Nonwovens in Construction

By Karen McIntyre, Editor | March 9, 2017

As the housing market continues to recover, new products to keep buildings warm, dry and air-tight continue to enter the fold

Among the largest durable markets for nonwovens, the roofing and construction market is largely dependent on macroeconomic trends like housing starts, interest rates and employment trends. While the U.S. market has not yet seen the boomtimes of the early 2000s, when housing starts were consistently topping one million, it has slowly started to recover as economic conditions have improved and the housing market has faced shortages.

“Escalating prices for new homes have grown 5.6% in the 12 months ending in November and were likely driven by a very low inventory of starter homes and historically low interest rates,” says T.J. Stock, portfolio manager of construction specialist Johns Manville. “But builder confidence is at its highest level since July 2005, so 2017 is expected to have a strong growth rate. As growth in housing and commercial markets continues, nonwovens will benefit by supplying both roofing and specialty mats that are engineered to provide the most cost-effective solutions.”

From roof underlayments to house wrap and flashing materials, nonwovens’ role in construction is more often than not one of protector, keeping water out and heat and air conditioning in. Manufacturers supplying to this market are constantly looking to increase the barrier resistance of their products to keep buildings warm, dry and free of rot.

K-C Focuses on Breathable Technologies
A few years ago, Kimberly-Clark parlayed its expertise in the development of nonwoven, breathable technologies into a new business opportunity—the house wrap market.

Calling his company’s entry into this market another example of how Kimberly-Clark leverages its nonwovens expertise to provide trusted performance to its customers, Scott Tennison, global director of building materials, says K-C spent serious time and effort learning customer needs and requirements for this product. “We connected with top customers in the industry to develop an advantaged product for the market that aligns with our primary product platform—superior protection for our customers and consumers,” Tennison says.

Block-It house wrap relies on a patented, cloth-like nonwoven material to allow it to resists tears (with 35% stronger tear strength than the competition), abrasions and punctures. It does not snag on tools or nails and offers a non-slip surface even when wet. This durability makes Block-It House Wrap quick and easy to install. 

“We believe you shouldn’t have to spend more to get quality drainability in a house wrap,” Tennison says. “Our Kimberly-Clark technology delivers more than 98% water drainage efficiency, setting us apart from competition and all at standard flat wrap pricing. Block-It House Wrap is self-sealable, so there’s no need to use cap nails or cap staples when installing. It also is resistant to surfactants such as soaps and cedar oils. Many house wraps in the market do not have those capabilities.”

Kimberly-Clark has recently expanded the Block-It portfolio to include all sizes from three to 10 foot widths and lengths from 75-150 inches and has launched a co-branded house wrap offering allowing builders and contractors to showcase their logo along with the Block-It logo on the house wrap. As part of the complete weatherization envelope, K-C has both 48mm and 72mm seam tape as well as a full range of straight and flex flashing tapes to ensure its Block-It builders have the right tools for the job, Tennison adds.

“Nonwovens provide the best weatherization system for keeping a structure dry against the elements while also allowing water vapor to escape the home,” he adds. “Woven and perforated house wraps, along with coated OSB, may meet code in some locations, but the overall performance is poor in keeping water from penetrating the wall cavity. This should bring concern from anyone choosing a woven or perforated house wrap or coated OSB as the primary goal is to keep the structure protected from mold, mildew and rot caused by water damage.”

Johns Manville Predicts Recovery
According to Martin Kleinebrecht, marketing & portfolio management leader, Nonwovens Europe & Asia at Johns Manville, the European construction market has bottomed out and has started a careful recovery at a slower pace than everyone would have hoped for. “As in previous years we still observe a very mixed picture depending on the sub-market and especially depending on the respective country and region,” he says. “There are some success stories thanks to ongoing growth over the past several years, but also many pockets where growth just returned two years ago.”

According to Eurostat data, the recovery of the construction industry since 2014 and into 2017 will only cover one-third of what had been lost between 2007 and 2013. But JM is confident that ongoing renovation, an upward trend in housing starts and regulatory requirements related to energy conservation will positively influence future developments.

