Spray Polyurethane Foam Provides an Energy-Efficient Facelift for Toronto Home
BY JUAN SAGARBARRIA
When seeking a place to call home in the Toronto area, architect Christine Lolley had two pre-requisites: That the home be in close proximity to her architecture firm’s office and that the home was as energy-efficient as possible. Her firm, Solares Architecture, specializes in luxurious and energy-efficient residential restorations and Lolley’s intention was that her home be the epitome of these practices at work. More specifically, her personal mission entailed turning an inefficient home into a high-performance building she could live in by way of her own restoration methods – talk about practicing what you preach.
After a meticulous search, Lolley found the perfect home for her project: A two-story, 1,725 square-foot brick masonry construction tucked away in the heart of downtown Toronto. It was only a short walk from the office but a far distance in terms of livability, requiring a long makeover process. Upon acquiring the home, Lolley had a certified auditor conduct an energy audit performed on her home that revealed an EnerGuide rating of 38 out of 100. This low-energy rating denoted the home’s dire need for a deep energy retrofit.
One of the first things that Lolley noticed was that the home had no insulation. In line with her energy-efficient designs, Lolley wanted to make her home airtight, as well as downsize the energy used by the home’s HVAC system. To attain both of these things, optimal insulation can be a crucial catalyst. Being a firm believer in the cutting-edge insulating properties of spray polyurethane foam (SPF), Lolley decided this was the best type of insulation to use during the home’s retrofit and brought in Callrich Eco Services (CES) to apply SPF to the home.
“We use spray polyurethane foam in our load-bearing brick home renovations, so I thought ‘why should mine have been any different?’” said Lolley. “Spray foam creates an airtight seal around the home and it has the highest R-value per inch. It is not susceptible to moisture and it bends and conforms to whatever type of brick wall you install it to, as opposed to fiberglass insulation, which can turn into moldy mush if you tried to put it on a brick wall.”
By the time the CES crew got on site, the interior of the home was stripped down to its masonry brick walls, and only the roof and floor joists remained. To mitigate thermal bridging, two-by-four wall studs were built an inch away from the brick walls. Additionally, a subcontractor had installed six inches of polyiso board over the home’s roof deck to provide outbound insulation. The SPF application took place during the harsh Canadian winter, so it wasn’t an easy, in-and-out application for CES’ Rich Krechowicz and his partner, who faced some significant challenges along the way. In fact, it took the two-man crew four days to complete the application, which consisted of applying closed-cell spray foam to the exterior walls and basement of the home, and open-cell spray foam to the underside of the roof.
“We could have probably completed the application in less time if the circumstances were different, but we had to deal with a few snow banks that had formed along the property – so it was difficult to get close to the building,” said Krechowicz. “Because of this, we had to devise ways to keep the material consistently warm so that the application was done correctly.”
Krechowicz noted that they parked their spray rig 30 feet away from the property and they utilized Styrofoam blocks to elevate their hose so that it wasn’t in contact with the cold ground, thus preventing an inconsistency in the temperature of the materials. Once inside, the CES crew prepped the home by masking off the doors, floor, and windows for overspray damage protection. The crew was outfitted with PPE that included spray suits, supplied-fresh-air respirators, gloves, and boots.
Using a Graco Reactor E-30 proportioner and a Graco Fusion AP spray gun, the CES crew first worked on the area between the wall studs in the exterior walls of the living areas and basement installing four inches of Icynene’s ProSeal Eco, a 2 lb. closed-cell spray polyurethane foam. The closed-cell SPF provided an R27 and it was applied in one-lift passes to become flush with the studs. Then, the crew turned their attention to the roof deck, which was protected by polyiso board. They sprayed six inches of Icynene’s Classic Plus, a 0.5 lb. open-cell spray foam. The combination of closed-cell and open-cell sealed the home’s envelope, generating a vast impact on the home’s energy efficiency: The HVAC system works less while the indoor climate stays ideal for the home’s residents.
“In terms of air sealing and thermal value, spray foam is the most effective kind of insulation in the market,” said Krechowicz. “Because there’s less heat loss, it enables the resident to minimize the use of their HVAC system while maintaining a comfortable temperature inside the home. In places like Toronto, this is important because folks can stay warm without having to pay exorbitant energy bills. Spray foam will provide this home with many years of comfort and energy efficiency.”
The entire retrofit project took nearly nine months to complete. Right before she and her husband moved in, Lolley had another energy audit performed on the home – one that produced jaw-dropping results. The EnerGuide rating of 38 skyrocketed to a rating of 83; a result that justified the efforts rendered throughout the retrofit project. The energy-efficient designs that were implemented during the home’s restoration, which included spray foam insulation, facilitated an 84 percent reduction of the home’s overall energy use.
Now living in the home, Lolley and her husband relish in the comfort derived from their retrofit. She elucidated the benefits of SPF by revealing an anecdote she and her husband went away for three days during a time when it was -13ºF degrees in Toronto. They had turned off the HVAC equipment while they were away and were taken by surprise when they returned and saw that the thermostat only revealed a four-degree deficit.
“Our HVAC equipment is minimally used,” said Lolley. “I have to admit that our heating is rarely on. Once it’s warm inside the house, it stays warm.”