One of our latest projects was to insulate the walls and roof of a Grade II listed stone built property in Burscough. Once a station house, Burscough Bridge railway station was closed to the traveling public in 2005 and was in need of a major refurbishment.
Local contractor JDC Construction & Developments ltd undertook the renovation works to bring this building back to life. Having worked with JDC previously on similar types of properties, they were confident that spray foam insulation was the perfect choice for their project, offering unrivalled air tightness, superior energy efficiency and speed of installation, they turned to us once again. We completed the works over a series of visits, fitting in with the contractors time frames and other works, in total we sprayed approx 285m2 of open cell insulation within a stud wall frame to the underside of the roof.
We sprayed Icynene open cell foam from Huntsman Building Solutions, BBA approved spray foam backed with a 25 year warranty.
To become a certified spray foam installer, all operatives must undergo a specific training program at the manufacturers training facility. Then, they are subject to on site audits for ongoing conformity.
All our operatives have attended extensive training sessions with Huntsman Building Solutions, the new home of Icynene. They have been trained on all aspects of spray foam insulation. From application of the different types of foam, health and safety, equipment maintenance and theory-based training. All to learn more about spray foam insulation products.
Specifying Spray Foam Insulation For New Builds & Extensions
Training is not limited to install staff alone. Our office staff have a wealth of knowledge too. Covering different types of spray foam, from their usages and different specifications to calculating U values.
It’s not enough to know how to spray foam insulation, we need to know so much more. Every house is different so we need to have a good understanding of suitability of each project. We have to consider how spray foam will interact with other building components. U value calculations and condensation risk analysis reports need to be produced for each project. New build properties and extensions will all have different target U values, and each property will have a different make up of materials. These differences will impact on U values and how they are calculated.
We can assist with your building project right from the start. We can calculate U values and provide all the required information for building control to pass off your insulation works before we commence the installation. All our insulation installs come with a 25-year warranty on completion.
Retro Fit Insulation
We can also specify insulation for a retro fit project, be it underfloor or roof insulation you require. Most retro fit projects won’t need to meet the same specification as a new build or extension. They will still need to be assessed for suitability. As with new builds not every house is the same. A balanced approach should be taken when assessing suitability of your home for retro fit insulation. We can gather information from you on the phone or by email in the first instance and move on to a full site survey later, should it be required.
What do we mean by airtightness?
Many people get confused and think that if somethings airtight it’s going to trap moisture and cause materials to sweat, especially where spray foam insulation is concerned.
Put simply, something that’s airtight has the ability to stop mass transfer of air. Which does not always mean stopping the ability to pass moisture vapour (breathe) if the product is breathable.
Air movement around poorly fitted insulation boards via convection will lose far more heat at a much faster rate than through heat loss via conduction of an airtight material.
If you were to leave your fridge door open just a small amount it would soon stop cooling things down. As little as a 5% gap around an insulation board can equate to a 50% loss in thermal efficiency.
Air leakage control is essential for improving
- Indoor air quality
- Limiting heat losses due to convection and mass transfer
- Avoiding mould growth
- Limiting airborne noise from the outside
- Improving effective U value
The U value of a building can be greatly reduced if the insulation product is not fitted correctly. We have seen countless times where an insulated boards are fitted in a vaulted ceiling and a hole is cut in the middle of the board for lighting. That hole goes directly through to a cold ventilated space above and will greatly reduce the U value of that section. This is due to the heat lost via convection through the hole. It will also allow cold air to push into the building from the outside.
Open cell spray foam insulation is an insulator and air barrier material all in one. It expands 100x to fill every gap and stops heat loss through air leakage, convection, and mass transfer. It’s a fully breathable product that will allow moisture vapour diffusion allowing materials in contact to continue to breathe.
Airtightness is key to a building’s energy efficiency; you can have all the insulation in the world but if you leave the front door open its always going to be cold. Control air leakage and you will be well on your way to achieving an energy efficient home.
Spray foam insulation is a key component in achieving an airtight building envelope.
Over the past 6 years we’ve been building a small portfolio of barn conversions and older stone properties that we have solved insulation problems for. Although historically a smaller part of our total portfolio, in more recent years we’ve seen an increase in demand on this type of work for us.
