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Ask the Expert: Blower Door Tests & Air Sealing

Air leakage control is an important but commonly misunderstood component of the energy efficient house. Tightening the structure with caulking and sealants has several positive impacts. A tight house will:

  • Have lower heating bills due to less heat loss
  • Have fewer drafts and be more comfortable
  • Reduce the chance of mold and rot because moisture is less likely to enter and become trapped in cavities
  • Have a better performing ventilation system
  • Potentially require smaller heating and cooling equipment capacities.

International Energy Conservation Codes (IECC) have significantly stepped up requirements for limiting building air leakage and duct leakage. Blower door testing must be performed to verify air leakage limits. 

Meeting these stricter requirements needs deliberate effort. Kinzler Construction Services specializes in air sealing, insulating and performing blower door tests.

We recently spoke to certified building science expert and Kinzler Operations Manager, David Valenzuela, who shares tips for helping you ace your blower door test.

David Valenzuela
Operations Manager
Kinzler Construction Services, Home of United Insulators

What is a blower door test and how does it work?

DAVID: Air leakage testing is now required to ensure that new buildings use less energy to heat and cool the home. A tight home is an efficient home.

Air leakage testing involves performing a blower door test on the building to determine how leaky the home is. 

To conduct a blower door test, we place an infiltrometer or blower door fan in the main entry doorway to depressurize the house or suck out air from the interior. This process will cause outside air to be drawn into the house through leakage points. 

The new codes are fairly strict and attention to detail during construction is required to pass these tests.

Kinzler’s home energy experts use blower door tests to help determine a home’s airtightness.

OK, so what do you recommend to contractors who want to pass these tests the first time?

DAVID: In my experience, there are seven key areas to address with air sealing in order to have success passing the blower door test. They include:

  1. Ductwork
  2. Transfers
  3. Bath Fans
  4. Outlets
  5. Attics
  6. Exterior Penetrations
  7. Installing Top Plate Gaskets

Please walk us through what needs to be done in each of these areas.

DAVID: Absolutely.

Ducts that needs to be sealed.
Ductwork: The ductwork from the furnace to your registers need to be 100% sealed around all joints. I see a lot of ductwork where the boot at the furnace is broken or missing mastic. Check the seams around elbows and wherever there are long trunk lines. Your returns should be ducted as well and not just run using the wall cavities. Using wall cavities as returns allow air to rush in from the attic or mid floors. Using ducted returns ensures it’s sealed and won’t pull air from other areas. The duct for the range should also be sealed using mastic.


Transfers: The transfers at room entrances can be sealed around the framing on both sides using sill sealer or a flexible gasket. You can also seal these after drywall if you prefer using Spray foam or caulking if the opening is big enough.


Bath fans: Bath fans should be installed using a damper with some type of gasket. Cheaper bath fans do not have a damper with a gasket and allow a lot of air to flow through. The bath fan housing should be sealed to the drywall. Any opening in the bath fan that isn’t being used should be sealed as well – I normally see holes in the cheaper bath fan housings. 


Outlets: Outlets allow air to flow through the knockouts and the lines coming in. Sealing the back of the outlets at the knockouts and lines coming in with canned foam helps prevent air from flowing in. The foam might shrink or lift off the surface, these should be inspected after the foam has hardened to ensure you have a proper air sealed outlet. The outlet box should be sealed to the drywall. This applies to all outlets in the home – exterior, interior, ceiling boxes, and non-airtight can lights. 


Attics: Attic air sealing is done before blow-in insulation is completed. The drywall is sealed to the framing using canned foam or another type of sealant. This will eliminate the need for a top plate gasket since the top plate will be sealed to the drywall on the attic side. Also, any penetrations through the drywall will also be sealed to prevent air flowing in the home. So the need to seal drywall penetrations from the top floor ceiling will be taken care of. If the attic is large in size, this would be the best option. Smaller attics should use other methods mentioned to ensure all will be sealed. 


Exterior penetrations: Penetrations such as exhaust ducts, plumbing, electric cables, and gas lines are normally air sealed using foam during the draftstop process. Air still flows through the gaps between the plywood and studs. The gap at the top, bottom, and sides of stud bays can be sealed using canned foam or caulking to prevent air coming through. Spraying 1” of Spray Polyurethane Foam to your exterior walls and box sills will effectively seal all of these areas and prevent air from flowing in. Windows should always use caulking or window and door foam. Stuffing fiberglass around the window will only filter the air coming in. 


