Insulfoam’s Regional Sales Director, Rick Canaday, joined Home Talk USA with Michael King to discuss insulation in your home, insulation properties, moisture concerns, energy leaks in and out of the home and more.
Originally posted online at Construction Superintendent
Understanding rigid foam insulation for foundation and under-slab applications
Up to one-quarter of a building’s energy loss is due to lack of insulation in below-grade areas, including the foundation and under slabs. Now that high-performance building envelopes are common above ground, the relative amount of total heat lost below grade will grow if these spaces are not addressed.
As a result, superintendents increasingly will encounter below-grade and under-slab insulation on all building types. To help increase understanding of how two common rigid-foam insulations perform in these settings, this article evaluates moisture absorption and thermal performance. It also discusses installation procedures for below-grade and under-slab insulation.
Rigid foam insulation
Two common rigid foam insulations specified for below-grade applications are expanded polystyrene (EPS) and extruded polystyrene (XPS).
An easy way to recognize EPS on the jobsite is that it is commonly white. This insulation is made of expanded polystyrene beads fused into sheet stock and blocks of various densities, compressive strengths and sizes. Historically used as a stable roof insulation, EPS has gained wide acceptance in wall, below-grade and under-slab applications due to its low-moisture absorption, strength and stable, long-term thermal performance. EPS insulation blocks can be custom-cut into a variety of shapes and sizes to meet wide ranging job specifications.
Building professionals have used EPS successfully in below-grade applications for decades. As of 2013, the International Code Council explicitly permits EPS throughout frost protected shallow foundations, under slabs and any other below-grade application.
To make XPS, manufacturers combine and melt polystyrene with blowing agents and additives, then force the liquid mixture through an extrusion die in a continuous feed, where it is shaped, cooled and trimmed to size. The product is most commonly available as boardstock of fixed size and thickness. Manufacturers often tint XPS a primary color for brand recognition.
Moisture absorption and thermal performance
There is much confusion in the marketplace regarding whether EPS or XPS insulation resists moisture better. This is a key point, as wet insulation has lower thermal performance. While manufacturers of both insulation types tout that their products have lower moisture absorption, in-situ tests indicate that EPS performs better in this regard.
For example, in 2008, Stork Twin City Testing – an accredited independent testing laboratory – examined sheets of EPS and XPS removed from a side-by-side installation after 15 years in service on a below-grade foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota. The XPS was significantly wetter on extraction, with 18.9 percent moisture content by volume compared to 4.8 percent for the EPS. After 30 days of drying, the XPS still had elevated moisture of 15.7 percent, while the EPS had dried to 0.7 percent.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory also reports high moisture absorption levels for XPS. In a 2012 study, the lab reported “all samples of XPS insulation gained much more moisture during the 15 years of contact with soil moisture.” The resulting loss of energy savings performance was 10 percent for a full basement (“deep basement”) and 44 percent for a slab-on-grade installation.
By comparison, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory found EPS buried in wetted soil for 1,000 days absorbed only 1.7 percent moisture by volume, which is substantially lower than the XPS rates noted above.
Installing rigid foam insulation below grade
On building foundations, the insulation (whether EPS or XPS) is installed over the damp/waterproofing, after that layer has adequately cured. Crews can use mechanical fasteners or polystyrene-compatible adhesive to attach the insulation. Applying a bead of polystyrene-compatible caulk or mastic to the top of the insulation board minimizes water infiltration behind it.
For under-slab applications, the rigid foam insulation typically should be installed over a gravel base, with a poly vapor diffusion retarder between the gravel and insulation. Additional insulation is applied along the edges of the slab, because that is a primary surface for heat loss. To avoid damage to the insulation, it is necessary to ensure removal of any jagged surfaces or irregularities in the substrate before installing the rigid foam panels.
In either case, it is important to confirm all details with the insulation manufacturer and local building department, and to ensure appropriate construction techniques to drain water away from the building.
In addition to its lower moisture absorption and better long-term thermal performance, EPS has the highest R-value per dollar among rigid insulations. As such, it provides a cost-effective way to insulate building foundations, and under slabs.
