How Spray Foam Keeps Moisture Out of Your Iowa Attic

Spray Foam Used as a Vapor Retarder in Iowa Homes

Closed Cell Spray Foam Moisture BarrierWhile most insulation types are prone to retain water and develop mold issues if there is a leak, this is not the case with spray foam insulation. Spray foam insulation can actually be used to keep moisture out of your home as well as to keep it insulated. By installing closed cell spray foam on the underside of your roof, you can keep your attic dry and warm all year long.

Overall, there are many great advantages to using spray foam insulation in the attic of your home in Iowa:

  • Effectively Insulates Home
  • Reduces Moisture Infiltration
  • Eliminates Need for Ventilation
  • Prevents Mold Growth

Most types of insulation soak in water if there are any leaks in the roof. This means that they become saturated and increase the likelihood of mold growing in your home. This is just one of the drawbacks to using traditional means of insulation instead of spray foam to insulate your roof and attic.

Why Use Spray Foam Insulation for Your Iowa Attic?

Because the spray foam binds so tightly to the bottom of the roof when it is applied, it prevents the materials that make up the roof from moving during changing temperature conditions. This reduces the chance that nails will pop or loosen, keeping opportunities for water entry from the roof to a minimum. The roof may still develop a leak if the construction was poor, but the moisture will not spread throughout the entire roof as it would with a more porous insulation material like fiberglass. Instead, the spray foam will prevent the moisture from spreading and damaging the entire roof and seeping through to the ceiling.

The effectiveness of spray foam at regulating the temperature in your home is just one of the reasons to choose it as the insulation material in your attic. Not only will spray foam insulation stop winter cold and summer heat from infiltrating your home, but it will also reduce moisture and leakage from the roof. Also, the ability of closed cell spray foam to trap moisture and air out of your home means that you no longer need ventilation in the attic. Ventilation is put in to carry moisture build up out of the fibrous insulation material to maximize thermal efficiency. Since spray foam insulation does not absorb moisture, no ventilation is needed.

Contact our spray foam installers right away to learn how you can use spray foam to encapsulate and insulate your attic and the rest of your Iowa home.

Documented Payback: Spray Foam Insulation

Documented Payback: Spray Foam Insulation

One of the most popular questions we get from prospective customers is “when can we expect a payback from spray foam insulation?” The answer? Well that can vary greatly depending on multiple things. So I thought I would try to answer that question with an independent source study.

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In 2009 as part of the US DOE Building American Program, the Florida Solar Energy Center, CPS Energy, and Woodside Homes built three homes. They all had the same floor plan and size. These three homes had different types of insulation (blown fiberglass and spray foam) and used different HVAC systems in the upgraded homes. The idea was to see if the upgraded homes would really save energy. What they found was what we expected and what we see on almost every job we do. The spray foam insulated homes simply outperformed the “build to code” homes.

In fact, the improved homes (those with spray foam insulation and upgraded HVAC systems) saved anywhere form 55-77% in energy on average. This was tested in July of 2009 and continued until it ended in April of 2011. I would say that’s impressive!

There are a couple of things I would like to point out here. First, on the improved homes they used open cell spray foam in a conditioned attic assembly. In southern climates, this is key to keeping energy costs low. However, conditioned attics work in most climates.

Second, HERs ratings on these homes ranged from 86 on the controlled home to 54 and 37 on the improved homes. I think this gives the HERs rating system validation. It is a really good predictor of how to analyze the home before and after it is built and the amount of energy being used.

The third thing that needs pointing out is the amount of air changes per hour, or ACH50. On the control home built to standard code, it had 5.84 ACH50 versus the improved home with open cell spray foam insulation only had 1.95 ACH50. Basically, the spray foam home was over 66% tighter home. Meaning it leaks a third of the air that a blown fiberglass insulated home does. Now, from previous blogs we have learned that air leakage is important.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the control home had R-30 blown fiberglass installed in the attic. The improved home had open cell spray foam installed at R-28. Just as we have said before, R values do not indicate actual performance (see this blog for further explanation).

So what we have learned is investing in upgraded insulation (even with a lower R value) and building a tighter home equals a quick payback. Keep in mind these are not our findings, but rather that of several independent organization’s findings. Invest in your building with spray foam insulation. Give us a call.

