In search of insulation


“Well that’s going to be a nice toaster oven in the summer!” – that’s usually what I hear when someone sees the steel on wheels that is our project (hey, think I just found another good tag line!) The concern, elegantly expressed by some, is that metal is VERY good at transferring radiant heat i.e.: the sun beating down on it, which makes a steel garage door in summer, if you’ve ever felt one, almost scalding to the touch. Who wants to live with that??

So, since we first started thinking about this project, insulation of our steel building was a major concern. There are so many materials out there, but no matter how good the insulation material is, the steel’s ability to transfer heat in and out will inevitably cause condensation in the wall cavity. For this reason few materials are as well suited to the curves of the T-House of Steel as polyurethane spray foam.

This guy, did an amazing job on his garage. A warm garage in winter is nice, but the difference with a living space, especially such a tiny one, is that we’ll be in such close contact with the materials we choose to build with so I want to choose wisely. I was hesitating for so long with the idea of the spray foam solution – there are so many nightmare stories I’ve heard both personally and incidentally. If it’s not done right, the gases that are created when the mixture of the two liquids come into contact with each other and transform them into a solid can get trapped and the stuff never fully cures. This stuff is keeping me up at night even before I’ve installed it!! Plus the stuff is expensive. But I waited so long hemming and hawing on the price and temperatures only rising to the mid 50s here in late October in upstate NY, I’d have to wait for some freakishly warm weather and some reckless line of credit to do the job.

Well, guess what: it got up to 70 degrees by early November and I broke down and got myself a 600 board foot Touch ‘n Seal foam kit on Ebay.


Despite some warnings I’d got about the slipperiness of the metal, the foam adhered to the steel beautifully. I got pretty much the expected output and covered the entire surface of with a 1″ thick layer of closed-cell foam. It cured super fast as advertised and the whole thing felt solid.

But as soon as I was done, I had to walk away; the place was a mess, I had foam on my forehead and eyebrows, and I couldn’t stand the sight of the steel arches disappearing. A day later, I went to inspect and I was relieved to see that I could now move on to the next step. More of that in Part 2 coming up in the next post.


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