Retreat From the Heat

A Vacation Home is Upgraded With the Help of Spray Polyurethane Foam

By Juan Sagarbarria

Cabin1For some folks, sporadically escaping from their daily routine is a necessary outlet to achieve a holistic life-balance. Circumstances are not always ideal for consistent vacationing, but when these opportunities do present themselves, don’t we owe it to ourselves to be in the most relaxing and comfortable environment possible? In the state of Minnesota, this isn’t always easily achieved, particularly in the battering summer and winter seasons. Notwithstanding, a pastor residing in northern Minnesota found his site of tranquility just outside of Orr, a small town near the Canadian border of less than 200 people.

The pastor had a log cabin constructed in one of the most remote areas of the town where solace and nature met. For several years, he had enjoyed the quietness and relaxation that the cabin getaways provided, but over time he realized that the lack of insulation often rendered the cabin with an uncomfortable indoor climate both during the heat of the summer and as fall progressed toward winter.

So much so, that the cabin was essentially unusable for a good part of the year. This year, he realized he had had enough and put together a budget to remedy this past predicament. He found spray foam insulation to be the optimal insulating material to install in his cabin: a basis of comfort and protection that would be noticed in all subsequent visits.

This isolated cabin was a 24 x 36, single-story structure that was held up by four-foot high concrete piers. The cathedral ceiling motif complemented the open rafters that partially came down to a loft area. The owner’s investment was geared to insulate the cabin so no air or moisture could infiltrate through the roof or the bottom of the cabin.

“He didn’t want to go all-out with the amount of insulation and there was no way fiberglass or cellulose insulation would have stuck to that ceiling well,” said Dave Alaspa from Insulation North, LLC, a contracting company that took charge of the log cabin’s insulation project. “He wanted to extend his stay as much as possible when visiting through the summer and winter months, just add enough insulation to make things more bearable. There’s only one kind of insulation that can provide that.”

The project consisted of applying four inches of closed-cell foam between the rafters of the cabin’s cathedral ceiling, as well as installing two inches of closed-cell foam to the subfloor. The spray area of the project totaled 2,000 square feet. Alaspa explained that this two-part application would not just fulfill, but surpass the owner’s wish of making his place of retreat cozier.

The cabin’s cathedral ceiling would have proven difficult to insulate with batt or blown insulation.

The cabin’s cathedral ceiling would have proven difficult to insulate with batt or blown insulation.

With a two-man crew, Insulation North commuted one hour to the remote location of the cabin every working day. Getting there proved sojourning, as the crew had to ride through a five-mile dirt road towing their spray rig, which was equipped with a Graco Reactor E-20 proportioner. It might have been a blessing in disguise that the crew found itself without cell phone reception once at the site, so that the focus was entirely on the job at hand.

To mitigate overspray and protect the inside of the cabin, the Insulation North crewmembers used plastic sheeting, cardboard, and masking tape to cover the floor, the door and windows, the walls, and all the exposed beams on the underside of the roof. Additionally, the crew had large industrial fans going to maintain fresh-air ventilation throughout the cabin.

“Since the cabin was a finished surface, we had to be extra careful in covering anything that could get damaged with overspray,” said Alaspa. “It is really our responsibility as SPF contractors to make sure that the site is spotless by the time the work is finished, which is something we succeeded at during this project.”

Using a Graco Fusion air-purge gun, the Insulation North crew applied to the underside of the roof and subfloor 1.5 sets of GacoOnePass F1850R, a 2 lb. closed-cell spray polyurethane foam formulated by Gaco Western. The four inches of foam sprayed to the underside of the roof provided an R-25 value, whereas the two inches sprayed to the subfloor provided an R-13.

Reaching Up The crew used ladders and scaffolding to access and spray different areas of the underside of the roof.

Reaching Up The crew used ladders and scaffolding to access and spray different areas of the underside of the roof.

The crewmen utilized ladders and scaffolding in order to reach different areas of the underside of the roof. They wore PPE consisting of Tyvek suits, Drager X-plore 550 full-face mask respirators, and rubber gloves throughout the entire application, which took two days to complete.

Once the foam cured, the owner lined up a subcontractor to finish the ceiling and protect the SPF the next day. Within a week, Insulation North obtained feedback from the pastor, who was elated at how comfortable he felt inside his cabin during some of the hottest days of this past summer. The spray foam abated the radiant heat transfer that the owner had experienced the summer before.

View of the inside of the cabin after the ceiling was insulated with spray foam.

View of the inside of the cabin after the ceiling was insulated with spray foam.

“The airtightness and insulation that spray foam provided to that cabin is unmatchable,” said Alaspa. “The foam filled up all the cracks and crevices between the rafters and the subfloor, blocking off air and moisture infiltration, insects, and rodents. The foam has also made the cabin more robust by providing structural rigidity, which can go a long way in extending the life of the structure.”