Construction Podcast 64: Easy weatherization projects = profits for Pros – Transcription
Guest: Todd Cox, owner of Weatherization Experts
John Gordon: Hello and welcome to Pro Construction Guide series of PROcasts. In this episode we’re going to provide you with some recommendations for weatherization projects that are going to make your clients’ homes more energy efficient – and also boost your sales and your profits. I’m John Gordon.
David Dovell: And I’m David Dovell.
John Gordon: And thanks for joining us. Pro Construction Guide magazine regularly brings you all new PROcasts built exclusively for you – the professional contractor. It’s the only podcast for Pros hosted by Pros with successful contractors as guests. You can listen to any PROcasts by going to proconstructionguide.com or by going iTunes.
David Dovell: Hey, we also want to remind you that if you are not a subscriber to the Pro Construction Guide newsletter, you can go the website, proconstructionguide.com, and sign up for free. Also, subscribers get a free digital copy before the printed issues hits the Home Depot stores, and you can read any of the content anytime and anywhere.
John Gordon: And don’t forget to stick around the very end of the podcast. David is going to talk about how to deal with the challenges when you might not able to get hard woods to match the existing color. So that would be good information there.
Now, in this episode, we’re going to be talking with a Pro who’s been working for decades and various capacities in the construction industry. Our guest today is Todd Cox and Todd is the owner of Weatherization Experts in Oklahoma. So Todd, welcome to PROcast. Can you give us a 30-second bio on Todd Cox?
TODD: Well, thank you so much for having me on the show. I’ve been doing weatherization for about 18 years now. We’re going to look for things that are what we call low-hanging fruits: sealing with mastic, ductwork, sealing penetrations, installing installations, sealing doors and windows. We had great results saving our customers about an average of 35% on the utility bills. And that is what it is all about for us.
John Gordon: Okay, you said low-hanging fruit and in there you’re going to talk about mastic. That gets a lot of different thoughts depending on the work that you do.
TODD: On the HVAC ductwork, many times we we’re inspecting it in an attic. We use thermal imaging in the home to see if that ductwork either is leaking between the Sheetrock and register booth in the ceiling, or in the floor or in the crawl space. We just inspect the ductwork pretty closely where the joints are assembled together. We use duct mastic; some of the industry refer to this as duct butter. It is a type of product that you brush on and it really helps ensure that the air stays inside the duct. Leaks may seem insignificant one at a time but when you bring them together, you get like a hundred places that you sealed that makes a big difference.
John Gordon: So before you just go up there and do some mastic, there are some steps that you take – right?
TODD: Yes. We identify where are those leaks are, usually where they’re connected – the register booth and sheetrock. There’s a fairly large leak around the edge; you should pull the installation back in those areas so that you know that’s part of the ductwork.
Wires and chases and incoming penetrations that go through the attic – that’s where we have found leaks over the years between lowered and thermal imaging, and things like that gaps that are coming from above are none. Probably the most critical thing with ducts is if you have leaks on the supply side. You’re usually going to draw out the house into a negative pressure, and then it wants to draw air in all the cracks and crevices. They surge because of the physics of what’s happening with all the negative air pressure. So, if you seal the ductwork up, then it tends to bring that attic closer to the neutral balance.
John Gordon: Let’s talk specifically air sealing. You get by sealing the ducts, so you reduce the pressure. But you still have some work doing air sealing, right?
TODD: Yes. Where there is a return or supply, usually there is a very large gap, which produces an area where dust and air filtration will come through. So, that’s the first step – we seek out wires at the top plates of walls. We’re talking about all of this from a retro standpoint, not so much about new construction. But many times when you have two- story construction we find is usually not a great air seal between the floors. So typically the end of the floor joists maybe open or exposed to the attic air, somebody may have attempted at one point to put a fiberglass in the little joints. We cut a rigid piece of foam board and then putting it in there and then seal it around. Our objective is to keep the air from travelling between floors, which is a double negative because it affects the sealing on the first floor into the second floor by just one little spot.
John Gordon: Are your guys just used to using one type of installation? What is that?
TODD: All we have ever used for 18 years is 100% borate cellulose. It’s significant for the consumers in the long run because borate has attributes of being resistant to insects; most of them are actually killed because they ingest it and it dehydrates them. It’s nontoxic, so it doesn’t hurt little children and animals or people. It’s also a great fire retardant. It costs significantly more, but the bottom line is the results. It’s fairly insignificant for all of the things that you are gaining when using it.
David Dovell: So why don’t you use fiberglass or spray foams?
TODD: My experience with spray foams is that I spent 22 years firefighting on Oklahoma City Fire Department and during that time I was 21 years as a technician. That’s why I became very familiar with them. Spray foam produces hydrogen cyanide [a [poisonous, highly flammable chemical]. It burns and it’s scary.