Ram Mayilvahanan is the product marketing manager for Insulfoam, which offers below-grade insulation under the Insulfoam and R-Tech brand names. For more information, visit www.insulfoam.com.
Contact Ram Mayilvahanan, Insulfoam’s Product-Marketing Manager
Originally posted online at Buildings.com in Buildings Buzz!
Wet insulation is ineffective insulation – rigid foams that retain high volumes of moisture lose about half of their insulating R-value. Because insulation installed on below-grade building foundations and under concrete slabs is often exposed to moist soil, it is crucial to choose an insulation that has minimal long-term moisture retention and the ability to dry quickly.
For facility professionals that are evaluating insulation for building retrofits or for new construction, paying attention to moisture performance helps ensure effective long-term thermal resistance. Because the insulation will be hidden from view, any problems with degraded materials will not be obvious, although the effect on higher energy bills will be very real.
One challenge in selecting insulation is cutting through the competing claims of insulation manufacturers. Producers of extruded polystyrene (XPS) and expanded polystyrene (EPS) – common below grade insulations – both claim that their products are superior at resisting moisture. In their own ways, each one is right, but it depends on whether one is looking at abstract, standardized tests or performance in actual installed conditions.
Claims that XPS insulation absorbs less moisture than EPS are based on ASTM 272, Standard Test Method for Water Absorption of Core Materials for Sandwich Constructions. This test calls for fully submerging an insulation sample in water for 24 hours, then weighing it for moisture absorption immediately upon removal from the water.
How does this test represent reality? The truth is it doesn’t reflect real-world conditions for two reasons:
1) Unless your building is in a lake or river or subjected to severe flooding, the insulation will not be fully submerged.
2) It doesn’t account for how much an insulation dries out or does not dry out between periods of moisture exposure.
Entire marketing campaigns have been built around this test, but when it comes to what really happens on your building, it’s necessary to look at actual exposure during in-situ tests. Studies of insulation exposure to moisture in actual field conditions show that EPS outperforms XPS by a wide margin, largely because EPS dries much faster than XPS.
For example, the independent lab Stork Twin City Testing evaluated the moisture content of EPS and XPS buried side-by-side for 15 years on a building foundation in St. Paul, MN. At the time the insulations were removed, the EPS was four times drier than the XPS – the EPS had only 4.8% moisture by volume compared to 18.9% moisture content for the XPS. After 30 days of drying time, the EPS had dried to only 0.7% moisture by volume, while the XPS still contained 15.7% moisture.
The high moisture absorption of XPS is further seen in a 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Researchers found that XPS insulation installed below grade for 15 years had absorbed 67% or more moisture. The resulting loss of energy savings performance for the XPS was 10% for a full basement (“deep basement”) and 44% for a slab-on-grade installation.
Insulation manufacturers are well aware of how their products will perform over the years. Evidence of this is seen in the limitations stated in warranties they offer. This is why XPS manufacturers typically warrant only 90% of the insulating R-value of their products during time in service, whereas most EPS manufacturers warrant 100% of the R-value. Some XPS manufacturers will also void warranties in case of ponding or water immersion, which runs contrary to their highlighting of 24-hour, full-immersion testing.
There are many claims in the market about whether EPS or XPS offers the best moisture resistance. When evaluating such statements, it is important to consider the basis upon which the statements are made. Does the testing involve guys in lab coats dunking insulation into a fish tank for one day, or does it replicate how insulation performs on actual buildings over many years? If facility managers are making the investment in insulation, this is an important distinction to pay attention to, otherwise the product might not perform as desired.
Contact Ram Mayilvahanan, Insulfoam’s Product-Marketing Manager
With five Baltimore area locations, 36-year old bike retailer Race Pace Bicycles isn’t slowing down. The company’s Ellicott City store, will soon to be relocated to a nearby site at the junction of Centennial Lane and Route 40. This location houses its retail operation that caters exclusively to women. Called Bella Bikes, the women’s store was the first of its kind in the U.S. when it opened in 2008.
