Falmouth Town Hall needs expensive insulation renovation

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FALMOUTH — To the naked eye, there’s plenty of insulation in the Town Hall attic.

But if you ask a professional, not only is the insulation insufficient, it’s also creating a dangerous problem.

“There’s insulation there, but the effective level is way below what you need,” James Beaulieu, of Energy Wise LLC, said.

Beaulieu, who was hired by the town in August, said he spent about three days inspecting the attic before sending his findings to Town Manager Nathan Poore in October. He said the insulation is not evenly distributed and has been disturbed over the years by wiring, piping and mechanical work.

“In general, my assessment was that the effective insulation level is 20 percent of what it should be,” Beaulieu said, although he noted 20 percent is “not unusual” for older public buildings. He said insulation naturally compresses and degrades over time and, when other repair work is done, is often “left in disarray.”

“It happens all the time,” he said.

Poore and Michael McDade, the Falmouth Community Cable TV manager and technical support person, said insulation improvements to the attic will likely cost between $40,000 and $70,000.

Beaulieu said insulation in most areas will need to be replaced with more effective material, which tends to cost more. He said most of the fiberglass insulation will be replaced with loose cellulose material and a high-density spray foam.

“Those materials are far superior to fiberglass,” he said, because they create a vapor barrier that doesn’t allow air to pass through.

Because of the insufficient insulation, hot air rises straight to the building attic, which Beaulieu said creates a chimney effect. The air heats the roof, melts snow and creates ice dams – large build-ups typically found on sloping roofs of buildings like the Town Hall at 271 Falmouth Road.

The dams can create dangerous situations if they melt and fall off the roof.

Last winter, Poore said, there were several ice dams that came off the building “in huge chunks.” McDade said some of them crushed equipment at the back of the building, including an air handler and a fence. Additionally, there was water damage to some of the walls inside the building as melting ice leaked inside.

McDade said the ice dams caused “at least $20,000” worth of damage last winter.

He and Poore said the work being planned this year will not be a cure-all, and there will still be some amount of ice forming on the roof in the future.

“This will not eliminate ice dams, it will minimize them,” Poore said.

Poore said the insufficient insulation in the attic was discovered following renovations to the building’s exterior last spring, which “tightened” the building. He said it was a “fairly substantial project” that cost around $600,000.

Beaulieu said the insulation work will likely take two weeks. He said the spray foaming would take one week, and the other week would be needed for the cellulose application. He said it may also take a little longer than planned “because of the inaccessibility of the original building,” which Poore said is more than 100 years old.

Beaulieu said he will oversee the project as it is completed, but the contractors have not yet been hired, as the project has not gone to bid yet.

Beaulieu said Poore and the town have done a careful job by involving experts, and believes Falmouth is taking the right approach.

“The town can’t afford not to do (this),” he said. “You have to fix a situation like this. If you recognize it’s dangerous, fix it.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Officials say insulation in the Falmouth Town Hall attic is inadequate and must be improved.

Large blocks of ice that fell off the Falmouth Town Hall roof last winter caused $20,000 worth of damage.

After recent work to the exterior of Falmouth Town Hall, insufficient insulation was discovered in the building’s attic. This lead to heat rising to the attic and melting snow on the roof.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.