Category Archives: Tips & Other Resources


Home Showiness: Our experience at the 2018 WABA Home Show

Every year, for as long as I can recall, we have had a booth at the Wichita Home Show. Sometimes, we’ve had large, stand-alone booths. Other times, we’ve just had a 10×10 or 10×20 space in a row with other vendors. We’ve done giveaways of promotional items of all sorts; from balloons to bags, pens to stress balls. There’s also been a raffle or three and discounts off of services for finding us at the show.

There are times I wonder why we do it.

I say this because there’s a lot of work involved with being a part of a Home Show. There’s planning each year’s booth and literature, preparation of the booth, set up time (which is two or more hours for at least two people), the time spent working it (which we spread among six people) for four days and then takedown. That’s at least six days of time, plus the monetary expenses for space, booth, literature, and more.

Again, why do we go to the Home Show?WABA_Home_Show_Comfort_Wall

I’m sure the first response is “to increase sales,” and yes, that’s nominally the reason. But if we account for the costs AND hours to make it happen…let’s just say our industry doesn’t have the price tags to make that answer as clear-cut as I would like it to be.

Then there’s the fact that our services are of a “one and done” nature — to steal a phrase from college basketball. In other words, two of our three primary services (insulation and air sealing) is needed once per house and then not again at that location.

Factor in that the average homeowner lives in a home for 11 to 15 years and we’re pushing the logic in doing the show for economic purposes.

So, with all these negatives, why do we still do it?

There are a couple of pros to these cons. The first is creating or maintaining some amount of “Top of Mind Awareness” — a.k.a long-term branding reasons. When people do need our services, they’ll hopefully remember our name or logo because they saw or spoke to us at the Home Show. These needs are all fine and good, but it’s not the real reason we keep doing it.

No, we keep doing it because we like helping solve people’s home comfort, health, safety, and energy efficiency issues. Even if the solution is something we don’t install or work with, we like being able to point people in the right direction.

If you peel all the rest of it away, we just like being a resource or a guide to people having better structures around themselves. It’s why we picked the name NorthStar years ago. It wasn’t just because we could use a cute bear — that was just a bonus later on!

So, with all that in mind, we hope to see you at the Wichita Home Show next year!

Homeowner’s Handbook: The Instruction Manual

There are many steps when it comes to buying, selling, or owning a home. Should I get a professional inspection done? Will I be able to manage this all on my own? What kind of issues does this place have that I can’t even see? Even with all the tips and tricks out there about finding a home, you still need a central handbook for all these ideas. New_homeowner_handbook_guide

All these questions (plus hundreds more) are the reason we want to provide you with some tips for your home. First-time homeowners might find many things they’re unsure about. This could be from issues you didn’t even know to check on when you first bought your home. To maintain your new home, this Homeowner’s Handbook is here to help!

Maybe you have owned your home for many years and are looking for a change. These tips can help you prepare your home to be top-notch when you’re ready to sell. Or, maybe you’re in the market for a new home. If so, you probably want the best value for your dollar. In that case, follow these tips when searching for your dream home to make sure you find the perfect place.

This manual is packed full of ideas for keeping your home happy and healthy. From DIY ways to keep your home warm without a full insulation replacement to blocking harmful UV sun rays from entering your home, the Homeowner’s Handbook will be your guide. 

Whether you have a surplus knowledge of homes or absolutely none at all, we hope to provide you with further understanding and clarification throughout this manual. Here at Northstar, our expertise is what proves our knowledge of homes. Through our Building Science Principles Certificate from BPI, and more, we are here to give you the best help possible with our expert knowledge.

Spring Clean Your Attic

It may not seem like the most fun way to spend your spring break, but if you’re not laying on the beach in Florida, you might as well be productive, right? Cleaning out your attic is one of the best ways free up storage space for all of the random stuff you’ve accumulated throughout the years and can even make your home healthier and lead to a more efficient home too! How so? Read on!

