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Ultra-Low Density Foam

Elevating the Industry

By Jen Kramer

“You can spray from 12- to 15-feet away from the roof deck. Get rid of ladders, get rid of scaffolds, my guy is just walking and getting more production in and saving time.”

“You can spray from 12- to 15-feet away from the roof deck. Get rid of ladders, get rid of scaffolds, my guy is just walking and getting more production in and saving time.”

A disruption is taking place in the spray foam industry – and it has changed the open-cell insulation market forever. A new technology, Ultra-Low Density spray foam, represents significant reductions in labor and expense for the contractors who have been front runners of early adoption.

But what exactly is this technology and how is it converting so many contractors?

Ultra-Low Density spray foam has a nominal density of 0.4 pounds per cubic foot (lb/ft3), as opposed to regular open-cell spray foam that has a density of 0.5 pounds per cubic foot (lb/ft3).

So, why is that seemingly small difference such a big deal?

For a very good reason, it turns out. Ultra-Low Density foam yields 25 percent more foam on average than its 0.5-pound predecessor.

Ari Guttman, owner of The Spray Market, located in Brooklyn, New York, has consistently experienced yields averaging from 24,000 to 25,000 board feet per set when using Ultra-Low Density foam.

On the opposite side of the country, in hot, arid Mesa, Arizona, Larry Evans, owner of EMC Insulation, describes Ultra-Low Density foam as “a game changer for us.” Evans states that when using Ultra-Low Density foam, he and his crew achieve on the average 22,000 to 23,000 board feet per set.

Greater yield produces greater returns when it comes to calculating materials.

Guttman explains that “regular” open-cell sets of foam yield 17,500 to 19,500 board feet. The greater yield from Ultra-Low Density foam translates to less liquid material required. He simply needs to purchase and spray less chemical volume to get the same finished volume when he sprays Ultra-Low Density foam.

APPLYING LESS IS MORE EFFICIENT

Ultra-Low Density foam’s ultra-efficient yield has had drastic results for the contractors who have tried the new technology. They are reporting that with the new technology, it takes fewer sets of material to complete the same amount of jobs, which increases jobsite efficiency.

Blaze Porter, the Operations Manager for Keith Porter Insulation in Athens, Georgia, reports that the Ultra-Low Density foam provides “No delamination. No air pockets. Better yield. The consistency of the foam is better…and we’re working faster.” In fact, they are seeing such increases in efficiency, and subsequently profit, that they now carry Ultra-Low Density foam on all six of their rigs.

The math is simple. The Ultra-Low Density foam requires 20 percent fewer sets than “traditional” foam to fill the same board foot area. Since there will be 20 percent fewer sets of foam required when spraying Ultra-Low Density foam, the job can be finished that much quicker. Faster completion of jobs means that more jobs can be completed – which increases profits. Profit is further increased by enabling you to spread overhead costs over more jobs to create a lower overhead cost per job.

Guttman concurs with the use of Ultra-Low Density technology translating into an increase in jobsite efficiency and profit. Citing a recent job of a 19,000 square foot roof deck, Guttman explains that the job would have required seven and a half sets of traditional open-cell foam and three to four days to complete the job. Ultra-Low Density foam was substituted and that same roof deck only required 4.7 sets of foam and two days to complete – representing a 67 percent profit added to his bottom line – simply by swapping sets of “regular” foam for the Ultra-Low Density technology.

The Ultra-Low Density technology also carries a unique feature to help further increase jobsite efficiency: Long-Range Application. And, because of the Ultra-Low Density foam’s long-range application, Guttman identifies another benefit:

The ability to reduce or eliminate the use of ladders or scaffolding. “We don’t have to carry a ladder up and through trades. You can spray from 12- to 15-feet away from the roof deck. Get rid of ladders, get rid of scaffolds, my guy is just walking and getting more production in and saving time.”

In addition to being a time saver, the reduction and / or elimination of ladders and scaffolding is also an important factor from a liability standpoint. Less time spent on ladders or scaffolding represents a reduction in risk.

Increased efficiency means less time spent on the jobsite, and that too represents a reduction in risk.

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In the diagram above, the barrels on the left represent the ULD foam; those on the right represent “traditional” open-cell. The ULD foam has an Absolute Yield of 30,000 bdft; while Traditional’s is 24,000 bdft. Both have efficiency in the range of 70 to 80 percent, but the Installed Yield of ULD is 21,000 to 24,000 bdft, compared to Traditional’s 16,800 to 19,200 bdft.

WINNING WITH ULTRA-LOW DENSITY SPRAY FOAM

It takes 80 sets of traditional foam to get 1.4 million board feet, but only 64 sets of Ultra-Low Density foam to get 1.4 million board feet. The contractor spraying the Ultra-Low Density foam will be done long before the contractor spraying 80 sets of traditional foam. The Ultra-Low Density contractor would be done and the traditional contractor would still have 20 percent left to spray. This means that a contractor with four rigs could easily spray 64 sets from three rigs and park his fourth rig, saving on labor. Or, he could use that rig to go out and cultivate more work and take more market share. This is a choice made by the contractors spraying the Ultra-Low Density technology.

The Ultra-Low Density spray foam contractors have become more competitive and more dominant in their marketplace. As proof of this trend, we look to Meritage Homes, the largest homebuilder consumer of spray foam insulation in North America. Meritage has approved the use of Ultra-Low Density Foam and several communities across the U.S. are now installing Ultra-Low Density foam as their product of choice.

Ultra-Low Density foam is also opening up new applications to displace traditional insulation products because its price point is so competitive. Other tract homebuilders in addition to Meritage have also started to adopt Ultra-Low Density foam to achieve the lowest install cost. Guttman concurs on lowest board foot cost installed, noting that they just did a retrofit with Ultra-Low Density foam that ended up being less expensive than his cost for installing cellulose. Foam being less expensive than cellulose is truly a revolutionary development. Guttman believes that Ultra-Low Density foam has the ability to displace many cellulose applications and completely transform the insulation market in the New York area.

CHANGE IS IMMINENT

Has Ultra-Low Density foam technology reached your market yet? If not, it will – and soon. If you’re not spraying it, there are some things you need to know.

First, the first contractors in the market to spray any new technology always have a significant marketplace advantage. Some contractors will simply pocket the additional profits, while others who are using Ultra-Low Density foam may drop their prices to gain more business. This in turn will cause contractors spraying traditional foam technology to struggle to compete.

Second, Ultra-Low Density foam is helping bridge the price gap between spray foam and traditional insulation materials, such as fiberglass and cellulose. The low installation costs will help to displace the traditional insulation products. This is already happening in the Phoenix Metro area, where it is estimated that one in five new homes is being insulated with spray foam. More tract home builders are now moving exclusively to using spray polyurethane foam wall insulation. And, as we’ve seen, Ultra-Low Density is now making significant in-roads on that market.

The advent of Ultra-Low Density foam has revolutionized the open-cell market, making it more efficient – and more profitable – than ever before. But, as they say, “the revolution will not be televised.”

If you would like more information on this technology and how it can add more profit to your bottom line, contact SWD Urethane.  •

Contact SWD Urethane

Direct any questions about Ultra-Low Density foam to SWD Urethane:
Phone: 800-828-1394
Website: www.swdurethane.com

Photos Courtesy of SWD Urethane

*Spray Foam Magazine does not take editorial positions on particular issues; individual contributions to the magazine express the opinions of discrete authors unless explicitly labeled or otherwise stated. The inclusion of a particular piece in the magazine does not mean that individual staff members or editors concur with the editorial positions represented therein.