Tag Archives: fire resistance

Plastic Vapor Barrier, PermaColumn, and a Fire Resistant Barrier

This Wednesday the Pole Barn Guru answers reader questions about use of 6 mil plastic vapor barrier in Michigan, if Hansen provides the option of a precast concrete pier to keep columns out of the ground, build heights, and “if anything needed between interior PVC panels, closed cell spray foam and the exterior metal siding.”

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I have a pole barn that I am planning on insulating. The trusses are 2 foot on center and it has a shingled roof, the outside of the pole barn is steel. I live in Michigan and I was wondering if it is a good idea to put 6 mil plastic on the bottom of trusses before I hang steel on the ceiling. I will be blowing in insulation up there later. KAL in HUDSONVILLE

DEAR KAL: You are in Climate Zone 5A, so a ceiling vapor barrier is not required by Code. Building scientist and founding principal of Building Science Corporation Joe Lstiburek states, “Plastic vapor barriers should only be installed in vented attics in climates with more than 8,000 heating degree days.” (More on degree days here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2022/11/what-is-degree-day/).

I would only recommend you installing a vapor barrier above your steel ceiling if you were to be considering blowing in cellulose insulation. Why cellulose? https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2022/10/cellulose-post-frame-attic-insulation/


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Do you deal with post frame designs that: 1) use the precast column to keep wood out of the ground? 2) Deal with designs that are 20′ eave height to accommodate 2 story interiors. JONATHAN in ZANESVILLE

DEAR JONATHAN: We have had several clients provide their own pre-cast Permacolumns and they can be incorporated into our engineered designs. There is, however, a less costly option to explore: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2018/04/perma-column-price-advantage/

We can engineer and provide up to 40 foot tall walls and three stories without needing fire suppression sprinklers, so 20 feet eave heights are not a problem.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hello, my question, which I can’t seem to find a straight answer anywhere online. Is anything needed between interior PVC panels, closed cell spray foam and the exterior metal siding? The pole barn is located in southern Indiana. It’s used as a shop and being heated occasionally with a wood stove. BENJAMIN in INDIANA

DEAR BENJAMIN: As your PVC and closed cell spray foam are both flammable, I would use an intumescent fire proof paint on interior face of closed cell spray foam, then fill balance of wall cavity (if any) with rockwool batts. As an alternative to intumescent paint, you could place sheetrock between wall framing and PVC panels (panels will lay much smoother).

Updates to Make to Your Pole Barn in 2023

Updates to Make to Your Pole Barn in 2023

Entering the new year comes with resolutions, and while some may be personal, there are plenty that end up becoming a part of your to-do list. Starting with a clean slate means you can really hone in on what improvements you may need, or what you really want to take on over the next few months. Far too often, we think that resolutions need to be focused on health alone, but it’s important to note that these goals can be attached to your home, business, or family in the new year. If there are some renovations you have been meaning to make but have not been able to, consider adding them to your resolution list! In fact, here are a few updates you can plan to do in 2023 to make your pole barn project a successful one. 

Whether you’re building a new pole barn or updating an existing structure, structural integrity should always be a top priority. Items that may be great for fire resistance, insulation, or durability, are essential to the structure. But, make sure that these products are actually healthy for you to be around too! You’ll want to keep these tips for a barn build in mind to avoid common and potentially damaging mistakes people make when constructing or making updates to the building.

Insulation is worth adding in if you plan on making this space multi-use, recreational, or your home. Pole barns for hay or other items may not need insulation, but even a greenhouse facility will need insulation of some sort. We’ve stated before how important insulation is for a pole barn, so don’t go skipping this step if you want a long-lasting building. However, if your building is going through renovations, it’s vital to make sure that what you already have installed won’t be damaging to the building or your health. 

If you’re working with a contractor, it’s wise to double-check their work; don’t be afraid to ask questions when updating areas like insulation or new roofing. Sometimes, the cheaper option can hurt you along the way. In fact, there are plenty of older construction products that can harm your health, so taking the time to safely replace cheap materials with more durable options can be key to long-standing projects. 

Another thing to consider, as previously mentioned, is your roofing. Your roof is the first line of defense for your pole barn when it comes to mother nature, so it’s essential that you’re prepared for whatever may come your way, be it snow, wind, rain, or unpredictable natural disasters. The materials you choose for your pole barn roof are an important decision, so doing your research can make a considerable difference in future maintenance. For example, metal roofs will be able to withstand hail and snow, but knowing what thickness provides greater protection can be the difference in replacing it in the future. 

While the new year may bring new challenges, and a whole slew of different projects you may want to take on, make sure to take a step back and make sure that every update you make not only creates something solid for years to come but protects you along the way. After all, as the saying goes, it’s better to measure twice and cut once than the other way around!

