Spray Foam Insulation With Dave Mikels From Graber InSEALators

Spray Foam Insulation With Dave Mikels From Graber InSEALators

Greg:    Welcome to this edition of the Louisville Custom Home Builder podcast series, brought you by Louisville’s leading luxury construction team, Artisan Signature Homes. I’m Greg, your host, and for today’s episode we are joined by Louisville’s best-known and most accomplished custom and luxury home builder, Jason Black. Jason, good to see you.

Jason:    Greg, good to see you, and we have a special guest joining us this morning, Dave Mikels with Graber Insealators is here, and we’ve been doing business with Dave for, gosh, well over 10 years now, and one of our first jobs was probably back in, I’m going to date myself, 2006 Homearama, I think, over in Beech Spring Farms, and we’re gearing up for an exciting Homearama in 2016 this year, in Norton Commons, and we partner with Dave again on this project. Welcome, Dave.

Dave:    Well, good to be here.

Greg:    Why don’t you start us from the beginning? What do you do for Jason? What kind of insulation are we talking about? Just give us the basic rundown.

Dave:    Sure. We, actually give you a little bit of history back on us, we were one of the first spray foam contractors in the United States, spray foam … This Old House of the … The This Old House episodes of the world has kind of put spray foam on the map, and we saw one of the very first episodes back in 1996.

Greg:    Both you guys are dating yourselves.

Dave:    Yeah, we are kind of dating ourselves, aren’t we?

Jason:    I think Dave dated himself a little bit more than I did.

Dave:    Anyway, in the process of that, we brought spray foam to the Louisville market, and spray foam is kind of the Cadillac of the insulation options that you have. It’s kind of the “good, better, best,” and the homes that are going to spray foam are the ones that want to get it right.

Greg:    Is it the Cadillac because of the ease of installation for you, or because of the end result for the client, or is there something that makes it better for Jason? Who is it the Cadillac for?

Dave:    It’s really kind of one of those a triple net benefits, because it’s the Cadillac for everybody.

Greg:    Good answer.

Dave:    The way it expands, it’s 100 to 1 expansion, so a sixteenth of an inch of liquid turns into 5 inches of foam in about 5 seconds, and in that process it just seals every crack and crevice, so it kind of takes the installer error out of the equation, but then at the same time it makes your house like a great big cooler, so it makes it so easy to keep at whatever temperature you want, whatever humidity you want, so there’s, it’s not just the energy savings component, it’s the end result comfort for the house is what we hear back from people all the time.

Greg:    Where would we see this product? Jason and I have talked several times about different places that he needs to insulate a home, in the basement, upstairs, and an attic, walls… Where would we see your product?

Dave:    It’s on the entire outer envelope of the house, and so we make a complete outer shell out of foam insulation, so that you don’t have any more hot boxes or cold boxes in the house. The whole structure becomes one even temperature.

Greg:    Okay, so that would help with, I guess that’s what you’re calling hot boxes and cold boxes, is that where you walk into like a bump-out off the kitchen and it’s 5 degrees different than the kitchen, or something?

Dave:    Exactly. It takes all that away. A lot of people over the years have built these bonus rooms over garages, and they’re always the most uncomfortable rooms in a house. Not when you spray foam. When you foam them, you can make them the same temperature as the rest of the house all the time.

Greg:    Jason, is this a product that we’re going to see in your upcoming Homearama homes?

Jason:    We do. We’ve got a really cool house coming up this year in Norton Commons for Homearama, and there’s a couple different ways you can insulate a house, and we, as Dave said, went the Cadillac way, this year. We’re doing all foam on all the walls, all the attics, everywhere, so you can use this application in a hybrid, so to speak. Sometimes we’ll use it in the attic to really seal that lid and then use another product in the walls that he provides, so every house has, you can kind of tackle it at, I guess, a different way, but this way, this year, and I think we’ll … Dave, are we going to have a spot in the attic where folks can actually see the foam this year?

