Homes for Our Troops a Humbling Example of How American Manufacturing Can Change Lives

HFOT1A few months ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Wilmington, Ohio, to witness Cpl. Josh Sams receive the keys to his new home from Homes for Our Troops, an organization that builds mortgage-free, specially adapted, energy-efficient homes for severely injured veterans. Cpl. Sams was a Marine sniper who stepped on an IED while on patrol in Afghanistan in January of 2012, causing him to lose both of his legs just above the knees and part of his right arm and hand. Thanks to this remarkable organization, he now has a comfortable place to call home and live independently for years to come.

Since its founding in 2004, Homes for Our Troops has built more than 190 homes for qualified recipients. Seeing the opportunity to make a difference in these men’s lives, CertainTeed signed on a number of years ago to donate complete roofing systems for the homes. Last year, our corporate involvement grew to include interior wall systems, as well, including fiberglass batts, high performance wallboard and tile backer. In addition, each home’s attic is now insulated with premium blowing wool.

Perhaps even more important, our involvement with Homes For Our Troops has provided a terrific venue to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and strengthen bonds within our communities throughout the country.

HFOT2As a retired Army Lieutenant, I knew from the start I wanted to be involved with this project. When regional sales manager Mike Singleton asked me if I was able to attend the Saturday morning ceremony in Ohio, I eagerly volunteered to drive three hours to be there to witness the end results of this process. To say it was moving and emotional doesn’t quite do the experience justice.

Josh was an all-state fullback at Wilmington High School, and his high school coach was there to speak at the ceremony along with his best friend and fellow Marine, who also happened to be his quarterback. He stood up in front of Josh’s family and friends and told the story of driving 13 hours through the night with his wife to meet Josh at the front doors of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C., after learning his best friend had been injured. Also at the ceremony were the two Marines who were first on the scene to bind up Josh’s legs and get him on the medevac chopper, who surprised him by making the trip for the event. There in front of his new home, Josh wiped away tears as he thanked everyone for their support. The love, friendship and sense of community was humbling, to say the least.

If I learned anything from the experience, it’s that the role of a U.S. manufacturing company like CertainTeed extends far beyond simply making the stuff that goes into constructing a well-built home. The technologies and expertise we offer have the power to help transform lives. Through projects like Homes for Our Troops, we have an opportunity—and responsibility—to truly impact the lives of our neighbors.

As I witnessed firsthand at this event, “home” is a powerful thing. It is, after all, where the heart is. If I can say we played even a small part in helping Cpl. Sams find his home, someone who has given so much for our country and our freedom, I’d say that’s something to be proud of.

For more information on Homes for Our Troops and CertainTeed’s involvements with the organization, visit www.certainteed.com/followtheproject.

Tips to Keep Your Cool All Summer Long

??????????????????????????????????Ah summertime, when the livin’ is easy. It seems like nothing can get you down except for maybe one thing – spiked electric bills. This summer, let’s beat the heat. See how you can help your family maximize fun without stressing your wallet.

Smart investments can help manage expenses in the summer, and for seasons to come. Achieve summer solace with an integrated solar roofing system. It’s an innovative, energy-efficient choice, and can generate most or all of the electricity a home uses during the day. In newer systems, unused power is transferred back to the power grid, which can reduce electric bills even further, and won’t compromise curb appeal.

My favorite features of summer are the long days and natural light. I love being greeted by sunlight in the morning so much, that I often find additional lighting unnecessary. I have discovered that switching out my incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs decreases unwanted heat in the home and will save you money at the same time.

Whenever possible, get outdoors! Another great way to prevent rising temperatures in the home is to avoid using electrical appliances such as ovens. Instead grill outside; it’ll help reduce energy use.

Sometimes you need to cool off, and that’s when air conditioners can come in handy. When possible, use the AC sparingly, and never cool a vacant or unused room. I am a huge supporter of fans – ceiling or portable. Both create a healthy breeze and consume far less energy.

