Advantages of Spray Foam Insulation in New Homes - featured image

Updated 12/15/2023

Are you building a new home and considering which insulation to use? With so many new home insulation options, it can be overwhelming to make a decision. However, one type of insulation that is gaining popularity is spray foam insulation.

Let’s take a look at why using spray foam insulation in new homes has become one of our most popular options here at Lakeshore Custom Homes!

Traditionally, fiberglass batts or blown-in cellulose have been the go-to insulation choices for homes. However, spray foam insulation offers many advantages that make it an attractive option for new home construction.

Spray foam insulation can provide superior insulation, air sealing, and moisture control, and reduced energy consumption compared to traditional insulation methods.

What is Spray Foam Insulation?

Spray foam insulation is a two-component material that expands and hardens upon application, creating an insulating and air-sealing barrier. This foam sticks to surfaces, fills gaps and provides a barrier that prevents air leakage and helps keep heat inside during cold weather and outside during hot weather, making the building more energy efficient.

Two spray foam insulation types exist:

  1. Open-cell spray foam: This type of foam has a lower density and expands more upon application. The resulting foam structure has interconnected cells, which allows for some air and moisture permeability. Open-cell spray foam has a lower R-value per inch (typically around 3.5 to 4 per inch) than closed-cell foam, but it can still provide adequate insulation and soundproofing. It is generally more affordable than closed-cell foam.
  2. Closed-cell spray foam: With a higher density and more compact cell structure, closed-cell foam forms a rigid, impermeable barrier that resists moisture and air infiltration. In addition, it has a higher R-value per inch (typically around 6 to 7 per inch), making it a more effective insulator. The closed-cell foam adds structural strength to the building and is more water damage-resistant. However, closed-cell spray foam is usually more expensive than open-cell foam.

Spray foam insulation is applied using specialized equipment that mixes and sprays the two liquid components onto the surface to be insulated, such as walls, ceilings, or floors. The foam expands to fill gaps, cracks, and crevices, conforming to the shape of the cavity and forming a continuous, airtight insulation layer.

 What Are the Benefits of Spray Foam Insulation?

Using foam insulation when building a house in Northern Michigan offers several advantages due to the region’s cold climate and unique environmental conditions. Some of the main benefits include:

  • High R-value: Foam insulation provides a high R-value per inch, which measures the material’s resistance to heat flow. This means better thermal performance, ideal for insulating houses in cold climates.
  • Air sealing: Foam insulation, especially spray foam, can fill wall cavities, gaps and cracks, forming an air barrier. This reduces drafts and air infiltration, increasing the home’s energy efficiency and comfort.
  • Moisture resistance: Closed-cell foam insulation can resist moisture, potentially preventing mold and mildew growth, particularly in areas with high humidity or water exposure.
  • Structural strength: Closed-cell spray foam can add structural strength to walls and roofs, increasing the overall stability and durability of the building.
  • Pest resistance: Foam insulation is less attractive to pests such as rodents and insects than other insulation materials, reducing the likelihood of infestations.
  • Soundproofing: Foam insulation offers better soundproofing than other insulation materials, helping to reduce noise transmission between rooms and from outside the house.
  • Ease of installation: Spray foam insulation can be easily applied to difficult-to-reach areas, such as around electrical outlets, plumbing, and irregularly shaped spaces, ensuring complete coverage and improved insulation performance. This reduces the time and effort needed during the installation process, saving labor costs, and minimizing disruptions to the construction timeline.
  • Longevity and durability: Foam insulation has a long lifespan and maintains its performance characteristics over time, reducing the need for replacement or maintenance.
  • Energy savings and lower energy bills: The enhanced insulation performance of foam materials can lead to significant energy savings, reducing heating and cooling costs for homeowners in Northern Michigan’s cold climate.
  • Environmentally friendly: Some foam insulation products are made from renewable or recycled materials, reducing the environmental impact of the insulation. Additionally, energy savings from using foam insulation contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Overall, using foam insulation when building a house in Northern Michigan can provide numerous benefits regarding energy efficiency, comfort, durability, and environmental impact. These advantages make foam insulation popular for homeowners and builders in cold climates.

 Frequently Asked Questions

What are the differences between open-cell and closed-cell spray foam insulation?

