Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ten Thousand Pounds of Insulation

Whenever we pick up a magazine these days, it’s common to see articles entitled “Seven Steps to a Green Home,” “Affordable Solar Energy” or “Create the Perfect Home with Alternative Building Systems.” We get a little chuckle when we read those articles because we continue to be reminded that those seven steps are not necessarily simple or affordable, and the definition of “perfect” encompasses a range as broad as the Rockies. However, when it came time to insulate the roof of our house, the nexus of simplicity, affordability and perfection seemed to land very neatly on our doorstep.

When we left the house in November, 16-inch scissor trusses had been set in place on top of the interior sheathing. Off and on throughout December, subcontractor Kirk Chappel and his employee, Brian Briel, added the exterior roof sheathing and built the east and west gable end walls. Our next task was to fill the cavity between the interior and exterior roof sheathing with insulation.

Wayne, our architect, designed an unvented roof that would have an approximate r-value of 60. To achieve this, we would use cellulose insulation purchased from Mountain Fiber Insulation in Hyrum, Utah. You might ask why we would bring insulation all the way from Cache Valley to Torrey when we could have, perhaps more easily, purchased it from Loa Builders. That is a fair question especially considering our determination to use local products and employ local people.

For us, there are two "locals." We chose to work with this Cache Valley business because the product is made from 100% recycled paper, it fit our needs exactly, we know the owners personally, they allowed us to use their heavy-duty equipment free of charge and they gave us a great deal.

Scott arrived in Torrey on January 11, one day prior to the semitruck delivery of 484 bales of insulation. With the help of Kirk and Brian, in less than four days, that insulation had disappeared inside our roof, and Scott was back in Logan the following Sunday. Here’s what happened, step by step.

This is our roof as we left it last November. Notice the 16-inch scissor trusses. The insulation will be blown between and across the trusses.

Here, on January 11, it looks like the roof is essential done, but the space between the interior and exterior sheathing is empty. In must be filled with insulation.

The insulation begins its life as 100% recycled paper - the crossword puzzles, comics, magazines and phone books we throw away every day.

This machine shreds, grinds and pulverizes the paper...

into cellulose insulation that is then treated with 100% borate fire retardant that also provides fungicide protection.

Using the Mountain Fiber equipment, the contents of 398 bales (almost 10,000 pounds) is blown into the roof cavity at a density that is so compact, it will not settle...hence an r-value of 60.

When Scott left Torrey, he brought 86 unused bales of insulation and the machine with him. It was covered with the tarp because it began to rain on the way back to Logan. We were lucky. The rain held off while Scott was working. The weather gods smiled upon us one more time.

Next week, Tyler Torgerson and his crew will install RMax Thermasheath as the next layer on the roof. This is a rigid foam plastic thermal insulation board composed of closed cell, polyisocyanurate foam which is bonded to reinforced aluminum foil facers. Our ASC standing seam metal goes next. Then, and finally, Phillip Winters will be able to install our solar heat exchange panels...all just in time to meet the deadline for our alternative energy grant.


  1. Mary/Scott,
    I've been following your blog for a while and had to comment on this post regarding Mountain Fiber. I used to pick up paper as a kid to take there for scouts, and later took tours there, I know one of their neighbors ( Welch's Sawmill.) and witnessed the fire there first hand. Your use of their products is certainly considered local (which is 500 miles by LEED standards.) and well chosen. I can't think of a better choice for insulation and would probably pick it over straw for various reasons.
    You and Scott took me hiking once to the wind caves as a kid after I had an argument with my neighbor in class. After reaching the top you allowed me to climb up into an upper cave, while jumping down I almost ran off the edge of the cliff and Scott grabbed me. I'm sure you remember who I am, I appreciate your contribution to my life in more ways than one.
    I haven't been able to find your email, I wanted to write personally. I am glad you are doing so well and still undertaking such great projects.



  2. Thanks for the great post! And yikes! Thats a ton of insulation! More like 5! Hahaha.

    -Keystone Contracting Corp.
    Roofing Contractor Brooklyn

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