Sunlit Days proved highly durable in our performance tests, shrugging off scratches, stains and heat. Our product experts also verified Cosentino’s claims around sustainability, like the use of renewable energy and recycled water. As for style, our design experts admired the subtle beauty of the color palette as well as the soft, luxurious feel of the suede finish.
We’d love to see plastic water bottles become a thing of the past. Innovations like the ezH2O Liv from Elkay are another step in that direction. The first ever built-in filtered-water dispenser designed for the home, the device is an ideal addition to a kitchen or mudroom where family members can refill their reusable water bottles before heading out for the day. The ezH2O Liv has a sleek look, thanks to its glass front panel (available in white or black) and brushed stainless steel alcove with LED light for nighttime hydration.
Lab Results: The ezH2O Liv was among the products installed by Fernando Pages, our outside judge, in the laundry room/mudroom of his Nebraska new build. Pages confirmed that the station fit snugly between two wall studs, though he added that it would have been a tricky retrofit, as dedicated plumbing and electrical lines are needed. Once it was installed, he quickly embraced the utility of the station. “It’s the sort of accessory that seems indulgent at first, but after using it, the ease and speed of filling up a quart water bottle make it so convenient,” he said. We also like the familiar “Green Ticker” that counts the total number of plastic bottles kept from the landfill.
Touchless technology is one of the latest innovations to hit the kitchen faucet, enabling users to turn the water on and off with a simple wave of the hand. That’s helpful if your hands are messy from meal prep, though the technology can be a little finicky, as you’ll probably know if you’ve used an airport restroom recently. The Crue addresses the pain point with the use of advanced motion-sensor technology for fast, reliable response times, says Kohler.
Lab Results: We found the hands-free control on the Crue to be very effective. Plus, there’s still a lever handle for those who want to turn the water on and off the old-fashioned way. Based on our engineer’s review of the specs and technical data, we are assured of the quality of the faucet, including solid-brass construction, drip-proof ceramic disc valves and a durable finish. Using just 1.5 gallons per minute, the Crue also carries the EPA’s WaterSense label for water-efficient design.
Some winners from this year’s awards program could save your life; others will just make it easier. The Delta Faucet Glass Rinser falls squarely in the latter category. Do you absolutely need one? No. Is it a clever kitchen sink accessory that lets you speed-rinse everything from water bottles to wine glasses? Absolutely! (No wonder it’s a favorite on TikTok, rinsing everything from glass beakers to empty dog food cans). Available in fingerprint-resistant stainless steel or chrome, the accessory can accommodate containers between 1 inch and 3.6 inches in diameter.
Lab Results: We installed the Delta Rinser in a test kitchen at the Good Housekeeping Institute. We chose a sink that already had a side spray, which allowed us to take advantage of the existing water line. The powerful spray was great at rinsing all kinds of receptacles, including baby bottles and recyclables (though it’s not big enough for a 32-ounce yogurt container). The Rinser cleanly channeled water into the sink, and the stainless steel finish resisted smudges and water spots.
This surface from Crossville combines two popular trends in home design: the use of porcelain (an extremely durable, beautiful and sustainable material), and large-format tiles (which create clean, contemporary interiors with minimal grout lines). Though the panels can be as big as 3.3 by 9.8 feet, they’re incredibly thin (3+ mm for vertical surfaces and 5.6 mm for floors), so they can be installed over existing tile or stone without the need for demolition. The panels come in a range of colors and patterns, from neutral beiges and grays to marble-inspired whites with deep veining.
Lab Results: The porcelain panels excelled in our performance tests, proving extremely scratch- and stain-resistant. Despite their thin profile, they also withstood our tough drop test, designed to measure resistance to dents and chips. Our style experts love the large-scale dimensions of the panels and the diverse design palette should fit a wide range of home styles.
Smart garage door openers add convenience and security by allowing you to open and close the door from anywhere—like the airport, for example, whereas before you’d have been in agony trying to remember if you locked up before leaving for vacation. The Chamberlain Secure View goes next level by integrating a Wi-Fi–connected camera so you can see inside the garage from anywhere too. The system also works with Amazon Key, enabling Amazon packages to be safely and conveniently dropped inside the garage.
Lab Results: Chamberlain has been our top pick among smart garage door brands for years, thanks to the quality, reliability and versatility of its products. The Secure View maintains the same exceptional standard. Testers found the MyQ app to be highly intuitive, making it easy to open and close the garage door, set daily schedules and even share access to your garage with up to five users, which is especially helpful if you’re having work done on the house. The integrated light fixture provides bright illumination, and the camera is a welcome add-on that provides extra peace of mind, especially if you keep a lot of valuables in the garage.
A place for everything and everything in its place: Nowhere is this mantra of organization more essential than the workshop, where entire mornings can be lost looking for a misplaced tool or accessory. Beyond its abundant storage, smartly organized around full-extension drawers of varying sizes, the rolling cabinet is topped with a durable butcher block, creating another work surface in the shop. There’s even a power strip with outlets and USB ports to power your tools and keep your phone and batteries fully charged.
Lab Results: Our experts put the Workstation through its paces at the Home Improvement Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. We were impressed by the 18-gauge steel construction, which makes for an exceptionally sturdy cabinet. The casters with toe-locking brakes helped move the Workstation throughout the space, then lock it in place. “The soft-close drawers and cabinet liners are nice touches borrowed from the world of kitchen cabinet design,” one tester noted.
Given the rapid adoption of electric vehicles in the U.S. (several major manufacturers say 40% of their new fleets will be EVs by 2030), demand for home charging stations is surging. ChargePoint has been around since 2007, and it continues to be a leader in the field. The HomeFlex is a level 2 EV home charger, so it will work with any EV. It’s fast too, delivering up to 37 miles of range per hour of charging when operating at the maximum 50 amps of power.
