Garage Door Insulation

From day-one one of the main problems we want to solve with this HVAC/insulation project has been the temperature in our game room. Our game room is directly over our garage. Since the garage is unconditioned and poorly insulated and there was minimal insulation between the floors, the game room is rarely comfortable. It is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Consequently, the largest room in our house goes largely unused.

As you saw in earlier blogs, we’ve now sprayed foam insulation between the floors. We’re hopeful this will help mitigate the problem. But, I’ve had on my to-do list for a long time insulating the garage doors. They are simple metal garage doors facing west. So in the heat of the afternoon, as the sun hits these doors, the metal doors helpfully pass the heat right into the garage.

We spent some time researching this project. If money were no object, we could replace the doors with insulated doors. This would be the best solution from an energy standpoint but it would also be about a $5K project which is more than we want to bite off. There are also high-tech insulating sheeting we could but on the doors. But the R-value difference between that and the stock garage door insulating kits available at my Home Depot was minimal. So we decided to take the path of least resistance. We needed two complete packages of the panels at a cost of about $60.00 ea. Total project cost was around $120 and took my wife and I about 2 hours to do. I’m skeptical about the project because nobody bled and I pretty much don’t do any home project without bleeding on it at some point. So, if the home repair gods do not receive their blood sacrifice......?

As DIY project, this one is super simple. We just trimmed the panels to fit our particular garage door and pop them in. Here’s some shots of the project and, of course, your before and after photos.


Your Basic Un-Insulated Garage Door


Cutting the Foam Panels to Fit (My beautiful wife doing the precision work!)


The Finished Garage Door

Response from the Insulation Contractor

So the folks who did the insulation read this blog and wanted to answer some of my questions and respond to some of my comments. So without further ado, here are a few comments from Bill Clark owner of Energy Foam Solutions.

I just read some of the Blog, so I thought I would add some detail on a few of your concerns:
1)   I recommended leaving the existing fiberglass insulation in the basement in place and applying foam over it. If you look at your “before” picture of the fiberglass you can see the exposed wood floor joists below the fiberglass on approximate 16” centers. This would have provided more than enough “point of attachment” for the spray foam insulation as it is basically a foamed polyurethane glue and sticks very well to almost all surfaces. This would have provided the air-seal we needed over the fiberglass for the floor insulation system to work correctly and would have eliminated any air-flow through the fiberglass. We have left existing fiberglass in place many times, the spray foam we apply has no issue holding it in place…
2)   Spray foam insulation works differently than any other insulation product, because it does not allow air to move through it, as its rated as an air-barrier via ASTM testing. Typically used insulation products, including fiberglass allow air to move through them which greatly reduces their effectiveness, as it is trapped/non-moving air that provides the insulations R-Value, this is really why higher R-Values are used with fiberglass, they are attempting to compensate for the loss’s through convective currents caused by air movement through the fiberglass. Because spray foam provides its own air barrier, less actual R-Value is needed to provide an even greater level of resistance to heat transfer. We regularly re-run Title-24 reports for spray foam insulation which allow us to install R-25 in an unvented attic assembly, R-13 in the exterior walls and R-13 in the floor system, where they we specifying R-38 in the ceiling, R-20 in the walls and R-19 in the floor with fiberglass or cellulose insulation and still exceed California’s strict Title-24 standards. Even with these lower installed R-Values, spray foam will still vastly outperform typically used (fiberglass/cellulose/cotton batt) insulation products.
3)   After all the fuss we had with the spray rig’s generator, it appears that some bad diesel fuel was the problem all along, I had a John Deere diesel tech out to your house yesterday to get to the bottom of the problem, but he could not find any issues with the engine and assured us it was not actually overheating, that it sounded like just bad fuel working its way through the system.
4)   We have always installed black plastic behind gable vents, even in new homes. If you do not like the way it looks, let me know we can paint a piece of plywood black and replace the plastic.
5)   The garage ceiling is not complete, even in the areas that you can see the foam. They need to remove all the screws, apply additional foam, then cut it off flush with the studs, so the air-seal is complete. They under-filled the area for now, so they do not have to fight the screws when cutting.
6)   The “odor” from the foam is not off-gassing. It is certified non off-gassing and Green-Guard certified. There are fumes while spraying, as the two components mix and travel through the air, but as the foam expands 10-15 seconds after it is applied there are not any additional fumes. The applied foam does have a distinctive smell/odor that different people have different levels of tolerance of. Because of that, we typically leave fans running until each homeowner is satisfied with any lingering odor and let them decide how long the fans run so they are happy with the end result, but in no way is the odor harmful.
7)   The foam we are installing is rated at R-3.8 per installed inch, but it expands at 120:1 and is difficult to install at exact depths, especially in existing homes. I always error on the side of the customer, we contracted to install R-30 in the attic so it is at least that.
8)   I apologize again for the sheetrock damage, it is very tight in places and we have to be within 24-inches with the foam gun perpendicular while applying the foam, it is always regrettable when it happens, but it does occasionally happen when working in very tight spaces with limited footing. It will be professionally repaired when the garage ceiling is fixed by the same sheetrock contractor.