How To: Marketing Spray Foam Insulation for Builders

How To: Marketing Spray Foam Insulation for Builders

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Sometimes I think that over the last ten years I’ve been in the business of spray foam insulation that everyone has at least heard of spray foam insulation. It’s hard for me to believe that there are quite a few people who have never heard of spray foam insulation. It still amazes me when I walk into a model home in a subdivision that a builder or realtor never mention anything about energy efficiency of the home or what the utilities will cost to run on a monthly basis.

This video is a great example of how realtors and builders simply miss the boat when it comes to energy efficient upgrades:

So why is this? My guess is that most builders focus way too much on profit and not enough on building a quality home. Most builders think spray foam insulation is an expensive upgrade to a home. But what consumers have figured out is that spray foam is a no-brainer investment that pays out big (take a look at a previous blog that explains the life-cycle cost of spray foam insulation).

What builders are really missing out on is offering an upgraded package that could add profits to a new home that still offers real value to the consumer. I have written many blogs over the years on the value of spray foam insulation. So in this blog I am going to give the builders a few pointers on how to market spray foam insulation to consumers.

Marketing Tips for Builders:

Spray foam insulation offers more comfortable homes. The real key to selling spray foam is to realize that it has nothing to do with the cost savings of the product. Yes, it does pay back on the return investment. But the real advantage or benefit to the home owner is the comfortable home. No more cold rooms or drafty homes. It takes different sales skills to sell a product that is hidden behind the walls. Much of this work has already been presented to the consumer from just about every Saturday morning home improvement show known to man. The consumer sees these shows using spray foam insulation on almost every project. If you doubt me, turn on one this weekend and watch.

While I could go into great detail on how we market to the consumer, I won’t (I’d like to not educate my competitors – I know  they watch my blogs on a regular basis).

But what I will do is offer our services. If you – as a builder or realtor – are interested in offering spray foam insulation, give us a call. We have a very detailed sales process that we are more than willing to offer builders. We will set down and train you and your sales staff on how to sell spray foam insulation.

Paying Up Front

Paying Up Front

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Every time you see a storm come through your area you surely see a long line of construction storm chasers beating on your door. They bring with them unlimited promises of high quality work completed fast. You will also see numerous local TV stations doing segments on these construction workers. These segments almost always include a stern warning not to give these guys any money up front. Usually within a few weeks you will see a corresponding story on how some old couple paid for the work up front and never received the services. The couple loses their life savings to the shady contractor and the news person recites a check list of things to check out before you hire a contractor.

While not giving these kind of contractors any money up front is not such a bad idea, keep in mind not all contractors are that way. I would suggest the payment up front. But we do not ask for some of the money up front.

Deposits

Let me explain to you why we don’t ask for a deposit: just as you don’t know us, we don’t know you. When we send a salesperson out to consult with you, it is the first time we have met you. We don’t really know anything about you or your credit.

We give you a quote and you then tell us to proceed. Unlike most goods or items (like cars), once we install our spray foam insulation into your house, there is no way to repo our product. If for some reason you are not able or willing to pay us, the only real recourse we have is to put a lien on your property. While this may get us paid, it takes time (sometimes even years to collect!).We have time and material invested in a project that we cannot collect. You would not go into a big box store and just walk out without paying.

You should also expect respectable contractors to ask for some kind of money down on a project in good faith. Once again, I do not recommend giving 100% down, but a deposit of 25-30% is very common in the construction world. Depending on the type of service or project, some contracts will require monthly draws or payments corresponding with the amount of work completed.

As we have said many times before, you have to do your homework! Check out the contractor, check his references, make sure he has a store front, an address, and a way to find him if things go bad. In this day and age a quick Google search will most likely pop up red flags if the contractor is shady.

Spray Foam Insulation: Not Just for Custom Homes

Spray Foam Insulation: Not Just for Custom Homes

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Although spray foam insulation has grown in popularity over the last ten years we’ve been in the industry, many people believe it is still only an upgrade for high end custom homes. This is not only false, but what most people don’t know is that spray foam insulation can also be a great cost saver for the entry level home industry. Homes starting in the $200,000 price range benefit the most from spray foam insulation.

I can’t remember how many times during a conversation with a custom home builder or during sales call to a regional production builder that they are ready to quickly dismiss spray foam insulation in an entry level home. Many large, national production builders who sometimes build in many different markets across the country have figured out that spray foam insulation is not only a good idea, but should not be just an upgrade option.