Lab Results: The ChargePoint was installed by an electrician at the home of GH Institute Chief Technologist Rachel Rothman, who routinely test-drives EVs as part of our auto coverage. As with most EV chargers, it required a dedicated circuit. The slim wall-mounted charger takes up little room in the garage, and the 23-foot charging cable offers ample range. The HomeFlex app sets the charger apart. “It’s simple to use and provides helpful remote monitoring and control,” says Rothman. “I really like the metrics showing charge rate and energy output, as well as the ability to adjust charge time to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates.”
Composite decking has come a long way since its invention in the 1980s. Beyond being prone to fading and damage, the earliest versions didn’t look much like real wood. TimberTech’s AZEK Landmark Collection, seen here in French White Oak, shows the extent of the progress. Though it consists of the same basic ingredients (plastic and wood fibers, mainly), the manufacturing process, with its matte finish and natural color variation, makes it indistinguishable from real wood. Meanwhile, the capped-polymer technology resists fading, staining and cracking.
Lab Results: Our design experts were extremely taken with the beauty of the decking. “Very authentic, and the blond tone is on trend with the trend for lighter decks,” one noted. In terms of performance, the TimberTech proved extremely scratch- and dent-resistant in our tests, though it was slightly prone to staining. Looking at the product’s sustainability, a review of the technical data confirmed that the decking was made from 50% recycled materials, including plastic bottles that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill.
Here’s another example of how today’s composite decking combines beauty and performance as never before. MoistureShield’s capped product promises exceptional durability and moisture resistance, while its wood-grain finish and reduced pattern repetition create a more natural look. Choose from three colors: Citadel, a cool gray; Shoreside, a sandy blond; and Mariner, a dark brown. The Citadel and Shoreside lines offer CoolDeck technology, which reduces heat absorption, a nice benefit for homeowners in extremely hot regions.
Lab Results: The Meridian decking aced our tough performance tests, shrugging off scratches, dents and even the nastiest stains; its fire resistance also qualified it to be listed as one of the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Approved Products in California. Our sustainability experts like that the decking is made almost entirely from recycled materials. As for design, “while the color choices are limited, they are quite rich and sure to work with a variety of home styles,” says Good Housekeeping Senior Home Editor Monique Valeris.
Shade is a critical component of any outdoor living space, providing protection from the blazing sun, light rain and other elements. The Trenton delivers that all-season functionality, thanks to its sturdy design and removable soft canopy. Constructed from rust-resistant galvanized steel, the 14-by-12-foot pergola serves up nearly 200-square feet of shade. A trio of built-in USB ports and electrical outlets power outdoor lights and electronics while keeping your devices charged.
Lab Results: Our review team went through the installation process and described it as smooth, prompt and professional. “It took their team about two hours in all, compared with the full day, at least, that my husband and I would have needed,” the tester noted. Anchored to stone pavers, the pergola feels sturdy and secure. The removable canopy provides good protection from sun and light rain, but it’s not up to handling more extreme weather. The power port is a nice convenience, eliminating the hassle (and tripping hazard) of extension cords.
The integration of indoor and outdoor living spaces (or “transition rooms,” as these areas are often called) has sparked demand for materials that combine beauty with weather resistance. Caesarstone’s new Outdoor Collection Countertop is a prime example. Made from UV-rated quartz (an industry first, according to the brand), the countertops are designed to withstand sun, rain and snow while boasting the same stain and scratch resistance of interior quartz counters. The collection features three subtle hues—a gray-green called Palm Shade, a speckled beige called Clearskies and a darker gray called Midday.
Lab Results: The Outdoor Collection aced our in-Lab stain, abrasion and dent tests. Our experts also kept several samples outside for several weeks, where they withstood exposure to the elements. “With just one touch, I got a good sense of the material’s durability,” says Good Housekeeping Senior Home Editor Monique Valeris. “The weight and texture feel luxe, and all colors in the collection are timeless. It feels like there’s something for everyone with this product.”
Our experts haven’t seen this kind of innovation in the siding category since, well, James Hardie shook up the industry with the launch of its HardiePlank lap siding product in the late 1980s. Hardie’s Architectural Collection uses the same fiber cement material with its many attributes (durability, fire and rot resistance, range of colors, etc.) but reimagines it as a panel siding product with a decidedly modern look and feel. The panels are also easier to install than traditional siding, reducing labor costs by as much as 50%, according to the brand. The collection is available in five textures: fine sand, fine sand-grooved, mounded sand, sea grass and sculpted clay.
Lab Results: The panels performed similarly in our tests to other fiber cement products, resisting dents in our drop test (a good approximation of hail) and scratches in our abrasion test (which might simulate a tree branch rubbing against the material). Our experts also confirmed the material’s resistance to heat and fire. And the textured finishes were a big hit with our design experts, who agreed that the panels would be a perfect fit for contemporary remodels.
Gutters are key for channeling water safely away from your home, but they can’t do their job if they’re clogged with leaves, pine needles, asphalt roof granules and the like. That’s why gutter guards are so important, especially if your home is surrounded by tall trees. LeafFilter Gutter Protection consists of micromesh screens that allow water into the gutter, but not debris. Besides protecting your home, the guards spare you the time-consuming and potentially dangerous task of cleaning out your gutters several times a year.
Lab Results: Our engineers evaluated multiple sections of LeafFilter in our labs and were impressed by the quality of the stainless steel construction and the added stability provided by hidden support hangers. One of our experts also had the system installed at his home. “The installers were top-notch, professional, prompt and highly capable,” he said. “My entire gutter system is doing a much better job managing rainwater, and I haven’t had to clean the gutters or guards once in the four months since they went in.”
Smartest Home Tech
Even before the pandemic, indoor air quality (IAQ) was a growing concern with U.S. homeowners. Installing a digital air monitor is a good way to get a handle on pollutants in your home, many of which are more common (and more preventable) than you might think—for example, cooking fumes and airborne chemicals from household cleaners. The View Plus also detects radon and carbon dioxide as well as climate conditions like temperature and humidity. The data is sent to the Airthings app, enabling users to monitor their homes’ indoor air quality remotely.