Insulfoam R-Tech was used as the exterior wall insulation for the building’s metal wall panel system , 20 psi, 2″ x 4 x 8 Sheets. The benefits of R-Tech as an exterior insulation are important:
- R-Tech has a dense foam structure
- Water-resistant film skinned surface
- Integrated weep channeling
- R-Tech offers a natural barrier against water in any form
- Air infiltration and moisture penetration are eliminated
- Thermal bridging and thermal shock is greatly reduced.
- R-Tech combines versatility and durability for a complete long-term working system.
The Race Pace project has been a beauty and we would like to thank all that have been involved:
- Architect: Ammon Heisler Sachs, PC
- Distributor: Morris Ginsburg, Brian Jones
- Insulfoam Independent Rep: Roof Pro
- Installer: HRIC MD Inc., Michael Webb
More on Race Pace Bicycles:
PROJECT OR EPS QUESTIONS
Contact Jason Myers, Insulfoam Territory Sales Manager
Originally posted in Concrete Construction
As a specifier, architect and contractor….you must make well-informed decisions when it comes to below-grade, under slab, and cavity wall insulations in your projects. Below are two informative articles listing the similarities and differences between both EPS (expanded polystyrene) and XPS (extruded polystyrene) insulations.
Insulation Choices: Whether to use EPS or XPS can be a matter of cost.
What’s the difference between XPS insulation and EPS insulation, other than a single letter? For installation on concrete foundations and under floor slabs, the rigid foam insulation you choose can make a difference of tens of thousands of dollars on a project. A careful evaluation of these materials’ performance attributes against the project’s needs can dramatically shrink labor and material costs. The savings could mean the difference between a profitable job and one you just have to chalk up to experience.
When it comes to concrete and insulation, contractors tend to be most familiar with extruded polystyrene (XPS). Yet, expanded polystyrene (EPS) performs as well or better than XPS, and at a substantially lower cost. Below are three important factors to consider when comparing these two insulations for any belowgrade or under-slab applications, read FULL article to see more side by side comparisons of EPS and EXP for these insulation factors: 1.) Compressive strength 2.) Moisture retention 3.) Insulating capability.
EPS vs XPS: Insulation industry advances with EPS developments
There is much competition among polystyrene insulation manufacturers for the below-grade, under slab, and cavity wall insulation market. Claims made by the XPS (extruded polystyrene) industry are conflicting with that of EPS (expanded polystyrene) manufacturers. The validity of some claims is debatable. Specifiers, architects, and contractors must make well-informed decisions.
Read FULL article to thoroughly understand the similarities and differences between EPS and XPS insulations. Key differences include: 1.) Moisture resistance 2.) Environmental impact 3.) Long-term R-value 4.) Compressive strength 5.) Panel sizes 6.) Cost per R-value.
Contact Ram Mayilvahanan, Insulfoam’s Product-Marketing Manager
Originally posted in The Construction Specifier Magazine (pg 34), December 2013
Read full article (pdf)
In the push to forge more energy-prudent builders, design professionals are leaving no part of the envelope unexamined. Walls and roofs have always presented a clear target for better thermal performance. Somewhat less obvious are surfaces that are out of sight – below-grade foundation walls and floor slabs. Well-engineered insulation in these locations can provide significant energy savings.
What separates below-grade insulation types from one another? Moisture retention, R-value stability, and compressive strength are the key performance attributes to consider when evaluating and comparing different below-grade insulations.
Installing thermal insulation on below-grade foundation or perimeter walls and under slabs is important because un-insulated concrete provides a thermal and moisture bridge between the heated building interior and the relatively cooler earth surrounding the building, or through exposed slab edges to the outside air.
“While insulation strength is important consideration, erroneous design assumptions can lead to over-engineering for compressive resistance, adding unnecessary material costs.” – Ram Mayilvahanan, Insulfoam Product-Marketing Manager
Continue reading the full article, Out of Sight, NOT Out of Mind (pdf), in The Construction Specifier Magazine and learn about:
- How installing thermal insulation on foundations help much more than just saving energy
- How XPS and EPS compare with regard to moisture retention
- What are the degrading effects of moisture on R-value
- What specialty insulations for enhanced moisture protection are available
Read full article (pdf)
Contact Ram Mayilvahanan, Insulfoam’s Product-Marketing Manager
Originally Posted in Commercial Building Products Magazine, October 2013
With increasing focus on high-performance building envelopes, it is hard to believe insulation once involved layering mud between logs, stuffing old newspapers into wall cracks, or using other ad hoc methods to seal air leaks and keep heat inside structures. Today’s building professionals can choose from a wide range of insulations, but this proliferation of choices makes selecting appropriate insulation products more challenging.
