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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.

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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 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 

 

 

 

 

Performance Haus Inc. to Distribute ThermalBuck Across Canada

Spruce Grove, Alberta, CA — BRINC Building Products, Inc. has recently expanded it’s ThermalBuck distribution into Canada, to meet the growing demand of high performance architects and builders constructing walls with continuous insulation.

 

“The industry is recognizing exterior insulation as a more effective way to insulate a building. ThermalBuck couldn’t have come at a better time.”

– Jamie Van Gelderen, Performance Haus, Inc.


Canada has long outpaced the US in the adoption of energy efficient building standards. The market for exterior insulation and higher R-value wall assemblies is significant, and builders have been grappling with the challenges of installing windows with exterior insulation.

 

ThermalBuck installation in Canada via Marchand Construction, Edmonton. Josh Marchand is a featured builder presenter at the annual Edmonton Remodeling Show.

ThermalBuck – The Continuous Insulation Solution

“Builders have been so receptive to ThermalBuck because it’s such a simple, effective solution to the challenges of installing windows with insulation,” said BRINC President, John Brooks. “From the moment we launched in 2016, ThermalBuck received a great deal of interest from the Canadian market. But we kept putting those inquires on hold, because we just couldn’t keep up with the requests while building the US market.”

Performance Haus – The Right Partner

Meeting James (Jamie) Van Gelderen of Performance Haus, Inc. changed everything.

Jamie impressed us with the personal approach he takes in developing his building material supply company, Performance Haus. His business model is driven by the principles of building science, and outstanding customer service. The commitment to training and installation assistance for Performance Haus customers was exactly what we were looking for in a partnership. A self-described “boots on the ground” entrepreneur, Jamie aims to teach builders to build above building code standards.

 

“The passion Jamie’s team shares for building science is inspiring. Performance Haus is a driving force in the evolution of energy-efficient building standards across Canada.”

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

 

Performance Haus offers a carefully curated product line of high performance building envelope materials, with the best reputations in the business. ThermalBuck is the ideal compliment to their existing high performance building envelope product offerings, which feature:

  • DELTA by Dörken high-performance air & moisture barriers, flashings and tape.
  • Havelock natural wool insulation
  • Innotech Windows and Doors
  • SIGA building envelope barriers & tapes
  • Terrafoam graphite enhanced EPS exterior insulation
  • ThermalBuck high performance window buck

 


For information regarding ThermalBuck distribution rights and purchasing in Canada, contact the high-performance team at performancehaus.ca.

 

PHIUS Verified Installation with Alpen

Alpen 925 Zenith Nail Fin Window + 2.5″ ThermalBuck

Energy efficient windows are an essential component of any high-performance building. But the installation was always a challenge for nail flange windows, which have to be mounted on the same plane as the exterior insulation.

ThermalBuck teamed up with North-American passive house window manufacturer Alpen High Performance Products to introduce their PHIUS Verified Window Installation Detail featuring the Alpen 925 Series Fiberglass window with 2.5″ ThermalBuck.

PHIUS Verified Window Installation Data:

Alpen 925 Zenith Nail Fin Window + 2.5″ ThermalBuck 

ThermalBuck effectively limits thermal bridging at the rough opening, provides a superior air & water barrier than a wood buck, and also a strong support for the weight of the window.

Passive house designers and builders now have the data they need to confidently include ThermalBuck into their specifications.


The Alpen HPP Zenith Series ZR-9/ 925 window features up to R-9.1 insulation, 99.5% UV protection, insulated frames, and Alpen Glass, Alpen’s renowned Suspended Film Technology. Every Alpen window has 9 key design features that make these highly engineered windows some of the best in the industry. Read more about the technology and craftsmanship of Alpen windows here.

Alpen High Performance Products is a national distributor for ThermalBuck. thinkalpen.com

ThermalBuck Installation Demos @JLC LIVE 2017 – Get Your Free Pass & Join Us!

