Insulation in the Hurricane Sandy Impact Area

January 1, 2013

Powerful “super storm”
Hurricane Sandy literally destroyed parts of New York, New Jersey, and other
areas along the East Coast. According to the Construction Claims Advisor,
“Estimates of the economic losses caused by Hurricane Sandy recently reached
$50 billion after experts assessed the costs of severe property damage,
shut-down subways and power outages. Hurricane Sandy’s recent devastation along
much of the East Coast is a reminder of the significant factor weather can
contribute to the planning and execution of a construction project.” Other
estimates put the losses and cost of repairs in just the two states of New York
and New Jersey between $50-$65 billion.

The National Insulation Association (NIA) contacted all of
our manufacturing members to see if they could offer any advice on what to do
with insulation materials in the areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy. As some
members noted, providing a blanket response for the replacement of insulation
is difficult, as these situations are better assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The best advice is to always use caution when handling any construction
materials, and contact the original manufacturer and mechanical insulation
experts to get answers specific to your situation. The damage done by Sandy is
extensive, leaving contaminates in many buildings, facilities, and homes, going
far beyond ruining insulation and building materials. Trying to save money by
salvaging damaged goods may have dire future consequences that are presently

NIA would like to thank the
respondents, whose valuable feedback contributed to this article: Allen Dickey
at Pittsburgh Corning; Tony Garone at Polyguard Products, Inc.; Matt Hair at
K-FLEX USA, LLC; Gordon Hart, representing Auburn Manufacturing, Inc.; Betty
Hartman at Evonik Foams, Inc.; and Mike Resetar at Armacell. The following are
some of their responses to our questions.

1. What type of insulation does your company make?

  • Allen Dickey (AD) at Pittsburgh Corning: Closed-cell cellular

  • Jake Erickson (JE) at Roxul, Inc.: Stone
    wool insulation

  • Tony Garone (TG) at Polyguard Products, Inc.: Adhesives, pipe
    insulation support systems, tapes, jacketing and flexible facings, protective
    coatings, and sealants

  • Matt Hair (MH) at K-FLEX USA: Closed-cell flexible
    elastomeric foam

  • Gordon Hart (GH), representing Auburn Manufacturing, Inc.:
    Insulation blanket; tapes; jacketing and facings; fitting covers and fitting
    insulation; pads and covers; prefabricated insulation panels;
    removable/reusable blankets

  • Betty Hartman (BH) at Evonik Foams, Inc.: Polyimide foam

  • Mike Resetar (MR) at Armacell: Closed-cell flexible
    elastomeric foam

2. What would your advice be to contractors working in the
aftermath of Sandy? How do you suggest handling the mechanical insulation

  • AD: Worker safety is extremely important. Make sure your
    immunizations are up to date and wear protective clothing. Dispose of all
    materials that are contaminated with salt water, and all wet insulation
    materials that cannot be dried out.

  • JE: [When rebuilding,] there is an
    opportunity to build with sustainable materials that add comfort to the
    interior environment. Contractors can differentiate themselves by building
    something special versus just the way it used to be. You can insulate with
    sustainable materials that contribute to LEED credits and improve building
    performance. You can identify products that can contribute to the entire
    mechanical system.

  • MH: Contractors should take safety precautions when working
    in areas affected by Sandy and should contact K-FLEX directly to address
    elastomeric insulation maintenance, repair, or replacement questions.  In
    general, elastomeric insulation can be handled without risk of personnel safety
    concerns and can be disposed of in a landfill.

  • MR: Any insulation that was wet from the storm needs to be
    removed from the piping, the pipe needs to be wiped clean and dry, and new
    insulation must be installed.

3. Can your product be dried out and reused in the insulation

  • AD: In many cases, yes, assuming it is only wet from rain or
    freshwater and not contaminated with salt water or any other contaminants.

  • JE: Most stone wool products can be dried and reused if they
    become saturated with clean water. Due to the dimensional stability and
    rigidity of stone wool, the material does not sag or lose its insulating value
    after exposure to moisture.

  • MH: Given the number of variables in this type of natural
    disaster, (salt water, full product immersion, high winds) contractors should
    contact K-FLEX directly to address insulation replacement on a case-by-case

  • GH: Yes, if the product has not been contaminated with salt

  • BH: Yes, if the water has not been contaminated.

  • MR: No. There is great concern for the sea water and
    contaminates trapped under the insulation, which could damage the pipe long
    after the storm damage is cleared.