Open-cell foam has a lower density, lower R-value per inch (around 3.5 to 4) and is more permeable to air and moisture. As a result, it is generally more affordable than closed-cell foam. On the other hand, closed-cell foam has a higher density and R-value per inch (around 6 to 7) and forms a rigid, impermeable barrier that resists moisture and air infiltration. It also adds structural strength to the building.

How much does spray foam insulation cost?

The cost of spray foam insulation is determined by various factors, including the type of material used (open-cell or closed-cell), labor costs, and the size and complexity of the project. On average, open-cell foam costs between $0.35 to $0.55 per board foot, while closed-cell foam costs between $1.00 to $1.50 per board foot.
Please note that pricing is subject to change, and the size and scope of the project can influence the final price.

What is the R-value of spray foam insulation?

The R-value of open-cell spray foam is typically around 3.5 to 4 per inch, while the R-value of closed-cell spray foam is around 6 to 7 per inch. The R-value measures the material’s resistance to heat flow, with higher R-values providing better insulation performance.

Is spray foam insulation safe for my home and the environment?

Spray foam insulation is generally considered safe when installed correctly by professionals. However, it can release chemicals during installation and curing, so proper ventilation and safety precautions are crucial. In addition, some spray foam products are made from renewable or recycled materials, making them more environmentally friendly. In contrast, the energy savings associated with foam insulation can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

How long does spray foam insulation last?

Spray foam insulation has a long lifespan and can maintain its performance characteristics for decades. In addition, it is resistant to degradation and settling, which makes it a durable insulation solution.

Does spray foam insulation provide soundproofing benefits?

Yes, spray foam insulation benefits soundproofing by reducing noise transmission between rooms and outside the house. Open-cell foam is particularly effective at absorbing and dampening sound due to its less dense and more porous structure.

How does spray foam insulation affect indoor air quality?

During installation and curing, spray foam insulation can release chemicals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can affect indoor air quality. Therefore, proper ventilation and safety precautions during installation are essential. However, once cured, spray foam insulation typically does not emit significant VOCs or contribute to poor indoor air quality. Since the insulation is applied early in the initial construction timeline, this is rarely a concern for the homeowner when the house is completed.

What are the energy savings associated with spray foam insulation?

Spray foam insulation can yield significant energy savings due to its high R-value, air-sealing properties, and moisture resistance. Of course, the energy savings will depend on the home’s design, local climate, and occupant behavior, but homeowners can expect reduced heating and cooling costs.

Can spray foam insulation be applied to any surface or area in my home?

Spray foam insulation can be applied to various surfaces and areas, including walls, ceilings, floors, attics, and crawl spaces. It is instrumental in hard-to-reach or irregularly shaped spaces where traditional insulation materials may not provide complete coverage.

Can spray foam insulation cause damage to my home or its structural components?

When installed correctly, spray foam insulation should not cause damage to your home or its structural components. However, improper installation or using the wrong type of foam for a specific application can result in issues such as trapped moisture, mold growth, or structural damage. Therefore, working with a professional installer must ensure the correct foam type and proper installation techniques are followed.

Which is the correct type of spray foam insulation for my project?

Consider factors such as the desired R-value, moisture resistance, structural reinforcement, and budget when choosing the right type of spray foam insulation. Consulting with a professional installer or energy auditor can help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs and home characteristics.

What other insulation options are there besides spray foam?

There are several alternatives to spray foam insulation, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Some popular options include:

  • Fiberglass batts: These pre-cut sections of insulation made from fine glass fibers are popular due to their affordability and ease of installation, though they may not provide the same air sealing as spray foam.
  • Mineral wool: Also known as rock wool or slag wool, mineral wool is made from rock, slag, or recycled materials. It offers excellent fire resistance and soundproofing properties but can be more expensive than fiberglass.
  • Cellulose: Made from recycled paper products, cellulose insulation, is an eco-friendly option. It can be blown in or installed as dense-packed cellulose, providing good thermal performance and soundproofing. However, it may settle over time, reducing its effectiveness.
  • Rigid foam board: Rigid foam insulation, made from various types of plastic, is available in different thicknesses. It has a higher R-value per inch than fiberglass or cellulose and is often used in exterior applications or new construction.

