The National Retrofit Workforce Guidelines: Round 2 (Section 7 aka Insulation)

As listed in the first article in this series, many industry experts were asked to perform a technical review of the updated Workforce Guidelines and we are combining both the review & a Clif Notes version of the standards together. It appears that I did make one mistake earlier & that was saying that the ventilation section was the largest one – well at 104 pages the Insulation section takes the cake…

HTRC Series: Combustion Safety, Ventilation, Air Sealing, Heating & Cooling, Insulation, Crawl Space & Basements, Base-Load aka Appliances & Lighting.

Topic: Safe Work Practices (7.1)

Now this section definitely was expanded, but many of these items belong in the Global group also. For example 7.2 is on Vermiculite which will apply to those doing worst case testing, working around venting, ducts, heating & ac units, etc… This is quickly followed up by Respiratory & the RRP being listed twice.

Topic: The Attic (7.2 – 7.29)

  • 7.2 NON-IC Rated fixtures – what I do find interesting is that while this was covered in the air-sealing portion (5.15.3 & others), the items listed are remarkably different. Here it specifically lists that the enclosure must be fire rated, taller than the existing insulation & the top only have an R 0.5 rating
  • 7.3 Knob & Tube Wiring – they still allow it to be isolated with dams which actually floors me seeing this document is prepared for Home Energy Efficiency programs & retrofits
  • 7.4 Fireplace Chimneys – While they failed in the air sealing article to get this correct, they did at least get the minimum 3” requirement correct this time
  • 7.5 Vented Eave or Soffit Baffles – they require that baffles be mechanically attached to prevent wind washing from happening, to maintain proper clearance between the roof deck & the insulation, and to allow for the highest R-Value above the top plate.
  • 7.6 Dense Pack Preparation while some steps apply to anything involving blown materials, this appears to mostly apply to cathedral ceilings and mobile homes. The one big issue I see is the machine setting – in order to qualify as “Dense Pack” it has to be applied at 3.5 PSI not 2.9
  • 7.7 Above Roof Deck Preparation – call me confused, existing roof will be removed & then new roof covering will be installed per manuf. specs – generally I prefer to install the new covering after the insulation has been installed
  • 7.8 Above Roof Deck Insulation Installation – wow, I really expected more from this section based on the prior ones, in short it says that there should be no holes, gaps, voids, penetrations, etc… and be installed per manufacturer’s directions. While I was expecting more, you might want to use that as a template for all the other sections & simply add in the reference to the applicable codes.
  • 7.9 & 7.10 Loose Fill / Dense Pack over Pitched Ceilings – no comment besides you might want to rethink your topics
  • 7.11 Unvented Flat Roof with Existing Insulation – maybe I am missing something, but if there is existing insulation, how are you going to install new ventilation & blow more in?
  • 7.12 Dense Pack Cape Cod Side Attic Roof – interesting that this one requires an engineer or architect approval, but you then list specs that should be provided by said parties
  • 7.13 – 7.16 Knee Walls – Please just combine them & add in the options like you did in other sections
  • 7.17 – 7.20 Accessible Attic Floors, different types seriously can we maybe just break out the steps for each type of insulation in one area & then combine the “guidelines” you want followed for that one area into just one detail? As an FYI, you failed to mention air sealing and other needs in the sections on above existing insulation
  • 7.21 & 7.22 – Dense Pack Installation for enclosed attic floors & attic storage platforms – First there are other ways of achieving the dense pack standard besides packing cellulose into a cavity & I think we have covered the NON-IC lights enough along with the onsite documentation enough times – it all belongs as a global item that applies across the board
  • 7.23 – Pull down stairs – First let me give you a congrats for coming up with a guideline that meets or exceeds codes & eliminating the dreaded FG on the hatch cover or stairs – with that said the issue I have is that “the hatch” or the “stair unit” must be insulated instead of the opening
  • 7.24 – Access Doors & Hatches – hmm maybe this & the stairs above should be combined
  • 7.25 – Whole House Fan – I do find it interesting that you only require the fan sides to be insulated and not a cover that goes over it
  • 7.26 – Ventilation (great job on this one)
    • 7.26.1- I like the caveats “Attic ventilation will be recommended or installed only if: The presence of an effective air barrier and thermal boundary between the attic and the living space is verified AND Appropriate attic sealing and proper insulation is specified as part of the work scope”
    • 7.26.3: Placement of attic vents will be considered for proper air flow and prevention of entry of wind-driven rain or snow – I like how the objective does at least read to “minimize entry” as anytime there is an entry point, moisture & snow can get in there depending on the conditions
    • 7.26.5 – wire mesh with opening 1/8” or less must be used
  • 7.27 – Radiant Barrier
    • 7.27.1 – you label it as stapling, but then say an air space of not less than ¾ of an inch between the barrier & roof deck must be maintained – first there is nothing about stapling in there & how about radiant sheathing? As I also recall the gap should be 1” for film & bubble wrap types
    • 7.27.2 – just curious, why is there a 3” clearance gap called for between the barrier and any vents baffles
  • 7.28 – Skylights- woo hoo, pretty straight forward, air seal properly & install materials per manufacturer
  • 7.29 – Parapet Walls – yeah, you might as well have left that one off

As for this layout – it truly is a mess, you need one section for installation specs of each material, followed up by a section on attic, walls, floors & if a material can be used there & if so, how. Oh & by the way you may also want to mention that the soffit area should be open to the baffles but blocked at the exterior edge to prevent insulation from blowing into that area.

