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USS Yorktown spray polyurethane foam insulation

A Watertight, Fighting Lady

The USS Yorktown’s (The Fighting Lady) engine room receives a facelift with the help of spray foam providing optimal insulation and water barriers

By Jourdan Porter 
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Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is widely recognized as an insulating material that keeps water out of any building structure to which it is installed. But what if the structure itself is on the water? Can its characteristic watertight seal combat ever-present treading waters and occasional rough seas and preserve said structure for a long time to come? The answer is yes—of course—and the following is a direct example of SPF’s prowess to lock out liquids.

Recently at the National Historic Tour Site in Charleston, SC, a maritime SPF project has been brewing. One of the United States Navy aircraft carriers, USS Yorktown (CV-10), which was built before World War II, has been undergoing treatment for preservation. “The Fighting Lady,” as the ship is famously referred to, was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy. That said, it is very important to keep the ship looking as closely to how it did in the 1940s when it was in commission.

With original fighter planes on the ship’s deck and interior, SPF was the best solution to a problem that had arose on board. Previously when restoring the exhibits in the ship, fiberglass batts had been used, which restricted any option of sealing areas around wires and piping throughout the site. Due to unsealed areas, the exhibits lacked insulation and comfortable room temperatures for tourists. The museum found it imperative that this problem be fixed in order to provide efficient air conditioning and aesthetic restoration to the ship. Unaware of the efficient properties of SPF for previous exhibit restorations, the historic tour site decided to give spray foam a shot and began their project in the engine room exhibit, which is called “The Engine Room Experience.”

To tackle the job, the museum brought in Palmetto Spray Foam LLC (PSF). Leading the PSF team of three to complete the task, Dan Dorneanu shared his insight on what the project entailed. “My first thought when they called us was that it was a high honor to be a part of such a project because this ship will be there for many years to come,” says Dorneanu.

USS Yorktown Spray Polyurethane Foam

Palmetto Spray Foam LLC. used a 310-foot hose, running from the proportioner to the engine room, to apply the spray polyurethane foam

The team began by prepping the surfaces of the exhibit by scraping any loose lead paint off the walls and ceilings in order to achieve a smooth surface for SPF application. Certain to abide by safety regulations, the PSF team wore PPE including protective goggles, respiratory protection, Tyvek suits, and gloves. Although the work was done between the hours of 4 am to 8 am, the crew made sure to ventilate the exhibit by running fans and ducts from the engine room to a secured open space outside. This was done in order for tourists to be able to go through other exhibits inside the ship during visiting hours.

“My first thought when they called us was that it was a high honor to be a part of such a project because this ship will be there for many years to come.”

With a week to complete the 2,000 square-foot project, Dorneanu and his crew had no doubt that SPF was the best product for the job. “SPF was definitely much more superior of a product because we were able to seal the envelope through the entire area. Where there was wiring, piping, plumbing, or ducts, we were able to spray under those and were able to thermally seal the area. That’s something that the fiberglass, which is what they previously used, did not do.”

Adhering to metal surfaces with no primer, the SPF that the PSF crew used to insulate was Covestro Bayseal CCX, a 2 lb. closed-cell foam that was applied at a two-inch thickness via a Graco H30 proportioner. Since the crew was running 310 feet of hose to the truck where the proportioner was located, it would have proved cumbersome to continuously go back and forth from the project site to the machinery when wanting to change the settings, such as temperature; so in order to make the job more efficient, PSF created an app called “R2,” which was used during the application to reduce this type of downtime. The app allows users to control the SPF proportioner from a mobile device and was released for purchase on June 1, 2017. Interested users will be able to buy the app from distributors such as IDI and SPF Depot and can download it to mobile devices via Google Play. To finish the job after the SPF application, all surfaces were rasped to level and finished with a white glossy paint to maintain the original look of the ship.

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The crew used Covestro Bayseal CCX, a 2 lb. closed-cell foam that was applied at a two-inch thickness via a Graco H30 proportioner to seal the envelope

The crew used Covestro Bayseal CCX, a 2 lb. closed-cell foam that was applied at a two-inch thickness via a Graco H30 proportioner to seal the envelope

Not only did the SPF achieve the insulation the museum was looking for within the USS Yorktown, but the cost was 60 percent less than what was paid for renovation materials in the past. Choosing foam this time around meant a

higher R-value – thermal resistance to heat flow in affected areas—for the ship, providing lower energy costs for the museum operators and an optimal indoor climate for its visitors.

At an R-6.9 value per inch, all parties inside “The Engine Room Experience” will stay at a comfortable room temperature while touring. Extremely satisfied with the result of the SPF, the National Historic Tour Site has decided to utilize the material for all restorations to come—what a game changer!•

» For more information  on the vessel, visit Patriots Point: Home of the USS Yorktown at www.patriotspoint.org, and for information on the contractor, Palmetto Spray Foam LLC, visit www.palmettosprayfoam.com

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