Home » lbm

Tag: lbm

Building a Better Mousetrap: The Development of ThermalBuck

People often look at ThermalBuck and ask, “How did you come up with this idea?”

Like any good idea, it starts with figuring out you’ve got a problem in the first place. And that’s exactly how this whole process began. John Brooks, developer of ThermalBuck, built his family an extremely energy-efficient, well-insulated house. And he was surprised with how frustrating and difficult it was to install the windows.


So you’ve added exterior insulation to a building, and the depth of the insulation extends past the rough opening, where the windows are installed. The question of “What do we do about the windows?” becomes an important consideration – and a real challenge to overcome.

Rough openings have always presented concerns for air & water sealing on any building, and changing the mounting point for the windows makes them even more vulnerable to moisture damage.

High-performance architects and builders have used exterior insulation for years, recognizing the importance of eliminating thermal bridges in the building envelope. Traditionally, most U.S. builders have insulated between the studs, if they decided to use insulation at all.

But the building practices of the past are giving way to innovation.

“If you see a failure on a building, you can pretty much bet that it started with water.”

John Brooks, president, BRINC Building Products, developer of ThermalBuck

More states are adopting IECC energy codes that require continuous insulation, and builders are striving to understand how building science impacts the energy efficiency and quality of their work. Use of exterior insulation in both new construction and renovations is growing significantly, so solving this challenge has become a priority.

Mounting Windows Directly Over Foam

Often builders choose to mount windows and doors right over the exterior insulation, particularly for depths in the .5″ and 1.0″ range. But the nail flange compresses the insulation, creating gaps for air and water to enter. There is also a lack of good support for wide, heavy windows, which can affect the long-term operation of the window. Martin Holliday of Green Building Advisor spoke with Cordell Burton, an installation engineer at Pella Windows, about the issue in 2011.

“You can’t screw through foam sheathing – the foam will compress. You have to have something solid to attach the window to.”

Cordell Burton, Pella, as quoted in Musings of an Energy Nerd, Green Building Advisor, May 2011 

For insulation depths over 1.5″, builders generally built “wood bucks”, made of plywood or dimensional lumber, to extend the mounting point of the window.

The Traditional Wood Buck

While wood solves the problem of extending the mounting point, it creates some new problems of its own in that it often will warp, rot, and shrink.

Wood is a poor insulator, so wood bucks allow air to transfer around each window and door through the rough opening. Cold air is denser than warm air, so in the winter the heated indoor air heads outside, and in the summer, the hot, humid air outdoors moves into the cool air-conditioned interior. This transfer of energy is called thermal bridging, which is what continuous insulation is designed to eliminate in the first place.

 

The Problem with Thermal Bridging

Thermal bridging isn’t just about wasted energy – although a home that’s more expensive to heat and cool and isn’t comfortable is a legitimate problem. But it’s really about water. Builders know if bulk water isn’t managed properly, it can cause extensive damage to a building. But the moisture that forms from condensation also causes issues over time.

Another hidden concern is condensation, which can be a consequence of thermal bridging. When warm air comes into contact with a cold spot on the floor or wall, water vapor in the air cools and collects as droplets on the colder surface. This can result in durability problems, as well as poor indoor air quality,” said Joanna Grab, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Steven Winter Associates.

The more we insulate our buildings, the more important it becomes to reduce the potential for condensation to form – good building sense in any climate.

“Another hidden concern is condensation, which can be a consequence of thermal bridging. This can result in durability problems, as well as poor indoor air quality.

-Joanna Grab, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Steven Winter Associates, as written by Kate Danielsen, High Performance Walls on swinter.com, January 2017

Building a Better Mousetrap: The Process

John Brooks was very familiar with the problems associated with wood bucks. After losing his home in a fire, John built a new home for his family with his own hands. They settled in to make a new start, only to watch as condensation and mold formed around the new windows. Not only did the wood bucks he built cause condensation issues, the flashing process was so difficult that the whole installation process amounted to an exercise in frustration. He began to think there had to be a better way to install windows.