Lab Results: Testers found the View Plus easy to set up and receive data. “I liked getting air-quality alerts on my phone, especially with young kids in the house,” said one tester. To assess performance, we checked its ability to detect smoke, chemicals, and humidity under real-world conditions. Our engineers also reviewed all third-party certifications. “Based on those assessments, we’re comfortable recommending the View Plus as a tool for better understanding your home’s IAQ,” says Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
It wasn’t so long ago that if you wanted a home security system, you had to pay a professional installer thousands of dollars and enter into a lengthy contract. Connected technology has changed the industry, leading to a boom in DIY security systems like this version from Ring. It’s dubbed a “whole home security system” by the manufacturer because the kit protects against not just break-ins, but also floods, freezing temperatures, fires and more. It also includes a dedicated Eero Wi-Fi 6 router, which can be used to run all connected devices in the home.
Lab Results: The Ring Alarm Pro is one of the most comprehensive and value-driven solutions on the market. One of our testers took the DIY approach. “While it isn’t difficult, it took a bit of time to get everything up and running,” she noted. “But overall it was a good experience.” Another tester opted for professional installation. After one callback to fix a faulty sensor, she was up and running. “The subscription service for 24/7 monitoring is reasonably priced,” she says, “and the system easily integrates with my Ring doorbell that was previously installed.”
Schlage has been making locks for more than a century, so the brand is well known to our experts, who commend its quality and reliability. With the move to smart locks, Schlage continues to innovate and impress. Its latest, the Encode Plus, is the first smart lock to support Apple’s latest enhancement, dubbed Home Key. This means that Apple users with home keys in their Apple Wallet can simply tap the lock with their iPhone or Apple Watch to lock or unlock the door. The lock comes in contemporary and traditional styles, both available in matte black, satin nickel and aged bronze finishes.
Lab Test: The lock was extremely easy to set up, thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi (meaning no extra hub or bridge is needed). Testers liked the Apple integration, saying the tap-to-open technology was far easier than pulling up an app on a phone. A review of technical data by our engineers confirmed the Grade 1 ANSI rating, ensuring that the lock delivers the highest protection against break-ins.
Smart cameras let you keep tabs on your property when you’re away. That brings peace of mind, and it will make burglars think twice about hitting your home. The Solo Cam S40 also adds an integrated solar panel to power the device, along with a battery backup in case there’s too little sunshine. The camera also features an ultra-bright 600-lumen spotlight that switches on as soon as motion is detected, further enhancing your home’s safety and security.
Lab Results: The Solo Cam installed easily in our tests, and connecting it to the Eufy app took less than two minutes. Picture quality was slightly grainy, but good enough to allow testers to clearly make out people and objects, even at night. Testers liked the two-way communication as well as the AI-enhanced people detection. “I was very impressed with how accurately it recognized family members as opposed to animals or cars,” noted one tester. The camera also passed our tough durability tests, which included submerging it in water for several minutes to make sure it was fully waterproof.
Mortise locks, which combine a doorknob and a locking mechanism in one contraption, are the most secure type of lock for your front door and often the most attractive too. The only downside, at least for tech enthusiasts, had been that you couldn’t find mortise locks with connected technology that would enable remote operation and eliminate the need for keys. But that’s starting to change, as evidenced by the SmartEntry, one of the first mortise-style smart locks, available in an array of rich array of trim and finish options with no exposed electronics.
Lab Results: In our tests, the lock was easy to operate through the SmartEntry app, and it offers features like auto-lock and the ability to provide access to guest users. “I like that the technology is hidden,” one tester noted. “So many smart locks have a big touch pad that’s not always very attractive.” A close review of the manufacturer specs by our engineers confirmed that the lock is rated Grade 1 by ANSI, awarded to the most secure locks on the market, able to withstand picking, kicking, prying, hammering and more.
Genius Home Monitors
A vital trend in housing, preventative maintenance uses advanced sensors to detect problems in the home before they turn catastrophic. Take this whole-house water monitoring system from Kohler: The DIY system installs onto any water line in the home, where it deploys sophisticated algorithms to run continuous diagnostics of the entire plumbing system. For example, it will monitor water temperature levels to provides pre-freeze warnings to prevent pipes from freezing. H2Wise will also alert you if a toilet is running or a faucet has a leak. That’s great for efficiency, since the average home loses 10,000 gallons of water per year to leaks, according to the U.S. EPA.
Lab Results: Testers found Testers found Kohler’s DIY-friendly version, H2Wise, easy to install, and the companion app is straightforward and intuitive. “I like that the app can immediately connect me with a qualified plumber in the event of a burst pipe or a major leak,” one tester noted. Another added that they would consider splurging for the professionally installed version, H2Wise+, since it has the power to shut the water off at the home’s main line during a major event. “Having suffered thousands of dollars in damage on a past plumbing leak, that feature would give me the ultimate in peace of mind,” the tester explained.
“Advanced diagnostics” is another buzzy phrase in the home-services space. It involves the use of sensor technology to allow manufacturers and service providers—electricians, heating contractors, etc.—to monitor and assess major systems and equipment in the home, like a furnace, a heat pump, or a refrigerator. The Trane Home App delivers this all-in-one integration across heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. In the event of an issue—say, an overworking furnace motor—homeowners can also find and contact a certified Trane technician to make the repair, which could help avoid catastrophic failure of the equipment.
Lab Results: A Trane smart thermostat is needed to take advantage of the Trane Home App, so one of our testers went through with that equipment upgrade. From there, he was able to experience the app for several months, and he said, “The interface is very user-friendly, with clear prompts and intuitive graphics that made it easy to set a temperature schedule for the home.” Compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Home allowed for seamless voice control. Though no major system issues occurred within our testing time frame, a simulated event involving a remote technician demonstrated the functionality and effectiveness of the advanced diagnostics feature.
Advanced sensor technology can make your home safer by monitoring its electrical network for potential fire hazards. Ting is a simple plug-in device with a companion app that provides 24/7 protection against the tiny electrical arcs in wiring and other behind-the-wall components. These arcs are often precursors to dangerous fires, which affect 50,000 U.S. households every year, causing thousands of injuries and deaths and billions in property damage. The technology, which is already in more than 150,000 homes, also helps public utilities monitor the power grid for arcing and failing transformers, which can reduce the risk of power outages and wildfires.
