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Insulating Renovations with Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF)

Homeowners who retain Eastview to remodel their residential houses can be confident their newly finished walls are well insulated. Exterior walls are sealed with spray polyurethane foam, where applicable. We choose SPF over fiberglass because good spray foam insulation eliminates air infiltration (heat loss), which is it’s primary mission.

A certified SPF insulator stretches to reach a hard-to-access area.

Good spray foam insulation reduces HVAC costs year round and helps keep out moisture and slows the growth of harmful mold and mildew. SPF is better at keeping-out insects, rodents, and other vermin than fiberglass, and is a better-than-average noise blocker.

Spray foam is a two-part system that contains a polymer, such as polyurethane, and a foaming agent. After being sprayed, it expands to roughly 100 times its original volume and hardens into a solid material. As a result, it’s able to fill vacant air gaps, and will expand and contract in relation to the building.

Houses that are not well insulated can feel drafty because there are pockets of warmth here and there, and heat moving toward cooler areas creates a perceptible draft. Good insulation makes a protective envelope that slows heat moving out of the structure in the wintertime, while impeding thermal energy entering the building in the summer months.

History of Home Insulation in Oakville & Burlington

Old houses are poorly insulated compared to today’s modern standard. Historically, walls were made of lath & plaster which is almost like having no insulation at all. Lath & plaster is when builders nail thin, flat strips of wood (lath) to wall studs. These straps were then smoothed over with multiple coats of plaster to form a flat, smooth wall surface. Plasters, and the plastering trade declined when drywall first appeared on the Canadian market in the early 1950s. Drywall, also known as plasterboard or wallboard, consists of two paperboards that sandwich gypsum, a powdery white or gray sulfate mineral. Gypsum is noncombustible, and compared to other wall materials, like solid wood and plaster, gypsum boards are much lighter and cheaper.

Asbestos fire rolls evolved into pink fiberglass insulation after WW II.

The same is true for pink fiberglass insulation which replaced the Asbestos Fire Roll, seen on the left. Canadian homes, including many in Oakville and Burlington had and still may have asbestos insulation produced in a town called Asbestos, in Quebec. The fire blankets were relatively inexpensive and common in our area throughout the 1800s and well into the 1900s. Asbestos fire rolls were shipped all over the world. It was a big industry which employed hundreds of people. One of the largest American suppliers was H.W. Johns, and he died of dust pneumonitis, also known as Asbestosis in 1898. But his death didn’t slow the trade. It wasn’t until 1987 that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded that chrysotile asbestos causes lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Pink fiberglass insulation became dominant in the 1960’s and reigned supreme until the turn of the century. Now it has been phased out with regards to exterior walls. It’s just not handy for doing odd-shaped nooks and other anomalies that aren’t accommodated by the standard-size format of fiberglass batts. Similarly, wall interiors contain electrical outlet boxes, conduits and other obstructions. Even a small gap in insulation permits unrestricted flow of heat energy and can reduce a wall or ceiling’s overall heat resistance, known as its R-value, by as much as 50 percent! The worst attribute of fiberglass insulation is how it can become moist and moldy.

Spray foam insulation came to prominence about twenty years ago (here in Ontario) and now these service providers are common today because their solutions are quicker, easier, and provide a more efficient insulation envelope for buildings.

Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation Continues to Improve

Spray foam insulation, also known as spray polyurethane foam (SPF), is now the most popular and widely accepted insulation for residential homes in Ontario, replacing fiberglass and other “batt-types” of insulation which used to be the primary option.

Karol Domurad the owner of Domurad Spray Foam in Oakville
Certified SPF installer gets ready to professional insulate an Oakville area basement with Insulthane – Extreme ccSPF.

In November 2022, we watched a professional spray foam installer go to work thermal sealing the exterior walls of our latest home renovation. Spray foam contractors work alone, or with one helper, and usually have the whole site all to themselves due to the trip factor caused by their hoses and because of the fumes emitted in the application process.

For our renovation, Karol used Insulthane® Extreme ccSPF, a medium HFO-blown insulation well known in the industry because it requires no preparation and is easy to apply. There’s no mixing or agitating the resin beforehand and so it’s easier to prepare and deploy on location. Certified applicators also like Insulthane’s superior adhesion to wood, masonry, and other surfaces in diverse weather conditions.

