When George Shimi of Everest Insulation in Toronto invited me to spend a day working with him insulating a huge new home in Forest Hill Ontario, I accepted without hesitation. I did so because George is a great guy whose fun to be around, and because I’d never seen a spray foam contractor at work before – not many people have.
Spray Foam contractors work alone in empty construction sites due to the trip hazard caused by their hoses and because of the dangerous fumes created in the application process. George has just one solitary helper on site, and they both wear masks. For a couple hours in March 2017 I came on board to help the helper, and I wore a mask too.
On that crisp March 2017 morning, I drove to the site and discovered the green Everest SPF truck parked out front of a giant wooden shell that would someday be a gorgeous five-bedroom Toronto home. The old truck had its sturdy automatic tailgate halfway down and was open in the back.
Inside the truck was the beating heart of the operation, a diesel generator powered a professional grade GRACO Spray Foam Proportioner and hydraulic pump. Owning and operating a hydraulic system is a mark of distinction for any spray foam contractor, especially in Canada where our longer winters greatly reduce the spray foam season.
Everest Insulation’s GRACO brand Spray Foam Proportioner propels the success of this all-star independent SPF contractor, and can deliver upwards of 50 lbs of foam per minute.
There was a lot of work to do. The giant timber framed mansion shell has about three hundred linear feet of ten-foot-high walls, and as such will require approximately 3000 square feet of insulation! That’s an epic undertaking for any SPF contractor.
George had stocked up the truck again that morning, loading three more barrels of Heatlok Soy 200 Plus liquid foam into the back of the truck. This is as much as the Everest SPF truck can carry at one time. The three new barrels of resin would make just over a thousand pounds of foam insulation here on the job site, and applying that material will occupy George for about three days. But even this extra resin and time won’t be enough for the team to finish this job.
George uses Heatlok Soy 200 Plus which is a high quality closed cell spray foam made in Canada by the Denilac corporation in Quebec. Their popular Heatlok 200 brand spray foam is made from as much as 14 % renewable and recycled content, and that includes ground-up and liquefied plastic water bottles and Eco friendly and sustainable vegetable oils, mostly soy.
As mentioned earlier, one of the advantages of using a hydraulic system is that George can start earlier in the year. But not too early. The Heatlok SPF needs room temperatures to expand correctly and for the closed cells to form properly and harden.
Over the winter, George cannot work as the foam won’t work in the cold temperatures. So this highly specialized contractor uses his time off to upgrade and repair his equipment and rehabilitate his own mind and body. That used to mean trips south to tropical islands but now he has a young family and different values.
Last winter, George received Pilates based physiotherapy in downtown Toronto with an action plan to help him exercise his shoulders and spine. These parts of his body are showing signs of wear. The SPF contractor’s back and shoulders take the constant strain of climbing up and down scaffolding with the heavy hoses and nozzle gun.
In the picture below George is pointing up at one of the most difficult surfaces to foam – the high ceiling in the adjoining residential garage requires standing on scaffolding and constantly spraying and working over head. This is back-breaking labour.
The hardest spots for George to apply foam are the tricky corners and attic crawlspaces, and the contractor takes special care around pipes and plumbing fixtures in what will one day be a well-appointed bathroom and luxury stainless steel kitchen. One of the advantages of using spray foam is how well it uniformly covers such piping where other material can leave gaps. A common complaint with fiberglass insulation is how it frequently leaves voids that result in annoying drafts and cold pipes. This doesn’t happen with spray foam insulation.
The spray foam gun is the artist’s paintbrush and as such the most often replaced piece of equipment in the SPF contractor’s tool chest. Not many folks realize that its inside this gun, at the nozzle that the Space Age material combines with a chemical reagent that causes a reaction which converts the SPF resin into thick insulating foam. The fluids combine in mid-air and the reaction continues minutes after the material lands on the wall – it forms closed cells and hardens.
George Shimi’s skill at wielding the nozzle gun leaves a thin coat of foam on the wooden studs and two inches of foam on the wall. His helper follows along behind with a sharp blade and trims away excess foam from interior surfaces. The drywall installers will thank them for that later.
There will be a gap between the spray foam and the drywall, but filling this void will not yield any extra R value to the house. Additionally, many different tests prove spray foam coated walls deter insects and mice. The insulation is two inches thick on the exterior walls. Everest specializes in making a complete SPF seal that encapsulates the whole building, even in the garage and sunroom areas. If one square foot was removed and weighed, the mass of hard foam insulation collected would weigh two pounds. This is the most efficacious application density which will result in the highest R value possible for this insulation product, and any homeowner would be hard pressed to find a better solution.
Photos by Rob Campbell – All Rights Reserved