Using his background in construction and his experience in the insulation industry, John began to make prototypes for a product that would be better than a wood buck. It needed to solve multiple problems and still be cost-effective. Here’s the wishlist John had for his new product:

An early attempt at ThermalBuck, EPS without the waterproof coating.
An early attempt at ThermalBuck, EPS without the waterproof coating.
    • Extend the mounting point
    • Prevent the compression of exterior insulation
    • Insulate the rough opening
    • Protect the rough opening from moisture damage
    • Support the window
    • Handle shear & wind loads
    • Provide durability, strength & flexibility
    • Install easily
    • Simplify flashing & integrate with the WRB
    • Maintain the long-term operation of the window.

Anyone who has ever come up with a great idea for a new product will agree that the “eureka” moment doesn’t happen without a long period of not-so-great ideas, that take you back to the drawing board time and time again, testing both your patience – and your determination.

This was no different for John, who spent all of his spare time and most of his money on this project, often struggling not to give up. A chance meeting with some strangers at a restaurant, the desire to build a strong business to help sustain their community, and shared Christian beliefs poured new life into his research. After 4 years of prototypes, trial & error, third-party testing, and an unwavering personal faith, John realized his vision for ThermalBuck as it exists today.

The Innovation: ThermalBuck

ThermalBuck is an L-shaped window buck that goes inside the rough opening, and extends outward to create a flush plane with exterior insulation and/or rainscreens.

ThermalBuck is made of a type XIV high-density EPS, and coated in a waterproof resin. Not only does it have the compressive and shear strength to handle the weight of large, high-performance windows, but it also insulates the rough opening with an R-value of 4.4 per inch to limit thermal bridging around the rough opening.

The High-Performance Future of Building

In 2016, Scott Gibson of Green Building Advisor presented ThermalBuck as “An Alternative to Wood Bucks”, and the building industry took notice.ThermalBuck began to receive widespread media recognition, and garnered a lot of attention at conferences and trade shows, because there was nothing like it – it’s simple to use, and solves a common problem.

“This is an impressive product. Once you see it, you really understand the problem this solves for builders like me.”

-Matt Risinger, Risinger Construction, The Build Show

John met Matt Risinger at the EEBA conference in Dallas, Texas, in 2016. Based in Austin but originally a Pittsburgh native, Matt had a western Pennsylvania connection with John.

Matt is a highly respected builder, educator, and self-proclaimed “building science geek” with over 300,000 followers on his popular YouTube channel, Build with Matt Risinger.

He’s well known for sharing solutions and new products to his thousands of followers – and appreciated for his candor. Risinger took home our tabletop displays to share with his building community and gave ThermalBuck great feedback. John was fortunate to film some videos with Risinger & Co. in Austin, and the building community took notice.

The rest, as they say, is building history.

 

Follow ThermalBuck’s path in the media here.


Want to learn more? We recommend these excellent building science resources: Heat Rises… and Falls – Stack Effect, Air Movement and Heat Flow, Allison Bales, Energy Vanguard. How it Works: Vapor Drive, Rob Yagid, Fine Homebuilding. Plan Ahead to Save Energy – Martin Holladay, Fine Homebuilding. 

 

 

ThermalBuck Now Available in The Last Frontier

Fairbanks, AK —  When ABC Inc. building material expert Jeff Pino discovered ThermalBuck, he knew it was just the right product to meet the needs of his customers who build in one of the most extreme climates in the U.S.

“We have two seasons here – Winter, and Construction,” says Pino, Building Materials Sales, ABC Inc. Fairbanks is located in the Alaskan Interior , and it has the most significant temperature changes in the U.S. The temperatures range from 90°F during the summer, and below −50°F in the wintertime. Heating costs can be extraordinarily high, making energy-efficient design an absolute essential. “We build to extreme energy-efficient standards here in Alaska, and we install a lot of high performance windows,” continues Pino, “The climate demands it.”

“We build to extreme energy-efficient standards here in Alaska, and we install a lot of high performance windows – the climate demands it.”

-Jeff Pino, Building Material Sales, ABC Inc., Fairbanks, AK

 


Building in Alaska 

“When it’s building season, and the daylight runs 24 hours a day, we work as much as humanly possible. Products that save us time are essential,”  says Pino. 