Dave:    Absolutely. Yeah, we’ll have a plexiglass display that’ll showcase, I’ll tell you something that we’ve had a lot of fun with over the years that we plan on doing in your house, is that we will put a chocolate Easter bunny inside an attic, and Homearama’s always the last two weeks of July, right?

Greg:    Very warm.

Dave:    … so it’s 95 degrees outside, and in most people’s attics if they put a chocolate Easter bunny, it’s going to melt pretty quick, but not in Jason’s, so it’ll be fun.

Jason:    Unless somebody eats it.

Greg:    Bring extra, that’s right. I’m curious, just in the visual, how am I going to see your chocolate Easter bunny? You know people are going to come by now and saying, “Where’s the chocolate Easter bunny?”

Dave:    What we’ll do is we’ll put a plexiglass display somewhere in the attic assembly, where you can look up into what the attic looks like, so it’s not going to be blocked off with drywall, and that’s where we’ll have a display, so you’ll be able to see it.

Greg:    Pressure’s on.

Jason:    One thing I like about Dave too is, we first started using Dave because of the insulation, and Icynene was the brand that he sprayed, and now foam has become more widely accepted or more widely available, but, Dave, tell us why you’ve stuck with Icynene over the years.

Dave:    It’s a great question, and as a lot of me-too products have come out over the years, we’ve always watched, obviously, if we can lower our overhead costs and provide a good product more affordably, it’d make sense; but today we still believe that Icynene’s the premium spray foam product on the market. They were specifically engineered to go inside a residential home, so it’s still the only spray foam today that’s 100% water blown, they use water as the blowing agent instead of a petroleum-based chemical, so they get all the Healthy House endorsements, the American Lung Association, the enviro… It’s a really good indoor air quality product, and so it’s been important to us to say, “We don’t ever want to make sure and put something in somebody’s house that’s made somebody sick or have an allergy issue or whatever,” and so that’s a really big piece of why we like Icynene so much.

Greg:    Can I follow up on that real quickly? Does that mean, since it’s water blown, that it’s not going to be giving off fumes for years and years, and that’s what you’re talking about …

Dave:    That’s right, yeah.

Greg:    … that I won’t have to worry about this insulation that’s in the basement or the attic or the walls, my kids are in their bedroom just soaking these fumes? You’re saying it’s the healthiest product or one of the healthiest products out on the market.

Dave:    Yeah, it’s a completely inert product, so it’s got zero off-gassing to it, and so …

Greg:    Wow.

Dave:    It’s really, it’s a big deal. I bet 25% of the homes that we insulate every year I get as referrals from ear, nose, and throat doctors. If somebody has a family with really high sensitivities to allergens, a lot of times they have to build a new house because they can’t live in the house that they’re in, and they got to look at the paints and carpets and everything they use, and they always find us in that process because of its ratings.

Jason:    Well, and for our Homearama client, ours is a contract this year. He has a lot of, he does have allergies, and he’s got a lot of noise sensitivity as well, so one of the things we talked about early on was doing a great job with the insulation. Not only does it add for a, I guess, energy-efficient house, but it also adds a very comfortable house, so I don’t know if, Dave, you can talk about the, I guess, noise, if it keeps the noise down as a sound barrier as well.

Dave:    Yeah, and actually, interestingly enough, we’ve got some studies on that. We were a part of a lot of what was being done down at the airport relocation with some of the sound studies, and some of those houses they were having to buy out, because the noise was so loud as UPS continued to grow, so the difference, they measure sound control by what’s called STC ratings, or Sound Transmission Class, and the higher the number, the better the sound performance is, and once you use foam, it’s not just the fact that it stops the air movement with the good STC ratings, but because it’s airtight, so much sound moves through air, so it’s kind of a combination of the density of the product, as well as it being airtight, that makes the STC rating so high.

Jason:    Okay, and, Dave, is … I know there’s a couple different types of insulation out there. There’s what’s called, what, open foam and closed cell foam, so what product do you spray?

