Jon Learns about Expanding Foam at HEET Barnraising

This past weekend I participated in my first Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) Weatherization Barnraising.  About 35 folks showed up to lend a hand. Several companies helped by sponsoring the event and providing some of the supplies, including our favorite supplier, EFI. We were divided into teams based on what we wanted to learn and do.  Each team had a team leader who was either a contractor in the trade or someone who had a lot of experience with the various tasks.  There were teams to install CFLs, caulk windows, work on the attic hatch, install programmable thermostats, reduce water usage, install weatherstripping and seal exterior air leaks.  I worked on the team that was sealing exterior air leaks.  The HEET folks conducted a blower door test before we arrived.

I wasn’t really expecting to learn much as we had already done all of the planned tasks at our own home.  I was surprised to actually learn a few things. My thanks to Jeremy, the leader for our team.  We did exterior caulking and spray foaming to seal air leaks.  He showed me and the team about the sill plate and why not to seal the gap between the siding and the house. He explained it would lead to water damage as well as other problems.  Using the foam takes some practice and Jeremy showed us a number tips which I’ve included below.

Things to keep in mind when using expanding spray foam:

  • Wear safety googles
  • Wear latex gloves because the foam will not come off of your skin
  • Wear clothes you don’t care about because it does not come out of clothes
  • Prep the areas (perhaps marking with blue painters tape) because once you start the foam, you need to keep working until you are done using the can
  • Don’t use the expanding foam around door frames and window frames because the pressure from expansion can warp the frame (you can get expanding foam that is specially made for doors and windows)
  • Don’t try and work the foam (wait for it to cure and then cut or scrape to clean up)
  • A little goes a long way
  • The can works best upside down

In addition to learning more about the spray foam and getting some practice working with it, I also got a chance to explain to others the reasoning behind some of the things we were doing.  For instance, I explained why we were installing switch plate cover foam insulation on interior walls and how tight we would have to make the house before needing active ventilation.  These are topics worthy of future posts.

My thanks to Audrey, the project leader from HEET, because of whom I got the experience of setting up the blower door and conducting the test.  She showed me how to set the unit up and how it worked.  She also answered my questions about what is involved in setting up a HEET program in our town.  Hopefully I will be able to assist in setting up a HEET program in Medford in the future.

All in all, the five hours spent helping weatherize this three family three story house was a good use of my time.  I learned some things, shared my knowledge and got to help others save energy. For even more about HEET barnraisings, you can read about Alicia’s experience volunteering on a HEET weatherization last month.  If you are interested in learning how to do these things, see if there is a program near you by visiting and volunteer, no experience needed.

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