In Europe, BREXIT is not expected to have a strong influence on the construction industry overall, but certainly this is a risk JM will watch going forward, Kleinebrecht says.

Meanwhile, in North America, the housing market continues its slow but steady growth as an estimated 536,000 new homes were sold in 2016, up 12.2% from 2015. However, even though 2016 marked the fifth straight year of growth, the housing market is well shy of the housing boom of the early 2000s when the annual build rate topped one million for four years in a row.

Also helping nonwovens’ role in construction is their constant evolution of the materials into new areas of the construction market. “While we do not see major trends with nonwovens being replaced by other products, we have seen nonwovens enter into new spaces in the construction industry,” Kleinebrecht says.

An example of this is the globally-growing market of luxury vinyl tiles (LVT), where nonwovens can play an important role in the future of this market.

“We’ve also been successful in getting glass fiber nonwovens to be increasingly used in flame-retardant applications where they offer superior performance compared to traditional materials,” he adds.

In North America, nonwovens for roofing continue to evolve through more demanding reinforcements due to code and cost. Additionally, specialty markets continue to evolve and nonwovens provide growth paths due to advantages in cost and engineering. Reinforcements in a more diverse market are considering using nonwovens to a greater degree than ever before.

To help it capitalize on these trends, JM is constantly investing in capacities and line enhancements to address the needs of its global customer base. Recent examples of this are the completion of a glass fiber mat line rebuild in Waterville, OH, and the upcoming enhancement of one of its glass fiber mat lines in Wertheim, Germany. The upgrade in Germany is focused on boosting JM’s offering for specialty applications, especially where aesthetics play an important role. JM has also just completed several important upgrades of its polyester spunbond lines in Bobingen, Germany, that serve the bituminous roofing industry.

In new product terms,  in addition to an expanded portfolio of LVT, JM has been incorporating its nonwoven products into flame retardant applications as well as working closely with its customers on formaldehyde-free solutions, which are frequently in demand. This requires extensive research into proprietary binder systems, using new and innovative materials and often renewable resources. Most of JM’s developments are tailor-made for individual customers and widen the moat for them in terms of performance and cost position.

DuPont Continues to Expand Tyvek
In July, DuPont Protection Solutions, the maker of Tyvek flashspun nonwovens for the building market, launched a new line of roofing underlayments, DuPont Tyvek Protec, part of the Tyvek family of building envelope products.

Tyvek Protec is suitable for use by professional roofing and exteriors contractors in new construction or re-roofing projects as a secondary water barrier on steep-sloped roofs (2:12 or higher) under asphalt shingle, tile, metal, cedar or slate. Tyvek Protec is offered in a variety of product grades: Tyvek Protec 120; Tyvek  Protec 160 and Tyvek Protec 200; each with increasing quality, durability, strength, warranty protection and UV resistance.

“The walkability of Tyvek Protec is best-in-class,” says Jim Ash, global roofing market segment leader, DuPont Protection Solutions. “From the grip under foot to the grip to the roof deck, contractors will see, feel and experience the differences from other roofing underlayments the moment they install the first roll. We are excited and look forward to bringing the same high level of quality, durability, building science, support and service to those that serve the roofing industry as we have been providing to the construction industry for over 35 years.”

With its industry-leading walkability, Tyvek Protec enables effective installation regardless of weather conditions—dry, wet, hot, cold or dirty. In addition, Tyvek Protec lays flat and is wrinkle-free, for ease of installation.  It is easy to chalk, and is available in the U.S. and in Canada from local lumber and roofing dealers.

In other new product news from DuPont, the company has introduced a 12-inch wide DuPont Flashing Tape product to its full line of 100% butyl-backed flashing systems that helps create a protective envelope around heads and jambs of windows and doors.

The new 12-inch DuPont Flashing Tape features a T-piece asymmetrical release liner that is scored three inches in from the side and in the center.  These release liner perforations support use of the flashing in a variety of applications, including deep window sills and inside and outside corner flashings often used in multi-family construction.