Dave:    Yeah, so the best way to answer the question as to which foam is best is to say, “What’s the application?” There’s the right foam, engineered for the right application every time. The biggest distinctions are open cell and closed cell, is what you hear in the market a lot, and the best analogy I’ve learned to give with that is that open cell acts like house wrap, and closed cell acts like plastic, so the biggest differentiator between the two is that open cell will quote-unquote “breathe” or allow moisture to dry through it, where closed cell foam completely stops all moisture, and so …

Jason:    In our residential use, in most of our homes, we spray an open cell, because we want that … We don’t want it to seal up tight, I guess.

Dave:    Well, you don’t want to trap moisture.

Jason:    Yeah.

Dave:    At the end of the day, if you get a roof leak or if you get moisture coming through a wall, who cares how it got there? We want it to dry out. We don’t want to trap it, and that’s the advantage of the open cell foams.

Jason:    What would be an application for a closed cell foam? Would you use that in a residential application?

Dave:    Actually, we do a lot. Sometimes, once you get below grade, so when you’re just on concrete walls or below, there’s a vapor drive that can happen through concrete walls, so closed cell foam stops that, but I tell you where I use it the most is that an enormous number of houses, and we’ve done some of these for you too, have wine cellars today, and in a wine cellar, you have to keep the humidity level higher in the wine cellar than you do in the room outside of that, so you have this one-way vapor drive that happens all the time and closed cell foam is perfect for that.

Greg:    Okay, I wanted to come back to a topic that Jason asked about earlier. He was asking about soundproofing. Is this a material you would use, let’s say a musician wants to build a house with Jason, a drummer downstairs, or a theater room, Jason, you were talking about theater rooms in an earlier episode. Is this something that you would use?

Dave:    Yeah, we do it a lot for that. It really, again, it’s the combination of the density of the product and the fact that it makes … Like if you make a theater room airtight, we hear this from the home theater guys all the time, when you’re using bass, bass is actually pushing air, and so when you push into an airtight cavity, you tighten up the bass. You don’t have the reverb that a lot of bass has, and so it’s not just keeping the sound from going out of the room from a noise pollution, but it’s also cleaning up the sound inside the room, so you can benefit both.

Greg:    Does that mean that the sound actually sounds better without having to turn it up as much, you actually get a purer…

Dave:    That’s right, it’s a more pure sound, exactly.

Jason:    What about transferring sound like between floors or between … We’re doing some commercial live/work applications where we have neighbors right next door and right above us. What’s the best way to, I guess, stop that sound transfer?

Dave:    In all of our years of using different sound control products, what we’ve learned is, it’s a combination of everything that makes it the best, so getting something airtight, stopping the sound waves that move through air is one piece. Then filling the rest of the cavity up, we like to use some of the real dense products, like a rockwool. Rockwool is a really dense fiberglass product that has a real high STC rating to it, because of its density, but then the next step of that is actually, sound travels through a solid path, and so when you have drywall below, and then an I-joist, and then a subfloor above that, no matter what you put in-between the cavity, the sound’s going to transfer through that solid path, so when you use the sound channel or the resilient channel, it actually bumps the drywall about a half-inch off the studs, and it stops that last, the low or the reverb that you get a lot from the sound, so … It’s kind of a combination of all three ways together that you can get something sound-proof, if you will.

Jason:    Okay. Good stuff.

Greg:    Yeah, this is fascinating, and we haven’t even touched on the ratings and some of the numbers that show that this really is beneficial to a homeowner. If you’re okay, maybe, Jason, can we have him come back in a couple weeks and do another episode?

Jason:    I guess since we like Dave, we’ll see …

Greg:    Okay, I put you on the spot there, didn’t I?!

Jason:    … we’ll see some more of him, and he is a great source of knowledge for us, so yeah, we can talk about HERS ratings and some different things that Dave’s helping us with as well.