Creative Co-Op Insulated Using Spray Foam and Cellulose from ComforTemp

April 15, 2011 - This week the folks from ComforTemp came to the job site and insulated 9 of the 11 containers. Over the past year we interviewed almost a dozen companies trying to determine what kind of insulation system we would use, and who we would choose to install it.  Last week we selected ComforTemp after several meetings with Paul Adamoli the General Manager. We were most impressed with the questions he asked and his ideas on how to provide the best building envelope at the lowest cost.  

ComforTemp is a unique company in several ways. They install the three most popular kinds of insulation - fiberglass, cellulose and spray foam. When it comes to cellulose, you won't find a better price because they not only install it, but manufacture it in their plant here in Houston, TX.  It is also a family owned company that understands the importance of great customer service. In this post we will show you how their crew tackled the insulation challenges of this unique structure.

Their crew arrived on Tuesday and immediately went to work. Paul decided that he would use high density Demilac spray foam for all of the external areas of the building. This foam provides an insulation value of R7 per inch, so all the exposed roof areas were given 2 inches of foam. The spray foam goes on slowly and does not expand very much. The density gives it the high R factor. The installers took extra care to mask off the windows, doors and anything else that might be over sprayed during installation.

We also used foam to seal the space between all the containers. The 2 inch gap on the exterior of the building needs to be watertight, and the foam will do a great job of keeping the rain out. Foam was also used inside the building to seal up the space at the ceiling where the two containers come together.  Before they started, you could walk around the inside of the building and see light between the holes in the walls and ceiling. There was no light showing at the end of the week.

ComforTemp returned the next day with a truck designed specifically for blowing cellulose into the wall cavity. A large hopper holds the cellulose which is tossed in by the bag load. Like a gigantic vacuum cleaner set on reverse, the cellulose is blown through a large diameter hose to a spray head where it is mixed with water. The nozzle blows the moist cellulose into the wall cavity. Getting the correct mixture of water to cellulose took a few minutes (if too much or too little water is used, the cellulose will not stick to the walls).

When everything is perfect a large amount of excess cellulose is blown on the walls to insure proper coverage.  As one installer blows on the wet paper mix, another follows him using a special piece of equipment that shaves off the excess cellulose where it drops to the floor. A third installer follows the two men in front with a powerful vacuum that picks up the cellulose that falls to the floor. This cellulose is returned to the hopper and reused.

There is very little waste, and because the walls of a container are not flat, the cellulose completely fills the cavity. It also does a great job around plumbing pipes, electrical conduit, and other areas that would be difficult (if not impossible) to adequately insulate with fiberglass bats. Cellulose has an R factor of 3.5 per inch, so we have at least R14 in the walls.

By the end of the second day, they had completely insulated the container walls of 9 of the 11 units. They suggest we wait 3 days for the cellulose to completely dry out before we install the dry wall. The weather has been warm (not hot) and dry (not humid) like it typically is in Houston, so we should be ready for Sheetrock next week.

As for the green factor we think Paul deserves an A for his design on this building. The spray foam used is Demilac's Heatlok Soy (tm), made of recycled plastic materials, renewable soy oils and an environmentally friendly blowing agent. It is water soluble and a great air barrier. The manufacturer claims it can reduce energy consumption by up to 50%.

Cellulose is also a very green product and a wonderful insulator. It will not allow air to pass through it like fiberglass does. It fully encapsulates pipe, electrical boxes, and around window frames. It is pest and insect resistant, and a great sound barrier. It is fire retardant, and will not support combustion. It is made from recycled newspaper, cardboard boxes and other paper products destined for the land fill.

If you have never been in a space insulated with cellulose it is a strange feeling. Almost too quiet. Cellulose is not only a great insulation, but it does an excellent job of absorbing sound. For a video production studio, you could not ask for anything better. As soon as we get Sheetrock on the ceiling in the large green screen room, we will have them back to install cellulose in the walls (which are 6 and 8 inches thick), and the ceiling (where they will install cellulose rated at R38.

Video added on 8/15/11 - At the end of the insulation work we were so pleased with their work, we created a video for the Comfortemp company as a case study example of how their products were used on our project!

Category: Container Building,