Typical Barn Construction
Barn conversions and stone built properties are often complex shaped structures. These are notoriously difficult to insulate and can be very cold if not insulated correctly.
The nature of the walls on these types of buildings means there is rarely a straight wall. This poses issues for traditional forms of insulation which struggle to get a good seal and eliminate cold spots.
Using spray foam to insulate walls of a barn, it is advisable to build a timber stud frame inside the property. This should be stood off from the wall by about 50mm. This way we can spray foam directly to the brick work and between the frame. The foam will also lap behind the stud and eliminate any cold bridging from the walls. It should be finished off with a vapour control layer prior to plasterboard, Although insulated plasterboard can be used if you require a lower U value. Walls below ground level should be protected with some sort of tanking membrane prior to spraying with foam.
The top of the wall plate, where roof and wall meet often pose issues. When insulating with foam we spray to the top of the wall plate and create a seamless bond right the way up onto the roof. This gives a uniform seal from wall to roof that eliminates air leakage and cold spots.
Common Barn Roof Construction
Typically barn roofs will have a couple of larger roof beams as well as some smaller ones. Clients generally like to keep the larger ones on show for aesthetic reasons and to maintain that old barn look. The smaller roof joists are in many cases only 70mm deep, these will require a counter batten fitted in order to take an adequate amount of foam between them, usually a further 3×2 batten is sufficient allowing us to apply 140mm of foam between joists. When used in conjunction with an insulated plasterboard over the face, a U value of around 0.18 is easily achievable.
Varying depths of foam will alter the overall U value. There are numerous ways we can achieve your required U values, either increasing the depth of counter batten and depth of foam or by increasing the depth of insulated board over the face of the foam.
When it comes to insulating a barn conversion or similar type building, we have a wealth of knowledge and past experience to help you right from the planning stage. We can provide U value calculations based on a variety of scenarios to meet your needs. We know its never a one size fits all with this type of building. We will work with you to figure out how to achieve the best thermal envelope for the building in question.
Wildlife in Barns
Bats can be an issue for barn conversions. Often, old style bitchimen felt must be maintained. This is so that bats don’t get their claws stuck which they can do in a modern breathable felt. Where a none breathable bitchimen type felt is used, a suitable vapour control layer must be used prior to plasterboard.
We have also come across some barns that have to have a specific section of the roof void sectioned for nesting of barn owls. Open cell foam helps with soundproofing and can be helpful in maintaining a quiet environment. Both owl & human can co exist in relative peace.
The location of a lot of barn conversions can be in exposed areas susceptible to high wind. The air sealing nature of spray foam and its ability to seal all gaps will prevent air infiltration and heat loss. This will give a much more comfortable environment within the property.
One of the many benefits of spray foam is its noise reduction qualities, including from external elements such as rain.
Windows, Doors and Reveals
As the pictures show, a number of the windows have curves which poses an impossible task to insulate for other materials. Spray foam however, can follow the shape of even the most complex structure allowing you to get a full bond of insulation. With an expansion rate of 100x, the foam will fill all small gaps within the building envelope in the hardest to reach areas. Open cell foam remains soft and flexible and is easy to trim to suit odd shapes.
The more airtight a building becomes, the greater the need for mechanical ventilation. Modern forms of ventilation such as MVHR (mechanical ventilated heat recovery), work well in conjunction with spray foam insulation. MVHR can provide a fresh source of outdoor air while retaining 80% of the heat from within the home. It does this by recycling it over a heat exchanger and putting it back into fresh air from the outside.
If you are about to undertake a barn conversion or similar type of project and are unsure of how to create an energy efficient building envelope that is comfortable to live in and doesn’t cost the earth to heat, get in contact with us and we can assist with all your insulation needs. We can assist from planning through to install and will offer honest sound advice that meets your needs.
Underfloor insulation in new builds and extensions is part of current building regulations and any new property must have the floor insulated. However, for many years this was completely overlooked. Many older properties were built with suspended timber floors and insulation was almost always overlooked. This means all that’s between you and the cold outdoor air are wooden floorboards, which is the main cause of cold floors. This, combined with expansion gaps on the building perimeter and holes for pipes and cables allows a considerable amount of cold air to push up into the building, making it even colder.