If you find fans can’t seem to keep your family comfortable, there may be a larger opportunity to find a sustainable solution. It might be time to add insulation to your attic or walls. Adequate insulation not only keeps your house warm, it can keep it cool, too. Insulated siding and housewrap can have the same effect. Combined, these products can help reduce energy bills and improve energy efficiency – making summer even sweeter.

Living in Trees is No Longer Just For the Birds Thanks to Treehouse Masters

 

TH2When we were children many of us dreamt about or did sleep outside under the stars. If you were really lucky, you might have even had a tent in your yard or better yet, a treehouse. But nothing I ever imagined as a child could have prepared me for what I saw in the backyard of a house in Jim Thorpe, PA.

Home improvement TV has climbed to new heights with Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters series. The program turns treetops into private escapes for people with a passion for reconnecting with nature and their inner child. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it. Visionary Pete Nelson and his team of creative carpenters bring a whole new dimension to what we traditionally consider home improvement. They are constructing multi-room dream treehouses that come complete with functional plumbing and electricity.

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We at CertainTeed consider ourselves home improvement experts with many innovative products that create comfort and efficiency and wanted to get in on this creative, unusual, and inspirational endeavor. So, we donated several high-performance building products including premium asphalt roofing shingles and waterproof underlayment, a weather-resistive barrier, and state-of-the-art insulation to Treehouse Masters.

 

TH3Nelson and crew used these top-of-the-line products to construct a home-away-from-home for a family in Pennsylvania. Nelson’s crew built a dream treehouse right in the family’s backyard. It’s a two-level structure that features a bedroom big enough to fit a queen-size bed, living room with a cozy stove fireplace, functional kitchen, bathroom with full plumbing, deck with outdoor grilling area and shower, and more. There’s nothing they did not think of.

For more on the show and to see behind the scenes footage from this build visit www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/treehouse-masters/.

Warning: if you watch it once, you will be hooked.

Free CEU Course Takes A Systematic View of the Exterior Wall

How can an exterior wall system help stymie chronic heat and moisture-related problems?

Find out by joining me for the upcoming CEU course A Systematic View of the Exterior Wall. This free and interactive session will be offered on Thursday, April 30, from 1 – 2 p.m. ET.

During the hour-long session, you will learn how to develop a plan that enables exterior wall systems Dutchlap_Res Iso_PD_MDWand materials to work together for the overall health of a house. Learn how proper design and installation of framing, sheathing, insulation, airflow retarders, vapor retarders and siding can minimize, if not eliminate, heat and moisture-related problems and be able to ask me questions

At the conclusion you will know:

  • What an exterior wall system is and why it’s important for the house and its occupants
  • The role airflow retarders and vapor diffusion retarders play in controlling the flow of moisture through the exterior wall system
  • How four kinds of insulation can best perform in an exterior wall system
  • How four types of framing materials and two forms of sheathing materials can effect the exterior wall system
  • How window performance is measured and enhanced
  • The importance of caulking, flashing and gaskets to the exterior wall system
  • Advantages and disadvantages of seven kinds of sheathing materials as each relates to the exterior wall system

CertainTeed’s Building Knowledge Academy of Continuing Education, is the industry’s most extensive and engaging collection of CEU course content. Our courses provide AIA credits and help architects specify smarter. Register today.

 

 

Spring is a time of renewal, remodeling

Spring is most certainly in the air. Temperatures are warming, color is popping and the sense of renewal abounds. Those neighbors you haven’t seen since last October are out in their yards again. People are walking, kids are playing, and the sound of hammering fills the air as many folks renew via remodeling. It’s just that time of year.

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It’s the remodeling part that gets me most excited, Based on a recent study conducted online by Harris Poll and commissioned by CertainTeed, when asked which one factor is most important to homeowners when completing an exterior home improvement project, 39 percent cited curb appeal, 26 percent cited return on investment, and 21 percent noted impact on outdoor living and lifestyle considerations.