Rigid-foam insulations are now a mainstay of energy-efficient buildings, whether commercials, institutional, or residential. Products in this category include expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS), and polyisocyanurate (polyiso). Careful attention to product attributes in field applications is needed to ensure high thermal performance at a reasonable cost.
“Rigid-foam insulation is a mainstay of efficient building envelopes, but the correct product must be chosen for high thermal performance at a reasonable cost.” – Ram Mayilvahanan, Insulfoam Product-Marketing Manager
Continue reading the full article, Rigid Foam Spells High Performance in Commercial Building Products Magazine and learn about:
- Basic types and applications for EPS, XPS, and Polyiso
- Performance characteristics such as R-value stability, compressive strength, and moisture resistance
- EPS provides the highest R-value/dollar, is highly customizable into different thicknesses, compressive strengths, and shapes; and can be engineered to fit job specifications. Read more on EPS product options such as flat stock, faced panels, fan-fold bundles, flute-fill EPS, and composite insulation
- How EPS reduce labor and material costs
- Considerations when choosing an insulation supplier
Contact Ram Mayilvahanan, Insulfoam’s Product-Marketing Manager
Originally posted in Construction Canada, July 2013
Keeping the Outside Out and the Inside In: A look at rigid foam insulations for high-performance building envelopes
By Ram Mayilvahanan, Insulfoam Product Marketing Manager
If the concept of building science could be distilled to one essential sentence, it would be the now-famous aphorism of Joseph Lstiburek, PhD, P.Eng., building science expert and adjunct professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto.
“The perfect wall is an environmental separator- it has to keep the outside out and the inside in,” he wrote .
Lstiburek’s “perfect wall” (or roof or slab) includes four primary layers:
- rain control;
- air control;
- vapour control; and
- thermal control.
For the last category, specifiers can select from numerous insulation types; fiberglass batts to spray foam and rigid foam boards, as well as integrated systems such as structural insulated panels (SIPs). This article examines the various performance attributes and product options for expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation in high-performance building envelopes.
Read the full article in Construction Canada’s feature article, Keeping the Outside Out and the Inside In.
Press Release originally published in Healthcare Facilities Today
Insulfoam, a leading supplier of engineered insulation products, is pleased to announce the development of InsulFoam HD Composite, a continuous above deck insulation, for use on combustible decks.
InsulFoam HD Composite consists of a closed-cell, lightweight, resilient expanded polystyrene (EPS) bonded to a high-density polyisocyanurate cover board. This product achieves a UL Class A rating on a combustible deck without gypsum or any other coverboard, and since it is continuous above the deck, it satisfies Title 24 requirements at a lower R value.
InsulFoam HD Composite offers significant cost savings over other cover boards and traditional insulations, and is a very effective insulator – since it is installed above the combustible deck, there is no interruption due to joists. Its lightweight, factory-bonded panels make installation easy, it is compatible with all fully adhered or mechanically fastened EPDM, TPO, and PVC membranes, and it has a UL Class A rating for combustible and non-combustible decks. InsulFoam HD Composite will meet or exceed the requirements of ASTM C578 and is an excellent choice for new or retrofit applications where high thermal efficiency and maximum durability are necessary. It is available at Insulfoam locations across the country.
- Project: San Francisco 49er’s New Football Stadium
- Location: Santa Clara, CA
- Product: Insulfoam GeoFoam 2,500 cubic feet of EPS39 and 25,000 cubic feet of EPS15
- Application: Below grade structural void fill to support foundation for the fan seating areas
The contractors (Conoco Company of Concord and Turner & Devcon Construction) chose EPS Geofoam due to it’s extremely low weight and high load-bearing capacity to support the dimensional stability required for concrete topping slabs. Insulfoam’s multiple manufacturing locations in California and nearby states provided just-in-time deliveries direct to the job site, which was a welcome bonus.
