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EPS Versus XPS: You Be the Judge

B oth the EPS Industry Alliance and Owens Corning Foam Insulation are saying their scientific data on two rigid foam insulation products—expanded polystyrene insulation (EPS) and extruded polystyrene insulation (XPS)—prove that their type of insulation is tops when it comes to moisture retention and R-values. So who is right? You be the judge.

The EPS-IA completed a series of tests on XPS to examine the effects of moisture absorption and R-value in different field applications. The association says its conclusions are “based on testing conducted by a third-party, certified testing laboratory and rely on industry recognized standards ASTM C1512, ASTM C518 and others.”

Owens Corning says it used objective data from credible, third-party sources to create its “Science Doesn’t Lie” campaign, which includes scientific data, video and in-person demos. The campaign is intended “to educate architects, builders and contractors about the proven performance, reliability and manufacturing characteristics of XPS versus EPS.”

“When comparing XPS versus EPS, moisture matters most,” said Herbert Slone, R.A., manager of commercial building systems for Owens Corning. “Independent studies clearly show that XPS is more moisture resistant than EPS and that XPS better maintains R-value. Resisting water absorption and maintaining R-value is critical for high performance insulation.”

But the EPS-IA’s testing concluded that “[w]hen evaluating XPS material samples extracted from roofing and below grade applications, in these long-term installations, XPS did not maintain its initial R-value.”

The EPS-IA continues: “EPS exhibits superior moisture-related performance properties over XPS. It has higher vapor permeability, meaning it helps promote drying in a wall system. As shown in the EPS-IA technical bulletins, EPS is inherently more capable of tolerating moisture absorption than XPS. Even at 3.0–4.0 percent moisture absorption, expanded polystyrene insulation delivers consistent R-value of 3.1–4.3 per inch.”

To “help separate fact from fiction,” Owens Corning’s campaign provides an in-depth examination of XPS and EPS across several categories: moisture resistance (“EPS absorbs more water than XPS in laboratory tests and in application”), R-value (“XPS maintains R-value better than EPS”), the manufacturing process and structural integrity (“XPS maintains product integrity because of its moisture resistance”).

The EPS-IA says it is confident that two new documents—”Drying Potential of Polystyrene Insulations Under Extreme Environmental Cycling Conditions” and “XPS Insulation Extracted After Field Exposure Confirms High Water Absorption & Diminished R-value”—will be a valuable resource for contractors, architects and consumers. Those interested in more information are encouraged to contact Betsy Steiner, EPS-IA executive director, at [email protected] or (800) 607.3772.

Owens Corning invites you to learn more about their campaign at

Also reference our February 2014 article (page 10) in which a report from Building Science Corporation concluded that “sealed walls of the same R-value perform equally well regardless of the type of insulation used.”

Prices for Key Products and Services Expected to Rise

The construction and manufacturing sectors, the hardest hit by the recession, are gaining ground once again. The prices of many of these sectors’ products and services are rising in turn, as are prices in key freight transportation markets. IBISWorld has identified product and service categories that affect a range of buyers, and two of those categories affect the wall and ceiling industry. IBISWorld says these categories will be areas of significant price growth over the next three years because of heightened construction and manufacturing activity. Buyers can leverage their knowledge of the market dynamics, forecasts and buying strategies discussed below to make more cost effective purchasing decisions.

Wood building materials—specifically plywood, particleboard and medium density fiberboard—is a category that is expected to show considerable price gains during the next three years. Declining unemployment alongside rising incomes, consumer confidence and access to credit will spur significant growth in the housing market; IBISWorld expects housing starts to rise at the strong annualized rate of 9.0 percent during the period. Nonresidential construction will increase, too. Improvements in corporate profit and increased on-shoring from many manufacturers will result in more large-scale construction projects than were undertaken during the past three years; the result will be 8.0 percent annualized growth in the value of nonresidential construction. Rising domestic demand will be complemented by even stronger increases in wood consumption from developing countries. While suppliers will benefit from demand growth with heightened sales at home and abroad, buyers will face rising prices. Plywood, particleboard and medium density fiberboard are expected to increase in price at annualized rates of 4.8 percent, 5.3 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively, in the three years to 2017.