Insulthane spray foam makes an especially effective air and sound barrier because the foam is filled with tiny bubbles, like an Aero chocolate bar. The insulating material is performance-engineered for commercial, industrial, and residential homes, and it’s also used in condominiums and apartment buildings.

Inside Karol’s trailer is the beating heart of his operation, a diesel generator propels a 660cc hydraulic pump and delivers 50lbs of foam per minute which means most installations are completed in less than three hours. Owning and operating a state-of-the-art hydraulic pump system contained in a box truck or enclosed trailer is the way of things for most SPF contractors. They work hard in the spring, summer and fall and take the winter off, especially in Canada where our colder temperatures shorten the spray foam season, because polyurethane foam won’t expand correctly if it’s too cold outside.

Insulthane is an Eco Friendly Spray Foam

Insulthane purports to be a green alternative and it is the first CCMC-approved environmentally friendly HFO foam system in Canada. CCMC is a third-party listing agency that verifies if products meet the preapproved standards. Here in Ontario, spray foam insulation must meet CAN / ULC-S705.1-15 standard to ensure compliance with the Ontario building code for permits issued after January 1, 2020. (It’s worth noting that some foams which met earlier standards are now being removed.) Formulated with Honeywell Solstice® Liquid Blowing Agent, the Insulthane Extreme formulation reduces Global Warming Potential (GWP) by 99.9%, compared to traditional HFC alternatives. Environmentally conscious contractors, architects, and homeowners have been using Insulthane for the last five years and are generally impressed with the long-term results.

Spray foam insulation contractors here in Ontario like using Insulthane Extreme ccSPF because of how easily it can be applied, and because of its consistency at different temperatures in varied weather conditions. Medium density foam is often referred to as 2-pound foam, and is a closed cell, non-porous insulation. Medium density spray foam is harder, more rigid and maintains a higher R-Value than low density materials. Insulthane has a high expansion rate and can immediately work itself into hard-to-reach crevices. More importantly, it resists moisture which makes it particularly well suited for insulating exterior walls.

Certified SPF applicators are trained to deposit a thin coat of foam in between the wooden studs; the result is two inches of foam on the cement wall. The SPF technician’s assistant has many tasks, but during the installation he follows along behind and measures the foam’s thickness. He also uses a tool to trim away excess material that would otherwise impede drywallers. Hard-to-reach corners and attic crawlspaces are where the service provider has the most difficulty and he takes special care around pipes and plumbing fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens. Some builders want the pipes covered while others leave them exposed so they might cover them later with foam jackets. One of the advantages of using SPF insulation is how uniformly it covers both copper and ABS pipes compared to removable jackets and vests which can leave gaps.

The spray gun is the most frequently replaced piece of equipment in the applicator’s tool chest. It used to be that the two-parts combined in the gun but now Insulathane is formulated to expand using only the oxygen in the air. It’s a one-step solution and the reaction continues for minutes after the material adheres to the wall. Readers can see how Insulthane foams-up and changes colour in this video.

Spray Polyurethane Foam Contractor at work insulating a basement apartment in Oakville, Ontario.

After watching the video, or looking at pictures, viewers may notice how the spray foam doesn’t entirely fill the space flush to the drywall. There will be a gap between the insulation and the drywall’s inner surface, and anyone knocking on the Gyprock to find a stud will hear the hollow cavity. But rest assured, it’s perfectly insulated. Filling this void will not yield any extra R-value to the house. Don’t worry about mice or insects exploiting the space either; spray foam coated walls deter such vermin.

Certified insulators specialize in making an SPF seal to envelope the whole building, even in the garage and sunroom areas. If one square foot was removed and analyzed, the hard foam insulation would be two inches thick and weigh two pounds. Two inches is the most efficacious application density which will result in the highest R value possible for this insulation product, and any building contractor or residential homeowner would be hard pressed to find a better solution.

About Eastview Homes

Eastview Homes has been transforming Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga houses into personalized luxury homes for twenty years.

We offer home consultation, effective design services and professional construction solutions. We specialize in large scale remodeling projects, custom homes, additions, or structural improvements to existing houses.

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