The single largest benefit to concrete contractors when using EPS is the ability of the material to constitute half of the form and the fill simultaneously, which completely eliminates the concept of a two pour operation. Read the full project profile here: San Francisco 49er’s Find EPS Geofoam Useful In Future Home.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Geofoam is 98% lighter than traditional fill
- Geofoam does not settle
- Geofoam eliminates lateral stresses from retaining structures
- Geofoam can be designed for seismic forces
EPS IN BELOW-GRADE APPLICATIONS?
Yes, when using engineered EPS products that are made in strict accordance with ASTM standards for below-grade insulation.
FACT: All insulation is NOT created equal. As a guide when choosing the right insulation product and manufacturer for moisture protection and thermal insulation, refer to ASTM C578. This third party standard establishes the minimum physical properties and requirements, and is the industry’s consensus standard for BOTH expanded (EPS) and extruded (XPS) polystyrene. For example, not all EPS manufacturers can produce 40 or 60 psi insulation in accordance with ASTM C578; Insulfoam does – it makes both products across its US locations.
BELOW-GRADE INSULATION PROJECT FEATURE
Rouser Concrete, the concrete contractor for the Starwood Hotel Finance Headquarters project in Arizona, chose Insulfoam R-Tech due to its superior performance as a durable and stable under-slab insulation which came at an economical price- great value for money.
During construction, the surrounding high-end retail stores were open for business, making it difficult for trucks to get in and out with product. And storage space was at a premium. Insulfoam’s Phoenix plant stepped in as a ‘local’ manufacturer with Just-In-Time, delivering however much product was needed at the jobsite at a given time.
- Project: Starwood Hotel Finance Headquarters
- Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
- Product: R-Tech 10, 65,000 Sq. Ft.
- Application: Under Slab
WHAT MAKES R-TECH EPS AN EFFECTIVE BELOW-GRADE INSULATION?
High compressive strength and engineered facers on both sides make R-Tech the most versatile combination of performance and economy.
- COMPRESSIVE STRENGTH- high compressive resistance that can be tailored to the loading requirements of the job
- MOISTURE PROTECTION- comparative study shows R-Tech has very low long-term moisture retention with no detrimental effect on its physical properties
- THERMAL STABILITY- long-term, stable, and warranted R-value that does not drift
- BEST R-VALUE PER DOLLAR- of comparable rigid insulations
- NATIONWIDE PRESENCE- manufacturing locations throughout the US
Visit Insulfoam for more information.
Written by: David Shong, Insulfoam Architectural & Engineering Technical Specialist
The Cold Climate Housing Research Center, CCHRC, in Fairbanks, AK constructed an addition to their facility in the spring of 2012. The project Engineers specified 12″ of InsulFoam GF EPS39 which has a minimum compressive resistance of 2,160 psf @ 1% strain as a sub-base and below slab insulation. EPS39 was placed around the perimeter under the exterior wall footings and within the zones of influence of interior columns that required higher bearing capacity to withstand the axial loads of the walls,roof and snow load.
The rest of the areas that were simply supporting the 6″ floor slab used 12″ of EPS22 (1051 psf @ 1% strain). They were originally considering only 9″ of EPS46 (2,678 psf @ 1% strain) for the entire building footprint, but were happily surprised to hear the idea of using a lower density under the floor slabs where the decreased dead loads justified a lower EPS density.
They ended up being able to install 12″ of EPS under the entire footprint for less than the original budget which provided more insulation while saving on initial costs as well as long term energy expenditures.
We are in full swing with final preparations for Greenbuild 2012 in San Francisco Nov 14-16, the largest international conference and expo dedicated to green building. With 35,000 participants expected this will be one of the largest Greenbuild shows ever. Exciting!
1,000+ exhibitors, how do you decide what booth to go to, who to talk to? Ok, we aren’t Kohler who seems to have one of the BEST booths possible every year (and the one booth I always make sure to sneak away and visit), but we do have plenty of good information to help you with your next insulation project and meet your energy efficiency goals. Insulfoam (booth #3169N) provides insulation solutions from roof to foundation and everything in between.
