The Canadian Urethane Foam Contractors Association (CUFCA) is a not for profit corporation that has been providing training, certification, and field quality assurance services to the SPF (spray foam insulation) market in Canada for 32 years. The association is a long time Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) associate member and this year was a sponsor of the CSC Conference in Halifax.
CUFCA represents more than 350 member contractors employing more than 700 certified installers. The association’s main focus is to ensure its contractors and their installers are operating in compliance with the applicable installation standards in Canada and that their customers receive a defect free spray foam installation.
CUFCA participates with many groups and associations, executive director Andrew Cole says. “We are involved with CEEA (Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance) for instance. This is a dynamic group of companies that work to educate governments at all levels on where to look to invest or create awareness on best return programs for energy conservation.”
Cole says the association has also supported the CSC trade directory and will continue to support CSC regionally and nationally. He says participation in industry events in the globalized era is critical in leveraging relationships in broader communities, rather than operating in isolation.
“It is critical that specification writers have access to unbiased information and specifications,” he said. “Too often manufacturers use specifications as a weapon against their competition and as such we end up with specifications that may have contradictory requirements and may actually not comply with standards. Errors of omission do happen and again we are a resource to correct these situations.”
He says CUFCA also works with all provincial building official associations and participates in their annual general meetings and educational sessions to increase knowledge of SPF for their inspectors.
Cole says the association operates a consumer complaint resolution process for any end users of members’ products. “If there is any concern that a job is defective, we will be involved in the inspection and remediation process. CUFCA also has an independent warranty program at no cost to our contractors.”
He says, as is the case with many trades, the greatest challenge is ensuring staff are well trained. It is a struggle, he says, for contractors to invest in developing their employees. Once trained, many will take their newfound skills and seek higher pay elsewhere.
“There is little loyalty these days and yes, we know this is a two-way street, but the fallout is that many contractors simply cannot afford to continue to fund training programs for their staff only to have them leave.” CUFCA offers skills training specific to the industry and is currently working to develop innovative lower cost delivery systems.
CUFCA is an ISO-17024 accredited certification organization for installers.The certification process includes a written exam component to validate a candidate’s knowledge and a practicum spray out evaluation to confirm skills and abilities.” CUFCA started to offer an optional training program in response to, what we felt, was a clear lack of training being offered by manufacturers of spray foam systems.”
The association operates a fully equipped training centre in Mississauga, with both 2lb closed cell and .5 lb open cell SPF products. “It is still a challenge to take a student who may have had no prior experience and teach them to become proficient in only four days. Our training program used to be two weeks and was quite expensive but due to manufacturers with other QAP programs wishing to offer half day courses we were forced to change our program.”
This is one of the reasons members are encouraged to implement an apprenticeship style training program within their own workplaces.
Cole says the industry as a whole suffers when its members do not take field quality assurance seriously. The increasing failures, he says, will ultimately negatively impact the larger market. “Thankfully CUFCA members are committed to the ideals of a higher quality spray foam industry.”
Other issues facing members include the influx of new and inexperienced installers that have entered the marketplace. “Spray foam is growing from a niche business to becoming more mainstream. This rapid growth does result in some difficulty for the industry to keep up with demand.”
He says an increase in competition and the variety of skills needed and available is also a challenge. “The construction industry, with its “low-bid” system of contractor and sub-contractor selection really is problematic,” Cole said. “How can good quality flow from a system that is set up to pay the least for any trade?” He says the quality control issue is so great that it has spawned an entire industry of third party inspection providers working for architects to ensure that systems installed meet the codes.
CUFCA also provides these services to its members and their clients. As an impartial third party to both the manufacturer and the contractor, he says CUFCA will ensure that the SPF work installed meets the standards and codes. “We have very good templates for specification writers that can be taken from our website in order to ensure they have a sound starting point when contracting for spray foam.”
Cole says CUFCA also works to build the spray foam industry as a whole, offering impartial education to building officials, architects and other design professionals to provide a greater knowledge of the various spray foam products and their applicable standards and installation process. “Products all have strengths and weaknesses and there is a great deal of confusion in the market that needs to be clarified.”
He says a good relationship with building departments across Canada ensures CUFCA can answer questions or concerns quickly and correctly with no commercial interest resulting from working for any one manufacturer. “We are passionate about the products and see tremendous potential in achieving energy saving targets and carbon reduction targets when installing such a superior air sealing and thermal insulating product.”
He says the association is always working on ways to continue to build a stronger community within the SPF market in Canada and has made progress.
The association also continues to make progress in supporting its members.
CUFCA recently released a new daily worksheet online web form system. “A requirement of SPF installers in Canada is to complete a daily work record. This is a requirement of the standard for 2lb closed cell SPF and will also be a requirement for the .5 lb open cell SPF standard that is due to be published next month.”
The interactive form can be accessed from any web enabled device. To achieve this, CUFCA leveraged its own installers’ database with external resources such as the national weather bureau in order to populate required data automatically where possible. “It has become a real timesaver for our members and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We will continue to investigate and leverage technology where we can.”
“Spray foam is a wonderful product that can greatly increase energy efficiency in the construction market. As a site manufactured product it requires handling by trained and experienced installers. Certification of installers is a key component to ensuring you get quality workmanship at all times.”
For more information about CUFCA, visit www.cufca.ca.