1. What is Spray Foam Insulation and how does it work?
Spray foam insulation (SPF) is a type of insulation made up of a mixture of two chemicals, isocyanate and polyol resin, which react when mixed with each other expanding up to 30-60 times their original volume. This creates a foam that is applied on site and it adapts to the surface where it is applied. This foam fills gaps and cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings to prevent air movement and moisture through holes, openings, and crevices, among many other benefits. SPF is widely used in all types of buildings and, for many people, it is the preferred method of choice to other types of insulation because it offers a greater theR-value while keeping the costs down and because it makes buildings more comfortable and energy-efficient.
2. What are the Advantages of Spray Foam?
Since spray foam is an approved air barrier, outside air cannot seep through walls causing drafts, cold spots, dampness, and other discomforts. It also means that moisture laden air cannot enter the walls and condense on cold surfaces causing mold, mildew and premature decay. Spray foam insulation is also recognized for its incredible ability to absorb sound. Moreover, it is not uncommon for homes with foam to experience more than a 50% reduction in heating/cooling consumption compared to a similar house with fiberglass. This is because of spray foam’s unique ability to create a custom air seal and retain its R value in extreme weather conditions.
3. Why is Spray Foam Better Than Fiberglass?
According to the US Department of Energy, "The most common insulation, fiberglass, does not stop air leakage. In older homes, dirty fiberglass is a telltale sign of air movement (it simply collects dirt like a filter)." If insulation cannot air seal, then it cannot truly insulate. Creating an air-tight structure is the absolute key to achieving the greatest insulation results. Spray foam insulation is arguably the best choice for insulation because, due to its higher R-value, it performs better than several other traditional insulation materials, including fiberglass.
Additionally, when installed correctly, spray foam insulation should last throughout the entire lifespan of one’s home while fiberglass and cellulose start to lose their properties after some years. Furthermore, foam’s ability to stop air leakage is only a fraction of its benefits, convection suppression is another important characteristic. In summary, considering all pros and cons, it is clear that fiberglass insulation is a poor investment while spray foam insulation literally pays for itself and puts money in the bank with all the energy savings it offers.
4. How Much Will I Save with SPF and what is the Payback Period?
Some customers may be hesitant to invest in spray foam insulation if they’re on a budget, but an amazing benefit of spray foam is that it will start to pay for itself by saving your money since the first energy bill after installation. Past case studies and experience shows that a properly insulated home with spray foam will reduce heating/cooling consumption by around 30-50%, depending on several factors. Window fenestration, orientation, and HVAC sizing are just a few of the variables that will determine the whole house performance.
Our experience and research show that the payback period, from the cost to upgrade to spray foam, ranges between 3-5 years depending on fuel cost, size of the property, where the home is located, the condition of the HVAC unit, the home energy usage and the areas being spray foamed, among other factors.The annual energy savings can become quite significant as the cost for energy continues to rise each year.
5. Can SPF help with the re-sale of a home?
Yes, lower utility bills are a strong selling point nowadays. The high energy prices are something that prospect buyers always consider so, energy efficient homes with lower energy bills will always be more attractive to them.There’s just no comparison in savings between an SPF insulated home and a similar conventionally insulated home.
6. Can installing SPF save you money in other areas of the building?
Yes, SPF can help you reduce the size of the HVAC systems needed. A tightly sealed spray foam building envelope needs a smaller HVAC unit to keep your building comfortable, saving you money in the cost of the system itself and the energy bills (smaller systems use less energy). Furthermore, in some instances, utilizing closed cell SPF can eliminate the need for a vapor barrier.
7. How Long Does Spray Foam Insulation Last?
Homeowners will be happy to discover that, when installed correctly, spray foam insulation should last for many decades and it will never lose its properties. Unlike fiberglass or cellulose that need to be replaced after some years, spray foam has the benefit of never having to be maintained or updated, something that homeowners love.
8. Can ceiling and interior walls be sprayed to reduce unwanted noise?
Yes, while spray foam insulation is primarily used for thermal insulation, lately it has been used more and more as a sound deadening material as well because it can prevent sound from traveling in and out of rooms or buildings.
9. Can you Install Spray Foam Insulation on your Own?
The process of installing spray foam insulation is more complicated than installing other insulation materials, such as fiberglass. While it might be possible to do SPF on your own, it is highly discouraged because installing spray foam insulation without professional experience and training may be highly dangerous. In addition, you would be exposing yourself to harmful fumes during the installation process plus you will likely install the spray foam incorrectly, which can cause harmful off-gassing to occur long after the insulation has been installed. Such off-gassing can cause numerous negative health impacts, such as respiratory issues, skin irritation, and an increased risk of cancer. Furthermore, improperly installed spray foam insulation can also damage your home by causing mold, rust, and ice dams, among many other problems. Unless you’re willing to risk the health of your home’s residents and the state of your property, it’s best not to attempt installing spray foam insulation on your own.
