This blog follows the latest trends in high performance housing from an insider's perspective. I am the General Manager of one of Ottawa's leading homebuilders - Urbandale Construction, and it gives me a firsthand view of how the industry is changing. I've seen the barriers that builders face when trying to market new technologies and I've been working directly to overcome these barriers to bring new energy efficient designs into Urbandale homes.
Insulating rooms above garages: The Mike Holmes way VS the Urbandale way
“ Hi there, after watching Holmes on Homes I was wondering when Urbandale will use spray foam insulation on the above garage floor instead of leaving the gap with heat duct. There is a big concern that if any seal is not done right like around electrical or lights that carbon monoxide could accumulate in that space and send co2 in the air ducts to the furnace and then back through the whole house. Seems like a risky practice and the spray foam is so much more effective and we would end up with higher garage ceiling by doing it this way.”
Mike Holmes is a big fan of spray foam. And why not? Spray foam is a very versatile building product that seals and insulates at the same time. Because it expands, spray foam can be used to fill the smallest of cracks, or also large wall cavities. It’s a great product, but it’s also very expensive. Now, Holmes doesn’t have to worry about the price of spray foam because he’s sponsored by the spray foam manufacturer. For those of us that have to pay for it, it’s best to be judicious in how and where it’s applied.
The rooms above garages require a lot of attention to the construction details. There is a lot of area that is exposed to the cold, and you also have to make sure that it is completely sealed so that car exhaust can’t leak into the living areas. Many builders will insulate the floor similar to an exterior wall, with only R28 – R32 batt insulation and a sheet of poly separating the room from the cold. If you’ve ever walked barefoot in one of these rooms, you’ll realize that this just doesn’t cut it. Using spray foam in the floor cavity is a superior choice. A builder would typically install about 5 inches of spray foam, which provides R30 – R32 insulation and completely seals the floor from air leaks. Urbandale’s approach is a little different. We use R40 batt insulation with a sealed poly air barrier, but then we also run the heating ducts into the cavity above the insulation and below the floor. This heated plenum ensures that rooms above the garage stay warm. We also use spray foam, but we use it sparingly as needed in the areas that are difficult to seal, such as by any steel beams. All of our houses are tested for air leaks, so there’s no chance of fumes making their way into the living areas. Our approach allows for more insulation and warmer floors than Holmes’ approach, and it’s also less expensive to build!
Don’t get me wrong – I’m actually a big fan of Mike Holmes and I respect how he has increased consumer knowledge of construction and energy efficiency. Holmes once wrote an article that called out Urbandale specifically as an example of a better builder for our commitment to the R-2000 program so I’m very grateful for that. When I served as the Vice Chair of the R-2000 Renewal Steering Committee I pushed to get Natural Resources Canada to hire Holmes as the spokesperson for the R-2000 program. The thing you have to remember though is that first and foremost Holmes is making a TV show. Because of this, he tends to over promote his sponsors (hey – who wouldn’t?) and he doesn’t necessarily acknowledge the very real role that budgets play in choosing between construction options.
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ABOUT URBANDALE CONSTRUCTION:
Ottawa's Quality Homebuilder for 30 Years. Building R-2000 and Energy Star Homes in Kanata Lakes, Riverside South, & Bridlewood in Ottawa, and in eQuinelle in Kemptville. For more information on Urbandale Construction, please visit www.urbandale.com.