Lab Results: Installing Ting was as easy for our testers as plugging the device into a seldom-used outlet. After a few days in “learning mode” the app began sharing voltage information for the home. “I installed it in our second home,” one tester said. “It gives me peace of mind knowing my risk of a house fire is much lower.” Another tester appreciated the added content on the app, including reminders to check smoke alarms and holiday fire-safety tips.
A capable air purifier is a key part of reducing airborne pollutants in the home, along with ensuring proper ventilation and following best behavioral practices (regular vacuuming, limited use of harsh chemicals, etc.). The Dreo Macro Air Purifier combines excellent value with many of the features our experts look for, one being a True HEPA filter, which uses a very fine mesh certified to capture 99.97% of particles measuring at least 0.3 microns in diameter. Measuring 10 x 10 x 15 inches, the compact air purifier is intended for spaces up to 679 square feet.
Lab Results: Boosted by three-stage filtration, the well-priced Dreo effectively vanquished odors and stale air in the homes of our consumer testers. “It seems to have really freshened up the air in our basement apartment, where we have a dog and lots of dust,” noted one tester. Others quibbled that the interface took a little getting used to, but in time most appreciated the bevy of modes, including three fan speeds and separate modes for sleep, turbo and auto, in which the purifier uses onboard sensors to make automatic adjustments based on current air quality conditions in the room.
Hottest Home Decor
Our experts have watched the luxury vinyl tile (LVT) category get better and better in recent years, combining beauty and durability as well as any flooring material. Armstrong’s Rigid Core Flooring, including Empower, improves on the material again by adding a strong composite core beneath the top wear layer and decorative vinyl layer. The result is an extremely durable, water-proof material that can be installed easily as a floating floor system, without nails or adhesives.
Lab Results: The Empower Rigid Core Flooring was practically bulletproof in our Lab assessment, shrugging off the toughest dent tests (which left other surfaces mottled and pockmarked) and also resisting all kinds of sticky stains such as wine, mustard and chocolate. Our design experts like that the planks come in extra-long lengths, assorted widths and many compelling wood-look patterns, including hickory, oak and distressed hardwood.
Engineered wood flooring is a high-performing alternative to solid wood with many benefits, including durability and water-resistance. Bruce has taken that performance up a notch with its launch of Dogwood Densified Wood, for which heat and pressure are used to double the density of natural wood without employing chemicals or additives, according to the manufacturer. The American-made flooring comes in 14 colors, including hickory, walnut and white oak.
Lab Results: In our tough performance tests, Dogwood lived up to its claims of exceptional resistance to scratches and dents, and it’s also highly stain resistant. Builder Fernando Pagés Ruiz installed it on his project house and reported, “The boards came out of the box straight and true, and the tongue and groove matched up perfectly for easy installation.” Pagés also like the look: “The available colors are very much in style, so the house looks contemporary, whereas a lot of new flooring sold today has a dated look.”
The pandemic changed the way we live in so many ways, but maybe none bigger than spurring the need for better work-from-home accessories. Humanscale’s eFloat One table was designed with the recognition that not everyone has room for a full home office. Balanced on a single column, the 28-by-36 inch bamboo tabletop is more compact than most full-size work surfaces, but still roomy enough for a computer, a phone and other work essentials. Plus the tabletop moves from sitting to standing height with the touch of a button.
Lab Results: Our style experts liked the sleek look of the table, with its clean lines and simple materials. It performed as promised, too. “The pneumatic lift was easy to use and worked smoothly,” one tester noted. “I also appreciate the casters, which made it easy to move from room to room.” One tester also found the eFloat One is ideal for serving breakfast in bed on the weekend, a well-deserved reward after the long, hard work week.
Here’s another table with hidden tricks. The Winston Lift Coffee Table from Mr. Kate has a movable top that can be lifted up and forward by hand, creating a convenient workspace for your laptop as well as a storage area below. The table is made from hollow-core materials with a walnut finish and can be raised by up to 26 inches.
Lab Results: Assembling the table was harder than expected, but once it was put together, the experience was positive. “The coffee table has a nice, simple minimalistic look,” one tester noted. The table also functioned well in our home tests. “I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to raise and lower the coffee table top,” reported one tester. “I can lift and lower it with just one hand and minimal effort.” Another added that “the lifting mechanism works well,” but that in the up position “the table is a better surface for eating than working” because it’s not the ideal ergonomic height for working on a computer.
This unique storage cabinet from Room & Board only looks custom-made, with its quartz countertop, wood frame and built-in refrigeration. Though it’s not inexpensive, you could easily spend two or three times as much on a truly handcrafted unit. It’s available in white oak or walnut, in sixteen different quartz materials, and with either a refrigerator or wine chiller. Choose from three widths: 48, 60 and 72 inches.
Lab Results: Our experts were wowed by the combination of form and function. “This cabinet is an example of American craftsmanship at its best,” says Good Housekeeping Senior Home Editor Monique Valeris. “The design, boasting classic wood finishes, can add style to rooms ranging from dens to dining areas.” Quartz has proven extremely durable and stain-resistant in our tests, and Cambria carries Greenguard Gold certification for minimum chemical emissions. Though we haven’t tested True refrigerators like Cambria’s, its products are 100% American-made.
If you’re just slapping paint on the wall, any old paintbrush will do, but for a smooth A+ finish minus splatters and brushstrokes, your choice of applicator matters. Nylon brushes, like this set from Purdy, are best for applying water-based latex paint, the kind used for most home projects. That’s because nylon doesn’t suck up water and go limp the way natural-bristle brushes can. The 2-inch brushes with alder wood handles are designed for cutting in walls and ceilings as well as projects like painting cabinets and furniture.
Lab Results: The Cub Brushes have the tightly packed bristles our experts look for, and the bristles are securely anchored to the ferrule, the metal section at the base of the handle. The ergonomics of the short handle provided good control and cut down on hand fatigue. “Their workmanship is flawless,” says Berendsohn. “I was particularly taken with the nice crisp cut-in capability of the ClearCut Elite Cub, one of the best cut-in brushes I’ve ever used.”
