Tag Archives: building insulation


Eric’s storage building has 5040 square feet of enclosed area. This made for a big roof. A big insulated roof which had a reflective radiant barrier applied between the roof purlins and the steel roofing.

Whatever type of insulation is chosen for this type of installation, if it is windy – it isn’t going to be fun.

So why even worry about roof insulation or vapor barriers?

Single skin metal roofs (typically found in pole building construction) are prone to condensation due to changing outdoor or indoor conditions. Condensation, sweating and dripping can have severe adverse effects on the condition of the building and its valuable contents.

CondenstopCondenStop fleece is factory applied to the underside or inside of steel roofing and siding panels. It effectively reduces or eliminates the problems caused by condensation.

The Condenstop fleece absorbs, stores and releases significant quantities of moisture when condensation would normally occur. When the temperature of a steel roof drops below the dew point, the CondenStop fleece will absorb and store the condensing water vapor. The absorbed water will evaporate again into the ambient air under appropriate temperature and ventilation conditions.

Condenstop has been commercially available for 15 years and is the industry leader. It is made from durable polyester materials designed to last the lifetime of the steel panels. A wide variety of testing and in-place projects confirm the product’s durability. Once factory applied, the adhesion is quite strong and comes with a 20-year delamination warranty.

The product’s R-value is minimal, only 0.3691, however the product’s value is from its ability to store and release moisture where other materials cannot.

Moisture held in the CondenStop will not harm the steel. Full length panels should be used from eave to ridge to eliminate panel end laps and panel areas which are not enclosed. The bottom edge of the steel overhanging a fascia board, or areas in unenclosed overhangs – should be painted, or the Condenstop burned off to prevent microfibers from absorbing moisture from the outside.

The use of Condenstop does not take away the need for proper ventilation practices, either in performance, or under the Building Code.

CondenStop is Class I flame retardant per ASTM E84-04. It will hold 21 pounds of moisture per 100 square feet (equal to over 10 quarts of water). The microfibers do not support mold growth. It also reduces noise from outside such as rain as well as absorbing sound from inside the building.

On Eric’s building, we easily lost an entire day for the crew due to having to fight the winds installing a reflective radiant barrier. In wind prone areas – CondenStop is an option I would recommend, for the savings in labor costs and time alone. Next time – CondenStop for our building!

Rigid Insulation Boards

Foam boards—rigid insulation boards—can be used to insulate almost any part of your pole barn, from the roof down to the foundation. They provide good thermal resistance. Foam board insulation sheathing reduces heat conduction through structural elements, such as wood wall girts and roof purlins.

There are some who would feel the best application of these products is to the outside of wall girts and purlins, directly beneath the wall and roof steel. Doing so can create a huge structural problem with pole buildings.

A properly designed pole building utilizes the steel skin to create a diaphragm. The steel skin functions like the shell of a uni-body car or modern jet aircraft.

When rigid insulation boards are applied to the exterior framing, the screws must be ordered appropriately longer to attach the siding or roofing. When the pole building is then subjected to racking loads from wind or seismic forces, the shank of the screw between the steel skin and the underlying wood – which passes through the rigid insulation boards, may bend or break, resulting in a compromise of the building’s structural integrity.

The most common types of materials used in making foam board include foam building insulationpolystyrene, polyisocyanurate (also known as polyiso) and polyurethane.

Molded expanded polystyrene (MEPS) is a closed-cell material which can be molded into many everyday items (think coffee cups and shipping materials), or into large sheets of foam board insulation. MEPS foam board insulation is commonly known as beadboard.

To make beadboard, loose, unexpanded polystyrene beads containing liquid pentane are mixed with a blowing agent and poured into an enclosed container. The mixture is heated to expand the beads many times their original size. The beads are then injected into a mold. Under more heat and pressure, they expand to become foam blocks, which are shaped as needed.

The physical properties of MEPS foam board vary with the type of bead used. It’s manufactured at various densities, depending on the application. Beadboard for roofing materials has to be dense enough to walk on without damage; wall insulation foam boards are several times less dense than roof boards. R-values range from 3.8 to 4.4 per inch of thickness.

MEPS foam board is available with a variety of facings. Since spaces between the foam beads can absorb water, a vapor diffusion retarder is needed if water transmission through the insulation might become a problem. MEPS foam board also is often used as the insulation for structural insulated panels (SIPS) and insulating concrete forms (ICFs).

One of my personal pole buildings, at my home, utilizes rigid insulation boards, ICFs, on 2-1/2 walls of the lowest level.

Extruded expanded polystyrene (XEPS) is a closed-cell foam insulation similar to MEPS. To make it, the polystyrene pellets are mixed with various chemicals to liquefy them. A blowing agent is then injected into the mixture, forming gas bubbles. The foaming, thick liquid is then forced through a shaping die. When cooled, the panel is cut as required.

XEPS is more expensive than MEPS. Like MEPS, the R-value depends upon the density of the material and is generally about R-5 per inch. It’s also much more consistent in density and has a higher compressive strength than MEPS, making it better suited for use on roofs or for wall panels. Extruded polystyrene also has excellent resistance to moisture absorption.

Like MEPS, XEPS is available with a variety of facings and is also often used as the insulation for SIPs and ICFs.