Installing Top Plate Gaskets: Top plate gaskets help out a lot and are called out on most multi-family buildings we do involving smaller finished areas. 3.5” sill sealer or a liquid applied top plate gasket prevents air flow down the drywall from an attic space or mid floors. The gasket is applied to the face of the top plate before drywall is installed. The drywall will compress the gasket creating an air tight seal. The top plate gasket can also be applied to the face of the bottom plate to prevent any air coming in from the exterior sheathing. The drywall can also be caulked or foamed using canned foam to the bottom plate or plywood. 1” gypsum concrete will also create this air tight seal along the bottom plate to drywall, but can leak a little if the gypsum concrete shrinks while drying. The only issue I’ve seen while using the sill sealer as a gasket is when other trades remove or pull on it. Most of the time they don’t put it back in place. 

That’s pretty thorough! Should all of these be done on every job?

DAVID: No, doing all of these things is not necessarily needed to pass a blower door test. That’s why Kinzler Construction Services offers different levels of air sealing service, depending on the job.

Blower door tests are based on how often the volume of air in conditioned space is exchanged per hour. When the conditioned area is in the hundreds of square feet, consider doing most of the suggestions listed above. When the conditioned space is above 2,500 square feet or so, you can skip a lot of the detailed work and focus on the main areas such as box sills, attic air sealing and top plate gaskets.

If your furnace is in unconditioned space, then it should definitely be inspected and tested. If you have a party wall, then 1” spray foam around the box sills, a top plate gasket, and sealing the drywall to floor should be done.

This is great information. How do you know so much about this?

DAVID: I’ve been doing this work out in the field for years! I also have several certifications from the Building Performance Institute so that I can help our customers by:

  • Performing comprehensive energy audits and offer recommendations to save energy, improve comfort and increase a home’s safety and durability.
  • Performing blower door and duct leakage tests on new homes, as required by IECC 2009 and IECC 2012 building codes.
  • Resolving problems related to the building shell, such as moisture, ice dams, mildew and drafts.

Thank you, David! We appreciate your time.

DAVID: I’m happy to help. The good news about these newer energy codes is that they pay building owners back by way of reduced operating and utility costs down the road!

Shoot us a message or give us a call at 888-292-2382 and we’d be happy to make recommendations based on your specific project.

Kinzler Construction Services Response to COVID-19

Kinzler Construction Services is a family and employee-owned construction subcontractor, but we’re also local community members ourselves. Like you, we have been monitoring the evolving news regarding COVID-19 and we’re taking the Coronavirus situation seriously. 

All of the communities in which we work are taking measures to slow the spread of the virus and protect individuals. Kinzler Construction Services remains open, fully operational and we don’t want our people or anyone at the job sites we work on getting sick. If someone on your jobsite is sick or think they may have been infected, please tell us immediately so we can keep our employee-owners safe.  

To protect our teams and other construction partners on jobsites, we have made and will continue to make changes to our work practices based upon guidance from our federal, state and local governments. These changes include:  

  • Establishing a COVID-19 Task Force that meets to monitor developments and make adjustments, led by our President & CEO Tanner Kinzler.
  • Daily “Fit for Duty” screenings, based on CDC guidelines, for COVID-19 related potential exposure for all team members.
  • Daily talks with our teams to make sure everyone is feeling well and hasn’t been exposed to any infected person. 
  • Strict rules in place for coming to work sick. If anyone has a fever, is showing signs of illness, or has had close contact  with someone who has the Coronavirus as defined by the CDC, they are not allowed at work. 
  • Posted signs in English and Spanish, restricting access to Kinzler facilities to anyone (including team members) who is experiencing symptoms, has traveled in the last 14 days, or has been in close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19.
  • Providing free telemedicine visits to all employees on Kinzler’s health care plan. 
  • Guests or visitors are not allowed in our job sites or offices. 
  • Travel between our branch offices has been suspended. 

