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Blending in with Nature

NCFI’s new spray foam roofing system provides an ideal solution for a roof retrofit in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

By Juan Sagarbarria

When you’re at 7,000 feet above sea level and reveling in the scenery of unending mountain vistas, you can consider yourself as being “one with nature.” That is what the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico – along with blue skies and some of the purest air breathable to man  – offers. The residents know and appreciate their pristine natural settings all too well; so much so that their appreciation overlaps with Southwestern home design trends. That is to say, home designers immerse themselves in the nuances of their surroundings when crafting these homes, which is why many residences in the Santa Fe area have the beautiful tendency of blending in with nature.

The careful detail of Southwestern-style construction can typically involve a stucco-based adobe exterior façade and a signature interior consisting of vaulted ceilings with exposed wood beams and large windows to take in the views. This design, which allows homeowners to showcase the aesthetic of the finished wood on the interior, comes with a trade-off that calls for all of the plumbing, wiring, and HVAC ductwork to be installed on the exterior roof deck, as opposed to the attic as seen in traditional home designs. So, given the nature of this Southwestern design and the location of the infrastructure materials, there’s a good chance that HVAC equipment and the plumbing systems could suffer from exposure to extreme temperatures, not to mention energy inefficiency from air leakage through these wiring and plumbing penetrations. That is why most residents turn to closed-cell spray polyurethane foam as the solution to seal these penetrations on the roof, achieve proper drainage, and achieve optimal insulation to the average Southwestern home. Case in point: When a best-selling author decided it was time to retrofit the roof of his expanded main residence and complete a newly constructed guest house in Santa Fe, he gave the nod for a spray foam roofing system application. Aside from the application of a top-of-the-line material that provides protection, insulation, energy efficiency and overall stellar performance to the home, this project was earmarked by the innovation of spray polyurethane foam.

A NEW FOAM TECHNOLOGY

The foam that was used in this residential project was not your typical closed-cell spray foam. In fact, it featured a new type of foam via the marriage of two pillar organizations: Honeywell and NCFI Polyurethanes. The result? NCFI’s SmartSPF closed-cell spray polyurethane foam.

The SmartSPF line contains Honeywell’s Solstice® Liquid Blowing Agent (LBA), which has an ultra-low global warming potential (GWP)of one, that is 99.9 percent lower than the HFC blowing agents it replaces and equal to carbon dioxide. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, studies have shown that closed-cell foam containing Solstice LBA provides more consistency and as much as 10 percent better yields than HFC-based foams. NCFI’s adoption of Solstice LBA in its SmartSPF line is not only delivering performance improvements, it is positioning them well ahead of the global regulatory movement to phase out HFC blowing agents.

“We are very excited that NCFI has joined the list of premier companies that have adopted Solstice LBA in their spray foam formulations,” says Laura Reinhard, global business manager for spray foam at Honeywell in a case study. “They have done an outstanding job with the system, and it sprayed really well during this application in Santa Fe.”

For a city like Santa Fe that collectively appreciates nature, an incentive is organically instilled in its residents to choose the most sustainable and environmentally preferred product possible. However, the SmartSPF closed-cell foam is currently only being used in selected projects around the country as its official commercial launch date draws near.

“NCFI has always acknowledged the need to be on the cutting edge from a performance and environmental standpoint,” says Butch Mackey, NCFI’s roofing product manager. “We always try to use the best available raw materials to achieve these results and blending our foam with Honeywell’s Solstice LBA is just another step in that progression. We are in the process of making this closed-cell product market-ready, but through trial applications such as this one, we have determined that our work on low GWP blowing agent foam systems has been nothing short of a success.”

THE CHOSEN ONES

It was a momentous occasion, and all parties involved, from homeowner to manufacturer to the general contractor, needed to ensure that the right team was on board for the foam application itself. Shane Woods of Woods Design Builders, the general contractor in charge of the Santa Fe home’s retrofit, put their faith in local spray foam specialists Southwest Spray Foam (SWSF). A firm believer in closed-cell spray foam and its performance capabilities, Woods emphasized that entrusting the task to an experienced contractor like SWSF was a catalyst for success.

“We use spray foam in 99 percent of the roofs we work on and the product is only as good as the man who installs it,” says Woods. “There is no denying that spray foam provides performance and insulation to a home and at the same time reduces maintenance issues.”

