Morningside Renovation

Our Journey Through The Renovation Process Of Our Future "Forever Home" In Morningside (Atlanta,GA)


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Choosing Insulation was NOT an Easy Decision

Several weeks back I had a post on insulation which was basically just me thinking out loud, or finding a way to justify the expense, as we tried to decide on whether to go with spray foam , cellulose, or rolled.

As mentioned in the prior post, I undoubtedly have a pretty big affection for spray foam and all of its benefits.  I’m usually not one to buy into a product’s media hype but I bit, chewed and swallowed this stuff and the shows on DIY & HGTV have done nothing to help.  But the cost, the cost is crazy high when compared to other options so what is one to do?

So after a ton of further research and consciously trying to remain armed with an unbiased opinion I decided to get quotes from several different insulation companies.  Part of my thinking was, If I can’t reasonably accept the fact that this stuff is too expensive then maybe having it repeated to me 5-7 times by complete strangers will to it.  Plus, if I’m lucky maybe I’ll be able to tap into their knowledge a little and come up with a solution, they are the experts.

From each of them I asked for a quote on spraying the entire house as well as their opinion on whether to use open or closed cell.  I also requested a quote for their most economical as well as cost-effective solution and last I asked for a quote on a hybrid solution which would require some creativity.

I limited the companies to only those that had great reviews or that were referred to me by others but as I found out the difference in experience and knowledge was vast. It also became quickly apparent that quite a few of the companies invested a substantial amount more money  into training their representatives “how to sell and use all of the right jargon and lingo as well as the various tax incentives” versus educating them on the actual product – product knowledge.  Unfortunately and regardless of pricing this eliminated a few of the companies pretty quickly, I’ve read too much about how improper installation of spray foam is potentially the blame for a lot of the negativity associated with it and if the guy selling it is clueless then I simply don’t have confidence in the applicators.

In the end it came down to two companies, both great & highly referred and their pricing was very competitive however we ended up going with Spray Foam Services.  Their representative, John Hartsfield not only knew his product but it was his creativity that sold us.  Basically after thoroughly evaluating our house, not the simple walk in the door and look around, John came up with a hybrid approach that seemed to make the most sense and also helped to lower the expense. misc 42013 037

We ended up using open cell on the entire interior of the roofline, batts in the walls as well as in the ceiling of the new basement and in a couple of weeks he’ll be back to finish spraying closed cell spray foam on the exterior walls of the original basement.

misc 12212012 076And yes,  the end cost was slightly higher than a more economical approach of using cellulose in the attic and batts in the floor & walls but…well, we’ve been able to save a little money in other areas and I’m “hoping” (gambling) that in the long run we’ve made a wise decision – time will tell.misc 42013 052

I’ve really tried to stay away from needlessly promoting all of the various subs and vendors along the way, however I have no problem doing so when someone exceeds our expectations. John’s crew showed up on a Saturday morning and worked until after dark spraying the roofline, putting up the batts as well as sealing all of the doors & windows and then came back Monday morning to finish it up.misc 12212012 072

Cleanup?  Never would have known they were there, spotless.  Seriously, these guys knew what they were doing and went about it in a professional manner which somewhat helped to justify the added expense of the spray foam.misc 42013 040misc 42013 038

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Is Spray Foam Insulation Worth the Expense?

So our GC asked me the other day if I had any further thoughts regarding the type of insulation for our house.  Originally we were planning on having Spray Foam Insulation however this was unfortunately one of the sacrifices that had to be made and replaced with a much cheaper solution when we decided to move forward with our project.  It pains me as it seems as if all of the more energy-efficient, “green”, selections are getting replaced by more traditional and initially cost-effective options.

However due to Mike Holmes as well as numerous articles I’ve basically fallen in love with spray foam and all of its attributes and it’s hard for me to let go.  I realize that the winters in Atlanta aren’t near as brutal as those to the north however I still find myself trying to justify the added expense or better yet, trying to find areas where we can reduce other costs.  Yes, I’m starting to believe that I’ve had a taste of the Kool-Aid or at least smelled it and now I want some.

So far we’ve done a decent job at trimming our expenses, however this was a forced necessity and now I find myself acting like our government.  We need to trim more of the expenses to be able to complete our task however now I want to spend that “savings” and further increase our overall cost of the project.  Well I’m not completely like our government – at least I’m not going to our neighbors and mandating that they pay for these additional expenses to subsidize out project.

Now if you’ve read any of my prior posts you know that I can be a little hard-headed or stubborn, however the inside of our house is completely exposed, down to the studs, and if we’re going to do it – now is the time.

A brief and elementary rundown of what I’ve learned after a little “research”

Spray Foam Insulation – there are two types: open and closed cell.  Open Cell seems to be less dense and doesn’t insulate as well where Closed Cell is a better insulator however it is more expensive than Open Cell

Blown–Cellulose Insulation – Cheaper alternative of the three, can be done as a DIY project.  Make up of product is generally material which has been recycled.

Rolled- Fiberglass Insulation – Commonly thought of as the Pink Stuff, has traditionally been known as a high-quality insulator.

Disclaimers

  • Since our GC is contracting this out, I’m not going to focus on the ease of installation from a DIYr’s perspective, although I’ve read that spray foam is best left to the professionals as it’s more challenging to install when compared to the others.
  • I have only considered research conducted within the Atlanta area and it’s possible the results can differ by region.
  • Yes, I read about the various environmental concerns of spray foam insulation, however after reading numerous reports and articles I have decided not to address or take into account due to the simple fact that I find both sides highly debatable.
  • By no means is the following chart entirely accurate as I purposely neglected to weight the individual categories

Now that all of the disclaimers are out-of-the-way it is probably best to know that I’ve rated the following with 3 being the best and 1 being the least desirable.

insulation chart

So there you have it, of course the more expensive option is more superior, but is it worth it?  I’ve heard the arguments about the return on your investment through savings achieved by a reduction in energy costs but I still wonder if that is really the case and there’s a big difference in that return being within 3 years versus 7, 10 or 15 years.  I’ve also looked into various rebates offered by state and local governments as well as one of our utility providers however those still do little to offset the initial costs associated with Spray Foam being that it’s almost double the expense.

Is Spray Foam superior to the others?  My thinking is yes, without a question.  While there is no such thing as a perfect product it seems through research that it is a better insulator than the other two options.  That’s not to say that Cellulose or Fiberglass Insulation don’t perform well or have their own positive attributes but by comparison from research and word of mouth they don’t seem to match Spray Foam.

So what does that mean for our project? As I mentioned earlier we’re unfortunately having to eliminate a great deal of the “energy-efficient” options from our project.  It’s disappointing but my Velux Sun Tunnels are looking as if they will remain on the elimination list.  This decision wasn’t easily made and it wasn’t due to the quality of the product, however we’ve been forced to trim our budget and it was hard to justify the added expense. So does Spray Foam remain in its seat alongside the Sun Tunnels? Not sure just yet.  I’m infatuated, possibly in love, with it, however I’m trying to prepare myself that it might just be that we have to settle for the pretty pink stuff just because of the added expense.

Would love to hear your experiences with the three options.

Good article giving a brief overview on insulation options:
http://www.atlantahomeimprovement.com/blog/2012/03/28/why-insulation/