DIY Network’s home improvement television show turns to spray foam to solve insulation challenges
By Alan Annis
Driving a 1,400 square-foot home down the road isn’t an everyday occasion; that is unless you are part of the hit television show “Texas Flip N Move.” Unlike other real-estate flip shows, “Texas Flip N Move” features a twist. The old homes that are purchased to be renovated don’t include the underlying land they sit on. Once the home is purchased, they are jacked up off the foundation and moved miles away to a lot where they are stripped down and renovated. The newly renovated homes are then sold at auction to the highest bidder.
“Texas Flip N Move” features several teams of hard-working real estate entrepreneurs who compete head-to-head bidding for properties, renovating the homes, and trying to make the most profit from the flip. All of the flippers are under the gun to buy low, work fast, and sell high. It’s a friendly rivalry, but record numbers of viewers are tuning in to find out who will turn a big profit, who might lose big on a gamble, and who might destroy their house mid-move.
The producers at “Texas Flip N Move” seem to have found the magic formula for television entertainment. The program, now in its fifth season, has been rapidly gaining viewers and stands as the DIY Network’s number one show. Alan Farris, the Unit Manager of Construction for “Texas Flip N Move,” has been part of the production team since Season One. “There is a humongous fan base for the show, with watch parties that happen here locally. The show has definitely gotten bigger and has taken off. The Mayor of Fort Worth was out recently to our production lot and gave us recognition and named that day, ‘Texas Flip N Move’ day.”
Farris has been working closely with the City of Fort Worth to ensure that all of the renovations are up to code. Farris notes, “We are starting to move some of these homes into the city and it’s important that they meet local code. As of January 1, we are now on 2015 building codes, this was a big concern for us, and one of the main reasons we turned to spray foam insulation. When renovating an older home, they can be made with materials like shiplap siding that has tremendous air leakage. Using spray foam, we don’t have to worry about getting a nice air-seal, which can be a challenge on most of these older homes. If we want to pass code, in many cases, spray foam is our only option.”
At the beginning of Season Five, the show successfully made the complete switch over to spray foam. “We use SWD Quik-Shield spray foam insulation in every house we renovate today. We love it. We spray everything that we can now. I’m also happy the foam is helping us create homes with very low energy consumption” Farris comments. Energy modeling done on most of the renovated homes is consistently showing total annual energy bills less than $1,000.
Each “Texas Flip N Move” episode typically features two homes that are bought, remodeled, and flipped. “We are on a tight production deadline, each season we do about 18 to 20 homes from about 600 to 1,400 square feet each, and we are doing two seasons a year right now” Farris states. “That’s a lot of homes we have to get done. There are times our renovated homes do not get sold and we start to develop a home inventory surplus. We are producing so many homes to meet the show production needs that we are building more than the marketplace can absorb.”
The producers of the show have found an innovative way to help offload some of the unsold inventory. They have partnered with The Housing Channel, a Fort Worth nonprofit that helps low income families find and afford their own home.
The organization works with the City of Fort Worth to back-fill vacant lots, typically in the more urban areas. “It can be expensive and not cost-effective to build new construction on many of these vacant lots,” The Housing Channel President, Donna VanNess, states. The partnership with “Texas Flip’N Move” is allowing the nonprofit to deliver small, affordable homes that are less expensive than new builds. “But what we like most about these homes is that they are built with spray foam that makes them very energy-efficient.” Delivering a home with low heating and cooling bills can make a big difference to a family on a tight budget.
In many ways, “Texas Flip N Move” is the ultimate recycling program. They are saving old homes that are unwanted, and, if not moved, will be torn down and hauled off to the landfill. Saving these old homes, and refurbishing them to make them better than ever, is the attractive part of the show that everyone sees. Getting the energy-efficient homes into the hands of people that need affordable housing is in many ways a more powerful message, but it never gets aired. Most everyone involved agrees that this is the best part of being involved with the show.
“Now nine and a quarter; now nine and a half; I’ve got a thousand; now I need a thousand twenty five; somebody bid a thousand twenty five; I need a thousand twenty five; all in all done; sold for one thousand dollars,” the auctioneer calls out. With that, Casey Hester and Catrina Kidd just bought a 950-square-foot, old, farmhouse for $1,000. Hester and Kidd have been part of the “Texas Flip N Move” cast since Season Three, and have become fan favorites. Kidd states, “I kind of want to go for that open cabiny lodge feel,” describes how she wants the house to appear when the remodel is complete. “But first we have to move it” Hester responds.
Bill Hester & Son House Moving came out to move the home. The home had two-by-six floor joists, no foundation, and was just sitting on bare blocks. It was an easy lift using a hydraulic jacking system and hydraulic steer caster dollies. The house was then hauled 60 miles down the road just outside of the City of Fort Worth, Texas. All of the homes featured on the show are brought back to this large lot where they are gutted and prepped for remodel. This is where the farmhouse that Hester and Kidd purchased ended up and, as the narrator of the show describes, “A thousand bucks have bought Casey and Catrina loads of possibilities.”
The remodel began by completely gutting the house and moving the back door to create more counter space in the kitchen. The old home had asbestos siding that cost $3,000 to be removed. The small upstairs bedroom had only about 6.5-feet of maximum headroom, so the dormer windows were extended to make it easier to walk around in that area. “Most of the homes that end up on our lot are gutted and taken down to the studs, this is extremely common for us.”