In addition, all personnel have been trained on best practices for transmission prevention. Some daily strategies we’ve implemented include: 

  • Daily “Fit for Duty” screenings, based on CDC guidelines, for COVID-19 related potential exposure.
  • Assigning the same crew the same tools and the same truck as much as possible. 
  • Have team members report directly to worksites to avoid riding together in vehicles. 
  • Increasing cleaning and sanitation of facilities, trucks, tools and work areas. 
  • Gloves, respirators and other PPE as required per site or scope of work.
  • Maintaining 6 feet social distancing whenever possible. 
  • Staggering crew start times.  
  • Conducting toolbox talks and safety meetings remotely. 

As your partner in the construction industry, we understand our essential role in keeping job sites open, people working and the economy moving forward. Despite the challenges, we are so grateful for the inspiring people on our collective teams and in our communities that are getting us through this difficult time. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us at (888) 292-2382.  

Kinzler Named Top 25 U.S. Insulation Contractor

Kinzler Insulation Installers pose for a photo and at a construction jobsite.
Walls & Ceilings Magazine recently announced Kinzler Construction Services as one of their Top 25 Insulation Contractors in the United States.
 
They made their selection with the help of W&C staff and its editorial advisory board—in particular the guidance of Michael Kwart of the Insulation Contractors Association of America. They decided on who they felt are among the best and most ambitious insulation contractors in the U.S. 
 
“As insulation demand continues to grow—both in the U.S. and globally— it’s important to take notice of all the different and expanding lines of insulation,” says John Wyatt, editor of W&C. “All these different types are designed and engineered to meet the unique demands of the various projects from across the globe.” 
 
The chosen insulation contractors have multiple characteristics that qualify them to be among the Top 25. Winners range from commercial to residential contractors, which apply spray foam to fiberglass and everything in between. 
 

Kinzler Honors Employees Called to be Deployed & Receives Patriot Award for Support of the Guard & Reserves

Kinzler honored employees called to be deployed & received the Patriot Award for support of the Guard & Reserves. Those honored posed in front of a cake at the ceremony.
Pictured from Left: ESGR volunteer Scott Little, Kinzler’s Distribution COO Brian Wulfekuhle, Eastern Iowa Operations Manager SFC Josh Dobbs, Eastern Iowa Distribution General Manager CPT Craig Coder.

Kinzler Construction Services recently honored two of its employee-owners who have been called to active duty overseas with the Iowa National Guard. At the same time, the company was honored for exemplary support of National Guard and Reserve member employees.

SFC Josh Dobbs, Kinzler’s Eastern Iowa Operations Manager, serves with the 1st Battalion (Ironman), 133rd Infantry Regiment based out of Waterloo. CPT Craig Coder, the General Manager of Kinzler’s eastern Iowa Distribution operations, serves with the 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery Regiment based out of Fort Dodge. Both soldiers received deployment orders for Operation Spartan Shield. Their primary mission will involve area security and force protection operations in 27 countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among others. Kinzler will hold jobs for both until they complete their National Guard duties.

Meanwhile, Kinzler’s Chief Operating Officer for Distribution, Brian Wulfekuhle, was named a Patriot Award recipient by the U.S. Department of Defense. The award, given by DOD’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), recognizes individuals who practice leadership and personnel policies that support employee participation in the Guard and Reserve. Wulfekuhle was nominated by CPT Craig Coder.

“Kinzler has helped me grow my career in the military,” Coder said. “It’s not easy to be able to have a successful military career and a successful civilian career, but Kinzler has allowed me to do both. I am grateful to work for a company which is flexible and supportive of me as I continue to serve our great country.”

Kinzler actively seeks out National Guard soldiers and people with prior military service and is a Home Base Iowa employer. Interested applicants should visit www.KinzlerCareers.com.

“We have had huge success with veterans as Kinzler employees – Craig and Josh are two great examples of soldiers who are leaders in our company,” said Wulfekuhle. “I am honored to accept this award on behalf of Kinzler Construction Services.”

“Supportive supervisors are critical to maintaining the strength and readiness of the nation’s National Guard and Reserve units,” said Scott Little, an ESGR volunteer who presented the award. “The U.S. Department of Defense is pleased to recognize Kinzler Construction Services as an outstanding organization that has and is continuing to support a strong National Guard and Reserve force.”