Builders like Beazer and Ryland Homes are using spray foam insulation as a standard insulation product, not just as an upgrade. So what do these national builders know that a smaller custom or regional production builder does not? Spray foam lowers energy cost, which lowers over all monthly cost of home ownership. This helps home owners buy higher priced homes because they have more money left over in their budget for home payments.

They are advertising energy cost like MPG stickers for new cars. A home insulated with spray foam insulation can reduce monthly energy bills up to 50%. Spray foam insulation helps meet energy code easier, reducing building costs which raises profit per home. Spray foam also solves callback issues. How many times has a new home owner called back and complained about how cold or hot a room is in their new home? Bonus rooms above garages or floors being too cold to walk across. Perhaps vaulted ceilings creating hot bedrooms during the summer months.

Savings from smaller HVAC units due to the superb performance of spray foam means more dollars of profit to the production builders and lower operating cost of HVAC units. So it doesn’t matter if you are a small custom builder, building one or two homes a year or a national home builder building thousands of homes a year in many different markets. Spray foam insulation works in entry level homes to high end custom homes. Simply solving problems, creating warm and comfortable homes, and creating lower energy and operating costs. We work with small to large home builders all the time.

Call us now to reap the benefits of spray foam insulation.

Roof Coatings DFT: Mil Thickness

Roof Coatings DFT: Mil Thickness

There are a ton of different types of roof coatings out on the market. The basic key to most of these roof coatings is the Dry Mil Thickness (DFT). Mil is a reference to thousandth of an inch thickness. One mil is one thousandth of an inch thick. To give you perspective, standard copy paper is about 8 mils thick. A standard credit card is anywhere form 20-30 mils thick.

DFT Guidelines

All manufacturers have guidelines on how thick their coating should be applied. Most often they are given in DFT. How they reach that thickness can vary greatly depending on how they are applied and the percentage of solids the particular material is. As a customer what you really want to know is what the DFT will be. This will give you a good idea as to how you should compare roof coating quotes between companies bidding on your project.

Quotes should include how thick the contractor is applying the coating and to what manufacturers specifications they are following. Our quotes state that we are installing the roof to the manufacture’s 10 year specifications. For instance, Gaco Western’s silicon roof coating is applied at 1.5 gallons of silicon roof coating per 100 square foot, which is approximately 22 DFT.  There are many other aspects that also matter when it comes to roof coating thickness.

Percentage of Solids by Volume

Roof coat thickness is only one aspect of roof coatings. The percentage of solids by volume or weight are also an important aspect. This means that if a coating has a 50% solids by volume, when you apply one gallon of coating about half of the coating cures off (leaving only half the material you applied). As an example again, Gaco Western’s silicon roof coating is 95% solids. 95% of the roof coating will still be there once it dries.

Fun fact: all liquids applied at one gallon per 100 square foot have a wet millage of 16 mils.

It is also important to consider how thick the coating can be applied in a single pass. Most acrylic roof coatings need to be applied in several passes. If you apply them too thick in a pass they will mud crack, leaving big cracks in the coating. Since polyurea roof coatings dry very quickly they can be applied in very thick passes, over 40-60 DFT.

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How is your contractor going to check and prove that he is applying the proper thickness? Using a wet mil gauge is the most common way, but you can also use a coating thickness gauge.

When it comes to roof coatings, don’t let someone sell you a quick paint job when you really need a roof coating. Call us today!

The Dangers of Spray Foam: From a Spray Foam Contractor

The Dangers of Spray Foam: From a Spray Foam Contractor

So this may not seem like a typical blog – when an industry professional writes a blog about how their product can cause issues. But I think it’s time to clear the air (pun intended) regarding the dangers of spray foam.

You don’t need to go far in a Google search to find a whole host of websites, YouTube videos, and newspaper articles regarding the dangers of spray foam insulation. Being an industry professional with almost 10 years of experience, I would be the first to tell you that there can be and will be problems with spray foam insulation when installed incorrectly. All it takes is one bad apple out of hundreds of thousands of good installations to give an industry a black eye. So I thought I would go over what they are and how to prevent them from causing problems.

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Spray Foam Problems

Fishy smell – The majority of the time when spray foam results in a fishy smell results from one of two things: improper mixing or their ratio is off. Spray foam is designed to be installed with the two parts at a one-to-one ratio. When this doesn’t happen, the foam never cures out to the proper end product. The second option comes from installing closed cell spray foam in too thick of passes which in turn may not let the foam cure properly. Most manufacturers will tell you to never install closed cell spray foam in lifts or passes more than two or three inches thick.