ThermalBuck is headed to JLC Live 2017 on March 24th & 25th at the Rhode Island Convention Center, in downtown Providence.

And we’d like you to be there too!  

JLC Live New England is widely known as the best hands-on construction show in the business. Focused on live product demonstrations and popular building clinics, this show stands out as a great training arena for builders who want to fine-tune their building science knowledge and installation techniques.

Two packed floors of exhibitors await the thousands of builders in attendance, and three days of educational sessions open to all attendees. Register and enter promotion code 61106 to print your FREE PASS!  

 

ThermalBuck Installation Demonstrations

Don’t miss ThermalBuck’s live installation demonstrations at Booth #117 each day at 10:30, 12:30, and 2:30 pm.  See firsthand how simple and consistent window installations are when using ThermalBuck. It solves many of the common challenges wood window bucks create when coupled with exterior insulation.

 

JLC Exhibit Hall

Check out the full event program for a complete listing of clinics, demonstrations, and events that you won’t want to miss.  Add to your to-do list Moisture Management through proper window installation and flashing, taught by industry veteran Bill Robinson of Train2Build. Builder Peter Heard, of North Country Carpentry and Restoration Inc. will be showcasing new installation requirements for the Building Envelope.

All work and no play is never a good idea, and plenty of fun is on the schedule.The key networking event is the Welcome Party Friday from 5-6pm, sponsored by Andersen Windows & Doors. Several happy hours and meet-ups offer great opportunities for fellow attendees and speakers to connect and relax.

Since the March weather feels a lot like winter, take a few days off of the job site to expand your knowledge and invest in your training and skills in New England. The payback will be worth it.


JLC LIVE presents multiple shows across the U.S.  The signature show is JLC Live New England, held every March on the east coast.  Out west, you’ll want to attend JLC LIVE Northwest, held in December in Portland. The Remodeling Show & Deck Expo features a more intimate format, and is scheduled for Nashville in October 2017.    The official media sponsors of JLC LIVE include The Journal of Light Construction (JLC),  Tools of the Trade, and Remodeling magazine.  

ThermalBuck Named “One to Watch” in LBM Journal

ThermalBuck is in great company with several leading manufacturers as one of the top “PRODUCT PICKS” in the February 2017 print and digital editions of the LBM Journal.

Out of the hundreds of new building material products introduced to the market each month, the LBM Journal reviews and selects their top choices for readers, noted as “Ones to Watch” in their popular “PRODUCT PICKS” feature.This recent edition also included Vinyl Single-Slide Windows from MI Windows & Doors, FlatWrap UV Housewrap from Benjamin Obdyke, and the MiraTec Smooth Select line from Jeld-Wen, to name a few.  

View the complete listing of the LBM Journal February 2017 Issue Product Picks here.

February 2017 Issue of LBM Journal 

The highlight of the February issue is a feature about family-owned R.P. Lumber.  Over the past 40 years, they’ve grown from a $5,000 investment in a single store without a restroom, to 65 lumberyards servicing the Midwest region. Their motto “Best Service, Best Value” has served them well in building a loyal customer base with significant growth, and retaining exceptional employees. To learn more about this entrepreneurial family, view the February issue of the LBM Journal.

No matter what aspect of business you’re in, you’ll benefit from the excellent piece by Bob Heidenreich, “Teach Customers That Price Isn’t Everything.”  He reveals his strategies to educate customers about what they’re buying.  It’s important to promote the value of both the materials and service.  Bob’s piece is a great reminder to us all that retaining customers and increasing profits has everything to do with knowledge, and communication.

Also of note in the February issue, is an in-depth look into the latest developments in Moulding & Trimboard.  With the increasing importance of high-performing products that resist moisture, the stronghold of wood on the market is shifting to new materials. PVC, polyurethane and fly-ash trim are now making their mark. This article is a great reference on how to compare and understand the cost and benefits of each.