To improve their access to high quality materials, buyers can lock in multiyear contracts, which will help avoid service interruptions and price hikes during a period of heightened demand; such contracts generally range in length from one to three years. Bulk purchases of more than a couple thousand square feet also reduce per-unit costs.

Building construction and maintenance is the other category to watch. Rising construction activity and growth in business openings will contribute to significant price gains for many building construction and maintenance services. Demand increases for industrial building and warehouse construction will stem from a jump in private investors’ spending on manufacturing facilities. Such spending is expected to rise at an annualized rate of 5.8 percent over the next three years as the U.S. economy expands and export opportunities increase. Buyers in the market for a new industrial building or warehouse can expect to see the price for its construction grow at an annualized rate of about 5.0 percent during the next three years. Therefore, buyers willing to begin construction early can harness significant cost savings compared to those who wait.

The price of plastering and drywall services is expected to rise at the even faster pace of 7.5 percent over the next three years. Growth in both residential and nonresidential construction will heighten demand for building materials, including gypsum wallboard, suppliers’ primary material input. No perfect substitute for this material exists, and the full weight of suppliers’ input cost growth will be borne by buyers. Furthermore, the same market forces that raise demand for wallboard will heighten demand for installation services. As such, buyers in the market for building renovations should add drywall installation to their list of services to procure sooner rather than later. Fortunately for buyers, this market is extremely fragmented, heightening the level of competition in contract bidding. Buyers should therefore cast a wide net in their search for installers, and solicit quotes from as many as possible to bring in some low bids that reduce costs.

Construction Outlook Report Shows Optimistic Growth

FMI released on March 27 its Q1-2014 Construction Outlook, a forecast that continues to show optimistic growth. As a whole, construction put-in-place is predicted for an 8 percent increase for 2014, with continued growth over the next few years.

Select market predictions include the following:

Residential. Although the market is forecasted to grow, the pace is slowing. Forecasts show an 18 percent growth in single-family construction. However, multifamily construction will show a 27 percent increase in 2014, a drop from the 44 percent increase in 2013.

Commercial. Investors are beginning to help lift commercial construction out of a slump by taking more risks. The industry is expected to grow another 7 percent in 2014 to $52.6 billion—the highest mark since 2008.

Lodging. The industry forecasts 591 hotels opening in 2014 compared with the 500 in 2013. Growth at 13 percent is expected with this market reaching $16.1 billion.

Health Care. Construction in this sector will grow 2 percent in 2014; however, a jump to 6 percent is predicted in 2015 as the outcomes on new health care regulations become clearer.

Educational. Improving state and local budgets will help move educational construction back into the growth mode. 2014 will see a 3 percent level of growth to $83 billion.

Manufacturing. With signs of sustainable growth, predictions are for 5 percent in 2014 to $45.2 billion, and an upward swing with another 8 percent growth in 2015.

Download a copy of the full report at

Builder Confidence Holds Steady in April

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes rose one point to 47 in April from a downwardly revised March reading of 46 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index released April 15.

“Builder confidence has been in a holding pattern the past three months,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del. “Looking ahead, as the spring home buying season gets into full swing and demand increases, builders are expecting sales prospects to improve in the months ahead.”

“Job growth is proceeding at a solid pace, mortgage interest rates remain historically low and home prices are affordable,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “While these factors point to a gradual improvement in housing demand, headwinds that are holding up a more robust recovery include ongoing tight credit conditions for home buyers and the fact that builders in many markets are facing a limited availability of lots and labor.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 30 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

The HMI index gauging current sales conditions in April held steady at 51 while the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers was also unchanged at 32. The component measuring expectations for future sales rose four points to 57.

