“The most challenging spray foam project I have ever completed, bar none, is the Air Force B532 C-17 Globemaster Hangar in Charleston, South Carolina” says Dan Dorneanu, CEO and owner of Palmetto Spray Foam Insulation.

A stunningly large facility for military C-17s, the hangar measures 400’ x 300’, or 120,000 square feet, and features 65-foot wall heights. In 2023, after the facility reached a point of serious disrepair, the Air Force initiated a major renovation aimed at overhauling and optimizing the structure to bring it back to full operations mode. The scope encompassed replacing doors, concrete work, tearing up and installing new rails, insulation removal and replacement, installing new offices and labs, a full re-roof, new transformers and HVAC systems, and painting.

Enter Palmetto Spray Foam Insulation, a family-owned spray foam contractor also based in Charleston. “I founded this company eight years ago after a 25-year stint in the engineering field,” says Dorneanu. “While I enjoyed where my career had taken me, I had always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and controlling my own destiny. I’d also had a deep appreciation for spray foam ever since it was installed in my own home. So, starting a spray foam company became a natural way for me to go out on my own, build a business I believed in, while providing some flexibility for my family at the same time.” Dan lives in Charleston with his wonderful wife of 15 years and two kids, Caroline and Peter. 

One of many contractors vetted by the military via a stringent due diligence process, Palmetto Spray Foam was brought in for a key part of the hangar’s transformation – complete removal and replacement of its insulation. 

“When I began work in the hangar, the existing fiberglass insulation had failed, was continuously falling down leaving foreign object debris on the airplanes, and was blowing toward the airfields,” notes Dorneanu. “This is extremely dangerous for a $340 million dollar aircraft and needed to be rectified.” Raccoons had also begun to nest in the rafters, inside the fiberglass.

The scope of Palmetto Spray Foam’s portion of the project was to remove all fiberglass and metal strapping, steam clean all surfaces, insulate with closed cell spray foam, then cover the foam with intumescent coating on all vertical surfaces. Dorneanu notes, “Removing the fiberglass was very difficult because it required working 65 feet in the air with high winds. The debris had to be controlled at all times so that it deposited into the large 40-yard containers below and nowhere else.”

Per military guidelines, all metal strapping removed from the facility was recycled.

Dorneanu chose Huntsman Building Solutions Heatlok HFO Pro, a closed cell spray foam with excellent adhesion and compressive strength and that, as an all-in-one solution, fortifies the structure from air, thermal, water and vapor. Dorneanu has also attended Huntsman Building Solutions University (HBSU), the company’s educational program for spray foam contractors and installers, which offers curriculum for both brand-new and seasoned professionals.

“I’ve used the company’s spray foam solutions for my entire duration in this business,” says Dorneanu. “This one in particular is great for spraying against a metal surface. It performs really well and the surface aesthetic is nice. Plus, Huntsman spray foam easily passes all the certifications required by the government for use on its projects.”

Start-to-finish, the spray foam retrofit took Palmetto Spray Foam nine months, a duration that spanned a range of weather, from freezing temperatures to blistering heat. The project included four pocket doors, two mezzanine locations and four hangar walls and was divided and conducted in ten separate phases. 

Because of the sheer size and height of the hangar, Palmetto Spray Foam worked a large part of the job from boom and scissor lifts. “In fact, a boom basket didn’t work for some portions of this project and we had to bring in the world’s largest scissor lift to get the job done,” says Dorneanu. “Unfortunately, there is only one of these scissor lifts in Charleston and it happened to be engaged elsewhere, so we had to find and bring one down to the jobsite from Virginia.” 

Among the challenges for Palmetto on the project were the various, time-consuming government requirements relative to safety training, certifications, daily reporting, write ups and quality checks.  

Additionally, daily coordination with all of the other numerous trades working on other parts of the facility retrofit proved a bit of a balancing act.

“Everyone working on the facility is aiming for the same completion timeline, but in projects of this magnitude things come up,” he says. “The spray foam wasn’t always given the same priority as the other portions of the work being done by large crews.”

After application of the Heatlok HFO Pro spray foam in phases, Palmetto Spray Foam covered it all with DC-315 Paint, a fully tested and approved intumescent coating that meets 15-minute alternative thermal barrier and ignition barrier protection over spray foam.

In the end, with the quality application and insulating properties of the closed cell foam and coating in place, the hangar now holds four C-17s in a climate-controlled space, allowing crews to work on the planes in comfortable conditions.   

Equally impressive as the final result is the entire insulation portion being completed by Dan Dorneanu alone. In March, he was recognized by Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA) with two National Industry Excellence Awards for his work on the hangar - one for Building Enclosure SPF Over 40,000 Square Feet and the other the Small Business Award. The latter is a first-ever award given to small spray foam contractors, who the SPFA credits as being the backbone of the burgeoning spray foam industry.

“It’s extremely rare for a job of this magnitude to be handled by a crew of one and I am humbled by these awards,” he says.