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Plastic foam now used in home building


PHILADELPHIA -- Plastic foam might seem an unlikely material for building the exterior walls of houses, but for a number of years it has been used that way, with varying success.

John S. Giuliani, of the Philadelphia suburb of Trappe, thinks a Canadian foam system called Nascor has special promise. He has become the first U.S. dealer.

Mr. Giuliani, in turn, has gained a firm believer in carpenter/contractor Tom McDonough, who is using Nascor in a Bensalem, Pa., house he is building for himself and his family.

Mr. Giuliani, whose E Panel Structures company imports Nascor products from Canada, thinks it is just a matter of time before foam wall construction become as common in the United States as in Canada, where about 30,000 dwellings have been built with Nascor.

"Once it's justified by the number of homes built, we'll set up a manufacturing facility here," said Mr. Giuliani. "I sort of compare this to the transition from plaster to drywall."

Nascor, of Calgary, Alberta, uses air-expanded polystyrene to form rigid wall components, reinforcing the foam at intervals with wood studs that provide a nailing surface for the interior wall-finishing material, usually drywall, and the exterior siding. Typical wall panels are 5 1/2 inches thick, yielding an R-20 insulating value, slightly better than a fiberglass-insulated wall of comparable thickness.

Mr. Giuliani said the seamless foam construction also virtually eliminated air infiltration, which can foster heat loss in some fiberglass-insulated walls.

Nascor also makes floor and roof components, using a similar technique but thicker construction for increased strength and better insulating values (up to R-45 for roofs and R-40 for floors).

Components can be made to any size, Mr. Giuliani said, but usually are kept to about 10 feet by 8 feet for easier handling. The smaller components are light enough to be installed without a crane or other heavy equipment.

Mr. Giuliani said Nascor had some advantages besides high insulation and simplified construction.

"The foam has very good soundproofing qualities," he said. "It's also very easy for the [construction] trades to work with."

Nascor foam-wall materials cost more than conventional materials for the same size wall, but require less labor and cleanup in construction, and "in the end will cost the same (as) or less" than conventional materials, he said.

Blair Nutting, director of marketing for Nascor Inc., said the product had been used in Canada since 1982 and was being exported to Sweden, Germany, Israel, Japan and Britain.

E Panel Structures can be reached at 215-489-7535.

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