Comparing Rockwool and Fiberglass Insulation

Comparing Rockwool and Fiberglass Insulation  

Fiberglass insulation has long been a popular option for slowing heat transmission through building walls and ceilings. While it may have an added benefit of creating a fire-resistant layer between interior and exterior walls, fiberglass still may not measure up to Rockwool’s natural abilities. Like fiberglass, Rockwool is an insulation material regularly used in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.

Rockwool can be differentiated from fiberglass by comparing heat retention, fire resistance, moisture resistance, and soundproofing capabilities. 

Rockwool insulation’s manufacturing processes helps to explain true fire-resistant potential of this product. It’s composed primarily of basalt rock and a recycled steel-making byproduct known as slag. These components are superheated, allowing them to liquefy and mix together into a lava-like liquid. In order to melt these substances, temperatures must exceed 2,900 degrees Fahrenheit.

This mixture is then blown into a large spinning chamber designed to stretch superheated liquid into fibers. These fibers are then gathered together and compressed into a mat, then cut into slabs of Rockwool insulation.

By creating Rockwool through this process, all organic matter is eliminated, greatly increasing finished product’s mold- and mildew-resistance.

Confusion about recycled material amounts used to make Rockwool insulation can mostly be attributed to statistics about mineral wool insulation in general. Rockwool is a brand-specific type of mineral wool insulation so popular its name became synonymous with mineral wool. Brand-specific Rockwool insulation is typically between 16 to 40 percent recycled materials. Department of Energy has stated mineral wool insulation contains an average 75% recycled materials. Department of Energy’s estimate is hard to back up as they make a distinction between standard ‘rock wool’ insulation and ‘slag wool’ insulation, but don’t note difference in recycled material amount for each product. Also, this is a perfect example where ‘Rockwool’ brand name being used in place of generic material name, blurring lines between products.

In general, it can be derived recycled material amount in Rockwool insulation is not precise because it ultimately depends on specific product. Rockwool insulation may only have between 16 to 40 percent recycled material, while slag Rockwool insulation can be made with up to 75 percent recycled material.

Both fiberglass and Rockwool are effective at keeping buildings cool in summer and warm in winter, but specific thermal efficiency of these materials favors Rockwool. While fiberglass insulation is capable of offering an R-value of about 3 to 3.2 per inch of insulation, Rockwool has an R-value between 4 to 4.2 per inch of insulation.

Fiberglass insulation also may lose some thermal efficiency over several years if it begins to degrade. Due to construction methods and materials used to make Rockwool insulation, its thermal performance remains stable over a building’s lifetime. Rockwool does cost more per square foot than fiberglass insulation.

As noted previously, Rockwool insulation is formed from literal rocks and steel slag and must be heated beyond 2,900 degrees Fahrenheit in order to mix component materials and create this highly effective insulation. With this in mind, it makes sense mineral wool products in general can resist fire, flames, and heat up to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, while some Rockwool products are capable of resisting temperatures up to 2,150 degrees Fahrenheit without melting, smoking, or catching on fire.

This impressive heat-resistance is ideal for buildings because it forms a fire-resistant barrier between building interior and exterior, between rooms, and even between floors, slowing fire spread. It should be noted fiberglass insulation is also highly heat-resistant, though it begins to melt at about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rockwool’s durability is difficult to dispute, given it is capable of retaining its thermal efficiency over a building’s entire lifetime without degradation in its R-value. This is due to materials used to make Rockwool insulation, including rock and steel slag, both known for having a high level of durability and natural resistance to decay and corrosion.

However, Rockwool’s durability isn’t limited to material’s heat retention quality. Impressive water-resistance, mold-resistance, mildew-resistance, and fire-resistance also contribute to Rockwool insulation’s durability and capabilities. 

Some people may not appreciate Rockwool insulation’s heftiness because it does tend to be thicker than fiberglass insulation, but this helps to slow heat transmission and it has an added effect of slowing sound waves. As sound waves attempt to move through Rockwool material, they are slowed and sometimes completely blocked, creating built-in soundproofing.

While insulation thickness helps to block noise, it is Rockwool insulation’s density providing soundproofing. Fiberglass insulation has a density of about 0.5 to 1.0 pounds per cubic foot, allowing it to reduce sound by 4 to 10 decibels. Rockwool insulation has a density of around 1.7 pounds per cubic foot, capable of consistently dampening sound by 10 to 15 decibels.

Rockwool’s construction and composition make it ideal for rooms prone to high levels of humidity, like bathrooms or kitchens. Rockwool insulation’s moisture-resistant and vapor-permeable qualities mean any liquid water will drain away from insulation instead of soaking into it, while gaseous water vapor will pass through without dampening material.

Additionally, Rockwool insulation is inorganic, so it makes a poor medium for mold and mildew to grow as there is nothing for them to use for energy. In fact, Rockwool products are also tested and certified as resistant to fungal growth, reducing chances users will open up a wall and find a dangerous biological problem waiting for them.