Lawn & Yard Saviors
When choosing fertilizer for your lawn, it can feel as if you need a degree in chemical engineering to get the perfect mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and whatever else is listed on the label. Sunday removes the guesswork by creating a custom-tailored treatment plan for your lawn based on geographic, climate and soil tests. Starting at around $150, the subscription gets you multiple shipments of liquid fertilizer a year, delivered at the ideal time for application, which is done using a regular garden hose. Sunday also contains less of the conventional chemicals found in other fertilizers because of the presence of beneficial ingredients like seaweed, molasses and iron, according to Frank Rossi, Sunday’s chief science officer and a turfgrass specialist at Cornell University.
Lab Results: We evaluated the Smart Lawn Plan on several lawns around the country. Testers described the sign-up process as easy and intuitive, including sending in a soil sample. “The product arrived quickly, in stylish packaging, with everything needed to get set up for the first round of spray,” reported one tester. Our testing time frame did not allow for a full year of treatment, but even after just two rounds, one reviewer had this to say: “We’ve definitely seen improvement on our front lawn…even some previously bald patches have grown in lush.” Our team also reviewed many of the site’s 5,000-plus user reviews and was impressed by the abundant before-and-after photos and the average of 4.5 stars.
You can have the greatest outdoor entertainment space around, but if mosquitoes are frequent visitors, it’s not going to be the scene of much open-air fun. While insect sprays and citronella candles can provide temporary relief, Thermacell’s LIV offers a permanent solution that our tests confirm keeps mosquitoes and other airborne pests away. The wired system consists of up to five cylinders with cartridges that contain a heat-activated repellent; turn it on 15 minutes before you plan to be outside, and LIV will create a mosquito-free dome for as long as the system stays on. The Wi-Fi–connected hub allows you to fire up the repellent remotely or control it by voice command through your Amazon or Google smart speakers.
Lab Results: Testers were amazed by the simplicity and effectiveness of LIV. One based in Florida opted for professional installation for her 2,000-square foot property. “The install team found genius ways for the repellers to blend in seamlessly with existing structures, like the edge of my jacuzzi deck and the base of a potted plant,” she said. Another tester did a DIY installation for his 200-square-foot deck and found the process easy and intuitive. The results were immediate. “I use my above-ground jacuzzi tub quite frequently at dusk, when mosquitoes are at their worst, and I haven’t been bitten or annoyed once since the LIV was installed,” said the Florida tester. “Summertime dinners on the deck are possible in ways they never were before,” added the other.
If you’ve never worked with a landscape designer before, we bet there are two reasons why: you don’t know where to find one, and you’re worried it will cost too much. Tilly removes both pain points by taking the entire experience online, which keeps costs in check while still delivering top-quality design service. Simply complete the online profile, including a questionnaire aimed at capturing your style preferences, then get matched with a professional designer who will work through several iterations of a landscape plan based on your needs and geography. Tilly will even deliver plants and other materials to your door and and offers 3D imagery, lighting and irrigation plans.
Lab Results: Testers who went through the Tilly process were impressed by how smooth and easy it was, as well as by the quality of the designs. “They gave us great ideas for our property that we wouldn’t have thought of on our own,” one reported. “We even got 3D images of our mature landscape that showed off our new backyard design,” another added. “It really helped me envision what the final results would look like.” The expertise and professionalism of the service made the affordable rates even more impressive. We also like Tilly’s partnership with the National Wildlife Foundation, which lets you opt to have your yard designed as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.
Perfect Power Tools
While a crappy chainsaw will only collect dust in the garage, a high-quality one will be put to good year-round use for tasks from clearing brush to harvesting firewood. Based on our tests, this gas model from Troy-Bilt will quickly become a go-to thanks to its easy handling and impressive cutting ability. Though it’s clearly designed for homeowners (as opposed to lumberjacks or tree surgeons), it’s a perfectly capable saw for the DIY set, especially given its affordable price.
Lab Results: We sent the saw to our colleagues at Popular Mechanics, where they put it to the test cutting through a 6-inch hardwood log. “I’m not a big fan of much of the two-stroke equipment coming in from overseas these days,” says Senior Home Editor Roy Berendsohn. “Frankly, most of it is junk. But not this saw. It started easily, thanks to a spring-assist recoil start, and ran very reliably, making mincemeat out of the test log in the process.” Consumer testers were equally impressed. “Compact, lightweight and maneuverable,” one told us. “In my small yard, it was perfectly capable of taking on a variety of cutting needs.”
A good cordless drill is fine for hanging shelves and assembling furniture, but a combo kit that adds an impact driver is recommended for more advanced DIYers whose project lists might include repairing a deck, since the added torque helps when drilling and driving into tough wood. This Home Depot exclusive from Ryobi, a reliable brand in the power tool space, runs on the same 18-volt platform used for more than 260 Ryobi tools, from leaf blowers to wet vacs.
Lab Results: The combo kit impressed our experts during a battery of light to medium-duty performance tests. “The drill had plenty of power for drilling into drywall and dimensional lumber, and the driver’s extra speed and torque was great for removing large lag bolts,” noted one tester. The interchangeable battery was easy to insert and remove, while the lightweight design and the ergonomic controls minimized arm and hand fatigue.
Oscillating multi-tools are definitely a step up from beginner-level power tools like a cordless drill and a circular saw. But most DIYers, once they own an oscillating multi-tool, soon discover its versatility. This cordless version from Dremel, one of the biggest names in rotary tools, is designed for making plunge or flush cuts through wood, metal, plastic and more. That’s great for all kinds of tasks, like cutting out old grout and caulk from bathroom walls and trimming door casings when putting down a new floor.
