Enhancing Opportunities

Enhancing Opportunities
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SPRAY FOAM MAGAZINE – Diversity and inclusion are important to Elastochem as the company recognizes the essential skills that all people bring to the workplace. Focusing on women in construction, Elastochem has a diversified staff with women holding principal management, production, and planning roles within the company. Their clients in Canada and the U.S. have women installers and company owners, who are a great asset to the industry.  

Founded in 1987, Elastochem has built a reputation for innovation and customer care under the leadership of Sam DiLoreto, a chemist committed to pushing the boundaries of building envelope solutions. The company's evolution from a casting business to a diversified product line, with its core business being spray foam insulation, showcases its responsiveness to market needs and commitment to excellence. The inclusion of women in the spray foam industry brings unique perspectives and skills to the job. Women often possess excellent attention to detail, meticulousness, and problem-solving abilities, which are crucial for ensuring the effectiveness and quality of both an installation and or running a spray foam business.

Companies like Elastochem, which actively support women in the construction sector, result in better opportunities for women to excel in various roles within the spray foam industry. We spoke with two such women, one based in Canada, and the other in the U.S., to find out about their work, inclusion in the workplace, and how they are succeeding in a business they love.

Tarrah Davy works for Canadian contractor, ThermoTech Insulation, which serves the Okanagan Valley and surrounding area. They supply and install insulation products for the new construction and retrofit industry. Tarrah lives in Vernon, BC, Canada.

How did you get started in the spray foam industry? I started as a part-time spray foam helper when I was 14. Over the years, I have learned all insulation applications, including attics, conventional Batts & Poly, Blow in Blanket, Monoglass, as well as DC315 Fireproofing. I have found my niche and have been a full time Spray Foam Technician for ThermoTech Insulation for seven years.

What does your typical workday consist of? Once on site, we do a complete walk-through and read any job notes about the spray application and note any safety concerns or hazards. Before getting started, I also fill out a job hazard assessment (JHA) and then start up my equipment to let the chemicals warm up, As that’s all happening, I prepare my hose by running it out to the furthest spray foam location.

I then set out all the appropriate signage and danger tape required. After all safety matters have been addressed, I start the prep process, which consists of covering windows, doors, etc. Once I put on all my PPE, I get down to spraying. I perform a density check after 50 strokes to make sure the foam is within the appropriate parameters and thickness. Providing the foam densities are to the correct specifications, I spray my way out the building. After the spray is complete, it’s time for another walk-through to check that all areas are complete before wrapping up the hose. Once the job site is tidy, I shut off my machine, wind up my spray hose, and head back to the shop.

Do you have any tips for contractors working in cold conditions? Canadian winters can be brutally cold; some days foaming is not feasible. On those days, I perform whatever tasks I am assigned because I am versatile. One trick to stay warm on site is to dress in layers. Another is to section off one space and add a heater.

Tarrah with her Alaskan Malamute, Amaya.

Is it a challenge being a woman in a male-dominated profession? It can be challenging to be a woman in this industry, but it’s nothing that can’t be overcome with help from your workplace, as well as the contractor you are working for. My biggest issue tends to be the lack of portable washrooms on site… like sometimes there are none at all. The other challenge is not being taken seriously. For example, if someone has questions regarding the spray foam aspect of a job, they always go to the men on site, even if they are not the ones who know what is required or how spray foam is applied. You should see the looks on their faces when they are then directed to me for all the answers.

Is there a dream project you would like to undertake? A nice low ceiling would be great—as I’m only 5 ft. tall.

How do you like Elastochem products, and do you have any interaction with the team there? The team at Elastochem is great to work with and I enjoy using their fantastic products. For example, Len Siminowski spoke with his contacts at Elastochem to start providing smaller-sized merchandise because, originally, they had nothing that would fit me. 

Now, whenever he checks in with me, he always brings me a size small. Luke Egely does all of our training and re-certification, and is extremely good at what he does. My license is also through Elastochem, and I spray closed-cell, medium-density Extreme, which is easy to spray and easy on the equipment.

Who is your biggest advocate when it comes to working in the industry? My dad is my biggest advocate. He’s worked in the industry for 43 years, so he always gives me good advice and has passed on all his knowledge to me.

What do you do on your days off work? On the weekends, I like to rest my body and spend time with my family, which includes three dogs and two cats.

Have you any advice for women who want to enter the SPF industry? Like I mentioned, I’m only 5 ft. tall and just 110 lbs., so if I can do it, anyone can. Just get your foot in the door, soak up all the knowledge, and be diligent in what you’re doing. Be confident and you will be spraying circles around the boys in no time.  

