- insulation -
when it comes to insulation, there is no better product than polyurethane spray foam. i know this because i ran my own spray foam company for 10 years.
unlike fiberglass insulation, when sprayed in a cavity, foam insulation expands 30 to 100 times its volume. unlike conventional insulating materials, foam expands and fills every crack and pinhole. this leaves the cavity not well insulated but also substantially airtight.
but, foam insulation is not magic.
there are various densities and different cell structures best used for specific types building assemblies.
plus, the material must ALWAYS be installed properly.
for our walls, we installed a product known called Insulbloc, manufactured by NC Foam Industries, right up the road in Mt Airy, NC.
since our walls were mostly 3-1/2 inch thick, we wanted the highest performance material we could pack in the cavity. Insulbloc gave us the same insulating value at 3-1/2 inches as conventional fiberglass batt insulation gives at 5-1/2 inches.
another advantage of Insulbloc is the closed cell structure. closed cell foam is waterproof and vapor tight, which helps to manage humidity and mold.
closed cell foam also makes the wall remarkably stronger.
when high winds blow, our walls are not
going to move like those with conventional insulation.
in the cathedral ceilings, we used a product called Agribalance, manufactured by Demilec.
Agribalance was developed with an open cell structure and includes 20% of renewable agricultural based material. using renewable materials was a priority for me at 340 fairfax, and i appreciated the nature of the product we chose, not just because it worked well but because it was the right choice for our conscience.
we choose an open cell product because it is substantially airtight and has higher performance than fiberglass. but we wanted some vapor transmission to inside to ensure the cathedral cavities stay dry. the open cell structure does this.
reducing heat loss through the ceiling of a home is really important.
there are two ideas on how to do this:
the conventional ventilated attic has been used for years in millions of homes
across the U.S. these attics are characterized by insulation installed on the
attic floor and a ventilating system to control attic humidity. Properly applied,
there is not a better system for a home than a vented attic assembly.
- but, we chose a better way -
there are instances where it is more desirable to move the insulation from the attic floor to the roofline. This assembly is called an encapsulated attic.
encapsulated attics make sense when:
(a) Heating & cooling systems must go in the attic – In the summer, an attic
with dark shingles can reach 135°-145°F. It doesn’t make much sense to
install cooling equipment and ducts in a 135°F environment to deliver 50°F
air into the conditioned space. Winter temperatures just as extreme.
Vented attics are typically within 5°-10°F of the outdoor temperature and a
little cooler with metal roofs. So installing heating ducts in a 20°F attic to
deliver 100°F air to the living space is even more irrational. These attic
loads can add some 30%-35% to your heating and cooling bills.
(b) You need climate-controlled storage – Notice the nice storage in the photo
above. Moving the insulation from the attic floor to the roofline provides a
climate controlled space maintained within 3°-5°F of the thermostat set
point. Adding flooring and a suitable access can transform an otherwise
unruly attic into premium storage space.
(c) The attic floor is practically impossible to air seal – To function properly;
vented attics require the attic floor to be sealed substantially airtight. In
some cases, with sophisticated barrel or tray ceilings make air sealing
practically impossible. If so, moving the insulation AND air barrier to the
roofline is the best solution.
at 340 Fairfax, both of our cooling systems are in the attic.
it just seemed dumb to us to buy a bigger air conditioner and pay 30%-35% more in heating and
cooling bills to offset the effects of a vented attic. so we chose to use an open cell product called Bayseal OCX manufactured by Coverstro and encapsulate our attics.
we liked the Bayseal product because their formula provides supplemental fire protection in our attic.
it’s called an ignition barrier.
Bayseal uses intumescent coating material in their mix. an intumescent coating is a type of paint that bubbles up when exposed to flame or heat.
- the bubbled-up paint acts as a flame-resistant barrier
to delay ignition in the event of a fire -
it’s interesting to note that the same coating technology is used on fighter jets to fool heat-seeking missiles. so as an added benefit, our attic is not likely to get hit by one!
in every detail, from the crawlspace to the encapsulated attic,
it really is a home like you've never seen before.
it's a living experience you can only imagine.