10. Why is it necessary to remove existing insulation before installing spray foam?
You might think that the existing insulation (cellulose or fiberglass) in your attic floor will add additional insulation, but that's not the case. In fact, this could cause problems in the future.
One of those problems is that old insulation could trap fumes produced during the application of SPF. These fumes are normally extracted with adequate ventilation; however, the existing insulation captures those fumes and they may continue off-gassing even if the attic is ventilated during and after installation. Usually, when this happens, the only solution to get rid of these gases and odors in your attic is to remove the old insulation anyways.
Another common problem is that old insulation also hinders the spray foam's ability to efficiently insulate your attic. Existing insulation found in the attic’s floor can block tight areas, such as where roof rafters meet attic floor joists. Those areas are critical and need to be properly insulated, otherwise improper spray foam installation will create problems down the road.
11. Will I Need to Leave During SPF Installation and after how long can I comeback home?
Most spray foam experts recommend that homeowners should find temporary accommodation during and following spray foam installation. This is due to the strong odors and fumes that spray foam can produce during the process. Once the spray foam has had adequate time to cure, though, homeowners will never have to worry about fumes again, and the foam shouldn’t have any additional odor. Homeowners should wait at least 24 hours after the installation is complete to come back home.
12. Does Spray Foam Insulation Release Harmful Gases?
A common concern homeowners have regarding spray foam insulation is whether it releases dangerous fumes. While it is true that spray foam insulation does have an off-gassing period after installation, this effect is only temporary. When installed correctly, after approximately 24 hours the off-gassing should stop. Therefore, homeowners should not worry about experiencing any negative health impacts as long as they remain out of their home during installation and 24 hours afterwards.
13. What is the process to get rid of the harmful gasses caused by SPF?
Proper ventilation is imperative in any SPF project, for that reason we use powerful extractor blower fans during and after the installation of SPF to make sure that the area is being well ventilated. This is a simple step that not many contractors do but it helps to prevent any potential health hazards and ensures proper air quality after the foam is installed.
14. How Long Does the Installation Process Take?
Some residential spray foam projects such as attics or crawl spaces can take as little as a day or less, depending on the area to be sprayed because many times the applications need to happen in tight spaces making it more difficult and therefore taking longer. For larger locations (especially whole houses, business offices or warehouses) installation might take days.
Another factor that influences the time it takes is whether the building already has insulation installed that needs to be removed. Removing old insulation could be a lengthy process depending on the difficulty of the area; however, it is a recommended process every time SPF will be used.
15. In what areas is it recommended to use open cell?
Open-cell foam is generally applied to the above ground walls, underside of the roof in an unvented attic, and wherever sound attenuation is desired. It is worth nothing that in the event of a roof leak, water will pass through open-cell foam with gravity, thereby allowing the roof leak to be detectible.
16. In what areas is it recommended to use closed cell?
Closed-cell foam is used wherever there is significant moisture or vapor drive; for instance, below grade foundation walls (basement walls), indoor swimming pools, wine cellars, freezers, etc. Closed-cell foam is also used when trying to maximize R-value in shallow cavities. Further, closed-cell foam can dramatically add to structural integrity due to its high density and compression strength.
17. Which Is Better: Open- or Closed-Cell Foam?
The use of open or closed cell foam will depend entirely on the type of project and where the contractor will install the foam. Closed cell foam and open cell foam each has its own benefits and differences. For example, closed cell foam is a better moisture-repellant, while you can install open cell foam in a wider variety of locations. Therefore, open cell foam is a better choice in some cases, while closed cell foam is more ideal for others.
18. Can SPF be applied to any surface?
It can be applied to nearly any surface as long as is clean dry and oil/dust free. SPF will sometimes have trouble adhering to slick surfaces and some extremely smooth/slick surfaces will need preparation. For the most part, SPF will adhere to almost any surface.
19. When Should I Install Spray Foam Insulation?
Spray foam insulation can be applied to new or existing construction without much trouble. Ideally, SPF should be done during the building phase and the best time for application would be after plumbing, electrical wiring, and HVAC ducts have been installed, but before drywall goes up. However, when insulating indoor areas such as crawlspaces, attics, or roofs, timing won’t matter, as these areas are easily accessible in both new and existing construction.
20. Can SPF damage pipes and wires?
Properly installed SPF should not damage any pipes or wires so, to avoid issues remember to always use a qualified SPF contractor.