Lab Results: Our experts liked the Dremel’s lightweight, ergonomic design, which made it easy to handle and control. It also packed plenty of power across a variety of performance tasks. “We tried the Multi-Max on hardwood, softwood and nail-embedded softwood,” says Berendsohn. “It did well in all cuts.” Though he’d love to see an even wider selection of blades included, he says “the blades that are packed with it will enable a DIY person to tackle a variety of cuts in craft work, small repair jobs, installing thin-plank laminate flooring, and more.”
If you’re not a power tool hound, you might dismiss Worx’s new brushless driver as a specialized device with little use around the house. In fact, it’s a highly versatile device featuring two revolving chucks that allows you to drill pilot holes and drive screws without switching accessories. That saves time on all kinds of projects, including installing shelves, curtain rods and cabinet hardware as well as assembly projects requiring different bits, including Phillips, slotted, square recess and nut drivers.
Lab Results: Our experts were intrigued by the Worx’s unique design—and then suitably impressed by its performance in tests, which included drilling and driving into 2 x 6 Douglas fir boards and ¼-inch-thick steel. “Plenty of spunk,” says Roy Berendsohn, who tested the Worx at the Popular Mechanics workshop. “In fact, for such a small, mid-duty drill, it punches well above its weight class.” Testers also like the high-efficiency brushless motor, which makes good on its promise of longer battery run time and lower maintenance.
If you’re a first-time homeowner (or you know someone who is), a combo kit is a great way to build up a collection of power tools without overspending. This version from Craftsman includes a cordless drill, an impact driver, a reciprocating saw and a flashlight as well as two 20V batteries and a charger. There’s even a durable storage bag to keep the tools in one place. The kit is intended to support DIYers through a range of projects, from hanging shelves to assembling furniture.
Lab Results: Popular Mechanics’ Roy Berendsohn agrees that the kit would make a great gift for any DIYer. “All four tools worked well in our tests of general wood cutting and hole drilling,” he says. The drill can double as an effective power screwdriver, and the reciprocating saw handles the kinds of cuts through construction lumber that DIYers are likely to tackle. “The tilt head work light is a valuable addition for both professionals and nonprofessionals,” Berendsohn adds. “It’s stable and bright, and its rotating head puts the light where you need it.”
Biggest Energy Savers
The company that first brought fiberglass insulation to market has improved on it in a massive way by eliminating the use of formaldehyde binders and chemical retardants—ingredients that made the original formulation irritating to lungs and itchy to the touch. Our lab analysis of Owens Corning’s new PINK Next Gen Fiberglas Insulation confirmed that the material cuts easily and feels as soft as cotton; a close review of the technical data verified the use of nontoxic ingredients. As for performance, PINK’s tightly woven network of fine fibers means it can achieve a higher R-value (the technical term for insulating power) with a thinner blanket of material.
Lab Results: Our outside judge, homebuilder Fernando Pagés Ruiz, was equally impressed by PINK. Installation at the job site was neat and quick, and he is confident that the material will deliver superb insulation for decades to come. Then there are the significant health benefits. “As an employer, it feels good to know I supplied my workers with a healthful material that would not scratch their eyes, itch their skin and irritate their lungs,” he told us. “I hugged a bunch to my face to convince the workers that they did not need hazard suits to install it.”
Battery storage is one of the missing links in the rooftop solar experience, as it allows homeowners to bank extra energy generated by their home’s solar panels. Think of it as a rainy-day plan for your system, providing a 24/7 source of backup power for the home. In the event of an extended power outage, the SunVault’s 52-kilowatt-hour system can store enough power to keep a typical home running for up to three days. That means you might be able to save on the cost of a backup generator for your home. Plus, thanks to its intelligent design and its intuitive app-based controls, SunVault can be programmed to kick in when electricity rates are highest, saving you money by avoiding peak-time charges.
Lab Results: The SunVault offers the best in battery storage based on our analysis. Our engineers did a complete review of SunVault’s technical data, confirming that it met all relevant UL safety standards as well as local building and fire codes. We were also impressed by the generous 10-year warranty, with no limits on how many times a customer charges their battery; some manufacturers slip a limit to the number of charges, also known as “cycles,” into the fine print. From a design perspective, the sleek, streamlined battery should take up little room in garages.
While our homes are getting smarter all time, electrical panels have pretty much stayed the same. That can lead to major headaches when making clean-energy upgrades, such as installing rooftop solar panels or buying a first all-electric vehicle. Enter the Span Smart Panel. Developed by a team of former Tesla engineers, Span replaces your old electric panel, enabling easy integration with advanced technologies in the home, for maximum savings, efficiency and control. It also delivers a wealth of information to the Span app—for example, how much power is available on a backup battery system and any possible electrical issues with your appliances or HVAC equipment.
Lab Results: We had the Span system installed by an electrician at the home of one of our testers, who then lived with the system for about six weeks. The experience made her home’s entire electrical system much easier to understand. “I also love how much control the app delivers, including the ability to organizes circuits into must-have, nice-to-have and nonessential groups,” she noted. “In the event of a blackout, that ensures that my backup battery system powers essential equipment, like the fridge and the furnace.” And not for nothing, the sleek, Apple-esque aesthetic of Span is a major upgrade from the big, ugly electrical panels of old.
So-called power stations are an alternative to traditional gas-powered backup home generators. Though they’re not as powerful, they can safely be used indoors, as their rechargeable lithium-ion batteries don’t give off toxic fumes. The Yeti 1500X has a built-in solar panel that harnesses the power of the sun to charge the battery. Its seven ports can power a range of devices. Packing 1,516 watt hours on a full charge, it will keep lights and appliances running during a power outage, and it’s portable enough for the campground, a construction site or a tailgate party.
Lab Results: Our testers were very impressed by the performance and usability of the Yeti. “It held a full charge for approximately three months,” one noted. Another added, “From powering my refrigerator for nine hours to charging my phone while I was out in the yard, it’s nice to have a ready source of power without having to drag out a long extension cord or wait for the power to come back online.” One note: A couple of testers had trouble connecting the Yeti to their Wi-Fi, which made it impossible to use the app.