Deciding On What Type of Insulation to Use

When choosing an insulation material, consider factors such as R-value, moisture resistance, air sealing capabilities, environmental impact, fire resistance, soundproofing properties, and cost. The right insulation for your new home will depend on your specific needs and budget.

In conclusion, spray foam insulation is a great choice for building energy-efficient homes as it provides a high R-value, air-sealing properties, and moisture resistance.

At Lakeshore Custom Homes, we specialize in building energy-efficient homes using spray foam insulation. We have an experienced team of installers who can help you ensure your new home is properly insulated and sealed for maximum energy efficiency.

Please view our portfolio to see examples of some of the finest homes in Northern Michigan.

Are you ready to make your dream home a reality?
Contact us today
to make an appointment to discuss your home-building plans. We’ll be with you every step of the way to guide you to the perfect home.

Building an Energy Efficient Custom Home - featured image

(Updated 12/15/22)

When planning your Northern Michigan custom home, energy efficiency is a special consideration, especially with the harsh winters we often experience.

One of the best things about building a new custom home is that it lets you get things right from the start. The planning stage is the perfect opportunity to make sure all the things you wish were different in your current home are done right when planning and building your new home. When building an energy-efficient custom home, we consider various factors determining efficiency.

Home Layout and the Sun

When designing your home, keep in mind how the sun will track across the property throughout the day and each season. Will windows receive adequate light or too much? How will this affect your heating and cooling? Will you need additional daytime interior lighting to be comfortable? Will you use solar panels, and will they have adequate direct sunshine?

Trees and landscaping can help or hinder. Shade is welcome, but trees can sometimes block sunlight where you would otherwise want it. Will you need to plant, trim, or remove trees?

Insulation

Insulation serves two purposes; It retains heat during the winter and keeps heat out in summer. As a result, insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your home’s energy performance. And, of course, it is always easier and less expensive to add insulation during the construction process rather than later.

While many brands and types of insulation are available, the most critical factor is their proper use and installation based on your actual blueprint and design. We discuss this with each prospective customer to offer the absolute best outcome.

Regardless of the insulation type, Lakeshore Custom Homes always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions to ensure the best performance and longevity.

Sealing and Caulking

We pay special attention to sealing places that can allow air to enter or exit the home. These places can also allow moisture in as well. Typically, these locations are windows and doors, and where exhaust fans, dryer vents, plumbing, electrical outlets, and utilities penetrate through exterior walls or roofing.

We apply the appropriate caulk or sealant depending on the location, the materials to be sealed, and any additional flashings or fittings.

We are incredibly attentive to sealing and insulating where the sill plate, band board, and floor joists meet. These can lead to energy losses if not tended to properly.

Windows and Doors

Energy-efficient windows and proper installation, sealing, and insulation can significantly impact your energy efficiency.

We recommend ENERGY STAR® rated windows from Andersen, Marvin, Simonton, and Windsor. Each company offers a wide variety of styles and finishes and has warranties that back up their quality.

Window treatments, curtains, and blinds also influence your windows’ overall energy efficiency.

Also, see our in-depth article Choosing Windows For Your Custom Home.

Heating and Cooling

Now that your future home will be well insulated and properly sealed, an energy-efficient heating and cooling system will perform even better. Properly sizing the heating and cooling system to match the size of your home is important. This allows the system to operate efficiently and to be the most cost-effective.

Ductwork

One area that is frequently overlooked is ductwork. Part of doing it right from the very start includes sealing ducts. Unfortunately, in the hundreds of feet of ductwork in a typical home, there are countless places where air can leak. Air losses here only make your heating and cooling system work that much harder and drives up utility bills.

Sealing the seams of your ductwork prevents air from escaping and improves the efficiency of your heating and cooling system. This reduces energy losses, helps control moisture, and creates a more temperature-stable environment.

Insulating ductwork where it passes through crawl spaces will also increase your heating and cooling efficiency and help control condensation and moisture.

Solar Electric

Solar panels are gaining popularity in Northern Michigan. This is due to more efficient panels, favorable tax incentives for homeowners, and cooperation with electric utility companies to buy excess power produced by individual homeowners. If you are considering a solar system, we can work with you and our electricians to ensure that your needs are met.