Topic: Exterior Walls (7.30 – 7.35)

  • 7.30 – Exterior Dense Pack Preparation – looks good, but you might want to check that hose pressure listed in the “preparation” section (7.30.1)
  • 7.31 – Exterior Wall Insulating Sheathing Preparation – here we go again first you list removing the cladding (siding) & then replacing it before putting the insulating sheathing on… hmm, RRP doesn’t apply (see that’s why it needs to be a global item)
  • 7.32 – Open Wall Insulation , very nice job
  • 7.33 – Exterior Dense Pack see notes 7.21 & now I am confused – everywhere you are listing 2.2 for fiberglass (which I didn’t think was right) & now you list it at 3.5 (which is what I originally thought it was supposed to be)
  • 7.34 – Additional Exterior Wall Cavities, sorry but I am confused on exactly what you’re talking about.
  • 7.35 – Is there a reason this isn’t following up the preparation section? I know I have harped on just simply write down follow the manufacturer’s directions, but in some cases it might be nice to say that if possible 2 layers should be used that are offset & seams should be taped. Along the same lines, I do not see anything about utilizing a vapor retarder aka Tyvek and/or possibly considering a rain screen detail to help eliminate possible water intrusion

Topic: Floors (7.36 – 7.41)

  • 7.36 Accessible Floors (between conditioned & unconditioned space) – personally not the best choice down south, but that’s for another day
    • 7.36.1: Sealing the floor system will be completed before installing – very nicely stated
    • 7.36.2: Insulation will be installed in contact with subfloor without gaps, voids, compressions, misalignments, or wind intrusions & If kraft-faced batts are used, they will be installed with kraft facing to subfloor – also very nicely stated
    • 7.36.3: Batts will be secured with physical fasteners TO ensure insulation remains in contact with subfloor – the only issue is that they also need to minimize compression while still keeping it from sagging
  • 7.37 – Utilizing Loose Fill & Netting – not really sure staples at 1.5”on center is really needed & as this is a floor with water features above, you might want to mention that this needs to checked & fixed (or put that in a global description – and yes this applies to all the other ones in this topic)
  • 7.38 – Utilizing Loose Fill & a Rigid Barrier – pretty well stated, but you might want to mention fire codes
  • 7.39 – Batt Insulation Cantilevered Floor, can’t we just simply say this shouldn’t be done?
  • 7.40 – Pier House Subfloor Insulation, same as 7.36 but it also lists a rigid air barrier must be installed (7.40.4) but no mention of possible fire issues & materials
  • 7.41 – Pier House Loose Fill with Rigid Barrier – same as 7.38

Topic: Spray Polyurethane Foam (7.42 – 7.54)

  • Appendix C – interesting you mention the differences between the delivery systems, but not the difference & where each type of foam products should be used (Closed, Open & Medium Density)
  • 7.42 – Unvented Roof Deck Preparation
    • 7.42.1: Surface Prep Sealing between house and crawl space will be completed before insulating TO Ensure proper bonding of SPF to substrate surfaces – seriously aren’t we talking about the roof deck? Nothing about plastic on area’s you don’t want foam, or making sure any plastic in area’s to be sprayed is removed
    • 7.42.2 – now you finally mention dams to block off the soffit area, but why are you worried about some excess being sprayed in that area – a little excess does not affect anything negatively & would probably be a good idea to help meet overall U & R Value requirements in the IECC
  • 7.43 – Vented Roof Deck – now this is interesting as you mention all this surface prep & moisture content concerns that were not listed above, even though you have baffles running all the way from the soffits to the ridge… While we are at this, why is it required now to remove all existing floor insulation & vapor retarder (sure that’s not supposed to read barrier)
  • 7.44 – Unvented Roof Deck Insulation Installation – Hmm, you at least finally mention the IECC but fail to get the codes correct. As an FYI – only in zones 2 & 3 dry can Open Cell be used without a vapor barrier being sprayed on – Closed Cell does not require one
  • 7.45 – Vented Roof Deck, ok but then why are you spraying it on the roof deck? Then we can basically repeat 7.44
  • 7.46 – Ignition & Thermal Barriers – congrats for mentioning the applicable code
  • 7.47 – Knee Walls – Dittos on 7.44
  • 7.48 – Attic Floors – not really a great idea but dittos on 7.44
  • 7.49 – Parapet Walls – dittos on 7.29
  • 7.50 – Exterior Wall Preparation, congrats on mentioning the plastic & through prep required
  • 7.51 – Electrical System Considerations – there are better options than tape, and shouldn’t this apply to the prep? Along those lines, you may want to make sure there is no aluminum, knob & tube or older style wiring in those walls which can be a fire issue
  • 7.52 – Wall Installation, I think you meant exterior cladding & sheathing or interior finishes
  • 7.53 – Open Floors (cantilevered or above unconditioned) Nice to see you have everything all in one space (Prep, Installation, etc…) but if this is sprayed on the subfloor, you should already have you’re ignition/thermal barrier from the top – it is what is below that area that might be an issue
  • 7.54 – Band & Rim Joists –IRC refers to a smoke & fire spreads, not a class