Simple is Better

By: Jim Nugent, Regional Sales Manager

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Many of us have heard the expression “spoiled for choice”. As consumers today we have so many choices for the products and services we use, and the construction market is no exception. Architects and engineers have thousands of products available to them for each CSI construction division. In division 7 (thermal & moisture protection), the construction division most relevant to ACH Foam, architects need to choose products for Roofing, Siding, Waterproofing, Sheet Metal, Exterior Claddings, Fireproofing and others. It is understandable that architects are not always quick to try new products when there are so many to consider.

Specifically in the area of thermal protection I would like to think that simple is better. For the purpose of this blog post let us consider this question; if an architect could only pick one material to thermally protect a building in addition to providing structural support for concrete slab or a paver system, what product would they chose?

Let’s look at the fiber insulations like fiberglass and mineral wool. These products are used regularly on the inside of above grade walls, occasionally rock wool is used in cavity walls. However these products would not work well, on foundations, underslab, or beneath waterproofing membranes. Limited compressive strengths and poor moisture management are the issues.

Extruded polystyrene is a product that is commonly specified for foundation walls, underslab insulation, and in cavity walls. XPS is available in limited thicknesses which makes it harder to use to meet the new continuous insulation (CI) code requirements. New independent insitu data is showing that XPS used in foundation applications or in horizontal applications, holds moisture which impacts long term R-value. Extruded polystyrene is not very practical for use under roof membranes. The thin layers combined with the difficulty to create tapered XPS systems makes it impractical in roofing applications.

Polyisocyanurate (Polyiso) is commonly used in cavity walls and under roof membranes. Polyiso is available in a wide variety of thicknesses which helps meet changing CI R-value requirements but it has never been a good choice for foundation walls or underslab insulation due to issues with moisture retention and limited compressive resistance options.

New independent data from the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) regarding the temperature sensitivity of polyiso is compelling. The roofing industry is learning that in cold climates the R-value of polyiso drops. At 25 degrees EPS actually has a higher R-value than Polyiso.

That brings us to EPS and Foam-Control® and Foam-Control PLUS+® below-grade insulations offered by ACH Foam Technologies. Starting at the foundation and underslab, independent testing shows Foam-Control PLUS+® is a great choice. The ability of Foam-Control PLUS+® to shed moisture in drying conditions makes it ideal for wet environments. With compressive strengths of 25, 40 and 60 psi Foam-Control PLUS+® is ideal for underslab and pedestal paver projects. Foam-Control® and Foam Control Plus+ are available in a wide range of thicknesses making it easier to meet CI requirements in cavity walls or other wall insulation applications, and also has many NFPA285 approved assemblies.

Lastly, Foam-Control® and Foam-Control PLUS+® EPS roof insulations are proving to be the right choice under roof membrane applications as well as above membrane horizontal applications. Larger pieces for tapered systems are outperforming polyiso R-values in cold climates, making EPS ideal under roof membranes. High compressive strengths, larger pieces, and better bulk moisture management make it ideal for above membrane applications in plaza decks, green roofs, and split slabs.

Initially the premise of only using one rigid insulation to thermally protect a building, may have seemed funny, but if you think about how this could simplify the specification for an architect this premise has serious merit. A very strong case can be made that simple is better and Foam-Control® and Foam-Control PLUS+® can meet all the thermal protection needs of a building.

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