Water Heaters

Selecting the right size water heater that meets your needs is an important decision. Overly large heaters can waste energy and money. Too small can do the same (not to mention being annoying and inconvenient). On-demand  or tankless water heaters might be the right choice and can be used with traditional water heaters to provide adequate and timely hot water when and where you need it. We also insulate all hot water pipes to help keep the water warm and reduce energy costs.

Household Appliances

Besides heating and cooling, your major appliances, such as refrigerators, ranges, ovens, washers, and dryers, account for most of your utility costs. Look for ENERGY STAR® ratings when selecting these. Don’t forget lightbulbs, home entertainment, and computers either.

Smart Home Features

Technology can help automatically manage your heating, cooling, and lighting costs. For additional information, see our article that discusses Smart Homes in detail.

Backup Generators

While not necessarily related to energy efficiency, it is worth considering during the planning stages. For example, suppose a backup generator is desired. In that case, we can ensure that the electric system is designed to accommodate a generator. Even if you don’t install one right away, this can save you time and money should you decide to install one later.

View our portfolio to see examples of some of the finest homes in Northern Michigan.

Are you ready to make your dream home a reality?
Please contact us today
to make an appointment to discuss your home-building plans. We’ll be with you every step of the way to guide you to the perfect home.

Moisture Control for Your Northern Michigan Custom Home - featured image

Moisture control is one of the most critical concerns when building a quality custom home. Northern Michigan’s climate has abundant rain and snow that must be managed to maintain a dry and healthy home.

Excess or unwanted moisture inside your home can lead to mold and mildew, wood rot, damage insulation, and even attract termites and other pests.

Lakeshore Custom Homes takes special care and consideration when planning and building your new home, from the foundation to the roof and everything in between.

Keeping Moisture Out of The Home Is the First Line of Defense

Site Prep and Foundation

Preparing your building site is the very first step. Next, we examine the building site and determine the proper grading to help move water away from the house.

Then the foundation is designed with drainage to move water away from the house. Next, waterproof coatings are added to the exterior of the foundation to keep moisture out. Finally, depending on the water table, a sump pump system may be required and, if so, designed to evacuate the water efficiently.

Vapor barriers are used in crawl spaces to prevent moisture that can rise from the soil.

Siding

Before exterior siding is applied, we wrap the home with a water-resistant membrane. This membrane protects the wood from any moisture that might find its way past the siding and protects the home during construction. In addition, we use treated wood in appropriate locations to ensure longevity.

This wrap is carefully overlapped into window and door openings so that when the windows and doors are installed, a waterproof barrier is present to help avoid moisture from finding its way inside. In addition, windows and doors receive flashings to create an overlapping physical barrier and help move moisture away from their framework.

Any holes to accommodate exhaust fans, dryer vents, plumbing, electrical outlets, and utilities also receive similar treatment to keep moisture out. Additionally, caulking is used where necessary to create a pliable seal that can accommodate temperature changes and avoid cracking over time.

Roofing

Modern roofs are designed to move water, ice, and snow away from the house and protect the underlying insulation and air gap within the attic space.

Shingles and a water-resistant underlayment protect the underlying roofing materials and allow the water to drain away. In addition, gutters and downspouts provide a means to direct the water further away from the home and foundation.

Regardless of which roofing material you choose, we always follow the manufacturer’s installation guidelines to achieve the best results and protect your investment.

Special attention is given to roof valleys, dormers, gables, chimneys, skylights, and vents since these all need appropriate flashings.

Ventilation of the attic area is essential so that this space remains dry and allows the insulation to create an effective thermal barrier. In addition, ventilation helps eliminate condensation that can occur as outside temperatures fluctuate. Soffit and ridge vents are the most common method of achieving this. However, other techniques might be used depending on your individual home design.

Special Considerations for Ice and Snow

During the freezes-thaw cycle of winter and as winter ends and spring arrives, melting snow and ice need proper drainage.

Step flashings are critical in northern Michigan due to our large snowfalls. We are mindful of how snow may drift and accumulate on your roof. When the snow melts, it could seep behind the siding. To prevent this, we install appropriate flashing that creates an additional barrier and directs the moisture away.

Ice barriers prevent water from collecting between the edge of the shingles and the underlying wooden roof structure. A special membrane underlayment is used to protect the wooden roof decking. Heated eaves are a potential option that can help prevent ice dams. Contact us so we can discuss the pros and cons of this based on your roof and home design.