The survey also supports what we at CertainTeed have known for some time, that color is every bit as exciting as it is confusing. In fact, 40 percent of U.S. homeowners admit they are not quite sure which colors would work best on the exterior of their homes. 11 percent admit to being color “clueless” and don’t know where to begin when selecting colors for their home. Having spent a lot of time and energy on color science, this is something we get. We’ve actually built an interactive design center so that homeowners can explore, get inspired and gain confidence in their color selection. The online tool allows users to play around with different design and color combinations of siding, roofing, trim and more. It’s a fun tool to check out even if you’re not in the market for remodeling.

Beyond exterior home improvement projects, however, the Harris Poll survey reveals some telling facts about those out-of-sight, out-of-mind renovations that tend to get brushed over. One in five U.S. house owners (19 percent) give little to no consideration to insulation when planning a kitchen remodel or home addition. Even more – one in four – say the same about drywall. This is interesting because, According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we Americans spend 90 percent of our time indoors where thermal comfort and air quality matter quite a bit. The good news is by choosing high-performance insulation and formaldehyde-absorbing drywall, homeowners have more control over energy savings and indoor pollutants like mold and VOCs than they may think. It’s always advisable to work with qualified contractors who can speak to these issues and who stock quality brands and products.

While I’m on the topic of home remodeling, video entries are now being accepted for CertainTeed’s annual Living Spaces Home Makeover Contest.  It may just help you or someone you know undertake that remodeling project that is so desperately needed. The winner gets a $100,000 grand prize, which includes $75,000 worth of building products, including professional installation and $25,000 to help cover taxes. So get the family together, shoot a fun video and enter to win by May 31. For more information and complete contest details, visit www.CertainTeed.com/DesignCenter.

Happy springtime remodeling!

Tax Day Preparedness: Investing in Smart Home Renovations

BathMI_D9_BnB_flatThere’s no doubt that filing taxes can be a daunting challenge, but a refund check from the IRS comes with a lot of exciting possibilities. Pursuing home improvement projects this spring will be a great way to revamp your home after enduring a long, dreary winter. Plus, there are tax credits available that offer financial incentives to make your house energy efficient – giving you even more reason to invest in your home this Tax Day.

According to the ENERGY STAR® program, renovations such as installing quality insulation or adding a solar reflective roof can help save money on utility bills. Pursuing these updates increase the beauty and curb appeal of your home and also enhance its value.

If a reroof is in your future, make sure to choose products that are designed for optimum performance that can withstand the elements. There are various roofing designs, styles and texture options that allow you to create a unique look.

Did you know the material surrounding the exterior and interior of your home can contribute to its efficiency and strength? Insulated vinyl siding provides thermal performance and protection against noise infiltration, and new insulation batt technology can help to manage the moisture found within a home. If that’s not enough, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association says spending $1 on insulation will save $12 in energy costs.

Renovations don’t have to stop at the walls of a residence. In fact, there are many opportunities to develop your home’s outdoor living spaces. New curved railing and gate options offer a decorative design that will accentuate the beauty of a homeowner’s yard while providing complete privacy. By investing in vinyl decking or fence, you can enjoy the warm weather or entertain guests, without having to worry about the hassle of continuous repair.

Last minute filers should keep available tax credits in mind. The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 allows homeowners who upgraded their insulation last year to take a federal tax credit on their 2015 returns. The credit is up to 10 percent of the cost of the insulation with a maximum lifetime credit of $500. For information on other tax credits offered by the IRS, visit www.irs.gov.

 

Tide Turns for Home Devastated by Hurricane Sandy

IMG_4853The Sunset Green Home, once a charming 1940s cottage resting five feet above sea level, was damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and decimated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In 2015, however, the tide will turn as it will be rebuilt as a sustainable, energy-efficient home registered through the LEED® for Homes Green Building Program. The certification goal is actually LEED Platinum.

Kim Erle, the homeowner, also happens to be a LEED AP. She and her team of architects and designers recently identified CertainTeed as a company with a range of industry-leading products that would work well in her sustainably built home. We are pleased that AirRenew® Essential Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) gypsum board, FortiCel™ Mold Prevention System, SMARTBATT™ with MoistureSense™ Technology batt insulation, GlasRoc® Diamondback® Tile Backer, and CertaSpray® open and closed cell foam were all specified for this project.