Charring or catching fire – As we just mentioned, closed cell spray foam needs to be installed in controlled lifts. Since closed cell spray foam creates an exothermic reaction when it is processed, this creates heat and if installed too thick can potentially create a fire hazard.

Respiratory issues – When spray foam insulation is installed, the applicators and helpers are required to wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Once the product has been installed correctly and allowed to off-gas properly, spray foam insulation is a very safe product. While spray foam is as safe as the things that you come in contact with on a daily basis, you don’t want to be breathing it in while it is being installed. Now with that being said, some people who are hypersensitive to chemicals in general or who have asthma and related respiratory problems; while I would like to sell product to everyone, these people may want to look to other insulation options. I look at it like this: those without peanut allergies don’t worry about being in contact with peanuts. But for the population that is allergic should we stop growing and using peanuts? No, we simply need to take the proper precautions.

How Do We Prevent The Problems From Occurring?

This is the really easy part, do your homework: hire a certified, properly trained, and reputable contractor. That sounds easy, so how do you know if they are certified and reputable? Start with asking if they are SPFA certified. Next, find out what manufacturer they are buying their product from and check to see if they have completed the manufacturer’s training program. Not all manufactures have training programs and will sell product to just anyone. Spray foam insulation is not a “do it yourself” project nor should it be done by just anyone. We are manufacturing foam plastic insulation on the jobsite. This takes proper training, equipment, and skill.

 

However the easiest way to prevent all this is just to call us.

 

Air Barriers: Getting it Right

Air Barriers: Getting it Right

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There has been a lot of information over the years regarding air and vapor barriers. The information over these barriers has evolved quite a bit. I recently came across this article from Buildingscience.com covering a few of them and I thought I would add a few things to this thought process.

Joseph Lstiburek usually does a great job of breaking down technical engineer jargon, but I thought I would go a step or two farther and highlight what I think are some of the most important parts of this article. At the basic level this article talks about two different things: air barriers and vapor barriers.

Air Barriers

Air barriers are important because most insulations are fibrous (meaning they allow air to move through them), thus we need to add some kind of air barrier to stop the air flow. Think of it this way: during the winter you put on a nice wool coat and if you go outside it will keep you warm. But if a gust of wind sweeps by the air will pass through the wool coat and make you cold. The same idea is transferred to fiberglass insulation and cellulose insulation. This is why they need an air barrier to help them work properly.

Vapor Barriers

Vapor barriers are designed to stop the vapor from travelling through the wall cavity and soaking the insulation. Let’s go back to the wool coat idea again. Take that wool coat and soak it in a bucket of water then put it on. You will find very quickly that wet wool or wet fiberglass and cellulose conducts temperature very quickly. As Joseph Lstiburek points out, “Vapor is principally transported by air flow not by vapor diffusion. We needed air barriers not vapor barriers to control vapor flow. It took decades for that distinction to be appreciated.”

It was widely thought that vapor diffusion was causing insulation to become saturated with moisture when it was really air flow or air movement. He covers many different ways that have been tried or are currently being used to add an air or vapor barrier. While most of these will work if perfectly installed, in reality most of these do not work because they are not perfectly installed. Joseph points out that in the real world applications are just not matching the designed standards. Talk about labor intensive, check out this fluid applied air barrier:

What Really Works

So let’s cover what does work in the real world: spray foam insulation. Pretty much all of the wall assemblies mentioned here could easily be fixed installing open or closed cell spray foam. Both open and closed cell spray foam are an air seal or air barrier. While some people may think there is a lower cost way to stop air movement in a wall cavity, I would argue that most of these ways require great attention to detail which in turn equals great cost. Spray foam insulation quickly sprays into place filling cracks, holes, gaps, etc. air sealing the wall or attic assembly.

You may try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to air barriers, but you really need a good spray foam contractor!

Importance of a Good Subcontractor

You Need a Good Subcontractor

During the construction process you will be in contact with a lot of subcontractors. While sometimes I feel as though subcontractors can get a bad rap on the jobsite, most of the time they do not deserve it. During the construction process, you will be faced with making tons of decisions at a rapid pace. While a lot of these decisions will be made on cost alone, choosing a subcontractor based solely on that is a bad decision.

