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Perma ‘R’ strives for innovative, energy-efficient products

Grenada — In years past when Perma ‘R’ Products subsidiary General Panel Corp. went to a trade show with its innovative building product, Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), people stopping by the booth weren’t familiar with SIPs. But today more and more builders are familiar with them as they are one of the fastest building systems ever developed and can be put up with unskilled labor.

“Historically speaking, when we went to a trade show or market, we would have to start from the ground floor and explain everything about SIPs,” says Tim LeClair, president and CEO of Perma ‘R’ Products, which is headquartered in Grenada. “Now when we go to trade shows, contractors are seeking us out. Home and Garden Television Network is using SIPs in some of their projects. Now the sale is so much easier because people are more knowledgeable, and they are looking for a better product to build with.”

A big reason SIPs are gaining more acceptance is a shortage of skilled construction labor. LeClair said it is also increasingly difficult to find high-quality lumber for building materials.

“SIPs are a structural-type panel,” LeClair said. “When you stand the panels up, you have a complete wall system. This doesn’t require skilled labor, and you actually have an energy-efficient home.”

The SIPs consist of oriented stand board with Styrofoam sandwiched in the middle. Openings are cut for doors and windows. The panels interlock with each other, go up quickly and have fewer cracks and holes than traditional 2×4 framing.
If you include the costs of wood, insulation and labor for 2×4 frame construction compared to the SIPs sold by General Panel, LeClair said the price can be lower because of the labor costs. But he said what really sells the panels is quality: the panels are straighter and more square.

There are both short- and long-term benefits from greater energy efficiency. Up front, money is saved by being able to downsize heating and cooling units. Long-term, there are significant savings from monthly utility bills.

SIPs are being used in everything from million-dollar buildings to Habitat for Humanity homes. LeClair recalls a couple years back when 11 nurses from Meridian with no prior building experience put together an 1,100-square-foot Habitat home in a total of only five hours.

“That was amazing even to see it myself,” LeClair said. “I’m amazed with panels every day. This is something you can do yourself. People who want to build their own home can do this without having a lot of prior experience building.”

What about strength and durability? The first SIPs home was built by the government in 1956, and is still occupied.

“America generally builds 30-year throwaway houses,” LeClair said. “Longevity isn’t part of the building cycle. What I’m looking for is building products that are going to be around for hundreds of years.”

Currently, only three types of building systems are allowed within three miles of the Coast in Florida. Because of hurricane vulnerability, only cinderblock, SIPs and insulated concrete form (ICF) construction is allowed.

Leclair said a big part of the company’s business is providing products to coastal areas like Florida and California.

Perma ‘R’ also manufactures ICFs. ICFs are equally as energy efficient as SIPs, and use lightweight, interlocking foam panels that remain in place as a functional part of the wall after the concrete is poured. Perma ‘R’ manufactures the LOGIX ICFs, which are not only long lasting, but also quick to build, sound-proofed, energy-efficient and fire resistant.
While more expensive than SIPs, ICFs are also more durable.

Other products manufactured by Perma ‘R’ include all types of sheathing insulation used on new homes. In addition to the PermaWrap label, the company manufactures wrap for 950 private labels.

“We also manufacture the AlphaProtector, which is a synthetic roof underlayment designed to replace 30-pound felt under roof shingles and metal roofing,” LeClair said. “The advantages are it won’t rip or tear like felt. It comes with a 25-year warranty. Also, with AlphaProtector you have up to six months before you have to put on the final roof. Contractors really like that. It keeps the inside dry while they are waiting on roofing. Roofing seems to be where the bottleneck is in the housing industry. This allows you to keep going on working inside while waiting on the roof.”

Perma ‘R’ recently signed a three-year, mutually exclusive agreement with the Alpha Pro Tech’s subsidiary, Alpha Pro Tech Engineered Products Inc., to be responsible for all sales and marketing of AlphaProtector. Perma ‘R’ has agreed to minimum sales of $3 million per year. It was the second three-year contract Perma ‘R’ has inked with Alpha ProTech.

The company that has been in operation since 1978 also makes a line of fabricated material used to pack products for customers such as two of the state’s largest manufacturers, Outokumpu Heatcraft in Grenada and Peavey Electronics.

Perma ‘R’ also has manufacturing operations in Union and Johnson City, Tenn.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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