The HMI three-month moving average was down in all four regions. The West fell nine points to 51 and the Midwest posted a four-point decline to 49 while the Northeast and South each dropped two points to 33 and 47, respectively.

Latest NAHB Index Reading Shows Recovery Continues to Spread

Of the approximately 350 metro markets nationwide, 59 returned to or exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity, according to the National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index, released April 7. This represents a net gain of 11 metros year over year.

The index’s nationwide score ticked up to .88 from a March reading of .87. This means that based on current permit, price and employment data, the nationwide average is running at 88 percent of normal economic and housing activity. Meanwhile, 28 percent of metro areas saw their score rise this month and 83 percent have shown an improvement over the past year.

“I think the big news here is that regions outside of the energy states continue to gain ground,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “It’s a promising sign to see areas like Los Angeles and San Jose joining the top 10 largest MSAs showing a recovery. We still expect 2014 to be a strong year for housing and to aid in the overall economic recovery. The job market continues to mend and with that we will see a steady release of pent up demand of buyers.”

Baton Rouge, La., continues to top the list of major metros on the LMI, with a score of 1.42—or 42 percent better than its last normal market level. Other major metros at the top of the list include Honolulu, Oklahoma City, Austin and Houston, Texas, as well as San Jose, Calif. and Harrisburg, Pa.—all of whose LMI scores indicate that their market activity now exceeds previous norms.

Smaller metros showing recovery continue to be dominated by the middle of the country experiencing an energy boom. Odessa and Midland, Texas, boast LMI scores of 2.0 or better, with their markets are now at double their strength prior to the recession. Also at the top of the list of smaller metros are Bismarck, N.D.; Casper, Wyo.; and Grand Forks, N.D., respectively.

For historical information and charts, go to

Housing Starts Rise 2.8 Percent in March

Led by a 6 percent rise in single-family starts, nationwide housing production rose 2.8 percent above an upwardly revised February rate of 920,000 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000 units in March, according to figures released in mid-April by HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Single-family housing starts rose 6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 635,000 units in March, while multifamily starts fell 6.1 percent to 292,000 units.

Regionally in March, combined single- and multifamily housing production rose strongly in the Northeast and Midwest with gains of 30.7 percent and 65.5 percent, respectively, but fell 9.1 percent and 4.5 percent in the South and West, respectively.

Overall permit issuance fell 2.4 percent to 990,000 units in March. The Northeast and Midwest posted gains of 33.3 percent and 26 percent, respectively, while the West was unchanged and the South posted a 17.1 percent decline.

ASHRAE Joins NAHB and ICC to Develop New National Green Building Standard

The National Association of Home Builders, building science society ASHRAE and the International Code Council, developers of the ICC Family of Codes for the built environment, agreed on March 27 to jointly develop the 2015 edition of the ICC/ASHRAE 700 National Green Building Standard. This is the third edition of the standard and the first time that ASHRAE has partnered on its development.

In 2007, NAHB and ICC convened a consensus committee of home builders, code officials, product manufacturers, building science and energy-efficiency specialists and governmental representatives to develop the standard. It was approved in 2009 by the American National Standards Institute as the first green standard for residential construction, development and remodeling. Since then, the National Green Building Standard has helped define and advance sustainable home building, remodeling and development—a sector expected to represent as much as a third of the market by 2016.

Now known as the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard, it was updated in 2012 by a subsequent consensus committee and again approved by ANSI. NGBS has been used to certify more than 32,000 single- and multifamily homes and residential developments for reaching its established benchmarks for energy, water and resource efficiency, indoor environmental quality, home owner education and site development.

OSHA Forms Alliance with Georgia Organizations to Reduce Worker Exposure to Silica

As the wall and ceiling industry continues to urge OSHA officials to offer a practical and cost-effective crystalline silica regulation that will improve the safety and health protection of workers, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has formed an alliance with several organizations in Atlanta to provide employers and workers in the construction industry with information, guidance and training to prevent overexposure to crystalline silica dust.

