By JUAN SAGARBARRIA
Any seasoned contractor that specializes in the installation of commercial air barriers can tell you that spray polyurethane foam is a superior air barrier product. Furthermore, there are contractors that heavily rely on spray foam to be the sole engine that drives their business revenue, but this sense of complacency could prove costly in the long run. Nowadays, more and more spray foam air barrier contractors are seeing the benefits of augmenting their businesses with materials beyond spray foam.
The fact is, spray foam isn’t a single-product solution for commercial air barriers, which require a number of materials working in concert, and different projects call for different types of air barrier applications. So, it behooves contractors to learn the building science and proper installation techniques for various air barrier technologies to stay ahead of the game in an all-too-competitive industry. But where does a contractor begin if they’d like to move in that direction? There are companies such as SFS, a Georgia-based SPF distributor, that provide the know-how and hands-on training to broaden the SPF air barrier contractors’ application knowledge and skills.
“Air barrier application systems is a growing industry that allows contractors to get ahead by establishing their company in the forefront of the industry,” said SFS’s T.J. Peters. “We’ve overseen a substantial growth in business for contractors who choose to add other air barrier technologies to their existing operation. While spray foam is the best air barrier product in terms of performance value, there are other products needed to tighten windows, doors, transitions, and penetrations, and thus complete a full air barrier project.”
Air barrier systems provide a lucrative opportunity for contractors when it comes to commercial building projects. Not all projects of this nature require spray polyurethane foam, so in order to be able to bid for more projects and gain more business, it is imperative to incorporate technologies, such as fluid-applied air barrier systems and self-adhered membrane (peel-and-stick) air barrier systems, and rake in the profits later.
“We want contractors to evolve in an industry that keeps evolving,” said Peters. “We want to see contractors turn their focus from small to larger projects that require different products. We believe that if a contractor can bring to the table a capacity for installing polyurethane foam, fluid-applied systems, and self-adhered membrane air barriers, then they can fully excel in this industry and place a bid on virtually any job that requires an air barrier installation.”
Education and Training
Companies like SFS offer a direct partnership with spray foam contractors to assist them with building their business by instructing them about air barrier products that SFS distributes. Then, SFS teaches contractors how to properly install these products to create a continuous air barrier throughout a commercial building. SFS provides this knowledge throughout a training course that is carried out four times a year at their facility located in Greensboro, Georgia, where numerous nationwide SPF contractors have attended. The scope of this two-day course includes a thorough overview of SFS’ applicable products for each air barrier system, as well as a complete description and installation of air barrier systems provided by qualified instructors.
“We understand the products, we understand the building science, and we understand the equipment needed to apply all these products, so we are qualified to have people learn from us. ” said Peters. “We have a classroom setting where we teach building science, as well as product overviews and the specifics of how to apply product assemblies. We also have spray booths and live demonstrations here that allows our attendees to learn how to apply these different types of products with the proper equipment.”
Since the particulars of air barrier applications are such that any old spray rig might not be equipped for a particular application, rig customization is crucial and beneficial for contractors. In addition to providing air barrier products and training contractors how to use them, SFS can customize their ProPAK Mobile Spray Rigs to fit additional air barrier products that a customer would need.
“We are one of the leaders in the industry as far as rig quality, dependability, and technical support goes,” said Peters. “All of our rigs are set-up with a professional look coupled with safety features such as an eye-wash station, fire extinguishers, safety gear, and fresh-air systems. As we ventured into the air barrier market, we’ve upgraded our rigs to not only provide foam, but now they are also outfitted with the proper equipment to apply the fluid air barriers, self-adhered membranes, and foam – all in one unit.”
Even though the applications of fluid-applied and self-adhered membrane air barriers are consistent with mostly large-scale or commercial projects, Peters believes they are the wave of the industry’s future and will pertain to residential projects in the coming years.
“As the building codes continue to get stricter in terms of energy efficiency, weatherization, and sustainability that lead to an ideal building thermal envelope performance, I believe that these types of air barrier systems that are being utilized in commercial applications today are going to have to be used in residential applications in the near future. We need to get people onboard with these innovative technologies to prepare for further industry growth.”