Crawlspace Day

Maybe its just because now that the work has moved from the attic to the crawlspace so I can see what’s going on better than before, but today seemed like an action packed day. The insulation team started work on the crawlspace under our house. They can’t complete the job because the heating and AC team will need access to the duct work but most of the space is available.

First there was lots of prep work.

The guys put up plastic sheeting to prevent the fumes from spreading into the down stairs office area.

Plastic Sheeting Covering the Entrance to the Crawlspace

Then the old insulation had to come down.

crawlspace old insulation
The Old Insulation from the Crawlspace is Taken Down

We’re lucky because our crawlspace is relatively high. So most of the work can be done standing up.

spraying the crawlspace
Spraying the Crawlspace

By the way, that haze is not my camera, thats the chemicals in the air. Probably not smart for me to stand around taking pictures. My guess is that Pedro is wearing a spacesuit for a reason.

Work went fast and the crawlspace is as done as possible at this stage. Here’s your before and after.

crawlspace before
Our Crawlspace Before the Foam Insulation

crawlspace after
Our Crawlspace with the New Foam

Notice the foam is not as thick down here. I’ve sent an email to the owner to ask why but I did notice that the Department of Energy recommends R19 in crawlspaces in our region. I think thats about what we have here. The beams are 7.5 inches wide and in most places they filled the joist frame. So, with an R-Value of 3.5/inch for the foam, that would be R26.

The work in the crawlspace went so well the insulation team also started on the garage area. This is a little trickier. The problem we’re trying to solve is that our game room is immediately above our garage. But, since the garage is poorly insulated, the heat and cold from the garage migrates upwards to the game room. The game room is therefore too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter and consequently, we rarely use it. We’re hoping by improving the insulation between the garage and the game room, combined with our recent insulation of the garage doors, will make the game room more usable.

The strategy here is to remove a strip of the garage ceiling running perpendicular to the framing. The crew can then spray foam into the space in both directions on either side of the strip. Hopefully this will minimize the sheetrock that needs to be replaced. Here’s what that looked like in practice.

garage insulation 2
Pedro Spaying the Garage Ceiling

garage insulation 3
A Finished (sort of) View of the Garage Ceiling Insulation

Unfortunately, before they could finish they ran out of the chemicals to make the foam. Rather than come back tomorrow for a couple hours work in the garage, they’ll add this to the list of things to do when they come back to finish the rest of the job.

Attic 95% Complete

While the generator gremlins continued to make noise the last couple of days, with one of our garden hoses providing cooling, the team finished work on the attic for now. In order to let the fumes dissipate, they’ve left the vents on each end of the attic open for now with a fan in one of them. They’ll come back later and seal those when the fumes have reduced.

So here are the before and after photos of the attic.

Attic Before

Attic Lid Before Applying Insulating Foam

attic after 2
The Same Area After Applying the Foam

Mechanical Difficulties - Part 2

The gremlins that plagued the foam insulation equipment struck again today. About an hour into the job the truck disappeared. The generator that powers all their equipment and is powered of the trucks engine keeps overheating and shutting down. Its 95 degrees out there so I guess that’s not too surprising. The guys inform me they have plenty of prep work remaining. It seems we have lots of fiberglass insulation up in the attic and they need to pull all that back in order to get into the narrow eaves. They will also need to caulk in a number of place to prevent the foam from extruding through the seams in the roof.