The agreement was signed by OSHA, the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Occupational Safety and Health Division, Brasfield & Gorrie LLC, the Georgia Local Section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers on April 15.

Occupational exposure to crystalline silica often occurs as part of common workplace operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete, brick, block, rock and stone products. Processes historically associated with high rates of silicosis include sandblasting, mining, tunneling, cement cutting and demolition, masonry work and granite cutting.

OSHA has proposed to update its current silica standard. Published in the Federal Register on Sept. 12, 2013, OSHA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica aims to update the inconsistent and outdated permissible exposure limits for crystalline silica in general industry, construction and shipyards, as well as to establish other provisions to better protect workers. OSHA concluded three weeks of hearings on the proposed rule and is now receiving post-hearing comments. Additional information on the proposed rule, including five fact sheets, is available at

Mel Wolf, Founding Partner of Wolf-Gordon, Dies at 90

Melvin (Mel) Wolf, pioneer of the commercial wallcovering industry and founding partner of American design company, Wolf-Gordon, died peacefully at his home in Boynton Beach, Fla., on March 22. He was 90 years old.

Born in York, Pa., Wolf graduated from Stuyvesant High School and attended City College (now CUNY). He started working at the age of 14 at Gilford Fabrics, an upholstery company, and stayed there for 25 years, returning to the company after serving on the front lines in France from 1942 to 1945.

In 1967, he founded Wolf-Gordon with Bernard (Bernie) Gordon, Frank Carr and Tony Prota, and served as the company’s CEO until retiring in 1995.

“We were friends for 80 years and business partners for over two decades, fand we never once had a fight,” said Bernie Gordon about his late friend.

Originally established to offer genuine leather for upholstery, Wolf-Gordon soon entered the wallcovering marketplace. Today, the company continues its founders’ legacy, offering designers a comprehensive source of interior surfacing materials under the leadership of the second-generation executives, Rick Wolf, David Gordon and Rob Wolf.

People in the News

Parex USA, Inc. has hired Kevin Elrath as its new technical service manager.

Elrath joins Parex USA with more than 11 years of experience in the building materials industry. Most recently he served as the Technical Service Manager for Stonhard, a manufacturer of epoxy and urethane floor, wall and lining systems. Prior to his position as the Technical Service Manager, Elrath was the Product Manager for the Stonres family of elastomeric flooring systems.

Companies in the News

On April 11, Armstrong World Industries celebrated the beginning of construction at its Lancaster, Pa., facility, where it is expanding its manufacturing capability to include luxury vinyl tile for commercial and residential use in the United States. In attendance were the Armstrong management team along with local and state political representatives, and representatives from the Pennsylvania and Lancaster Chambers of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Pennsylvania Manufacturer’s Association. The decision to make this $41 million investment and onshore its LVT production from China suppliers was previously announced in October 2013. This marks the company’s second investment in the Lancaster operation since 2008, when it added fiberglass-backed sheet vinyl manufacturing to that plant’s production portfolio.

The company expects to start shipping LVT product from this plant to customers by mid-2015. About 60 new employees will be hired to support plant start-up and continuing operations.

Armstrong World Industries was honored recently with the 2014 President’s Award by the Construction & Demolition Recycling Association. The President’s Award, which recognizes excellence and innovation in construction and demolition recycling, was presented to Armstrong in honor of the accomplishments of its ceiling and flooring recycling programs. The award was presented during CDRA’s Annual Meeting in Las Vegas in March.

Since the inception of its Ceiling Recycling Program in 1999, Armstrong has recycled more than 155 million square feet of used ceiling tiles, preventing more than 77,500 tons or roughly 22, 175 Dumpsters full of construction waste from being deposited in landfills.

ClarkDietrich Building Systems has become the exclusive worldwide manufacturer of Trakloc® products. ClarkDietrich has acquired the machinery, equipment and intellectual property necessary to produce the Trakloc Steel Framing System from TSF Systems, LLC, a Sacramento-based California company. Production of the entire line of Trakloc products will be phased into ClarkDietrich’s manufacturing facility in Sacramento.