SWSF brought two rigs – both equipped with Graco H-40 proportioning machines – on site; two separate crews of four manned the rigs.  The single-story home sat on two acres of land with large trees and bushes separating the home from neighboring residences. The roof itself had multiple elevations, with ceiling heights fluctuating between 16 to 18 feet; the parapet walls stood at four-feet high so a fall arrest system wasn’t required; and as expected, mechanical units, light boxes, skylights, and drains occupied the majority of the 7,000 square-foot roof surface. By the time SWSF got there, the existing roof had been removed by a subcontractor down to the wood decking and all debris had been cleared, leaving the crew with a smooth, dry, and clean surface that was spray-ready. SWSF’s prep work consisted mainly of overspray damage control, which entailed masking the units and drains on the roof, as well as the nearby bushes and trees, using landscape fabric.

THE WORK

The SPF installation project was encumbered by one factor: The SWSF crew had to keep a weather eye on the weather. Santa Fe has an average of 300 sunny days a year, yet the SWSF crew witnessed some unpredictable rainy weather during the application. So, permitted that rain wasn’t a factor, the crew suited up in their Tyvek suits, put on their 3M 6000 series full-face respirators with charcoal filters, and Allegro cotton spray socks before donning their Graco X-7 plural-component spray guns and going to work.

As the SWSF applicators worked their way around the roof, the depth of the closed-cell foam that the spray applicators put down varied. SWSF’s Matt Segura says these adjustments were decided upon according to whether they were spraying on to exposed ceilings or pocket roofs. Meaning they were either applying foam to flat roof surfaces and parapet wall ends, or areas above the ceiling of a room where mechanical units or plumbing drains are, respectively. To the exposed ceiling areas, the SWSF applicator installed up to seven inches of foam for an R-52 value, whereas the pocket roof areas were sprayed at a three-inch depth for an R-20 value.

“These conditions entailed different spray depths,” says Segura. “Exposed ceilings need greater foam depth to achieve the R-value and the slope that is required for insulation and drainage. Pocket roofs require less depth of foam to be used in conjunction with fiberglass to create a hybrid non-vented insulation system. That’s the thing about spray foam, it allows you to sculpt around the obstacles and simultaneously create a fully adhered, seamless, waterproof monolithic barrier. No other material could do this for this kind of roof.”

Foam in place, the SWSF crew fired up a Graco GH 733 Big Rig gas hydraulic spray pump to coat the vertical surfaces of the roof with NCFI’s EnduraTech acrylic coating. To maintain a natural aesthetic that blends in with the surroundings, the specifications called for a specific tan color for the topcoat. As fate would have it, the color of the EnduraTech coating was “Santa Fe Tan.” The crew applied
40 mils DFT to the vertical section of the roof, including the parapet walls and around the mechanical units and penetrations. For the final touch, the crew completed the system by broadcasting Buildology’s Santa Fe Brown 7/16-inch gravel, which was installed to the flat surface of the roof atop the SPF at a thickness of 1.5 inches.

The SWSF crew spent a total of eight days on site, six of them consisting of the spray foam application, while the other two revolved around the coating and gravel applications.

THE TAKEAWAY

The spray foam roofing system is now installed and Santa Fe’s own best-selling author now has a residence and a guesthouse with a fully protected roof, as well as a comfortable and energy efficient interior with the aesthetic wooden beams always on display. But did this new foam perform well? Did it stand out from the average HFC-based foam? According to SWSF co-owner Aaron Lewis, it certainly did.

“My crew has been raving about the way the system sprays,” affirms Lewis. “We were very pleased with the properties we saw. The foam has a beautiful skin on it, the reaction time has been very good and that it makes the foam easy to install. The foam is also extremely rigid, which I like.”

In conclusion, NCFI’s new SmartSPF closed-cell foam with Honeywell’s Solstice LBA might be a giant next step in these companies’ evolution, but in the grand scheme of things, it might be the wave of the future for the industry as a whole because, if a green product can be made greener, why not venture into that arena?

For more information, please visit www.NCFI.com, www.honeywell-solsticelba.com, and www.southwestsprayfoam.com. •

Photos courtesy of NCFI Polyurethanes