Polyiso and polyurethane are very similar, closed-cell foam insulation materials. Because both materials offer high R-values {R 5.6 to R 8} per inch of thickness, a thinner foam board can be used to achieve the required thermal resistance. This can be an advantage in limited space applications.

Polyiso foam board insulation is available in a variety of compressive strengths. Compressive strength refers to the ability of a rigid foam board to resist deformation and maintain its shape when subjected to a force or load. Also, polyiso remains stable over a wide temperature range, making it good as roofing insulation. When used with a laminated aluminum foil facing, polyiso foam board provides an effective moisture or vapor barrier. These foam boards can also be used to make SIPs.

The maximum performance of rigid insulation boards depends heavily on proper installation. If you want to install it yourself, obtain and carefully follow instructions and safety precautions from the manufacturer. Also check local building and fire codes to see if it’s allowable to use foam board insulation in your new pole building. If so, are there any special requirements for using it?

Hold these thoughts until tomorrow – and I will delve into how to use foam board in foundations, using a fire barrier and a whole lot more more.  Stay tuned!

How to Design a Climate Controlled Pole Building

When I first entered the post frame industry over three decades ago, most pole buildings were barns. Having a climate controlled building  (heating and cooling) was rarely a consideration.

Modern pole buildings, serve a plethora of purposes from homes to offices, retail space to churches and everything in between. HVAC (heating, ventilating and air condition) becomes an important consideration.

This blog is nowhere near an in depth guide to climate control, but intended to give the reader a starting point.

The first stop should be to check the recommended R-value calculator:


If starting with a concrete slab on grade, a layer of A2V insulation should be properly installed below the slab.

Walls should be framed with bookshelf style girts placed at 24 inches on center. Also referred to as commercial girts, they create an insulation cavity, which allows for fiberglass insulation batts to be installed horizontally between the wall girts. If steel siding is used, it could be beneficial to use a quality housewrap between the wall girts and the siding. With commercial girts, to properly size the insulation cavity, create a space equal to the depth of the pole, plus the 1-1/2″ outside of the posts where girts extend. This allows for drywall to be attached to the inside face of the wall girts, creating a smooth wall surface.

Another great option for wall insulation is BIBS – which provide a higher R value than batt insulation, as well as filling all of the voids.  If you are not familiar with BIBS, check out their website: https://www.bibs.com

As a sidebar, I have BIBS in my large three story (84’ x 60’) accessory  climate controlled building (yes, it’s a pole building).  The cost savings on our heating and air conditioning bills is testimony in and of itself for this great product.

Ceilings – use ceiling loaded trusses with ceiling joists 24″ o.c. Sheetrock can be attached to the underside of the ceiling joists and insulation can be blown in above.

Any time a dead attic space is created – the attic space MUST be ventilated. As long as 1/2 of the required ventilation area is in the upper 1/2 of the attic, the area of the attic vents must be 1/300th of the footprint area of the attic. Otherwise, 1/150th is required. The best way to get even attic airflow is to use enclosed vented overhangs in combination with a vented ridge.

As I said, this is a primer for how to ensure a climate controlled pole building.  Ask whoever is designing your new building for more assistance. I have far more concerns for folks wanting to over-design climate controlling their new pole barn, then “under”.  While I want you to be warm (or cool) and comfortable, I also want to be sure you are using the “Three R’s Rule” – selecting the right product, to do the right job, at the right price.

Rigid Foam Plastic Insulation

One of the joys of what I do is I get to learn new things every day. I’ve often thought to myself, the day I stop learning, is the day I am dead.

In today’s lesson….one of our clients has taken his engineer sealed plans to his Building Department to obtain a building permit. The building is designed with interior steel liner panels (not my personal favorite choice – but a topic for a future blog). The panels are to cover fiberglass insulation.

Sounds pretty straight forward so far, at least to me…..

Until our client told the Plans Examiner he is going to insulate the building using rigid foam plastic insulation.

What is rigid foam plastic insulation? An example would be Rmax’s R-Matte Plus-3, which is a rigid foam plastic thermal insulation board composed of environmentally sound, closed cell, polyisocyanurate foam bonded to a durable white-matte (non-glare) aluminum facer and a reflective reinforced aluminum facer. Basically – any polyisocyanurate sheathing.

The plans examiner came up with the following, “…foam plastic shall be separated from the interior of a building by an approved thermal barrier of 0.5-inch gypsum wallboard or equivalent thermal barrier material that will limit the average temperature rise of the unexposed surface to not more than 250 degrees F after 15 minutes of fire exposure, complying with the standard time-temperature curve of ASTM E 119…”

In layman’s terms, if your idea is to insulate your new pole building using polyisocyanurate insulation boards, plan upon having to place ½” drywall on the inside wall. This may result in costs which were not budgeted for, not just for the drywall, but to have the framing and weight capacity of the building designed to be able to support it.

My recommendation? Compare total costs between this and other options, such as fiberglass, before making a commitment to rigid foam plastic insulation.  It’s not that it is a bad choice – not at all.  It’s just that your building needs to be designed to support it.  And of course, your buildings need to meet the code for it so your plans examiner is in happy-land.