As for fiberglass, I was just in a house using thermal imaging. I’m shocked on how much cold air penetration I am seeing making its way to the fibers and showing up on the surface of the insulation on the Sheetrock inside the hallway. You see the thermal disconnect it causes. This blows my mind because it could have been two to three inches of cellulose, and I wouldn’t have seen any of that effect. I have seen it many times.
John Gordon: One of the things we say [about cellulous] is it’s going to be an expensive solution, but it’s going to settle over a period of time. But this stabilized cellulose, you’re saying it doesn’t settle. Is that right?
TODD: That’s correct. One of the manufacturers that we used to buy from in Kansas has been bought by a larger one. They used to offer a lifetime warranty on settling; they were that confident. But why it works is because you add a little spray in the hoses and blow it in the attic. It will probably have 15- to 16-percent moisture content when it’s installed. It does cause it to be denser to begin with, which essentially packs it down ahead of time – like a pre-packing effect. And 10 1/2 inches will drop to about a quarter of that. It will stay that way forever as long as you don’t step on it.
John Gordon: The other thing you mentioned I think is that doors and windows are typically huge culprits. Talk about that for a second Todd.
TODD: As long as somebody has at least a descent thermal pane in the window, sometimes you have to weigh the cost difference and if there is a payback obviously. If you have single-pane windows, there is no question that the [owner] should consider adding storm windows or get better replacement windows.
But the weather stripping is important, and we do that a lot around the doors. We don’t do a significant amount of windows if we do capping inside. That is mainly because in [Oklahoma], we have many brick homes. There’s this misconception that if you see a gap between the window and a brick on the outside, people are going to caulk it. But that is only an aesthetic thing because right behind that brick is a wide space that a lot of air goes though. It regionally maybe different for you if there are homes that are sided. We just make sure that those are capped and sealed from the outside because we don’t want vapor or water on the inside.
John Gordon: David and I get a lot of questions about where to invest weatherizing dollars, and when those come up, we always say the attic before windows. But if your windows are bad, I mean truly bad to start with, then you confirm the significant impacts on energy costs.
TODD: Absolutely. The thing is you have to look at is the performance of the window and look inside with thermal imaging of the window. What you’ve got to see is a reflection of the heat off the glass. So I tell people you really got to do is some common sense things and spread it around it; or you can blow it on a test and pull negative pressure from the house to see [where leaks are]. Then you can chase down those leaks. Then if we see cracks inside, it doesn’t hurt to do a nice job statically or capping them because that’s going to cut off the air.
John Gordon: Alright so we got a bunch of Pros listening, and I always love to ask our guest to say look give us two or three simple summary points that you want our professionals to take away from this podcast. What would that be Todd?
TODD: I would say focus on the low-hanging fruit. When I call, it is that at least on our rating of the large portion of the energy loss is in home. And then the second most important is air infiltration and the attic installation. Doors are probably the next important thing. If people feel cold, they just don’t like it.
John Gordon: Todd, thank you so much for your time and expertise. Folks, if you want to learn more about Todd’s company and what’s he’s doing, you can go to weatherizationexperts.net. That’s weatherizationexpert.net.
Now it’s time for us to dig into the secret toolbox: John and David’s Spare Parts Box to see what information or insights we think that is out here we can share with our listeners. So David, what do you think?
David Dovell: We wanted to talk about the questions that have been on our website lately where fold have added hardwood floors maybe to a room was carpeted. They had the carpet pulled out and hardwood floors in but did not go with the other room. They refinished once the new hardwood was laid, and they have a little bit different color. A lot of that comes because oil-based finishes tend to amber, which is the industry term. But that’s really yellow is what we call it. There’s actually a way around this. The old guys were in the finishing business for years would add a little bit of golden oak stain to the polyurethane to try to bring it into a different color. That works sometimes, but sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes you can end up in a bigger mess.
But with the newer water-born finishes, there are products called amberizers. What you would do is stain your floor and do what you really do to get the color of the floor right. And then in order to get the sealer or the polyurethane on top to be a closer match, add amberizer to a water-born polyurethane and then go over the floor with. You have to experiment. If with your first coat you got close, then you do the second coat with more amberizer. But if you hit it right for the first time, then you just have to put a clear coat on the very top for your second or third coat depending on how many you are applying.
This is just a little tip that a lot of contractors don’t know. Your floor contractor should know about it, but if they don’t, then bring it to their attention. Basic Coating is one of the companies that make the amberizer and there are several others out there. It’s a nice little tip to get you through a rough spot with a customer.
John Gordon: David, that’s a good one. Folks, if you like what you heard today, please like us on iTunes and tell a friend about the PROcast on iTunes and proconstruction.com.
David Dovell: If you haven’t gotten your copy of the latest Pro Construction Guide magazine, visit the Home Depot closest to you. They’ll have copies at the Pro Desk. Or, you can go to proconstructionguide.com and you can read the digital issue right there. If you’ve got any feedback for us, give us a call at 866-647-234 and leave a message. We really do want to hear your thoughts.