Warm Relationships & Warm Buildings: How RVI Works with Area Home Builders

Industry News

At RVI, providing building science services to our region is our primary goal. However, we know we couldn’t serve as many people as we do if we didn’t also have excellent working relationships with area builders.

We’ve been working alongside builders for over 20 years. We are proud to help them maximize home performance for the sustainable, healthy, and energy-efficient homes that the market demands.

These synergistic relationships benefit not only RVI, but the builders, the contractors, and ultimately, the end-user of the buildings.

Sometimes we are approached about performing a job that we don’t feel is aligned with building science best practice. Here’s a recent example of how we recently handled a request like this, while maintaining our relationship with a key partner and still performing work that we’re proud to stand behind.

The Proposal

Recently, a respected builder that we have worked on a few projects with, approached us with engineer drawings and proposed insulation specs for a renovation. Upon reviewing the proposal, our team had reservations about some of the recommendations.

The proposal requested the installation of closed-cell spray foam insulation inside an unvented roof deck. Generally, the reason for a request like this is to maximize usable space above the ceiling level.

RVI President Sam Hartmann pointed out why he disagreed with the request.

A closed, unvented roof deck is not advisable in our harsh climate. In an unvented roof deck, the bottom of a deep snowpack will eventually become too warm and begin to melt. In turn, this melting causes ice dams to form at the eaves. Anyone who’s dealt with these know how much damage they can cause.

Unvented roof decks that use spray foam insulation are also difficult to repair, should a tree or limb damage the roof.

A roof will see seasonal expansion and contraction. Although the foam itself is a stable product, it will begin to crack and create gaps — sometimes after a few short years — due to the seasonal changes in the sheathing and framing components of the roof. This greatly reduces its ability to fully insulate the building.

What’s more, foam is expensive, off-gasses for years, and is known to be combustible.

Combined, these potential issues made RVI concerned that this particular job posed too great of a risk of failure.

The RVI Solution

For this particular insulation job, RVI instead drafted a counter-proposal. We outlined the reasons why spray foam was likely to fail and instead suggested a more conventional approach using cellulose insulation.

The suggested approach called for a vented roof deck with air-impermeable wind blocking, cellulose loose-fill insulation, and sealants made to withstand seasonal expansion and contraction.

Not only would the suggested approach cost less, but it would also ensure the building would perform flawlessly in every Wisconsin season — all without the same risk of failure that spray foam presented.

Fostering Relationships, One Proposal at a Time

The most important part of what we do at RVI is to create and maintain efficient, high-performance, healthy homes for our customers.

When faced with a proposal or request to perform a job that we know is not the best solution, we are always willing to discuss the reason why we disagree with a proposed solution.

And beyond that, we will offer alternatives to both builders and homeowners that we know will get them the best result, whether it makes our company more money or not.

In our decades of experience, we’ve learned that in addition to expertise and superior work, honest communication is an integral part of fostering trusted relationships with builders and contractors in our area.

After all, the work we do impacts the performance of the building for decades to come. All aspects of construction need to be looked at holistically to build quality homes with exceptional performance and durable materials.

If you’re a Northern Wisconsin home builder ready to find a partner for air sealing and insulation, we hope you’ll get in touch with RVI now. Let’s see how our services can benefit you and your customer.

Since inception in 2000, RVI has been a leader in innovative Air Sealing and Insulating Systems. A family, faith, customer, and community-focused business, RVI is owned and operated by Sam and Ashly Hartmann (pictured above with their children) in their hometown of Rhinelander, WI.


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