The importance of installing insulation correctly

The importance of installing insulation correctly
James Singletary
Published: 1 June 2013 - 3:11 a.m.
By: CW Guest Columnist

The main problem with insulation is installation. Clients who employ contractors that install great products must understand that if it’s not installed correctly, it will cause issues in wasted energy, corrosion and millions of dirhams of unwanted expenditure.

As an engineer I’m asked to consult on jobs where the previous so called engineer was orginally a butcher or a taxi driver in their home country (no, I’m not joking!)

As an example I’ve seen clients with warehouse roofs who employed contractors (or did the labour themselves) to install sandwich panels.

The clients then complain that when it rains the roofs leak and the interior roof sweats causing condensation and corrosion. When insulation panels are not installed correctly they cause more harm than good to the roof. A roof which is supposed to last 20 years now will not last more than five years, or less.

In the USA we don’t use insulation panels as much as we do here, there we use Tempcoat 101 liquid insulation which is cheaper and idiot-proof to install. When the screw is tightened too much on an insulation panel it stops the panel from naturally expanding and contracting when the temperatures rise.

The tightened screw breaks the panel, causing the insulation inside to come into contact with the outside air. When this happens the insulation gets wet and the panel loses its insulation value. Rain gets in between the panel and the roof causing the roof to rust, corrosion eats away at the roof, reducing the life span.

Now the owner has multiple problems which cost millions of dirhams to fix. If the right solution had been put in place from the beginning, the owner would have a headache-free roof for years to come.

In the Middle East owners get sold on ideas by contractors who have no idea of how to install them. One roof alone has thousands of screws so it’s impossible to screen the installation by a contractor.

The engineer doesn’t want to admit the problem to the owner in case of loosing face so the owner uses cheap fix it methods which don’t work.

Another common problem here is buildings which have pipes and ductwork insulation problems causing condensation, corrosion and more worringly mold and fungus problems. In the USA mold is such a hot topic that properties we call ‘Sick Buildings’ are shut down immediately and decontaminated. In the USA they use MDF 500. Black mold is essentially, Legionnaires disease.

In this part of the world mold is not taken that seriously and you can see why one in five people in the Emirates suffer from breathing problems. This is because in the original insulation on the pipes and ductwork wasn’t installed correctly and when humid air meets cold air the mold process begins. Residents switch on their AC systems and unknowingly breathe in mold spores, which cause asthma.

Again the insulationis not the problem - it’s the installation. Hard to reach areas such as 90-degree bends, which are almost impossible to insulate correctly using traditional methods, are dealt with by liquid insulation in the USA.

I’ve seen new buildings on the Palm Jumeirah where the apartments, corridors and ceilings have been infested with Black Mold because of improper installation.

Similar problems are in the majority of buildings in the Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers and all are caused by a general lack of understanding of how buildings need to be insulated. Gaps between insulation cause expensive problems, fact.

Some companies simply use cladding to hide the gaps in the insulation so and they reply on the fact that if clients cannot see the problem, there isn’t one.

James Singletary is a director at R Squared, Dubai

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