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  • Writer's pictureLanny Freng

Is Spray Foam Insulation the answer?



It certainly is... IF IT IS DONE RIGHT. I recently attended some continuing education and we had Tom Harris present. Tom is the guru of SF insulation and has a wealth of knowledge under his belt from 40+ years in this industry. This type of insulation has been around for 50+ years but only in the last 10-15 years has it become popular in residential housing. It does just about everything you could ask for in insulation; fills gaps, has the highest R-value per inch available, is a class 2 vapor barrier, has excellent soundproofing qualities, is an air barrier, adds structural rigidity, and can be applied in odd areas with excellent coverage.


There are two drawbacks to SF insulation, one is the upfront cost. It does cost more when installed but this can be offset by its excellent efficiency over the long term. It requires special equipment to install which comes at a premium. The other drawback is, and this is the big one, INSTALLATION (this is no fault of the spray foam itself). The foam consists of two chemicals and a blowing agent. It is rigorously tested by the manufacturer during the manufacturing process. The problems arise when it is not installed correctly and we will look at some of these issues.


Training, training, training... that is what it comes down to. There are a lot of companies out there installing SF insulation but not all of them are doing it correctly. If the insulation is not installed in the proper lifts (thicknesses) it can overheat and degrade, improper ratios can affect its curing, improper product (closed cell vs open cell) can create big issues in homes (especially in northern climates), improper ventilation after installation can lead to health concerns, improper ambient and surface temperature application can cause performance issues and health concerns. If it is installed correctly per the manufacturer's requirements the product will be inert after it is cured and safe. Some are concerned with the chemicals involved, polyurethane is everywhere around you. Heck most of us sleep on it in our memory foam mattresses and pillows every night for 8 hours, cars are full of it, polyurethane is very difficult to get away from it these days.


If you are considering going the SF insulation route make sure your installer knows what they are doing and is competent. A great resource is the SPFA (Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance) which has a list of certified installers. I would highly recommend doing your research on a company to ensure they have been trained accordingly. if a job is botched it is a nightmare to remedy.

If you have any topics or ideas you would like to see in a future edition of Homeowner Tidbits feel free to drop me an email at lfreng@inspectionwerx.com and as always "Get the best of US before your new home gets the best of YOU!


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