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A subcontractor should be chosen on many different factors which also includes cost. I could generalize this blog for most subcontractors, but because we are spray foam contractors I will focus on them for this blog. Here are a few factors to consider:

Experience: Experience is a key factor in the spray foam world. Purchasing a rig on eBay and spending a few minutes watching YouTube tutorials does not make an experienced Spray Foam Subcontractor. My general rule of thumb here is finding someone who has been in the business full-time for at least 5 years. You don’t want someone learning on the job during your project.

Training: What kind of training has this subcontractor and their employees completed? The bare minimum here would be training from the manufacturer they purchase their products from. The next step would be completing SPFA certification. Do your homework and ask for documentation.

Proof of License and Insurance: Simply asking for proof doesn’t cut it. Get written proof.

References: Get a list of recent customers from the spray foam contractor and check them. Ask the customers about their good and bad experiences with the subcontractor. Did they show up when promised? Was the work completed in line with the scope of work or quote provided? Was the work done on time? A little careful listening can tell you a lot about the character of the spray foam contractor.

General Contractors: What other general contractors does this spray foam subcontractor work for on a regular basis? What major companies have they completed work for? Large companies have offices full of people on the lookout for potential problem subcontractors. They also have very strict rules before letting subcontractors onto their premise. Leaning on their experience can help you steer clear of issues.

Cost: I left this one for last for good reason. Too many people focus on the cost alone when choosing a spray foam contractor. Price is what you pay, value is what you get. The sweetness of a low price quickly fades when the work being done is not up to standard.

Like most things in life, doing your homework will create the best result when selecting a spray foam contractor for your project. Contact us today for any spray foam needs you have!

Building Science 101: Heat Transfer Methods and Flip Flops

Building Science 101: Heat Transfer Methods and Flip Flops

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I know that I have written a lot of blogs in the past years, but this may be one of the least intriguing. However, the topic is important.
There are three basic methods for heat transfer: conduction, convection, and radiation. We are going to talk about conduction in this particular blog and we will follow up later with the other two methods.
What is Conduction?
Conduction is a heat transfer method that requires two materials to be physically touching each other to occur. This is unlike the other two methods of heat transfer that can occur without physical contact.
An example of conduction includes putting a pan on a burner of a stove and turning on the heat. The heat from the burner or flame transfers through the pan’s metal, warming the food in the pan. Another example would be walking on the sand at the beach while barefoot. As you may have experienced, the sand is hot and it will transfer that heat to your feet. So to keep your feet from burning you put on a pair of foam flip flops.
Now that you have a basic idea how conduction works you are certainly wondering what this has to do with spray foam insulation. In fact, it has a lot to do with building construction in general or even more to the point, how your building can lose energy and be uncomfortable.
Thermal Bridging
Thermal bridging is heat transfer via conduction. Have you ever driven down the road and noticed on a cool, frosty morning that you can see the lines from the trusses on someone’s roof? Or maybe on the siding of the wall you can pick out every stud? This is also known as “Ghosting”.
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The reason you can pick out every stud is because wood has an R-Value of about 1 per inch. So when we install an R-21 of spray foam insulation into the wall, the insulation slows down the convection of heat through the wall, much like the foam flip flop keeps your feet from burning on the sand. The wood stud allows it to transfer heat faster and thus you see the lack of frost on the wall where the stud is. This also works on roofs when insulating the underside of the roof in a vaulted area because the drywall is attached directly to the roof joist and the sheet is attached to the roof joist from the other direction.
How Do We Stop This?
We need to provide a thermal break between the wood and the exterior of the wall. This is done by attaching foam sheeting, or in some cases applying spray foam over the trusses in a complete manner. The picture below shows the spray foam insulation installed over the purlins on the roof underside. The purlins covered will not conduct thermal bridging here.
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How Much Energy Are You Losing?
Keep in mind you have a stud every sixteen inches in an exterior wall. If you add those up you could have anywhere between 15-30% or more of your wall conducting heat transfer. The 2012 IECC code has this figured out. They allow for a provision to have an R-13 cavity insulation with an R-5 continuous insulation such as a foam board.
Adding spray foam to a home is just part of building a warm and comfortable home. Stopping conduction via thermal bridging is another key part. Before heading out to the beach this cold winter and putting on those foam flip flops, call a Building Science educated Spray Foam Insulation contractor to keep you warm and comfortable!