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JUN 23, 2023


The R‑Class community benefits from the knowledge and experience of real builders who work on job sites daily and are willing to share that expertise. Nick Schiffer, founder of NS Builders in Boston, Massachusetts, has been a valuable contributor since day one. He’s a staunch proponent of high-performance building standards, as well as educating other building pros to help elevate the craft so everyone benefits.

We recently asked him to share a bit about himself and his experiences in the field as a high-performance builder. And if you assumed he first started using stone wool for its thermal properties…you’d be wrong!


(1) What was your first experience using ROCKWOOL stone wool?

I have been using stone wool insulation for the last 10 years, probably. The first time I used it was on a personal project—we knew we were going to have kids so we wanted to make sure our walls had soundproofing. We dug into different options and were introduced to ROCKWOOL’s stone wool insulation. We used it for the interior and really enjoyed using it from the install, so we started learning about the potential to use it for other applications as well.

(2) What is your “go-to” application with stone wool, and why?

I really like using it for exterior continuous insulation. It’s classified as semi-rigid, but frankly, it’s easy to cut, and it’s easy to manipulate. I think it’s a better product for a number of reasons over foam.

Nick first started using ROCKWOOL stone wool for its soundproofing properties.

(3) What’s the most unusual application you’ve ever tried?

The most unusual application was on our Needham project—we installed Comfortboard 80 on the interior foundation walls prior to the basement wall frame-in. This allowed us to get it insulated prior to the wall frames but left the cavities in the walls open to run utilities, such as electrical and plumbing. It’s a great example of thinking ahead about future use of the space.

(4) What’s your best advice for builders using stone wool insulation for the first time?

Understand that while it may feel very similar to other batt insulation, it’s going to be much easier to cut and handle.

(5) What is ROCKWOOL doing well and what more would you like to see from us to support builders?

ROCKWOOL is a great partner with a fantastic technical support team when it comes to insulating and good performance of the home. While they are selling a specific product, they take an unbiased approach when there is a better solution that might fit a project.


(6) What’s the best piece of advice for builders new to high performance?

Focus on the basics. I think oftentimes we rely on products to be the band-aid for poor craftsmanship, when the reality is if we took our time and did a good job with install, it’s much less about the product and much more about the level of craftsmanship.

Having a builder that leads homeowners in the right direction is important. – Nick Schiffer, NS Builders

(7) What do you wish homeowners understood about the importance of the building envelope?

I wish homeowners understood that there is a big difference between building a home and building a high-performance home. And the attention to detail and the cost associated with that and how it relates to building a better product vs. building a bigger product.

Nick says builders need to educate homeowners on the shift to passive home-level construction.

As code gets more stringent and we’re pushing towards passive home-level construction, it’s important for homeowners to understand the importance of this shift. They also need to understand which builders are taking the necessary steps to build better homes and are on the leading edge of technology. Having a builder that leads homeowners in the right direction is important to the health of the home, and ultimately, the health of the environment they spend the majority of their time in.

There is a big difference between building a home and building a high-performance home. – Nick Schiffer, NS Builders


(8) What's a big fail that you turned into a learning opportunity?

The biggest fail was creating new details or approaching something differently with advice from only a percentage of manufacturers involved, and not leaning all vendors to be sure that what we were trying to accomplish would be warrantable by all parties.

I take a collaboration over competition mentality. – Nick Schiffer, NS Builders

(9) What’s your favorite source for industry guidance and inspiration?

There is no one person I look to. My involvement in the building community through my business, the podcast, networking opportunities and more allows me to be in tune with many different aspects of the industry. I genuinely take the approach that if I share what I learn, others will be willing to share back. Taking a “collaboration over competition” mentality. So, while there isn’t one person, the general sense is that everyone can offer you something.

(10) What’s next for you?

I want to build homes that would be considered globally iconic.


Check out Nick's latest video on using ROCKWOOL stone wool for insulation and sound attenuation on the Needham project. Nick shares best installation practices for ROCKWOOL Comfortbatt® and describes how his team used a hybrid approach with closed cell and open cell insulation to hit their R-value requirements.