“ThermalBuck saves money, it saves time – and the thermal break around the window is critical to prevent condensation. We have a company that we work with that does a lot of retrofits – and it’s perfect for that,” says Pino. “In some cases, it almost pays for itself in the reduction in window size. Dropping that inch overall in the size of the window can save the homeowner money – without sacrificing enough glass to make a difference.”

 

“ThermalBuck saves money, it saves time – we have a company we worth with that does a lot of retrofits – it’s perfect for that.”

-Jeff Pino, Building Material Sales, ABC Inc., Fairbanks, AK

 

The History of ABC

ABC Inc. was formed 1995, as a local Fairbanks company specializing in maintenance-free seamless steel siding. It has since grown into a full service building material supplier and construction company, focused on energy-efficient, high-performing buildings designed to withstand life in the Arctic. It’s Building Energy Efficiency Standard (BEES) certified staff helps to meet the needs of both builders and homeowners to find the most energy efficient building materials on the market. ThermalBuck joins a premium assortment of high performance building materials carried by ABC Inc., including Alpen HPP Windows, Therma-Tru Doors, and Edco steel roofing and siding.


Although ABC Inc. is located in Fairbanks, as any business located in Alaska – they are masters in logistics. ABC Inc. will ship ThermalBuck anywhere in the state – and provide the customer service and support to ensure a good installation.You’ll find the energy-efficient experts at ABC, Inc. at akabc.com.

 

ThermalBuck Now Available Through Boise Cascade

BRINC Building Products, Inc. has expanded ThermalBuck distribution in the Greater Northeastern U.S. through Boise Cascade, a leading wholesale distributor (and manufacturer) of building materials for more than 50 years.

What started as a merger between two lumber companies back in 1957, Boise Cascade has grown into a powerhouse in the building materials industry, with gross sales over $1 billion in just the first quarter of 2018. Growth of Boise Cascade stock is currently outpacing the industry, with no signs of slowing.

Boise Cascade distributes a wide range of building materials from well known national brands such as Boral, Georgia Pacific, GCP Applied Technologies, Johns Manville, and Simpson Strong-Tie.

“Boise Cascade is excited to add ThermalBuck to our portfolio of A-level products. We believe this innovative product will provide our customer base with a solution to a common problem.”

– Dan Morgado, Sales Manager, Boise Cascade


ThermalBuck 

The timing couldn’t be better, as use of continuous insulation continues to grow in New England.

Builders in this region have recognized the long-term cost savings associated with exterior insulation for years, and are all too familiar with the problems wood bucks introduce.

“Architects and builders have been so receptive to ThermalBuck because it’s such a simple, effective solution to the challenges of installing windows with exterior insulation,” said John Brooks, President of BRINC Building Products, Inc. However, there is always a learning curve with a new product, which is why BRINC has been selective about choosing retailers and distributors that offer ThermalBuck. 

“Not only were we impressed with their quick response times, but Boise Cascade offers it’s customers outstanding installation training and support. The high standards that Boise Cascade exhibits were exactly what we were looking for to help meet the growing demand for ThermalBuck,” continued Brooks.

 

“The high standards that Boise Cascade exhibits were exactly what we were looking for to help meet the growing demand for ThermalBuck.”

 – John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc.

 

Boise Cascade, headquartered in Boise, Idaho, offers retailers a broad product catalog of building materials. We’re proud ThermalBuck has joined their existing high performance building product offerings, which include:

  • Engineered Woods
  • Dimension Lumber and Studs
  • Structural and Specialty Panels
  • Boards and Trim
  • Decking and Railing
  • Speciality Wood Products
  • Siding, Doors, Insulation
  • Housewraps, Flashing, and Waterproofing
  • Metal and Roofing Products
  • Gypsum and Backer Board
  • Adhesives, Caulking, Sealants, and More
  • For a complete listing, please visit boisecascade.com 

 


For purchasing information through Boise Cascade, please contact the
Westfield, MA Distribution Center at #413.572.2995. boisecascade.com