Uninsulated floors cause unwanted heat exchange between the warm air in the room and the cold floor. Heat exchange happens faster at higher temperature differentials. Basically a cold floor and warm room will always cool down much quicker once the heating is turned off.
Insulating with open cell spray foam insulation is considered the most effective way to combat the problem of cold floors and unwanted draughts. Open cell spray foam is an insulator and air barrier combined. The breathability of the product means that it will allow moisture vapour diffusion. This stops materials from sweating and allows them to breathe. The air barrier status of the product stops cold air circulating through the material, acting in essence like a wind proof jacket.
The old way to insulate a suspended floor uses traditional loft insulation rolls. This is held in place with some sort of netting. The problem with this method lies in the fact that the material is not an air barrier meaning cold air can still circulate through the material and find its way through gaps in the floor. On the perimeter of all buildings is an expansion gap. Lying hidden below the skirting board, it is there to allow the floor to expand and contract with seasonal changes. It only needs to be a gap of a few mm but added up around the perimeter, it can equate to the size of a small window opening allowing cold air to continually push in. A tell tail sign of this gap can be seen on some properties with a very small dark line on carpets around the edge at the bottom of the skirting board where dust has blown up from the void below the floor.
One of the great benefits of open cell spray foam insulation is its ability to fill this gap. The product expands 100x its sprayed size and will fill every gap. Because it stays soft and flexible it will allow the floor to expand and contract also moving with the seasonal changes.
Need for Ventilation…
Ventilation of a suspended timber floor is an important aspect of keeping rot at bay. We have seen many examples of clients blocking their air bricks. Although this might offer some benefits in reducing draughts, it can cause problems with both wet & dry rot. When we insulate with spray foam insulation, we leave all air bricks clear from obstruction and material to allow for sub floor ventilation. Once the foam is installed it won’t matter about air bricks as the cold air will only circulate below the floor and won’t be given the chance to push up into any gaps above.
15% Heat Loss…
The Energy Saving Trust give a figure of 15% heat loss from a suspended timber floor. However, this figure does not consider draughts that push up into the property from the expansion gaps and other holes created from pipes and cables. It’s very hard to give an exact savings for any type of house. Obviously, every house is different. Some have small expansion gaps, some have large ones, some have bare floorboards or tiles, and others have big thick carpets. This will impact on the additional efficiency of the insulation. It’s not uncommon for our clients to report savings of over 20% on their heating bills after insulation. We also get constant feedback on the improved “comfort factor”. The temperature feels more stable and holding for longer even once the heating goes off.
We have done lots of work on Victorian properties that have exposed floorboards that have been sanded and varnished. These floors look great, but some have gaps of 3-4mm between every board and with gaps like that you might as well have the front door open. Floors like this will notice a huge difference to the heating costs and temperature within the house once insulated. The only downside we’ve had reported is a visual one. Once sprayed some floors will end up with some small white lines between the floorboards, this is where the spray has filled the gap. This is easily rectified with a furniture touch up pen and they also discolour over time. It’s a very small price to pay against what you will save on heating costs and for the comfort factor.
Growing Energy Costs…
With energy costs on a steep rise, there is no better time to insulate your suspended timber floor. Get in contact with us and we will be happy to provide you with a free no obligation quote. There are no pushy salesmen or ‘sign up now for X amount discount’, just a straightforward open honest approach. We will assess your property, take some measurements, and send you a quote by email that you can review in your own time.
Have you ever wondered…
- What is spray foam?
- Is it safe?
- Does it give off gasses?
- Will it cause condensation?
- Will it cause rot?
- Will it trap moisture?
These are just some of the many questions & concerns potential clients raise with us, sometimes because of reading negative press or outdated misinformed information. Whatever your concern is and wherever its derived from, we’re looking to bust those myths and get to the facts about open cell spray foam.
In short open cell spray foam insulation is a polyurethane. It’s a plastic material that can be rigid or flexible – in open cells case, its flexible.
Green Horizon Energy Solutions work exclusively with Icynene from Huntsman Building Solutions, which is a water blown open cell foam. It uses water as a blowing medium and although there are some initial risks for the spray foam operative during the spraying process, once cured within a couple of minutes it is completely inert. Clients can return to the spray area within a couple of hours. The install of the product is a chemical process so we have to be mindful of this and for this reason the sprayers will wear a full air fed mask to prevent inhalation and to protect their eyes and face from encountering the raw material which has an exothermic reaction at 85c when expanding.