Rooftop solar systems are an ingenious way to harness the power of the sun to generate electricity for your home’s appliances and electronics. The only downside is that the clunky panels can be an eyesore. GAF Energy’s Timberline Solar, billed as the world’s first nailable solar shingle, solves the problem by integrating solar technology into traditional roofing processes and materials. That also makes the installation more cost-effective than rooftop panels, which often require additional mounting mechanisms that make them even more cumbersome.
Lab Results: GAF, a sister company of GAF Energy, is a Good Housekeeping Seal holder, so our engineers have done in-depth reviews of Timberline’s strength and durability. A thorough Lab analysis of the new Solar shingle found the same quality of materials and construction. Our team also reviewed the technical data on the product, confirming that it met the toughest industry requirements related to performance and safety, including wind, fire and impact resistance. The product also achieved UL 7103 certification in 2021, meaning it can be classified as a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roof covering suitable for residential installations.
Top Window Enhancements
Skylights bring natural light to any room, and the opportunity of fresh air if they open and close. The Awaken Skylight from Marvin uses smart design and advanced technology to take that functionality to the next level. For starters, its flush-glazing design maximizes the amount of daylight coming in. An integrated LED strip light provides tunable illumination when needed. Then there’s the built-in air quality monitor that alerts homeowners to the presence of pollutants, at which point they can open the Wi-Fi–connected skylight via smartphone app, voice control or a hardwired switch.
Lab Results: While we were not able to install the skylight and test it under real-world conditions, our engineers reviewed the extensive technical data provided by Marvin. Based on that review, we are confident thatthe skylight will meet its claims around ventilation and light transmission. The built-in air quality monitor should help detect the presence of airborne pollutants in the immediate area (though it’s still critical to have working smoke and CO detectors throughout the home). We also checked the specs on the integrated LED lighting to confirm that the dimmable fixture can range from the soft light of sunrise (2200k) up to bright midday light (5500k).
Window screens are essential for keeping the bugs out while allowing fresh air in, a key to proper ventilation in the home. Their only downside is that they cut down on natural light and impede the view, especially if they collect a lot of dirt and dust from outside air. Enter the Pella Hidden Screen, a solution for vinyl windows that retracts into the frame when the window is closed, lifting up into operation only when the window is open. Besides cutting down on cleaning and maintenance, the Hidden Screen increases natural light by 44%, according to Pella.
Lab Results: Our engineers tested the hidden screen system on a Lab sample and found it to be soundly designed and constructed. “The system operates smoothly, and it features a durable screen cloth that held up to stress tests,” says Rachel Rothman, chief technologist at the Good Housekeeping Institute; the team also reviewed Pella’s independent testing, which simulated 9,400 cycles, equivalent to opening and closing the windows once a day for 25 years. In the past, our experts also reviewed (and were equally impressed by) Pella’s between-the glass blind and shade system, a similar technology that integrates window coverings directly into the system.
Top-quality windows have huge impact on a home’s comfort, style and functionality. Window World’s 6000-series vinyl windows stand out for their superb weather resistance and low-emissivity (low-E) coatings that improve efficiency by reflecting heat but letting in light. Both the top and the bottom sash of the double-hung windows can be opened for maximum ventilation, and both tilt for easy cleaning. As for style, the simulated divided lites and the brushed-nickel hardware give a traditional look, while the trendy black interior and the exterior finish are eye-catching on both sides of the window; a dozen other colors are available.
Lab Results: As a Good Housekeeping Seal holder, Window World’s windows have been subjected to the toughest tests measuring durability and weather resistance. Our engineers have also reviewed third-party certifications to ensure that the windows meet all energy-efficiency claims. Our market analysts, meanwhile, are impressed by the extensive range of configurations, colors and features. Finally, Window World provides full-service support throughout the entire window journey, from design consultation to installation to ongoing support via the limited life warranty, which is transferable to the next owner.
Brightest Electrical Ideas
Smart home technology is changing how we interact with our homes, increasing safety, convenience and efficiency. The Caseta Outdoor Smart Plug is a compelling case in point, allowing you control any electrical device from anywhere via a smartphone app. Lighting is the primary use case (think holiday lights or year-round string lights illuminating the back deck), but the plug can bring remote control to any electronic device, including pool pumps, bug zappers and outdoor speakers.
Lab Results: Lutron’s Caseta line of lighting controls have consistently impressed our engineers with their smart, intuitive design, and the Outdoor Smart Plug is no exception. Testers liked the ability to control the light through the app or a wireless remote, knowing that not everyone wants to pull out their smartphone to operate the lights. The plug is also very well built, our experts say, with durable materials and solid construction that enabled it to withstand months of extreme temperatures and heavy rains in our home evaluations.
When it comes to electrical projects, conventional wisdom is to bring in a professional, since handling live wires can be dangerous in the moment and create fire risks down the line if done incorrectly. The Light Fixture tackles that thinking head-on by providing kits with all the tools, supplies, and comprehensive instructions needed to safely and confidently replace a light fixture. The kit also includes a two-week free trial of membership to Character, where you’ll have access to live expert support should you have questions or run into issues. Similar kits exist for installing a faucet, patching a hole in the wall and hanging artwork.
Lab Results: The kit is ideal for beginning DIY-ers or as a gift for first-time homeowners, our experts say. “Super convenient and great for those who don’t know much about light fixtures or installing them,” one consumer tester noted. The comprehensive kit contains all the supplies required for the project, and the tools are of solid quality. Our experts like that all the how-to literature includes appropriate warnings and instructions for working safely with electrical wiring.
While smart plugs and lightbulbs allow you to control lighting and electronics remotely, for the best, most seamless connected home experience, you’re better off installing smart switches and outlets. Schneider Electric, a global manufacturer specializing in home automation and energy management, makes that prospect easier than ever with the launch of its Square D X and XD Series Wiring Devices. The collection includes connected switches, dimmers and outlets, many of which can be controlled through Schneider’s Wiser Energy app.
