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Spray Foam Insulation 101: An Interview with Carrie Van Ornum Rock Road Coatings & Foam, LLC

By Carrie Van Ornum

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

We are a family-operated business based out of Waupaca (mid-Wisconsin area), WI, serving most of Wisconsin; specializing in spray foam insulation and sprayed coating products for residential, commercial, and farm use. We've been in the construction industry for over 20 years. We have a website available with more information about us and our products, including a video about spray foam, from the History Channel: Modern Marvels, at www.rockroadcompany.com.

Can you briefly explain what spray foam insulation is?

Spray foam insulation is an alternative to traditional building insulation. A two-component mixture composed of isocyanate and polyol resin comes together at the tip of a gun, and forms an expanding foam that is sprayed onto roof tiles, concrete slabs, into wall cavities, or through holes drilled in into a cavity of a finished wall. There are different types of spray foam, depending on the desired result needed. 1/2 lb. foam, known as open cell, is softer and well suited for soundproofing or internal walls not requiring a vapor barrier. 2 lb. foam, known as closed cell, is best suited for external walls wanting a full air and vapor barrier from the elements. 3 lb. foam is also closed cell with the abilities of 2 lb., but is heavier and handles being walked on; for areas like flat roofs. There are also slow-rise foams available in 1/2 and 2 lb. varieties, for retrofitting existing walls/spaces.

What are some of the biggest advantages and disadvantages of spray foam insulation?

Spray foam insulation saves on energy costs and lowers utility bills. Studies by the US Dept. of Energy show that 40% of a home's energy is lost as the result of air infiltration through walls, windows and doorways. Buildings treated with spray foam insulation typically insulate as much as 50% better than traditional insulation products. Insulation that is sprayed in buildings protects against moisture, which provides the benefit of reducing the chance of harmful mold and mildew. Eliminating mold growth reduces the likelihood of rotting wood in a home, and allergic reactions to mold spores. In addition to building temperature and moisture control, spray foam insulation is often used to reduce noise. Foam insulation serves as a barrier to airborne sounds, and reduces airborne sound transfer through a building's roof, floor and walls. In the United States, homes treated with spray foam insulation often qualify for state and federal tax deductions.

The most commonly discussed disadvantage of spray foam insulation is generally the price, as it is double plus the price of traditional insulations. Overcoming this objection is simple, though; since the ROI (return on investment) is rising with energy costs. Spray foam pays for itself statistically faster than any other energy saving products on the market today, such as solar panels (which we are a huge fan of, by the way). You can expect savings of 40% or more; it is the only building product that actually pays for itself.

Another discussed downfall is the toxic nature while it is being sprayed--the applicators must wear protective gear during spraying; any people and animals/pets are recommended to leave the site for 8-12 hours, depending on the area's ventilation potential. Once the product is in place, and spray has completed off-gassing, it is inert and non-toxic. We are aware that foam of the past has been criticized for adding to greenhouse gasses, but studies of newer formulas are showing great improvement in both the in-air toxicity and greenhouse gas emissions. (Here might be a good time to point out that vehicles are substantially higher in greenhouse gas emissions.) Also, studies are showing that the balance between the greenhouse gas emission during spraying is off-set favorably by the reduction in overall carbon footprint for the life of the building.

How does the energy efficiency compare with other types of insulation?

2 lb. closed cell spray foam reduces energy bills up to 50% better than traditional insulation types.

What maintenance does spray foam insulation require?

Zero maintenance as long as it's kept out of sunlight. In fact, spray foam insulation assists by strengthening the structure it is applied to by effectively gluing everything together, eliminating potential for mold/mildew, and thwarting the efforts of insects and other vermin; all while keeping you warm when it's cool, and cool when it's warm.

Do you have any tips for homeowners who need new insulation?

Choosing insulation is more difficult nowadays due to rising energy prices and immediate cost/budget concerns. It is far less "messy" to upgrade at a later time, say, linoleum flooring to tile flooring, instead of fiberglass batts to polyurethane foam. While we can definitely utilize slow-rise pour-foam in existing structures, it is more cost effective (in new construction) to perhaps consider installing the foam insulation and linoleum floor, then upgrade the floor to tile in a few years. You'll have saved the money to upgrade by not paying the energy company! The savings will not only be substantial (approx 50% less) out the starting gates, but since foam will not sag or settle over time, there will be no cold spots quietly and slowly sucking larger amounts of energy over time.

What is the best way for people to get in contact with your company?

Call us at 920-428-4964 or email us at lvanornum@rockroadcompany.com, thank you!

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We are a family-owned and operated business in mid-Wisconsin, serving contractors and...

Phone: 920-428-4964

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