About Kinzler Construction Services

Kinzler Construction Services is a leading installer of insulation products, gypsum concrete, fireproofing & air barrier. Kinzler also distributes a full line of construction materials, including drywall, steel framing, acoustical ceiling tile & EIFS. Kinzler is a rapidly-growing, employee-owned company offering industry-leading service to the best customers with locations across America’s heartland. To search job openings and apply to join the Kinzler team, visit www.KinzlerCareers.com.

Kinzler & United Insulators Merge in Denver, CO

United Insulators - Insulation experts serving the metro Denver area.

Kinzler Construction Services is pleased to announce our merger with United Insulators, a leading insulation contractor serving home builders, commercial construction contractors, remodelers and home owners.

This merger with United Insulators, based in Sheridan, CO, further strengthens our ability to serve customers in the metro Denver market. United has developed a reputation built on quality and service, led by Mike Sventko – a 45-year veteran in the insulation business.

Kinzler Construction Services is a family and employee-owned insulation company located in Denver. Our 35 year-old business was founded in central Iowa and has locations in Tyler, TX and across Iowa including a branch support headquarters in Ankeny.

Combining Kinzler and United Insulators means exponential increases in inventory, equipment, manpower, infrastructure, technology, employee benefits and administrative support.  The size and scope of our products and services will continue to grow. But the friendly people and industry-leading customer service you’ve come to expect will remain.

Effective immediately, our combined business will be known as “United Insulators – A Kinzler Company.” We will work closely with our customers, partners and employees to make the integration process as smooth as possible.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at (303) 730-3059. We look forward to your continued partnership!

Sincerely,

Tanner Kinzler
President & CEO

Mike Sventko
General Manager

Kinzler Hosts Safety & Risk Control Workshop

Disasters happen everywhere and every business can – and should – prepare today.  That’s why Kinzler Construction Services hosted a Safety & Risk Control Workshop for our team, our customers, insurance captive colleagues, as well as safety and HR professionals from Ankeny, IA and the surrounding area. Guests heard from experts and those who have experienced disaster in the workplace to learn safety and risk management best practices.

Below are two of the featured sessions, recorded and shared with permission from the presenters.

Active Shooter Preparedness

Brian Endrizal, Endrizal Investigation & Consulting


Tornado Impact: Before, During & After an EF3 Tornado

Auby Ninemire, Vermeer Manufacturing

Kinzler Construction Services Appoints New Chief Financial Officer

Breanne Kruger, in the Hearth Room at Kinzler's Branch Support Headquarters, is the company's new Chief Financial Officer.
Breanne Kruger

Breanne Kruger has been appointed Chief Financial Officer of Kinzler Construction Services, a family and employee-owned construction subcontractor which installs and distributes building materials in Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado and Texas. In this role, Kruger will lead the Company’s finance and business development strategy, budgeting and planning, accounting, and financial reporting functions. 

“Breanne is a collaborative leader with a strong record of success, and we are pleased to welcome her to Kinzler Construction Services,” said Tanner Kinzler, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Breanne brings impressive finance and accounting experience to our Senior Leadership Team.”

“I am honored and excited to join the Kinzler Construction Services family,” said Kruger. “I was drawn to Kinzler’s core values and purpose of serving others, building relationships and enriching the lives of team members and those we partner with. I look forward to helping the company achieve its strategic objectives of driving profitable growth for all of Kinzler’s employee-owners.”

Prior to joining Kinzler Construction Services, Kruger served as Chief Financial Officer for Signature Resources, Inc which consists of four operating entities including Century 21 Signature Real Estate. Before that she worked ten years at Denman & Company, LLP, an accounting and business consulting firm in West Des Moines.

Kruger holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in accounting from Iowa State University. She lives in Bondurant with her husband, John and two kids, Ashton (6) and Aubrey (3).

About Kinzler Construction Services

Kinzler Construction Services is a family and employee-owned construction subcontractor with a proven process for hassle-free installation and delivery of building materials. We are a leading installer of insulation products, gypsum concrete, fireproofing & air barrier. Kinzler also distributes a full line of construction materials, including drywall, steel framing, acoustical ceiling systems & EIFS. With locations across America’s heartland, Kinzler is a rapidly-growing company offering industry-leading service to our customers. To search job openings and apply to join the Kinzler team, visit www.KinzlerCareers.com.

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