Insulation Installation: You Don't Get What You Expect, You Get What You Inspect

Jun 27, 2016 1:04:27 PM By Stacy Fitzgerald-Redd
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One of the things that impressed me most as a first-time attendee of the RESNET conference in March of this year was the caliber of the speakers – they all seemed knowledgeable, credible and more often than not, entertaining.  I’m a big fan of soundbites, and I usually leave a meeting with a few good ones that I think capture the essence of those subjects most applicable to me. A good one from this year’s conference:  “You don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect.” This is a good message generally, but this really resonated with me when it comes to installation of insulation.

In a blog post last month (“Fast, Good and Cheap: Enemies of Quality Installation”) I talked about the Insulation Institute’s efforts to improve the installation quality of batt insulation. What we’ve heard from HERS raters, and seen borne out by research from Building Science Corporation’s Thermal Metric Report, is that batt insulation, when properly air sealed and installed, can perform as well as other insulation products. The key is proper installation. And if you want it done right, you have to have a quality assurance specialist.

What is a Quality Assurance Specialist? Do I Have to Hire One?

Quality assurance is a job function, not necessarily a person. We recently conducted a focus group with a diverse set of builders and got their perspective on the subject of quality insulation installation. One builder discussed his approach to getting Grade 1 with batts by saying that he personally talks to the crew there to do the work on the day of the job. He tells them plainly that they don’t get paid until he walks it and inspects the quality. He also sets expectations in advance, talking about how to address possible areas for compression, voids or other common problems. Sometimes he tasks another person in his company to do the final walkthrough to ensure it is a Grade 1 job.

We are not suggesting this is the best way, let alone the only way, to ensure you get Grade 1 work. There are variety of approaches that could be employed, but this is one example of a builder living the credo that you get what you inspect, not what you expect. Inspecting the quality of work is a fundamental part of a builder’s responsibility and it is certainly not unique to insulation installation. It is part of the culture of workmanship builders need to employ to deliver their customers quality homes. With that in mind, this is not about hiring a quality assurance specialist but rather ensuring someone on your team performs this function for insulation. Doing it may take some more time, and time is money, but getting batts installed right the first time can be a cheaper way to achieve your performance targets than spending on a more premium product.

Choosing fiber glass or mineral wool batt insulation is easy. Installing it correctly is essential, and relatively uncomplicated.  But just like any deliverable completed in high volume and in multiple steps, you must build in a quality check to ensure excellence. Audi does it with cars. Apple does it with phones and restaurants do it with food (yes, food taster is an actual job in some restaurants). And you, as a builder, should do it with insulation.

Because at the end of the day, you don’t get what you expect. You get what you inspect.



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