“The combination of DuPont Flashing Systems products and expanded flashing details offer builders a new high-performance solution for water penetration at vulnerable window corners,” says Alan Hubbell, Tyvek global marketing manager. “We are pleased to be able to expand our flashing offering for these applications.”

Radici Group Looks at Industrial Markets
Radici Group has been making spunbond nonwovens since 1995 and has consistently chosen Italian technology over larger Reicofil lines. While this technology traditionally has not offered the low weights and uniform product needed in hygiene, it allowed the company to enter the market at a lower capacity and target a range of markets thanks to its flexible configuration. Radici’s main market is roofing where it offers spunbond materials that surround a breathable film to form a composite structure. Other markets include automotive wraps, envelopes, airbags and agrotextiles.

“The technology that we have, especially in the last five to 10 years, has allowed us to narrow our focus on industrial applications,” Buriani says. “Our material is not homogenous or lightweight like what goes into hygiene but it does offer a number of advantages like better distribution of mechanical properties. You can say we changed our weakness to opportunity.”

Unlike some of the larger lines, which are too big to handle frequent transition throughput, these lines offer the flexibility needed for industrial applications. Radici offers more than 150 colors, in different shades.

“If someone wants just three metric tons of a product, we can do it,” Buriani says, adding that every customer is asking for something different. “We can play with the machine to meet their parameters, allowing them to be more successful.”

Radici’s new investment, a Farè line which should be complete by the end of 2017, is a bicomponent line featuring core/sheath technology, which will allow the company to design new products with different properties.

This is not a new concept but it is a brand new patented technology. Its big advantage is energy savings because it is a main component in the recipe of spunbond production,” Buriani says.

Typar Focuses on Weather Protection
One of the leading brands in weather protection has taken performance to the next level with the introduction of Typar Drainable Wrap, which is now owned by Berry Plastics. The latest addition to its Weather Protection System, Typar Drainable Wrap has the ability to shed more bulk water than traditional house wraps and offers the added efficiency of an integrated drainage plane, while providing the durability builders and contractors expect from Typar building wraps.

Jorge Martinez, senior director of product marketing, Typar brand, says engineering the wrap was a natural progression in product innovation as the building community has continued to put an increased emphasis on sustainable and high-performance homes and buildings.  “While the adoption for drainage planes in certain parts of the country is being driven by code, we’re finding that builders everywhere are looking for better ways to provide their customers with added assurance against water intrusion,” says Martinez. “With Typar Drainable Wrap builders get the industry-leading performance of Typar building wraps with an integrated solution to manage bulk water that gets behind cladding.”

The science behind Typar Drainable Wrap is a layer of multi-directional polypropylene fibers that diverts bulk water from exterior wall cavities and drains it away from the assembly, preventing the potential damage caused by mold and rot. The highly efficient Typar Drainable Wrap helps shed water, while meeting or exceeding current code requirements per ASTM E2273.

As part of the Typar Weather Protection System, Typar Drainable Wrap is covered by an industry-leading lifetime-limited warranty that includes both materials and labor.  

The complete Typar Weather Protection System, which consists of Typar weather-resistant barriers, flashings and construction tape, is engineered to ensure the greatest protection against the elements. The system provides the perfect balance of water/air holdout and moisture vapor transmission, while improving the overall energy efficiency of the home.

In other new product news, Typar Flashing Panels were designed specifically to block air leakage and stop water intrusion around electrical, plumbing and HVAC wall penetrations. This latest addition to the Typar Weather Protection System now gives builders a complete solution for sealing every opening in the building envelope.

The full lineup of Typar Flashing Panels includes nine options in various sizes that are compatible with a variety of cladding materials including wood, fiber cement, vinyl, brick, stucco and stone. Because Typar Flashing Panels self-seal around penetrations they do not require any sealants, making the product easy and affordable to install. The product also help builders meet IECC air-leakage requirements.

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