New Insulation Tech Makes Life Easier for Installers
(guest post courtesy of Maureen Murray)
When Nathan Leatherman started OD&M Insulation of New Oxford, PA, 12 years ago, he and his crew were firing on all cylinders to handle multi-families and track homes. Now, the father-son run business is focused on custom builders and gutted remodels. Nathan, his son Owen, and another full-time worker, Josiah, handle about two insulation jobs per day. For the past two years, he has transitioned to working with custom builders and remodelers, covering the region of South Central PA – from Adams, York, and the Rt. 81 corridor from Harrisburg to Carlisle, PA.
“I was trying to handle the bigger jobs and it was just not worth the hassle of trying to hire and adjust schedules,” said Nathan. “My workers were sometimes making more than I was, so it was getting crazy.”
As labor issues grip the industry, Nathan has navigated through it by running more lean and going smaller. “My builders will work with me around the schedule and with two weeks’ notice, I can space the jobs out, whereas track builders are on such a tight timeframe they have labor and scheduling issues.”
Part of working with a smaller crew means that materials have to be easy to handle and install, saving time and labor. Purchasing at Lowes, OD&M relies on fiberglass batt as the main material of choice, and Nathan recently discovered a new fiberglass insulation product with advanced fiber technology that just launched in August 2021 by Owens Corning. PINK Next Gen™ Fiberglas™ is a batt insulation product that solves many installation issues, according to Nathan, who has already completed 15 houses with it.
“Fiberglass has a come a long way and is totally different from 15 or 20 years ago.”
“We always look for efficiency to get the job done right,” he said. “PINK Next Gen™ Fiberglas™ is definitely a gentler insulation material. It’s soft to the touch and the pieces don’t stick to you.”
“Recovery out of the package is also a must for the OD&M crew to move from one job to another without delays. “This material springs out the package and puffs right back up, and stands up stiff to set right into the wall cavity,” he said. “It fits tight even in the corners—and slides right into the wall cavity. What a time saver!” Another handling issue Nathan mentioned is much less waste, mess and dust.
Educating customers on material innovation is a continuing effort for Nathan and his crew. “Fiberglass has a come a long way and is totally different from 15 or 20 years ago,” he said. “There were older, cheaper fiberglass materials that were rough to handle, especially in the industrial sector. For that reason, we have to re-educate customers —the builder and homeowner—about the next generation of materials.”
He said there’s nothing more frustrating for his team than to have to keep going over and over the batt with a knife and having it get chewed up. He noted that the PINK Next Gen™ Fiberglas™ batt material cuts cleanly without tearing or snapping, and without the raggedy edges, which home inspectors don’t like to see.
“When it’s installed, inspectors see a nice, smooth surface and homeowners like the smooth look for exposed areas like utility areas of the basement.” He said that with the new fiber technology, "you cut and insert the batt, so you can save an hour or two on each job, which results in a couple hundred bucks saved. I would say it’s much faster than the previous product for sure, less time and labor and easier inspections.”
Since Nathan worked in the large track home sector, he recalls that pros and homeowner expectations are higher and codes stricter today. “These days the houses have to be so dang tight,” he said. “We’re always looking to pass the Blower Door Test, which tests how much air is coming through the house and it needs to pass for the R-Value. We use the R-21 fiberglass batt and find it a great value, so why wouldn’t you use fiberglass?”
For customers, OD&M finds they do care about safe ingredients and sustainability, possibly because of the COVID lockdown and focus on indoor air quality. “Safe ingredients matter,” he said. “Our customers want to know what is behind the walls and in the attic. And since we are touching this stuff every day, we need to feel comfortable with it.” Nathan points to Owens Corning’s use of recycled materials in their fiberglass batt, and no fire retardants because fiberglass is non-combustible. It’s also GreenGuard approved for low VOCs.
According to Nathan, insulation is one of the most important parts of a home. With a whole house approach of energy efficient HVAC systems, air sealing and upgraded fiberglass, it can save on their current heating and cooling bills. Nathan summed it up: “That can translate into reduced callbacks for us or our builders! Who doesn’t love to save on energy and add comfort at the same time?”
For more information on Owens Corning’s PINK Next Gen™ Fiberglas™ visit PINKNextGen.com.