In Plane Sight
SPRAY FOAM MAGAZINE – The unusual projects, the ones that make a person sit-up straight and shuffle in their seat, are the ones that will often create questions like, “How, and why did they do that?” On a crisp and sunny autumn afternoon, the Spray Foam Magazine Team (SFMT) spoke to one contractor who not only has an unusual project to share, but a unique outlook on life and work. This inspiring story all starts with a DHL plane and one guy willing and able to spray it!
DHL is a well-known international shipping courier. Their banana yellow-colored planes and vehicles with the bold red lettering, DHL, on the side are immediately recognizable. What does this famous brand have to do with spray foam? It all comes down to imagination, the love of aviation and a willing spray foam contractor.
Insulation Near Me LLC is owned and run by a husband-and-wife team: Charles and Sierra Nevils. Charles applies the spray foam and Sierra runs the office, while also prepping job sites. Her precision in prepping and cleanup enables the spray foam companies to purely focus on spraying and doing a good job.
Charles started in the insulation trade in 1998 when he was 17 years old and had just finished military academy. He ended up not going into the military but took a job as an insulation helper in Fairbanks, Alaska working several years with various types of insulation from batt to blow-in. However, it was watching Rick and Ron Rocheleau, owners of Vertex Insulation, in Fairbanks apply spray foam that inspired Charles to pursue his passion in insulation.
In 2018, Charles and Sierra moved from Fairbanks to Bentonville, Arkansas when Charles was working on a project for the Walmart family, the Waltons. They liked the area and after just having their children, Sierra was pleased to be in a warmer and healthier climate to raise them. Charles figured they could move and he would use his knowledge and experience in the spray foam industry to teach and show others how to implement the correct energy codes, and application.
He started working with a company who needed advice on how to enter the foam insulation and commercial arena, which is how Charles achieved the Walton contract. After Charles had helped this company, he and Sierra realized that with Charles’s knowledge and certification as well as his understanding of the importance of following guidelines; they could set up on their own. In November 2022 they did just that.
Through the spray foam community Charles connected with a fellow SPF contractor from Alaska that hired him for the DHL project. Charles has a particular passion for taking on unusual projects and when he was asked to spray a decommissioned DHL DC-9 plane with the offer of helpers to assist, he enthusiastically agreed. The project ended up taking one week with long days that turned into night. Charles stayed in a dry cabin with no electricity. Spraying foam in Alaska, Charles even had to barge the spray foam rigs across the lakes that had no access to the job sites via vehicle. This made him well prepared for any demands this job may entail.
The Nevils family describe themselves as not being money hungry and through this different approach, they have received numerous offers on interesting jobs. When planes are decommissioned, they are auctioned off and often dismantled for their aluminum parts. However, this DC-9 was kept intact and purchased by a man who owns several decommissioned planes which have been, or are going to be, converted into Airbnb’s. He is also a flight instructor and people from all over the globe who want to learn to fly and navigate their way through artic weather, can stay in these refurbished planes. The refurbished planes are situated right next to a runway, so they are a big attraction for aviation enthusiasts. The DHL DC-9 Charles worked on was transported along the main Alaskan highway from Anchorage to Houston, Alaska to sit alongside the other Airbnb planes.
Before spraying, Charles spoke to a contractor in Canada, named Keith Bowie, who had worked on several planes and who gave Charles very valuable information on the techniques he should apply while spraying the DHL DC-9.
The McDonnell Douglas DC-9 was a mid-range, low-wing, twin-engine, American jet airliner. When the DC-9 aircraft was designed, the focus was primarily on the high ergonomics of the machine and the lowest possible operating costs. A DC-9 plane could hold up to 139 passengers. Charles had to be very precise when spraying the interior of the plane and could not afford to make any mistakes. The client had previously done another project with a DC-6 to which he had another contractor spray the interior and he was not pleased with the outcome of the DC-6. Charles knew how important it was to deliver his best work for such a special project.
Rather than booking himself into a hotel, Charles slept outside in a tent on location. “I wanted to stay on site, so I didn’t have to drive back and forth. I came out of my tent one night and the northern lights were the plane's backdrop. It was so incredible,” recalls Charles. He used a PMC-PH2 and a Carlisle ST1 gun. On the top side of the plane, he applied four inches of UPC closed-cell winter blend, and as the structure curved down, he went to three inches. He used an indirect heater, due to the cold temperatures, and had to make sure the metal was heated up so the SPF would adhere as he sprayed. The sun would come up around 12pm and warm the plane up on one side, so Charles would spray that side and use the heater on the other. As soon as the metal started creating any dew, Charles had to hold off on spraying.
Using a larger tip, and with the temperature considerations, Charles could not spray in one full layer, or the spray foam would detach from the plane. Therefore, it had to be sprayed in thin layers. The way that the plane's metal ribs are structured, it was a very technical spray. Charles said, “I would never put an inexperienced sprayer on a job like this. If someone did not have the time and wanted to blast through it, they could really mess it up. If you just put the SPF down without the technical know-how, it would not hit every nook and cranny. You literally must outline everything and fill it in lightly one inch at a time.”
The windows of the plane were encased with a plastic blind which could easily chip so Charles had to be extra vigilant not to hit them. Therefore, he used rigid foam board to put inside of the windows to take the shape of them. After they were taped off, they would hold the form of the window, so they were all systematically the same. Charles has a wealth of techniques when it comes to spraying unusual projects and is happy for contractors to reach out and ask him for advice.
In the early days of launching their business, Charles and Sierra considered hiring and training a crew but they also home school their children, so it did not fit in with their current plans. Blake is their fourteen-year-old son and is in an elite training facility that trains for the junior Olympics and high-level elite competition. Tyler is aged eight and is enthusiastic about engineering, he is interested in learning more about infrastructure and blueprints. LilyMae, aged five, loves to roller skate and go on bike rides with her family. When Blake is home from wrestling, he even helps his dad spray the smaller jobs. “Our company has chosen its own path through what we need and want as a family. Our jobs all materialize from having a good reputation and word of mouth. This has taken us all over the USA and internationally too. I love the freedom that our work offers us. As we are totally aware that we will never be able to buy back the time we spend with our kids. If we do have a job abroad or in a different state, they come with us. It really is an ideal company we are building for us.”
Their company now takes them, and their children, all over the world. Often the projects will be people who want the job done in an artistic state, usually something a little more unusual than the standard residential build with insulation done right. They do complete residential projects but don’t take on just any job. “We are a word-of-mouth company who do things right and if we can’t do the job, we will often help find a person that can. When we started our business one of the first things we did was join the SPFA, as spray foam education is crucial. If I work with someone or pass on a job, I also make sure they have the spray foam knowledge,” clarified Charles.
Most of the time, the family travels to the projects with Charles and they have even taken jobs near his sons wrestling competitions. They make money on a job that covers their expenses and enables them to travel to the next location.
Charles documents his jobs, including the DHL DC-9, with videos and photos and puts them in a binder for his kids. “This is so important to me. It’s what it’s all about. One day when I am gone, they can look back at all the unusual and amazing projects I completed and all the places we traveled together.” Charles and Sierra’s company, Insulation Near Me, is the perfect name for their company. As ‘Near Me’ can be anywhere this family travels to. This is more than a job to the Nevils, it’s a lifestyle. They choose jobs carefully and the ones they take on are completed with love, care, and to the highest standard. Many can learn from this attitude, ‘Don’t chase the money, live life to the fullest and always do the best you can, and eventually the money will chase you.’
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