LSU AgCenter Looking For Answers To Insulate Raised Floors

Claudette Reichel, Shupe, Todd F., Wu, Qinglin, Morgan, Johnny W.  |  11/30/2007 9:16:51 PM

(News Release Distributed 11/30/07)

The LSU AgCenter has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others in the wood products industry to determine which insulation systems effectively prevent moisture problems in houses with raised floors.

The research project involves a 12-month monitoring program to look at how different types of subfloor insulation methods react to Louisiana moisture conditions.

The research is being conducted in eight Musicians’ Village homes in New Orleans and four homes in Baton Rouge.

“Since Katrina and Rita, there has been a resurgence in the use of raised floors in Louisiana houses because of the potential for flooding as well as new building codes for energy efficiency that require insulation under the floor,” said Dr. Claudette Reichel, LSU AgCenter housing specialist.

According to Reichel, there is a lack of research-based information dealing with moisture problems under insulated raised floors.

“Most of the research around the country and the trend in raised-floor construction is to construct an unvented crawl space that is insulated, something like a mini basement,” she said. “One of the major problems with raised floors in Louisiana is the water table is so high and so many of the raised houses are in flood zones, that the sealed crawl space system being recommended in other areas is risky here.”

Reichel said the four types of insulation systems used in the project include low-density spray foam, high-density spray foam, low-density spray foam with a spray paint coating and foil-faced rigid foam that is taped and sealed. Each will be compared to a conventional fiberglass insulation system.

Scientists with the LSU AgCenter and the USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis., have begun the first phase of work in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

“There’s been a big question for a number of years about what’s the value of using insulation in raised floors and what kind of benefit does it have for the homeowner?” said LSU AgCenter wood scientist Dr. Todd Shupe.

He said the USDA laboratory in Wisconsin is leading the research team in this project.

Improper insulation can lead to problems such as wood decay, mold growth and poor indoor air quality, said Dr. Qinglin Wu, an LSU AgCenter wood scientist who with Shupe is part of the team from the AgCenter working on this project.

“You need to balance energy cost with the product’s performance,” Wu said. “This study is only the beginning. It will give us preliminary data.”

The houses in New Orleans and Baton Rouge are now being outfitted with thermocouples and moisture pins to monitor temperatures and moisture levels in the wood.

According to Wu, the next step will be to install the different types of insulation and begin the monitoring process.

He said this research is valuable for the South because of high humidity that can cause decay in floors.

“The benefits from this study will not only benefit Louisiana. The entire region will see benefits,” Wu said.

In addition to the LSU AgCenter and the USDA Forest Service, APA-The Engineered Wood Association and the Southern Forest Products Association also provide financial support.

For additional information on this or other projects of this type, visit the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.edu.

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Contacts: Claudette Reichel at (225) 578-4440 or creichel@agcenter.lsu.edu
Todd Shupe at (225) 578-6432 or tshupe@agcenter.lsu.edu
Qinglin Wu at (225) 578-8369 or qwu@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or jmorgan@agcenter.lsu.edu

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