Controlling Moisture Inside Your Home

While Northern Michigan isn’t terribly humid, our changing seasons and variable weather mean that all homes will have a certain degree of moisture inside.

One of the ironies of creating a tightly sealed home is that while it can keep moisture out, it can also trap moisture inside. This means that extra attention to ventilation is important.

Cooking and bathing are two significant sources of moisture that can be controlled with ventilation. Range hoods and bathroom ventilation fans are the norms in modern homes.

Condensation from central air systems can be controlled by insulating ductwork. In addition, whole-house dehumidifiers and moisture extraction systems can help manage the interior air humidity making your home healthier and more comfortable.

Winter will usually mean a drop in humidity. While this is welcome to an extent, too dry of air can make it feel cold, damage wooden furniture, lead to dry, itchy skin and eyes, and can even impair one’s immune system. A well-planned heating and cooling system can address both summer humidity and winter dryness.

Landscaping

Landscaping can play an essential role in managing moisture too. In addition to grading, what you plant can assist in helping to absorb water and minimize erosion. Certain plants absorb more moisture from the soil than others. Also, be sure to leave enough space between the house and shrubs and plants to promote airflow.

Avoid planting trees with wide-spreading root systems, as these can crack or damage the foundation or drainage system. Keep this in mind if your home has a leech field and septic system.

Please view our portfolio to see examples of some of the finest homes in Northern Michigan.

Are you ready to make your dream home a reality?
Contact us today
to make an appointment to discuss your home-building plans. We’ll be with you every step of the way to guide you to the perfect home.

Keeping it Clean – New Construction House Cleaning - featured image

COVID-19 Update
We continue taking precautions to keep our employees and homeowners safe. We are following the guidelines set by the CDC and MIOSHA, during this global pandemic. In addition, we are continuing to build custom homes that will last generations. So give us a call, and we will make your custom home dream come to life.

The following article was originally published in November 2014.

New Construction House Cleaning

Lakeshore Custom Homes is proud that we will always keep our job sites clean. We insist on creating a professional atmosphere at all of our job locations. This should be a standard among all builders, but unfortunately, it isn’t. Keeping a job site clean throughout the entire building process impacts everyone’s safety and helps increase productivity.

New construction house cleaning differs from what many consider “residential cleaning.” It consists of three phases: A Rough Clean, Maintenance Clean, and Final Clean.

  1. Rough Clean

    The “rough” clean-up is performed once the exterior walls and framing of the project are complete. Large debris is removed from the interior as well as the exterior of the building. It generally involves a rough sweep/shop vac of the floors. The goal is to remove and haul away as much debris as possible, remove materials no longer being used, and eliminate as much dust as possible from the work area (including heating vents).

  2. Maintenance Clean

    The “rough” clean-up is performed once the exterior walls and framing of the project are complete. Large debris is removed from the interior as well as the exterior of the building. It generally involves a rough sweep/shop vac of the floors. The goal is to remove and haul away as much debris as possible, remove materials no longer being used, and eliminate as much dust as possible from the work area (including heating vents).

  3. Final Clean

    The “final” clean-up is performed once all the construction has ended and the building is complete. This phase is quite detailed:

      1. Stickers and decals must be removed from all surfaces, including interior and exterior windows.
      2. Putty, paste, and adhesive are removed from floors, tubs, sinks, and showers.
      3. All cabinets and drawers must be vacuumed to remove the dust and then wiped clean.
      4. Floors and carpets are cleaned.
      5. Light fixtures, mirrors, appliances, counters, ceiling fans, vents, hardware, and cabinetry are cleaned.

    A touch-up is sometimes required at the end if a contractor needs to address something on a punch list.

The end result is a turn-key, walk-in-ready home. If you are looking for a reputable builder, don’t hesitate to contact me at Lakeshore Custom Homes at (231) 642-0724.

Sincerely,

Chris Mason, Owner

Please view our portfolio to see examples of some of the finest homes in Northern Michigan.

Are you ready to make your dream home a reality?
Contact us today
to make an appointment to discuss your home-building plans. We’ll be with you every step of the way to guide you to the perfect home.