On the plus side they re-sealed the front decorative grid with the black plastic.

black grill

Up close it looks a lot like someone covered the vent with a black plastic garbage bag (‘cause that exactly what they did!). But from a distance it looks OK.

black grill 2

They did make some progress before the generator broke down.

day one of the attic foam
First Day of Actual Foaming

One pleasant surprise is how thick they’re spraying the foam. I’m confident we’re getting our money’s worth.

foam thickness example
Example of the Foam Thickness Taken On Day One of Foaming

That beam is 8 inches wide. I’d guess we’re looking at an average of at least 12 inches. We contracted for an R-Value of 30. The foam is 3.5 R/inch so my guess is we’re actually getting something like R42!

People Difficulties

Today, the insulation company showed up with a different truck and a working machine to spray the foam. I opened up all the windows in the house in anticipation of potentially toxic fumes but the smell is only strong at the truck itself. In the house the smell is quite mild. Things seemed to go smoothly until I sat down in the dining room to eat lunch and saw white flakes on the table. Eventually it occurred to me to look up and I saw this crack in the ceiling.

ceiling crack

and later in the day, this one.

ceiling crack 2

I pointed these out to the guys doing the work and they were apologetic but seemed to accept this as a sort of standard problem. They agreed to fix it when the job is finished. We’re a little worried about this because the paint on the ceiling is not a standard white, so matching may be a challenge. Two more items for the Check List.

Later in the day, after the team had left I noticed this from outside the house.


This is a decorative grill n the front of our house. In order to seal the house they have to seal off the grill. But surely there’s a more attractive approach. I sent an email to the folks at Bonney and the insulation company. To their credit they agreed immediately to correct these items.

So far, here’s the checklist,

1. Place a “T” fitting on the outlet of the exhaust pipe
2) Insulate the new hot water lines
3) The electrical box for the tankless system is missing a wall plate.
4) The exhaust vent on the outside of the house should have a gasket or seal.
5) Rubber gaskets under the tankless water heater mounts
6) Flexible hoses connecting the tankless heater to the water lines
7) Repair crack in the ceiling

Mechanical Difficulties

According to the current schedule we were to begin installation of the foam insulation in the attic today. There was no confirmation call and by 9:30 am, I hadn’t heard anything. I called our sales guy, James, who was the person who’d told me today was the day this would happen to ask if things had changed. James was in a meeting but promised to have someone check for me. about 15 minutes later I got a call that the trucks was on its way. Around 10:00 am a big noisy slightly smelly truck was parked in front of our house.

I was pleased the subcontractor had the Release of Waiver signed and ready to go. I showed them the access to the attic and asked if they would begin with removing the old insulation. The guy gave me a blank look and said, “Are we removing the old insulation?”

attic day 1
Our Attic Before the Project

I pled ignorance. Our contract specifies removal of the old insulation but I have no idea whether the subcontractor or the main contractor is planning to do the actual removal. I didn’t want the foam guys to waste a trip so I called Bonney (our contractor) to see what’s what. The resulting conversation had me even more confused as James explained to me that the subcontractor did not think the old insulation needed to be removed, either in the attic or the crawlspace. James and I agreed there was a logic to leaving the old insulation in the attic. It was to be a semi-conditioned space and the old insulation would serve to reenforce that. But neither of us could get our heads around leaving the insulation in the crawlspace. It seemed logical to me that if you sprayed foam on top of the batting between the floor joists then new foam would not be attached to anything permanent and would eventually just fall out.

I spent about two hours searching the web for something definitive on this. I finally found a site that said specifically that this was not possible for exactly the reasons James and I had discussed. I emailed the information to James and he responded that the old insulation in the crawlspace would be removed.

With that out of the way I went to check on the progress. There was a distinct lack of activity and no tell-tale smells of new foam insulation. The installation team shared with me they were having “mechanical difficulties” with the machine that sprays the foam.

The owner of the company finally came to work on it personally but, no joy. They decided to finish the prep work and reconvene on Monday.