Lab Results: Our engineers evaluated the assorted devices and found the materials and design to be top-notch, with the materials including heavy-duty plastic, tamper-resistant shutters and side-mount pressure plates for easy hookup. Installation was straightforward, though unless you have a lot of experience with electrical wiring we recommend hiring a professional. In terms of usability, testers liked the many specialty features, including the dual fast-charging USB ports on the Square D receptacle, the screwless face plates, and the ability to track energy consumption in real time through the Wiser Energy app.
Best in Bath
Bidet toilet seats make it possible to ditch the toilet paper in favor of a cleansing spray without having to replace your entire toilet. While manual bidet seats are available for as little as $100, our experts say it’s worth splurging on an automated model, especially if it’s Kohler’s C3 230 Bidet Toilet Seat. This bidet seats shows off Kohler’s innovation, with its sleek design, continuous warm water flow and adjustable settings, including oscillating and pulsating sprays. The seat even features an automated LED light, helpful for finding your way in the dark.
Lab Results: Though bidet-style cleansing takes some getting used to, testers who tried out the Kohler say they’ll never go back to toilet paper. The adjustable cleansing sprays did the job on all body types and the built-in odor control was a hit. “I thought it might be gimmicky but the odor-neutralizing feature works surprisingly well,” one tester said. Another lauded the ergonomic design, saying: “A lot of bidet seats are steeply angled at the back because of the wires needed, and that can make them uncomfortable to sit on, but the C3 230 is really comfortable.”
These decorative terrazzo tiles were a fave of Monique Valeris, Good Housekeeping’s Senior Home Editor. “I love these!” she said. “It can be a challenge for brands to excel at both sustainability and good design, so I’m impressed that Livden does both well. “The energetic patterns and color combinations — the range of blues and pops of earthy orange tones — are very much on-trend.” Though we imagine the Honeysuckle Collection in a bathroom with a mid-century or art-deco flair, the 12 by 12-inch tiles are suited to any interior wall applications (Valeris loves them as a kitchen backsplash) or light-traffic floor.
Lab Results: The terrazzo tile—a composite building material made from recycled glass, stone and binders—held up to our tough impact and abrasion tests. The slightly porous material was a bit more prone to staining (mustard gave it the most trouble) so our experts recommend vertical applications, or truly low-traffic floors. In terms of sustainability, our engineers reviewed the technical data to ensure that the tile base consists of at least 65 percent recycled material.
Through decades of toilet testing, American Standard has earned a reputation for performance and reliability with our experts. The Champion PRO two-piece toilet is up to the same standard. The 17-inch “comfort height” toilet is easy to get on and off, while its 1.28 gallons per flush is good enough for the EPA’s WaterSense label, awarded to the most water-efficient models. Everything needed for installation is included: tank, bowl, trip-lever, seat with lid, speed connect tank-to-bowl coupling kit, bolt caps and wax ring.
Lab Results: Despite using very little water, the Champion PRO delivered impressive flushing performance in our tough tests, which included colored powder, wads of toilet paper, sponges and even golf balls. The flushing action also did a very good cleaning the bowl, which our testers say should reduce the number of manual toilet cleanings. Like all comfort height toilets, it’s easy to use, especially with the roomy, elongated bowl.
Smart home technology has made its way into bathrooms, where it adds convenience, functionality, safety and more. Case in point: this new high-tech shower system from Kohler. The Wi-Fi connected controls let you program precise temperature settings, which can be operated through the smartphone app, voice control, or through the touchscreen display. The shower system features an array of luxurious sprays, including an oblong showerhead and seven sprays, from deep massage to a full-body mist. Manual controls are available too, if you’re interested in the shower experience, but not the connectivity.
Lab Results: Our design experts praised the fully-customizable configuration of the shower system, which allows for a truly unique walk-in shower experience. They also like the range of finishes—polished chrome, brushed nickel, matter black and brushed brass. The WiFi-connected controls are a neat convenience for high-tech homeowners. Builder Fernando Pages, our outside judge, installed the system successfully, though he cautions that it calls for 1-inch supply lines, unlike the 1/2-inch lines that are common in most homes.
Linear drains bring a sleek, streamlined look to walk-in showers, which have become a preferred feature of luxury bathrooms. The drains are a safety upgrade too since they eliminate the need for a curb; that’s because the floor slopes gently in one direction, rather than from all four sides, as with a center drain. The biggest downside with linear drains is they have to be installed just right or the water won’t drain properly. Enter Oatey’s QuickDrain ShowerLine Linear Drain, an all-in-one kit that includes an integrated PVC drain, pre-sloped shower panels, and waterproofing accessories. The drain cover comes in a range of finishes, from brushed gold to matte black.
Lab Results: Builder Fernando Pages used the Oatey system in his latest new home build. “My tile setter said the pan was extremely easy to install and said he would continue using the product on other jobs,” Pages reported. He also says the feature will appeal to buyers and add to the value of the home. “The pan looks very sharp, with a clean, modern appearance, while the drain cover compliments the other bath fixtures.” Our experts also like that the shower pan and panels are constructed from 100-percent post-consumer plastic water bottles.
Bathroom lighting is easy to get wrong. In many homes, the fixtures are too high up, casting shadows that hamper makeup application, shaving and other grooming. Ideally, the light should be at eye level, which is what’s so ingenious about the Maxstow Lighted Cabinet. The side-integrated LED lighting washes the face in plenty of bright illumination. The mirror also provides excellent storage, with five staggered shelves for short and tall items. There’s even an internal electrical outlet for powering your electric toothbrush, razor or curling iron.
Lab Results: Testers raved over the design of the mirror. “Incredibly sleek and stylish,” one wrote. “I love how the mirrored interior allows me to use my skincare products while the mirror is open, without having to take everything out.” The shelving and power outlet were also big hits. One caveat: the mirror was much harder to install than advertised, because of the complicated wiring involved. We strongly recommend professional installation.
Having written thousands of product reviews and how-to articles on all aspects of home ownership, from routine maintenance to major renovations, Dan (he/him) brings more than 20 years of industry experience to his role as the director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. A one-time roofer and a serial remodeler, Dan can often be found keeping house at his restored Brooklyn brownstone, where he lives with his wife and kids.