Foam v Sair Barriers

Since 2005, when the Ag-tite program was introduced to the poultry house insulation industry, we have received a lot of questions. The one question we get the most of is ” What is the difference between a poultry spray foam and AireBarrier “? Actually the answer to this question is very much rooted in our passion to bring to farmers a solution to a very old problem which is how to stop air and moisture from coming into their buildings.

As most farmers know, making something that holds up in the incredibly harsh in the environment which they work in is not an easy task. This is why AireBarrier was created, so that the farmers could be assured they they were receiving a durable air barrier for their energy retrofit project. You see, sealant technology does matter!

Case Study
Foam Insulation Falls Apart
In Less Than 2 Years
Farmer Paid $7,850 Per House In 2007.

1.9 Lb Closed Cell Foam @ 2 ” Thick

The Curtain Opening And Wall Were Sprayed

This case study is unfortunately a familiar story for many farmers who have made a decision to use poultry spray foam in the sidewalls of their poultry house. While poultry spray foam can work in the roof line of many ag buildings, it will not hold up over time in areas where it is exposed to moisture, bugs and heavy equipment. There are many reasons why poultry spray foam will not hold up and we will outline those ideas in this case study.

Before actually looking at the products, it is first constructive to look at agricultural buildings in general. For the most part, they are very large structures and they rely heavily upon inexpensive ventilation systems to force the air from one side of the building to the other. So unlike most other building envelopes, the concern is not necessarily insulation value, but whether the air is moving as is required. If the building is not tight, but leaks a lot of air and water, that in itself will cause tremendous amount of inefficiencies and will of course cost more in energy useage.

Because of these unique dynamics, most of the opportunities to poultry house insulation areas are on the sidewalls which is also where most of the leaks occur. As the building gets older, it moves and racks, thus causing a lot of the joints to ware, crack and open up. When that happens, you change the ventilation flow and in turn, create a lot of other problems so the best change to correct the issues is not to look at the roof, but to find the “Low Hanging Fruit” on the sidewalls.

Old Foam Taken Off Of The Walls
By Using A High Pressure Sprayer

So why doesn’t foam insulation hold up? There are actually many reasons for this which will be listed below but it is important for this discussion to understand how we categorize ” foam “. While there are various types of foam, most are broken down into two categories. One is the Open Cell ( .5 lb ) and the other is Closed Cell ( 1.7lb – 2.0 lb ).

While there are some applications where Closed Cell form insulation could be used, especially in the repair of a roof or ridge cap, there is absolutely no application where an Open Cell foam should be utilized. With that said, for the most part any of the foam insulators should not be applied for the following reasons:

1) It is very difficult if not impossible to spray any foam insulation and leave a smooth surface. This is critical to the durability of any product and as we will discuss later, this is what makes the Ag-tite unique.

2) The foam insulators will leave seems or ridges after they are sprayed and these are areas that darkling beetles can use to gain an access into the material.

3) Foam insulation at lower densities are less likely to adhere to all of the different material that is in an ag building. Because there are so many dissimilar materials like wood, OSB, concrete, plastic and steel, adhesion is a very important issue. The higher the adhesion rate, the more likely it will stay connected over time.

4) Foam insulation, whether .5lb or 2.0lb is basically designed to be used in markets such as residential or commercial. It was not designed for the rigors of agriculture and was in fact designed to covered with some type of protection, like dry wall, after it has been sprayed. There are several chemical blending companies that make polyurethane foam that prohibit it from being left exposed and many suppliers have never gone back to look at their product after it has been sprayed in an ag building to see if it holds up. They just want to sell product and hope for the best.

5) In most cases, energy efficiencies for ag buildings can come primarily when the building is sealed tight. This was proven by Sealant Technologies when they created AireBarrier that was first test sprayed for the 2005 study with Auburn University ( see Poultry Studies ). Because ag buildings rely so much upon ventilation, when you improve that, you gain significant improvements in not only energy, but feed conversion and other production gains.

6) Most open and closed cell foams have a very thin skin, after they have been sprayed and have cured. The first line of protection for any product going into the ag market is the skin and when that is broken, that is when the damage to the product starts. In most cases, the skin on most foams is so thin that you can poke your finger through it. A thick skin is critical to having a durable product.

7) Finally, effectively all foam manufacturing companies focus on selling the open cell ( .5lb ) and closed cell ( 2.0lb ) products which are used primarily for insulation, not for sealing. Most of their customers are in the commercial, industrial or residential business and if they can sell some foam to the ag industry, that is an added bonus but they are unwilling to develop products specifically designed for the agriculture industry. In some cases, they are even willing to just sell the foam and they really are not concerned where it is being sprayed and if it will hold up.

Old Foam Collected On The Floor

So why did the foam in this case study which we are presenting here, fail. There are many reasons why this foam did not even last 2 years. Here are some of those reasons for your consideration:

1) The company that did the work was primarily a company that sprays foam in residential houses. While they did use a 2.0lb form and while it probably looked good after they sprayed it, the fact that the company had not done much work in the agriculture industry left them open to not understanding what they were up against when it came to moisture, bugs, etc.

2) When they did spray the walls, they sprayed the foam just the way that they would do it if they were spraying a residential house. There were many areas on the wall which presented opportunities for the darkling beetles to break past the soft shell and get into the foam.

3) Another aspect that occured over time was that the farmer would spray wash his house on occasion and when he did, the high pressure water would also break through the skin of the foam and cut into the product.

4) The company that applied this foam and blended the foam with a black paint which over time will break down the foam. If a foam is to take on a color, like black or white, it needs to have a very special colorant put into the foam chemistry so that the product doesn’t not break down and so it maintains its color over time.

5) The company that applied this foam to this farm only used one type of product which is very much true in almost all cases. It is impossible to create a very durable project if you only have one type of foam. The application company must have different products for different areas of the house. If they just try to use one product for everything, then it is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. I just won’t work over time.

Old Foam Being Discarded

So what does work? Since 2005, Sealant Technologies has been applying their Ag-tite program and many of these applications are still intact today. While we are constantly working on making our program even more durable each day, we believe that we have found ways to make this technology work for the farmer. They include:

1) Focusing on sealants and not foams. We believe that if the farmer looks for ways to seal up his building verses insulating it, then durability can be achieved.

2) Make sure that the ag sealants have a very hard yet flexible coating after they have cured.

3) Use heavy density chemistry which means that the sealants need to be at least 3.0lb in density.

4) Have different sealants for different areas of the ag building. Ag-Tite has 7 different sealants in three different colors that we can use the customer build you project.

5) Use colorants in your chemistry and not paint.

6) Have a sealant chemistry that has high adhesion. The product must stick to all different types of surfaces, including concrete which is one of the most difficult surfaces stick to.

6) Have trained applicators who are only focused on spraying ag buildings. This is everything. If you focus on ag, then when the project is being worked on, it will be applied, sprayed and finished according to what the farmer needs, not according to some other type of customer.

7) Have different price points including the ability to quote entire solid sidewall projects or simple maintenance jobs.

Agricultural Spray Foam Sealants