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Shop Talk- Sun Valley Pete Schwartz

“I spend a lot of time looking at individual system failures as they relate to ice damming and other symptomatic issues in building assemblies. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others and educating them. I’ve learned a lot in my 30 years of building experience.”
–Pete Schwartz, Altitude Insulation

Altitude Insulation

Pete Schwartz

Altitude Insulation is a full-service insulation company that specializes in spray polyurethane application and blow-in blanket installation. In addition, they offer services like insulation-related building diagnostics, thermal imaging, remote camera work, and insulation removal.

What geographic areas do you serve?
The greater central Idaho area to Stanley, Mackay, Challis, and beyond.

Do you have any special certifications or specialties?
I have been a Certified Green Professional through the NAHB. I am big on continuing education.

What is your professional background?
I have been in the trades locally since the age of 15. I have come up through the carpentry trades having learned my skill sets from many current and since retired craftsman, and eventually transitioning into project management. I always took on projects that nobody else wanted to manage. I recently completed a remodel insulation project for the first guy I ever worked for as a teenager nearly 31 years ago. I’ve also been a volunteer firefighter with the City of Ketchum for 18 years.

What motivated you to go into this field?
Let’s be honest here… Nobody aspires to be an insulator from a young age. I have, however, always held an interest in the notion of craft and creation. Through the last decade, I’ve been interested in building science. Starting Altitude was the next evolution of my career, and many opportunities had come about to make it happen.

What inspires you?
Every project I get to be a part of is unique in its own way. I get to see some very tricky projects. It inspires me to be part of the team that gets to complete those projects using the best materials and methodologies in ways that will not cause failure in the future.

How do you see your field changing?
I believe we will see a continuation of new products being developed for insulation and envelope systems. Product compatibility will play a huge part of that in the envelope design realm.

What current projects are you excited about?
We’ve been involved with construction of the new Advocates building. It feels good to be involved with a project that provides so much to our community and is truly a need for our citizens. The Granary is another one. We’ve had to incorporate systems and materials we don’t use every day and systems that require as small an energy footprint to manufacture as possible.

Describe your process.
I like to be on board with the architect and builder as early in the design process as possible. Certain assemblies (roof and wall) require minimum thicknesses and typical member sizes. It’s very advantageous to evaluate plans and systems early on to reduce costs while maximizing efficiencies. I don’t like to be shopped around with my competitors. All of us provide different systems and costs. I’m big into electronic take-off software. It keeps my daily operations more efficient as it keeps very exact tallies on materials. My proposals are very transparent so that my contractors know my quantities. The projects and builders who are constantly after the lowest bid are the ones I try to steer away from. Low bids can often lead to failure in my industry.

Any tricks of the trade you want to share?
Reading and having knowledge of current code requirements is a good starting point relating to insulation and ventilation. Keeping current with blogs and websites regarding current best practices are the next steps.

What do you enjoy most about your line of work?
Great question… I enjoy solving issues that nobody else can. I spend a lot of time looking at individual system failures as they relate to ice damming and other symptomatic issues in building assemblies. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others and educating them. I’ve learned a lot in my 30 years of building experience.

How did you get your start?
We had the opportunity to start the company about six years ago. There was a need in our local market for a competent spray foam company. We had a couple of random things happen regarding experienced employees and equipment, which gave us the ability to move forward and start a company. I went from being a Project Superintendent to an Insulation Contractor.

What do you listen to while you work?
I listen to all kinds of stuff. I’m into Americana, bluegrass, roots rock, mostly. I do switch it up with jazz and other popular stuff that you won’t hear on typical radio. Right now, it’s my Steve Earle station on Pandora. Lots of Steeldrivers, Chris Stapleton, Nathaniel Rateliff, Tyler Childers, Jason Isbell, Guy Clark…

Do you have a favorite activity?
In the summer, we do a lot of camping in our vintage travel trailer. My family loves it. No matter where we go, it’s always like home and comfortable. I like to mountain bike in the summer, and Nordic ski in the winter. I need the cardio exercise in my life. It does a lot for me, mentally and physically. I also enjoy woodworking and metalworking.

What places do you find inspirational?
My family and I enjoy road tripping through the western states with our vintage trailer. There is something romantic about many of the roads less traveled and the towns forgotten about over the past several decades. Locally, there are a lot of old ghost towns and other historical areas that are a few hours’ drive but offer a lot of history about why we live where we do.

What is sure to make you laugh?
A really dorky “bad dad joke.”

What do you enjoy most about living/working here?
This area still feels like a smaller community to me. Everyone waves to each other going down the highway. We are all here because we choose to be. It’s a great place to raise a family, and have the opportunity to earn a good living.

Recent good reads?
Runabout Renovation by Jim Anderson. It’s a good guide for my latest project which involves rebuilding a 50’s fiberglass runabout. Also, Hunting Warbirds, by Carl Hoffman, a great read about a salvage attempt in the early 90’s of a B-29 crashed in Greenland during the Cold War. It’s a testament to human perseverance…

Shop Talk- Sun Valley Insulation Install