In addition to integrating the Trakloc product lines into its Sacramento manufacturing facility, ClarkDietrich also has future plans to expand its production capabilities in several other plants across the United States.

National Gypsum announced April 2 that the company is continuing its sponsorship of DIY Network’s “Blog Cabin 2014.” The sponsorship is part of the company’s Purple® Evolve Your Walls™ campaign, which launched in May 2013.

Saint-Gobain announced plans for a new, state-of-the-art North American corporate headquarters in Malvern, Pa., where it has signed a long-term lease for 320,000 square feet of space. The 65-acre Chester County campus, previously the headquarters for Aegon Group, will be transformed into a LEED-certified facility for Saint-Gobain and its North American construction materials subsidiary, CertainTeed Corporation, both of which are also currently headquartered in Valley Forge, Pa. The redesign of the campus will be led by E. Kahn Development Corporation and J. Loew Associates in collaboration with Aegon Realty Advisors with construction expected to be completed by fall 2015.

AWCI member TJ Wies Contracting, Inc. was awarded second place in their division of the 15th Annual Associated General Contractors of America/Willis Construction Safety and Excellence Awards.

TJ Wies Contracting finished second among all Specialty Contractors in the nation with man‐hours between 300,001 to 500,000 annually. This is the second time TJ Wies Contracting’s commitment to safety has been recognized by the AGC of America; in 2009 they finished third in the same division.

The AGC/Willis CSEA recognizes construction companies who excel at safety performance. The judges look for evidence of company management commitment, active employee participation, safety training, worksite hazard identification and control, and safety innovation.

TJ Wies Contracting, Inc. is one of the Midwest’s consistently top‐ranked commercial wall and ceiling subcontractors. Areas of work include metal stud framing, drywall, insulation, rough and finished carpentry, acoustical ceilings and wall panels, EIFS, fireproofing, plaster, and firestopping. Headquartered in Lake St. Louis, Mo., with an additional office in Jefferson City, Mo., TJ Wies serves mid‐Missouri to Southern Illinois. TJ Wies Contracting is currently celebrating its 20th year in business.

Products in the News

Rockfon®’s North American portfolio of stone wool acoustic ceiling solutions has earned UL® Environment’s Greenguard Gold Certification for low-emitting products. To achieve certification, Rockfon voluntarily submitted its North American stone wool product line of suspended and monolithic ceilings, clouds and baffles to a series of rigorous tests as determined by UL Environment. During the strict manufacturing review, product samples from Rockfon’s ceilings were selected for profile study testing as well as comprehensive certification testing.

Greenguard Gold Certification is given to products that are compliant with the certification requirements, which among others, include stringent limits on emissions of more than 360 volatile organic compounds. Greenguard Certification emission criteria incorporate health-based emissions requirements as denoted among others by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California Department of Public Health’s Section 01350. More than 400 green building codes, standards, guidelines, procurements policies, and rating systems give credit for Greenguard Certified products.

New on the ’net

Parex USA, Inc. introduces The Academy, an educational website specifically designed to show contractors, architects, designers and specifiers how Parex USA systems and assemblies work.

The Academy includes videos for viewers to learn about EIFS, stucco and tile setting solutions. Viewers can watch and learn at their convenience, track their progress and go back to review videos at any time. Video categories include application techniques for EIF systems, specialty finishes, stucco assemblies, water and air barriers and tile and stone installation systems.

Registration is free. Visit for information.

What’s App, Doc?

Builders can now access interactive selling tools with the CertainTeed® Wall-to-Wall Solutions iPad® mobile app. The app, which can be downloaded at, allows users to easily navigate through specific areas of a home to better understand how the right wallboard products can enhance the longevity and performance of a home.

Featuring product information, literature and videos, the CertainTeed Wall-to-Wall Solutions app is an interactive tool that prescribes innovative wallboard products for specific areas of a home.

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