Insulating Your Home

BY BRIAN SHERMAN

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How does a growing business thrive in a struggling economy? According to Tara Desirae Davis, the key to surviving when many companies are facing the specter of not making it is to offer the people you serve top-notch customer service and a product that actually saves them money in the long run.

Davis is one of the owners of Ecofoam, a Lowcountry company that provides spray foam insulation for residential, commercial and industrial buildings along the coast from North Charleston to St. Simons Island, Georgia. She points out that installing foam in an attic can save up to 50 percent on a homeowner’s energy bill.

“Seventy percent of the air that leaks in comes in through the attic,” she explains. “The foam completely seals the area. In the Lowcountry, it can be 130 degrees up there, but with foam insulation, the difference between the temperature in the attic and the rest of the house is only about 15 degrees.”

Davis adds that foam provides other advantages besides reducing energy bills. It also makes things a little more comfortable inside the house by sealing out pollutants, allergens and even noise and also helps eliminate pests, mold and mildew. As an added bonus, homeowners who have foam installed are eligible for a federal income tax credit.

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Davis says there are two types of spray foam insulation: closed cell and open cell. The former is harder and best used to seal attics and crawl spaces under houses; the latter, a little less expensive, can be sprayed into walls and in attics as well. The advantage of using closed cell foam in the attic is that it adds structural integrity, which means the house will stand up better against heavy winds. As a result, many homeowners will save on their insurance premiums.

Both types of foam insulation are sprayed into place as a liquid that is heated to approximately 130 degrees, drying and hardening almost immediately. Davis points out that because spray foam has become increasingly affordable and its advantages more obvious, many Lowcountry builders have started using it in new construction. She says the traditional alternative, fiberglass, quickly loses its insulation value and actually absorbs moisture, which encourages the growth of mold.

Foam, on the other hand, creates an impenetrable barrier, keeping moisture, allergens and other pollutants outside the house, where they belong.

In addition to foam, Ecofoam’s trained and certified employees also can apply three types of coatings to a home: mold and mildew prevention; waterproofing; and fire protection.

Except for the difference between closed cell and open cell foam, the materials Ecofoam uses to ensure energy efficiency and comfort are the same for each home. Every house, however, is unique, which is why Davis doesn’t provide a quote until one of her experienced employees takes a firsthand look at a home.

“We never price over the phone,” she says. “It takes just 30 minutes for us to do a no-cost estimate. There are other factors besides the size of a house, such as accessibility and the pitch of the roof.

“There are options, depending on what you’re trying to do,” she adds. “We sit down and talk with our customers and try to understand what their needs are.”

Davis, who spent 16 years in the construction business before launching Ecofoam, says this kind of customer service is what sustained her company during its formative years. Ecofoam currently has two offices, in Bluffton and in Mount Pleasant, with plans to eventually expand to five locations.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about service,” she says. “It’s about how the job looks and when it gets done. We follow through on our relationships with our clients. I understand the builder’s side and the homeowner’s side.”

She adds that she expects the company to continue to grow, regardless of which direction the national economy goes.

“I feel proud that we started out in one of the worst economies and that we’ve grown steadily. That says a lot for Ecofoam as a company,” she says.

Brian Sherman, a Mount Pleasant resident, is a writer, editor and graphic designer.