High Performance. Lower Cost. Most R-Value Per Dollar.
With a broad range of insulation products available, it’s easier than ever for designers to create an energy efficient building project. InsulFoam EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) rigid foam insulation has been used for decades by smart industry professionals looking to achieve high thermal properties for a cost-effective price. In fact, EPS offers more cost savings and higher R-Values than any other rigid insulation. The benefit of lightweight EPS goes far beyond price, since it also helps contractors significantly decrease material and labor expenses. EPS is also one of the most versatile engineered insulations, making it a designer’s dream product. You tell us what you need and we make it fit within your design. Not limited by stock sizes InsulFoam blocks can be molded, cut, shaped, tapered into virtually any design need, regularly solving challenges for contractors on the jobsite.
InsulFoam EPS is the only rigid insulation that does not experience “thermal drift” (loss of R-Value over time). In fact, the R-Value is backed with a 20-year non-prorated thermal performance warranty. ISO and XPS rigid insulations don’t come close in warranty, so you can be confident that Insulfoam’s EPS products are the best rigid insulation option for your project.
The following Insulfoam product lines will be highlighted in our Greenbuild booth with specialists to talk you through technical attributes applications, projects and more. And not to mention we got some pretty great and easy to talk to guys! As you gear up for planning mode this coming week, put Insulfoam’s booth #3169N on your route.
FRAMING SYSTEMS: Premier SIPs by Insulfoam: Structural Insulated Panels are an extremely strong building panel that need no additional frame of skeleton for support. Premier’s large, pre-fabricated SIPs make the framing process faster than other building methods and enable a more airtight, well-insulated building for high energy efficiency.
BELOW GRADE INSULATION: Insulfoam’s Below Grade Insulation products are designed to insulate the foundation wall or slab and protect the waterproofing or damp proofing, especially during backfilling for both commercial and residential below-grade applications. Compressive strength, moisture protection and thermal stability.
ROOF INSULATION SOLUTIONS: Insulfoam’s roofing insulation applications are green, high-performing and economical products that help reduce overall energy consumption, create improved comfort for the building’s occupants and provide an excellent substrate for a new or retrofit roofing system.
INSULFOAM GEOFOAM: InsulFoam GF provides structural and architectural void fill applications that are lighter, easier to handle and faster than soil. Hardscapes, landscapes, soil remediation and load reduction.
For real time updates before, during and after the expo follow us on Twitter: @PremierSips @Insulfoam @InsulFoamGF. Be sure to also check out Greenbuild’s official twitter feed, @Greenbuild and conversation at #Greenbuild.
Did you know that hospitals spend more on energy per square foot than all other building types (except for food service and food sales)? And U.S. schools spend more on energy each year than they do on computers and textbooks combined. So how do hospital and school facility managers, architects and contractors find ways to lower energy usage costs? Given that heating and cooling account for a large share of electricity and natural gas consumption in buildings, insulation is crucial for energy efficiency by keeping heat/cool in and out via the right type of building and roof insulation. There are many insulation types, Facility Management and Insulfoam’s Director of Sales and National Accounts, John Cambruzzi, outline why expanded polystyrene (EPS) is growing in popularity by reducing material and labor costs while meeting energy efficient goals for hospitals and schools.
Read more at Facility Management, Tips for cost-Effective High Thermal Insulation. In this article you will learn:
- EPS Insulation in Short: what is EPS and it’s key performance attributes
- Ways To Save Money With EPS Insulation: EPS product options and their cost saving benefits
- More Solutions: what other capacity EPS can be used in
Despite the advent of high-efficiency window, lighting, and HVAC systems, insulation remains one of the most critical building components for reducing energy use. While building professionals often have a preferred insulation type based on past experience, re-examining material choices can open up new alternatives that might provide even greater benefits- from lowered operating costs to improved occupant comfort.
Read more about reducing insulation material and labor costs from ground to roof in September’s issue of The Construction Specifier: Specifying Rigid EPS Foam