4. Does your product need to be replaced with clean, new

  • AD: If the system is breached and the insulation is wet from
    storm surge (salt water) flooding or contaminated with chemicals that may have
    been released as a result of the storm then the insulation must be replaced. If
    the system, upon inspection, is still intact and sealed, then there is no need
    for replacement.

  • JE: It is recommended that you replace the insulation if it
    has been exposed to contaminants or pollutants.

  • TG: Polyguard’s products are typically used on rooftop duct
    work and piping as weather protection for the insulation. If flooding reached
    the rooftop of the building, there’s a good chance the building was totally
    destroyed. Wind-driven rain could have penetrated the system and caused
    insulation to become saturated. If that is the case, the wet insulation should
    be replaced. Since Polyguard’s products adhere directly to the insulation, they
    would need replacement as well.

  • MH: If the insulation system has been damaged or
    contaminated, the product should be replaced and the piping should be cleaned
    before the replacement insulation is installed. [Note that] damage to the
    insulation can also be caused by high wind or flying debris, especially any
    insulation outside or on a roof top, so those areas should be evaluated as

  • GH: Yes, if the product has been contaminated with salt
    water, it should be replaced.

  • BH: It should be replaced if the product is damaged or

  • MR: Yes.

5. What are the reasons that the product can stay or needs to
be replaced?

  • AD: Salt or contaminated water intrusion into the insulation
    system can create the potential for corrosion under the insulation. This would
    be the most immediate reason for system replacement.

  • JE: Stone wool can be reused because it is organic and does
    not promote mold growth. It retains its rigidity and performance even after it
    has been exposed to moisture. It is also permeable so vapor can pass through
    the product.

  • MH: The need to replace product would depend on the extent of
    damage, so contractors should contact K-FLEX directly to address insulation
    replacement on a case-by-case basis. For example, damage caused by full and
    extended immersion in water would warrant product replacement. [There also may
    be] damage to insulation that may have been in inventory or on a job site.

  • MR: Concerns about the sea water and other contaminates in
    the water that will be trapped under the insulation [need to be considered].

6. For insulation, do you have any advice or product removal
or installation suggestions?

  • AD: Our MSDS [Material Safety Data Sheet] covers handling and
    disposal. Installation recommendations are application specific and are
    available on request.

  • MH: Contractors should follow the best practices for
    installing elastomeric insulation. Two good sources for this are a
    comprehensive “Installation Guide” available at and
    ASTM C1710, Installation of Flexible Closed Cell Preformed Insulation in
    Tube and Sheet Form

  • GH: There are no special removal instructions, but the pipe,
    which has been contaminated with salt water, should be cleaned off with tap
    water and allowed to dry prior to being re-insulated.

7. Do you have any health and safety advice or suggestions?

  • AD: Consult the MSDS for materials involved and use
    appropriate safety procedures prior to handling any product.

  • MH: Contractors should contact the manufacturer of all
    insulation types for specific health and safety concerns. In general, elastomeric insulation does not pose safety hazards.

8. Has your company appointed a hazard, environmental
engineer, or other contact person for contractors who have related product

  • AD: Contact our Technical Support Group or me (Allen Dickey)
    at Pittsburgh Corning.

  • MH: Yes, contractors can reach K-FLEX Technical Support at

  • GH: Yes. You can
    contact me at

NIA manufacturer members had additional
recommendations, including Allen Dickey’s (Pittsburgh Corning) observation that
consideration of the need for replacement extends to building envelope
insulation, as well as other materials besides insulation. Matt Hair (K-FLEX
USA) added that damage to the insulation jacket would warrant a look at the
insulation even if damage is not readily visible from the outside. If the
jacket is compromised, the insulation probably is also, and needs to be
replaced. Gordon Hart (Auburn Manufacturing, Inc.) commented that he would
assume most “flooded insulation materials have been contaminated by salt
(sodium chloride), a highly corrosive chemical to steel and other metals.” He
“would recommend that all such contaminated insulation materials be removed and
discarded, as soon as possible, and the contaminated pipe and equipment first
sprayed with high pressure fresh water prior to their being reinsulated.”

In the aftermath of the hurricane, it was universally
noted how people came together to help one another. NIA is pleased to provide a
forum for our members to share their expertise and pass along information to
support all who may have been impacted by the storm. Please contact your
mechanical insulation expert for suggestions on product replacements, or visit