Icynene is water blown and therefore does not have an off-gassing period. Some other types of foam use chemicals in the blowing phase, trapping tiny bubbles of gas within the foam which take time to work their way out (off-gassing), whereas water blown foam creates C02 bubbles which pop as it expands and are replaced immediately with tiny air pockets. This means there is no off-gassing period and the only thing contained within the foam is air.
What is open cell?
Open cell foam means exactly what it says, the cells are open – this is important when preventing trapped moisture. It will allow moisture vapor diffusion also known as breathability. Breathability is a products ability to allow moisture vapor to diffuse through the material. Timbers need to breathe and by using an open cell foam this can still happen naturally. If you wrapped a bit of wood in a plastic bag it would eventually begin to sweat as the plastic bag is not breathable and there is nowhere for the moisture to go, but with open cell foam the moisture vapor can move through the material and into the atmosphere, working in essence, like a wind proof jacket as opposed to a plastic mac. We all know how you can sweat in a plastic mac as the moisture is unable to escape, yet in a windproof jacket this is not an issue because moisture is allowed to move freely through the material. By allowing materials to breathe you also in turn prevent the issue of rot.
Once open cell foam is applied to the underside of a roof or floor boards, the risk of condensation is drastically reduced. Condensation forms when warm moisture laden air finds a cold surface and a dew point occurs which then cause the air to condensate on the cold surface, by spraying the underside of the roof you remove the cold surfaces for air to condensate on. There is 100x less moisture via diffusion than there is via convection, for example if you drilled a 2cm hole in a plasterboard it would carry 100x more moisture through than it would via diffusion alone.
The open cell nature of the foam will allow all materials in contact to continue to breathe naturally. Huntsman Building Solutions foams (Icynene), where developed in Canada in 1986 for timber framed houses that need to breathe. They have a long-standing reputation in the field of insulation with proven results in making homes more energy efficient and preventing any of the issues listed above. In the UK the foam has gone through numerous independent tests to determine the performance and deemed it suitable for the building market for both new and existing dwellings. It has achieved BBA & BDA approval and is approved for building warranties with NHBC as well as being recommended by the Energy Saving Trust.
Still want to know more?
We are always on hand to answer any further questions you might have regarding our open cell foam and we will always give you open and honest advise so get in touch to find out more.
Of late we’ve been inundated with customers asking about government schemes, informing us of offers from companies offering grants of £1500 for spray foam insulation. We like to think we know our stuff when it comes to all things spray foam and we wanted to share our knowledge with you. Hopefully this article should shed some light on what is and isn’t available grant wise and help you avoid any potential hard sell tactics.
We appreciate that information can sometimes change quickly, therefore we always advise you to do your own research when looking at what funding is available. There are numerous reputable sources where you can check for the most recent funding options, The government website (www.gov.uk/topic/housing/funding-programmes) is always a good one to check, likewise the money saving expert website (www.moneysavingexpert.com) can be a great source of up to date information.
The most recent grant scheme available was the ‘Green Homes Grant Scheme’ this was a government funded scheme to help homeowners pay for the cost of energy efficiency measures to their homes by contributing 2/3rds of the cost to qualifying customers. When the scheme was launched in September 2020, the Government pledged £3billion to making UK homes greener, on the face of things the scheme looked great, but things unfortunately turned sour. Customers were struggling to find installers and there was a minefield of paperwork and regulations for installing companies making it almost impossible to get it set up effectively. The scheme was eventually cut short by the government and scrapped for new applicants in March 2021.
Although there may be some funding options for other measures within your home, spray foam insulation is not currently on that list. Currently there are several companies advertising grants of £1500 for spray foam insulation, saying all you need to do is fill in one form with your contact details and they will let you know if you’re eligible. At the time of writing this there currently are not any grants available for spray foam insulation for pitched roofs or underfloor. If you hear of any grants available, we advise you to do your own research. Find out where this funding is coming from and check its not just a sales ploy, and that you are not actually paying an inflated price for the services you require under the premiss you are qualifying for a grant.