Q&A with Alex Schuts

Alex Schuts is the owner of Insta-Insulation, has worked in the spray foam insulation industry for 22 years and is a spray foam installer for DIY and renovation shows such as Holmes on Homes, Disaster DIY and Love it or List It among others.

Marketplace spoke with him in Scotland,Ontario and in Bothwell, Ontario.

Q: Why do you like spray foam insulation?

Alex: I like spray foam because it seals. It’s got a very good R value, but the sealing aspect of the product helps it work better . We know that 40% of heat loss or energy loss in the home is due to air infiltration and exfiltration so if you seal it you create an air-tight barrier. …

When it’s installed properly it’s really a bullet proof product.

Q: Is spray foam a green product?

Alex: Spray foam definitely is a green product. People always associate green with natural products, but really green is a product that will reduce the carbon footprint of a home (or) building…
When you reduce your energy consumption in a home by 40-50% , which is typical for spray foam over any other, it’s going to be 40-50% more efficient right off the top.  Not talking 10 years down the road….
It’s green because it reduces the amount of fuel you consume in the home or in the building.

Q: What do you think of companies that promote the soy products and their recycled materials in spray foam as making it green?

Alex:  It’s misleading. It’s very misleading. There’s not enough soy in the product to really say

And one way that I can explain that is: spray foam is made of 2 components. You’ve got the  polyol ( B Side) and you got your isocyanates:  50%, 50%.
Well, the first 50% - the isocyanates - is a raw material so there’s no soy in that at all. 
The polyol contains a percentage of soy …so therefore for something to be soy based or something based, at least half of it would need to be that product, right?  And in this case not even 2%, I imagine, is soy of the entire product.
So we’re not talking about splitting hairs, it’s not even close.

Q: Where should homeowners be during the spray foam procedure?

Alex: When spray foam is going on, the homeowner or the occupants of the home should be out of the home for a minimum of 24 hours. During and after ... so if we’re doing a job in the morning, don’t come back until at least the following morning.

And the standards say 24 hours and so it’s written in all our templated quotations and estimates. 

We have our salespeople tell them.  We have our scheduler remind them.. Yeah, you need to be out of your home for 24 hours.

Q:  So if a company isn’t giving that information out, or not being as thorough, what does that say?

Alex:  I think you’d have to second-guess who you’re hiring.

Q: How easy is it to install Spray Foam?

Alex: If you come walking off the street and throw a person in the truck and ...pull the trigger on the gun and if you can get actually make foam, that would be a landmark. That would be a milestone of some sort…it’s not simple, and you don’t just pick up the gun and start spraying. The gun may spray for 30 seconds and it may look like decent foam but if you don’t know what you’re doing it well, it’s not, it’s not easy.

Q:  How dangerous are the chemicals that you use?

Alex:  How dangerous are the chemicals that we use?

The polyol resin - it’s what you smell - this is the stuff that could actually be harmful. Overexposure to anything is probably bad.

The isocyanates on the other hand, you don’t smell it. That’s what the irritant is, it’s a lung irritant, that’s what you’d become sensitized to,  although both these chemicals could potentially be an irritant or dangerous to somebody, right?
That’s why we ask people to leave for 24 hours because you don’t know who’s hyper-sensitive to what and you want to make sure you protect yourself. And you know, that’s what we do ... Nothing is dangerous with the proper protection.

Q: You said you’re seeing a lot more contractors than you’ve seen in the last couple years?

Alex: There’s a lot more contractors out there then there was 10 years ago. I don’t know the exact number….  every day we just run into somebody else that we either compete against, but we don’t compete against for a long time.
A lot of guys get into the business for the right reasons. They want to obviously make money, but also they want to do a good job and they find out it’s not as easy to do. Spray foam is not an easy process ... it’s dirty, and then they can’t find the talent to do it. They don’t want to train, don’t want to take the time and they start cutting corners, try to make money that way. And then they start doing bad jobs ...

Q: What happens if they cut corners?

Alex: What can happen when you cut corners is the workmanship isn’t as good. But when it’s installed properly, it’s really a bullet proof product, right. You’re going to have no moulds. You’ll have minimal moisture moving through it. Normal temperatures, normal moisture drives. Really really good product.  But the shortcomings of it are that if you don’t install it properly, the pieces that aren’t sprayed properly are that much more evident. What I mean by that is:  if you insulate something and it’s 90% perfect, the other 10% is going to show up quicker because moisture moves from hot to cold:  that area’s a lot colder, therefore the heat is moving towards that area.  So you’ll find that if areas are done really poorly, that those areas will get wet and then produce mould,  right? So that’s one of things about the product.

Q: In your view, based on your knowledge of the industry, how common is it for installers to have to take out foam?

Alex: It’s rare. It’s rare.  It’s happening more now than probably in the past because there’s a lot more newer contractors out there.

We don’t have this very often.

Q: In your view then, if an installer gets it wrong, are they obliged to fix it do you think?

Alex: Damn right. Yeah, if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing – fix it.