View the complete digital versions of current and archived issues of the print magazine, available at lbmjournal.com


Since it’s launch in 2003, LBM Journal has been highly regarded as the leading media outlet for the residential lumber building material (LBM) distribution channel.  The LBM Journal provides its readership with the latest in industry news, product trends and business insights through multiple channels. For information about obtaining a digital or print subscription, or to sign up for their informative newsletter visit lbmjournal.com.  Join one of the 40,000 industry professionals who rely on LBM Journal as a leading source of information and subscribe now.

Austin builder Matt Risinger features ThermalBuck on an episode or Risinger Goes Rogue

ThermalBuck Goes Rogue with Austin Builder Matt Risinger

Texas has always been famous for cowboys, gunslingers, and rodeos (not to mention the best steaks and BBQ you’ll find anywhere). But you may not have realized that it’s also the home to one of the fastest growing construction industries in the U.S.

Led by multi-family housing starts, construction growth is fueled by an increasing population, a healthy housing market, and a strong environment for investment. Drive anywhere across this beautiful state and you’ll witness construction cranes, and rapid building progress in all shapes and sizes.

WATCH:  Risinger Goes Rogue featuring ThermalBuck   

Matt Risinger

Where construction is booming, you’ll find award-winning homebuilders.  At the recent Energy & Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) Conference in Dallas, TX, ThermalBuck had the good fortune to cross paths with the most famous builder to call the Lone Star State home, Matt Risinger. Not only a well-known builder, Matt is also a respected media personality in the building industry. Matt was the closing speaker for the 3 day event held at the end of September, 2016.  The close-knit and collaborative nature of this particular conference invites plenty of opportunities to interact with attendees, presenters and manufacturers alike.  Matt’s keen interest in emerging products and new technology brought him to ThermalBuck on the trade show floor, where he spent some time with our president, John Brooks.

Risinger Homes

To meet Matt in person, is to realize right away that he is the real deal. Smart, humble, hard-working and passionate about good building science, Matt has earned a considerable following of nearly 34,000 subscribers to his You Tube channel, Build with Matt Risinger.  Since it’s launch in 2008, Matt’s building videos have earned him nearly 10 million views. Pretty impressive for this full-time builder and owner of Risinger Homes, and part-time marketer.

Matt has earned his reputation for excellency the old-fashioned way, through years of hands-on construction work, and the innate desire to do things the right way.

“I build homes that are dramatically more energy efficient, durable, healthy, and comfortable than most new homes in America.”

Risinger Homes is doing just that – building some of the finest homes in Texas. Combining Matt’s work ethic with his passion for technology, easy manner and marketing savvy, Matt has crafted a great reputation as a building science expert.

Risinger Goes Rogue

Not only does Risinger Homes build multiple high-end homes a year, he also spends countless hours appearing at building events and trade shows, as well as creating videos for Risinger Goes Rogue. Matt maintains a strong presence on social media, building his audience through his natural presentation ability, straight-talk and credibility. His strong family values, faith, and outlook on life are a bonus to those who seek out his expertise. Followers of Matt’s social media accounts can watch day-to-day progress of the homes he is working on, and learn proper building techniques along the way.

matt-risinger-with-videographerRisinger Goes Rogue recently featured ThermalBuck, a smart, simple solution to the challenges builders face when installing windows with continuous insulation. 

We appreciate Matt sharing ThermalBuck with his avid followers, and look forward to collaborating with Risinger Homes in the future. One thing we can be certain of, is that we will learn a thing (or two).


Risinger Homes started building exclusively for architects in 2005.  Matt’s building science expertise has been documented in Fine Homebuilding, The Journal of Light Construction, and Custom Home Magazine, to name a few.  He is also an award winning blogger, the two-time winner of the JDR Best Blogger Award.  Enjoy the beauty and craftsmanship of Matt’s work through his instagram account, twitter, or facebook. The Texas building statistics sourced for this post were found at investopedia.com.