Lindsey Smith is the owner of Summit Insulation LLC and Like New Restoration LLC, and is based in Murfreesboro, TN.

How did you get started in the Spray Foam Industry? It was a happy accident. When I graduated from college, I began working for a builder in town and when the housing market slowed down in 2008, they formed a partnership with an insulation company. I worked for the company for two years before becoming an owner. As I tell people, insulation found me and not the other way around.

What have been the challenges and rewards of being an owner? When I first started, being a female presented challenges with builders feeling uncomfortable dealing with a woman. Over time, as I have been able to provide information to them and prove to be a reliable partner with them in the building process, I find that there is no longer any issue with that. As with any business, the responsibility of making sure all your clients and employees are taken care of can be stressful at times.

I have 34 men that work for me, and they all have families. I take it very seriously that the reputation and success of this business is helping to provide for roughly 140 people. I love the opportunity to come up with new business strategies, gain new clients, and grow this business. It’s rewarding in many of the same ways as raising my three kids. There are bad days and good days, but I love it and I’m committed to doing the best I can with it.

What does your typical workday entail? An average day for me would be starting about 4:30 am to get to work by 5:30 and create the schedule for each crew and let them know what material is needed. Once they leave for their jobs, I do estimates and invoices. I handle all the paperwork and computer work for the business as well, so I may have bills to pay, orders to place for materials, insurance, or tax matters to address as well. The overriding part of my day is consumed with probably 150-200 calls from builders or my employees. I stop at 2:00 pm each day to pick up my kids from school and have family time until they are settled. I generally finish up loose ends and paperwork from 8-10 pm each night.

What is your favorite project to date and why? Probably a 300-unit apartment building. I say this because there were more obstacles than I can count, but as a company we worked very hard to troubleshoot the project to get it done very efficiently and everyone was proud of our results.

Have you ever had a scary moment on the job?   For over 16 years, we’ve been fortunate to not have any scary moments. We’ve had a couple of instances where someone may fall and get hurt, but thankfully, these injuries have always been minor. We work very hard to prepare for and stress the importance of a safe working environment.

What rookie mistake did you make when you first started in the SPF industry? To this day, the biggest mistake I’ve always made is lacking the ability to let things go. I worry about every builder’s job, every employee’s well-being, and all day-to-day tasks as though they are the most important thing. That can be draining at times. However, I also feel this mistake, if you will, is what also helps us at Summit Insulation stand out among our competitors. We don’t treat our builders and customers as a number. If you build 500 houses a year or just build one home for yourself, I always have the time to discuss things and get to the job quickly. Communication is always key in this business.

Do you find the gender divide obvious when you are working in the SPF industry? I’d estimate that 98% of the builders that I work with are men. I think they initially feel more comfortable dealing with other men. That’s just how it is, and probably always will be. For those who seem to struggle with it, I have a male partner that reaches out to them. In my experience, after a short amount of time, almost all of them end up feeling just as comfortable dealing with me and start calling me with their questions.  

Lindsey with her sons, Corbin and Garon

What’s your favorite SPF brand/product? My team raves about Elastochem foam. They use both Insulthane Extreme HFO closed-cell foam and the Insulthane 450 No Mix open-cell foam. The crew prefers these products because they believe they get more coverage area and it seems to be easier on our guns with less clogging and downtime.

Do you have any advice for women looking to be an owner? Have a thick skin. This is a tough industry with tons of moving parts, so you must be able to make quick decisions and be confident in those decisions. Whether it’s the builders or your employees, they will sense if you are unsure of yourself. 

Even if you come across people with doubts if a woman can work in this industry, know that when you show them you are capable and skilled in the knowledge they are hiring you for, their concerns quickly fade, and you can develop long-lasting relationships.

What do your friends and family think about your profession? At first, when people hear I work in insulation, they picture I’m wearing a hard hat and out physically installing insulation on the daily and that is odd to them. Once they see or figure out what my daily routine looks like, I feel they respect the amount of work and planning that goes into this job.

What do you do during your free time? There is very little of that with work and kids, but my ideal downtime would be the cliche of Netflix and chill.    

Consistently acknowledging women’s commitment to the spray foam industry helps ensure gender diversity and equality in a male-dominated sector. Receiving support from companies like Elastochem and with the encouragement to forge their path, women are increasingly becoming more self-assured in having their voices and opinions heard. They accept it can be a tough industry yet despite this, they recognize that the rewards are even greater. Whatever your gender, collectively we need to acknowledge individuals’ talents, this can only have a positive outcome making our industry even stronger.

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