Alan Farris, Unit Manager of Construction, explains. “What was unique about this build is that the home was two stories.” The reason you typically don’t do a two-story home is because of the height restrictions during transportation of the house. Anything over 15 feet in height will be a challenge to move because of highway bridges and power lines. Because the ceiling in the attic was so low, the home did not exceed the height requirements for an easy move.
Kinzler Construction Services, located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, is one of the spray foam contractors featured on the show. They applied foam in a number of the homes for Season Five and are now spraying homes that will air in the upcoming months for Season Six.
The Kinzler crew applied Quik-Shield 108 Ultra-Low Density spray foam in the two-story farmhouse. The two-by-six construction was completely filled with 5.5-inches of foam under the roof deck. Because the house didn’t have an attic, using foam was about the only way to provide adequate insulation for the upstairs loft. Quik-Shield 108 was also sprayed 3.5-inches thick in two-by-four walls and underneath the floor at five-inches, encapsulating the home with Ultra-Low Density spray foam.
Because of its rapid expansion and Ultra-Low Density, the application time needed for the home was reduced by about 25 percent over a traditional low-density open-cell product. “The efficiency of Quik-Shield 108 allows us to fully insulate a home in four to five hours. Sometimes we’re able to knock out a couple homes in one day,” states Scott Wamack, General Manager of Kinzler Construction Services.
Kinzler has currently sprayed foam in 17 homes for the show. Wamack accounts, “It’s great to work alongside of the cast. They are genuine all-around good people. We have insulated so many homes for the ‘Flip N Move,’ I feel like we are becoming regulars on the show. We have a few awesome projects coming up in Season Six. I can’t talk about them until they air, so stay tuned.”
To up the entertainment value of “Texas Flip N Move,” each season usually has a couple unique builds. In past seasons, there had been homes made from shipping containers and train cars. The most unique build in Season Five featured “Big Bin,” a 24-foot-in-diameter grain bin that was converted into a home.
The old grain silo was purchased in Oklahoma. The winning bidders were regulars on the show, “Gary’s Girls” — Paige Lowe, Melinda Wray, Kendal Parker, and Brooke Collins. Their father, Gary Snow, is part of regularly featured, Fort Worth-based, H.D. Snow & Son House Moving. Gary handles the house moving, while his daughters do all of the renovation work.
The silo was taken apart, shipped, and then reassembled on the lot where all of the renovation construction takes place. The silo was converted into a living room, kitchen, and a bathroom. An additional 16-foot-by-24-foot, two bedroom / one bathroom, small home was constructed using 2x4s and attached to the side of the bin. The total floorplan was about 800 square feet.
Turning a 24-foot-in-diameter gain silo into a home is not your ordinary residential build. Having circular walls and roof brought all kinds of design problems that most builders or renovators never encounter. The biggest challenge was how to insulate the structure while leaving the look and feel of the silo on the inside of the home. The producers of the show contacted SWD Urethane to consult on the build. SWD Urethane brought in Garland Insulating from Dallas as the contractor. Garland went on to spray over half of the homes that were featured in Season Five of the show.
Cardice Howard, Operations Manager for Garland Insulating in Dallas, recalls the initial conversation with design staff from “Texas Flip N Move.” Howard says, “I was assuming they were just going to close off the top of bin and turn it into an unvented attic. The design team was very adamant about leaving the feel of living in a grain silo.” Framing out the roof with studs and drywall would have been impossible without compromising the design aesthetics. Spray foam was the only solution to provide insulation that met code, while still maintaining the visuals that Gary’s Girls and the show’s designers were looking for.
“We had to leave the foam exposed, and then covered by intumescent coating,” recalls Howard. “It’s quite unusual to have exposed foam in residential construction. Having foam where people can see it might normally be considered an eyesore, but in this build it added to beauty of the home.”
Ultimately, SWD Urethane’s Quik-Shield 112XC closed-cell spray foam was chosen to insulate the roof of the bin. Four inches of foam was applied and then coated by DC315 thermal barrier paint. The rest of the home was insulated with Quik-Shield 108 Ultra-Low Density spray foam. The walls were sprayed as a full-cavity fill with 3.5-inches of foam, the roof deck over the bedrooms received six-inches of foam, and five-inches of foam was applied under the floor.
Big Bin was Garland Insulating’s first project with the show. Howard recalls showing up on the jobsite for the first time. “We didn’t know what to expect. As we were driving up to the jobsite they already had cameras out filming us.” The show commonly uses multiple cameramen along with the use of a half dozen or so GoPro cameras mounted in various locations.
“I thought we would show up and they would film the applicators doing the install. Then, they asked if they could put a mic on me. I didn’t know they were going to put me on the show. I think my appearance totaled only about 15 seconds of air time talking about spray foam, but my family thinks I’m a movie star now.”
The Garland Insulating crew also had a lot of fun being on the show. “It was a new experience for all of us, we really enjoyed being on the show.” Howard states. “What was most impactful to me is knowing that some of the homes we insulated are going to be used for lower income families. They need a product like spray foam to help reduce their cost of living, and to make their home more affordable. It’s a really good project to be a part of.” •
Photos courtesy of Texas Flip N Move/DIY Network and SWD