IMG_4722These products are bringing Kim and her family peace of mind. She says mold was visibly rampant in the walls and floorboards when the remains of her cottage-style home were demolished. She’s convinced this mold was there before Hurricane Sandy took out the house. Many of the products she has chosen, including ours, are there to help mitigate her mold concerns. The specified FortiCel, for instance, is a protective coating that is sprayed into the wall cavity to help prevent mold growth on structural framing surfaces. SMARTBATT also helps reduce the potential for mold and mildew growth as it comes with a smart vapor retarder that changes its permeability with the ambient humidity condition. This means the wall can essentially breathe when SMARTBATT senses moisture that needs to be released from within the wall. To further improve indoor air quality, the AirRenew wallboard will actually clean the air in Kim’s house by capturing VOCs and converting them into safe, inert compounds that safely remain within the board for up to 75 years.

Her home will be under construction through June, at which time the family hopes to move in for the summer. Check out her blog for updates on the project. It’s a great study on residential LEED design and construction.

Q and A at International Builders’ Show (IBS) with CertainTeed Expert Kelly Warren

During IBS our Meet the Experts sessions gave show attendees the opportunity to get their questions answered.  Our MC, Ted Brunson pitches the following question to Kelly Warren, Senior Product Manager, Insulation

Explain what SMARTBATT™ is and the technology behind it?

Kelly and TedSMARTBATT is a kraft-faced insulation product that has an integrated vapor retarder in the product.  Not only does it protect your home from moisture entering the cavity in the winter but it opens to become vapor permeability in the spring and summer to allow vapor to escape the cavity. It is the best way to avoid moisture and mold from building up within the walls. The product senses the changes in the relative humidity causing the spray-applied coating to change molecular structure allowing the product to open and close and breathe based on ambient temperatures.

It is more important now with the changes in the building codes and the movement toward an air tight envelope. When you get to this level of air tightness it becomes extremely important to manage the moisture vapor in the home.

Q and A at International Builders’ Show (IBS) with CertainTeed Expert Ted Winslow

During IBS our Meet the Experts sessions gave show attendees the opportunity to get their questions answered.  Our MC, Ted Brunson (right) pitches the following question to Brand Product Manager – Building Science, Systems & Technical Marketing, Ted Winslow, Insulation

???????????????????????????????With the Change in Building Codes, how is that impacting the Insulation World?

The focus on green building continues to grow and the building code changes reflect that. More and more questions are coming from consumers regarding what is inside the wall systems and what they can do to make their homes tighter and more efficient. Transparency is very important and in response to that we have created Environmental Product Declarations and Health Product Declarations for our wide array of products for all types of applications.  These documents are also needed for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification which is a standard for identifying more energy efficient buildings. The most critical areas are controlling the acoustics from room to room and managing moisture.  Insulation is about the complete comfort of a building.

As building codes continue to change, so do the options for insulating your walls – from fiberglass batts to spray foam to blowing wool and smart vapor retarders. It is important to find the right insulation to improve efficiency in any building.

A Case for Spray Polyurethane Foams Contributing to Points in the LEED System

certasprayccappsmall409x237We are seeing an increase in the use of spray foam insulation in both commercial and residential construction both by itself and in combination with other insulations because it adds a new dimension to improving the energy efficiency of buildings especially when applying for LEED certification.

The proper use of spray foam will change your performance when you do energy modeling of your building with ASHRAE 90.1. It contributes in many ways in addition to good thermal resistance. It also has the potential for reducing whole building air leakage when installed where buildings leak air. The effect will show up in the energy modeling results.

There has been recent good news with regard to the spray polyurethane foams and LEED. The Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance has completed Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for both open and closed cell spray foams among its members. This is aggregated data across the members of the Alliance giving you the documentation for use with LEED v4. These EPDs are available from the members who participate.

I strongly urge all of you who haven’t yet to build a library of transparency documents for the products you like to use. There is no single source repository of this documentation across manufacturers and service providers so you’ll have to do much of the seeking yourself. Once you have created your own library, make sure someone gets the task of maintaining it to ensure all the documents you are curating are up to date and accurate.