Start By Decluttering

Before you start climbing into your attic, make sure you have a few trash bags with you. Depending on how often you venture up there, you may find a lot of stuff that can be taken from your attic to the street curb. Other things may be perfect to sell in a spring garage sale! As for all of the items you want to keep, you should try to organize everything into sturdy, waterproof containers. Plastic totes work great and don’t deteriorate or rot like cardboard boxes often do.

Once you’ve removed anything you no longer need or want and have organized the stuff you are keeping, you should do your best to remove any dirt or dust that has accumulated. Sweep the floors, and dust the entirety of the attic to help remove the allergens that make you and your family sick.

Inspect Your Attic

Once everything is looking more spacious and organized, it is time to inspect your attic to see the conditions of your walls, ceiling and roof decking. Can you feel air blowing around recessed can lights? See light coming through the rooms below? Or is there evidence of past moisture on the underside of the roof deck? All of these are signs that your home isn’t working as intended and are things that should be addressed. In the first two cases, air sealing can be done by yourself or a professional. In the second one, more research is called for to properly get to the root of the potentially serious issue.

While you’re up there, you should also check to see if any of your current attic insulation is wet (sign of a current problem) or moldy (sign of a past and potentially recurring problem). Not only can this create a mildew smell, but mold can obviously bring health risks to you and your family. Old, damaged insulation needs to be removed and replaced and the cause of the moisture needs to be fixed.

Invest in Insulation

So after cleaning the attic and checking for obvious issues, you’re now in a great position to replace or upgrade your insulation (or maybe put some up there for the first time). Obviously, we recommend contacting us for a free estimate! We’ll do a thorough inspection of your attic and help you choose the right insulation type for your home. With added insulation, you can expect to save on utility bills and experience improved comfort through the hot summer months and colder winter. Insulation is an investment that will eventually pay for itself!

At the end of a couple of hours of work and short walkthrough with our Comfort Advisor, you can feel accomplished for completing a home project that you probably would have rather put off doing! Instead of wondering about the horrors hiding up in your attic, you now know exactly what your attic looks like, know where to find everything, and can take comfort in the fact that you’ve taken steps to help your family save money, be comfortable and stay healthy!
If you’re feeling up to it, you can even put together a garage sale to sell all that stuff you were ready to part with. Maybe you’ll even make enough money to take the trip to Florida that you would have preferred in the first place!

Caution Ahead: Brick Veneer and Spray Foam

There are a lot of different ways to build a wall. There’s standard 2×4 walls, 2×6 walls, ICFs, SIPs, concrete block and steel stud, to name the major ones. Then, there’s what to put on the outside the wall (siding, brick, stone, EIFS, etc.), inside the wall (<a title=”Simple Saver” href=”http://northstarcomfort pfizer viagra”>fiberglass, cellulose, spray foam, etc.), then the interior of the wall (what kind of sheetrock, paint, etc.). All of this is your wall system. Yes, the construction industry considers the wall system – not a living, breathing one – but a system nonetheless.

That said, the specific point of this entry is that caution needs to be used when using spray foam insulation & brick veneer in climate zone 4, which is where Wichita and Kansas City, to name a couple of cities, are located. Why? Well, it comes down to a few things:

  • Brick veneer can store huge amounts of water.
  • Most house wraps are also called a Weather Resistive Barrier, is very vapor permeable (as in water vapor goes through it very easily)
  • The sun will drive water vapor towards the inside of the house, through the house wrap and into the OSB.
  • The foam, open or closed cell, has such a low permeability that the water effective stops inside the OSB, as it has nowhere to go until it can evaporate back to the outside.

Unsurprisingly, this can lead to structural weakening of the OSB. So, what to do? The two main things to do involve tweaking common building practices slightly so that we can make longer lasting structure. Notice I’m not saying don’t do spray foam & brick veneer – I’m just saying that I would:

    • Use a weather resistive barrier with lower permeability. Permeability is rated in Perms. Standard WRBs are 35 or so. 10 Perms or less will keep enough water vapor out to help minimize the intrusion.
    • Change the way you build the veneer, to include more ventilation. Current practices on residential construction use only weep holes at the bottom of the brick at regular intervals. The research I’ve seen suggests that creating a more breathable brick veneer will keep moisture in the air moving & not heading in, towards your house.

Thanks to Lucas Hamilton at CertainTeed for doing all the heavily lifting with this. All I did was ask the question & thought I should pass along the information. And, again, this is just for Climate Zone 4 – and there are 6 across the U.S., so ask your builder, insulator, architect, energy auditor, what’s recommended for your area.



The Easy Way to get R-15 Sidewalls

This month’s installment of the Building Science overview – Indoor Air Quality

In the June issue of the WABA Digest, two separate columns discussed some of the proposed changes to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), particularly in reference to wall insulation. As a reminder, the proposed changes are from R-13 to R-15 in 2×4 walls and from R-19 to R-21 in 2×6 walls. I have no intention of debating the merits of this change. Instead, I would like to point out that the easiest way to achieve higher R-values without switching to high-density batts or adding exterior sheathing: Certainteed’s Optima insulation, designed for use in the Blow-in-Blanket System, achieves an R-15 in 2×4 framing and an R-23 in 2×6 construction. The advantages of using Optima are numerous – no gaps or voids, no settling, plus it goes in the wall cavity completely dry. It also contains no chemicals that create noxious odors nor is it a source of food for insects or animals. One of the main concerns about raising the wall insulation R-values is about adding cost and using Optima does cost more than normal batt installations. But given estimates of changing to high-density batts or from 2×4 framing to 2×6 adding around $1,000 to the cost of an average new home, upgrading to the BIBS system with Optima adds less than half that. Plus, you still get all the benefits of having a better insulation job than just thicker batts can give you. Regardless of energy codes now or in the future, Optima may be a better choice to keep your customers’ homes more comfortable.

Foam vs Fiberglass vs Cellulose

When it comes to insulating a new house, there are a few ways to get it done. The main three ways of insulating a new, wood or steel framed house are fiberglass, cellulose, and spray foam. So, other than the obvious, how do these products differ? Is one superior to the others? What really counts when it comes to insulation? For the next couple of months, we’ll be taking a look at these different systems to try and sort them out. To help objectivity, we will use NAHB’s study, Field Demonstration of Alternative Wall Insulation Products. We start at the beginning – with definitions: Fiberglass batts – Made of fiberglass, batts come in wide variety of sizes, thicknesses & R-values. They are available with a kraft facing, which is generally inset stapled to the cavity wall, or unfaced, also called friction fit, which is covered with a separate vapor barrier. The

They are available with a kraft facing, which is generally inset stapled to the cavity wall, or unfaced, also called friction fit, which is covered with a separate vapor barrier. The Blow-in-Blanket System – also made of fiberglass, BIBS is a loose-fill product that is blown behind a net that has been stapled to the studs. Holes are punched through the net when and where the installer blows the material into the cavity. R-values depend upon the cavity depth and density blown but can be up to 4.2 per inch Spray Cellulose – Made from recycled newsprint, cellulose is applied to wall cavities by a hose that mixes the material with water to activate a binder that has been mixed in. Loose material from the installation is often recycled back process.

Low-Density Polyurethane – Foam, made by combining polymeric isocyanate (MDI) with a propriety resin. Soy-based foams are also available. R-values are about 3.6 per inch and the foam is open-cell. Higher density, closed-cell foams are also available at a premium. If we stopped here, we would be forgetting one of the more important aspects of a good insulation job – the air sealing or polycel/caulking. In fact, this is one of the most important parts of an insulation job – as we will see later. For now, we need to note that there are different levels of air sealing and they vary widely. A standard air seal usually involves caulking attic penetrations & clinking windows with fiberglass, while and upgraded air seal involves sealing windows with foam or caulk.