Spray foam insulation for residential and commercial applications

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Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation (also called spray foam) is used in both residential and commercial properties in the US.

It’s an alternative to most traditional insulation such as glass-wool, mineral, expanded polystyrene, or polystyrene slabs and is present in multiple parts of buildings, such as attics, roofs, walls and floors. It is especially handy for sealing leaks and gaps in existing walls. For most insulators, it is the method of choice when it comes to increase the R-value while keeping the costs down.  

  • How it works: Foam insulation is sprayed into open cavities like rim joists, crawl spaces, and attics. It is a liquid foam sealant that effectively stops air leakage. 

  • Types of foam: There are different sorts of foam insulation products but only two types of foams. Open-cell foam (half-pound) and closed-cell foam (two-pound with high density). The two-pound closed-cell gets a better R-value, but might not be the best solution if you are on a tight budget. 

  • Benefits of spray foam: Spray foam is the most powerful of all foam insulators, with two-pound foam getting the best R-value (R6 per inch). It can save you up to $500 on your annual energy bill. 

  • Cost: Depending on the type of foam, the cost would be between $0.44 to $1.50 per board foot. Closed cell foam being on the higher end of that range. On average the cost associated with hiring a professional insulator contractor is $2,300.

Types of spray foam insulation

Open-cell spray foam: It has a sponge-like texture, it’s a low-density spray that offers flexibility to the foam. It is ideal for filling crawlspaces, ceilings, and walls. In addition, it is impermeable to air and reduce the amount of air escaping from the space. Also, it is permeable to moisture and helps stop the growth of mold and bacteria. 

Closed-cell spray foam: A higher-density rigid spray foam ideal for insulation applications in buildings – particularly commercial buildings that require a higher R-value. Similarly, people use it where flooding or bulk moisture is an issue. Experts recognize this type of insulation as a flood-resistant material. 

Difference between open-cell and closed-cell insulation

Open-cell spray foam insulation is highly pliable. We know that buildings contract and expand due to weather with the passage of time. Since it is highly flexible, open-cell spray foam twists and adjusts with all contractions and expansions – which minimize the need for maintenance. Experts recommend it for indoor applications. On the other hand, closed-cell spray foam insulation has high rigidity and weight – which allow it to acts as both air barrier and water barrier – making it more efficient than open-cell spray foam insulation. 

Where to use Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation acts as an air barrier and a vapor barrier and is used to repair almost any damage that can be detected in a building, from filling gaps in walls and other structures to plugging leaks in pipes.

  • Door & Windows insulation: It is ideal to seal gaps around windows and doors.

  • Attic Insulation: spray foam can be used in attics, but the cost increases with the size of the surface. 

  • Garage Insulation: to create an effective air barrier, the foam is sprayed on the walls and ceilings before any drywall is applied. 

  • Pipe insulation: you can protect your plumbing pipes with spray foam, it is easier to use if there is little room to access the pipes.

  • Crawl insulation: spray foam is also used for crawl insulation, but it’s usually best to leave that job to a contractor.

  • Basement: closed-cell spray foam is recommended for that type of job, due to its superior qualities to stop moisture penetration.

You have to remember that Spray Foam Insulation is made off of 2 chemicals products that are mixed together while it's being sprayed in your home. It can only be sprayed by professionals and you should absolutely leave the house during installation and wait 24h before reentering the house. Even if it's just a part of the house like the attic where the work is done. It is not safe to stay in a building where Spray Foam Insulation is sprayed.  

R-Value Thermal Resistance of Spray Foam Insulation

R-value is actually the ability of the material to resist the flow of heat. When this value is high, it provides a much better heat resistance. When it comes to spray foam insulation, the R-value ranges from 3.2 to 6.5 per inch.

Pros and Cons of Spray Foam Insulation

You can spray foam to repair almost any damage that can be detected in a building, from filling gaps in walls and other structures to plugging leaks in pipes.

  • It helps to reduce the expenses on a construction site as this material requires less space, and reduce the costs for labor.

  • The spray foam does not shall, assign or deform over time, which makes it a great long-term investment. This does not mean that some precautions should not be taken to ensure its durability.

  • The application is quite simple and can be a straightforward DIY job when sealing gaps and cracks.

  • It can expand to 100 times its original thickness. This is especially helpful in difficult to reach locations such as tight cavities, wall sockets and switches etc…

  • When the insulation expands to its full capacity it is easy to cut away leaving a nice smooth finish for your drywall to go over.

  • Spray foam insulation once installed will never settle in the cavity or wall space unlike glass wool which can sag if not installed correctly.

  • spray foam insulation will not give off any dust after installation and will create an airtight seal with your walls increasing the effectiveness of the insulation and also the quality of air within the building

  • Spray foam is not a source of food for pest and therefore is not an attractive place to live for them. 

  • It is very sensitive to ultraviolet rays of sunlight: It is a material that, in a few months of direct exposure to outside elements, loses its properties and  becomes very fragile and detaching itself into small pieces of where it is stuck.

  • It is a toxic material: if exposed directly to fire, it releases oxygen cyanide, which is highly harmful to people’s health. 

  • Is it important to use the correct protective gear when using spray foam insulation, in many cases its best to leave that job to a professional as they are used to this kind or works and already have the right protective gear, which otherwise you need to purchase. It requires to wear gloves, glasses, mask and protective suit (if working with large volumes) to avoid breathing small particles in suspension, or for the foam to come in contact with the skin.

  • Another aspect to take into account with the use of foam is that, although it has high adhesion, it should not be used to replace the cement mortar, such as joining the pieces of a roof.

How to use a Foam Insulation Kit

  1. Clean the surface until it’s free of dust, loose particles, and grease.

  2. Moist the area with a wet cloth to make it easier for the foam to adhere well.

  3. Take the polyurethane canister, shake it 5 seconds before using it and place the cannula or gun in the mouthpiece.

  4. Before using the canister, put on some gloves, place the can upside down and press the valve to distribute the foam evenly.

  5. Gradually fill the surface: keep in mind that as it dries, the product expands doubling its volume, so fill in at most half. To fill a large volume of polyurethane foam, apply it in layers, waiting for the previous ones to dry. Between each layer moisten again.

  6. Leave it to dry, and once completely dry, cut the leftover.

  7. If you stained the floor, the wall or even your hands, you will need to clean it with acetone before it gets hard. 

In conclusion:

Spray foam insulation will stop the movement of conditioned air and warm air from escaping from your home or any building whether is a commercial or industrial property. It acts like a wind breaker, whereas fiberglass insulation works more like a sweater that you might wear.

Spray foam insulation is constantly evolving to meet new and future demands on building codes thus future proofing your home against the hot and cold climates. Whereby with current glasswool insulation and Cellulose insulation it is more difficult for these products to keep up with the future demands of our building codes. The day will eventually come whereby the demand for glass wool will become less and less and there will be a shift to more modern insulation products such as polyisocyanurate (PIR) and Spray Foam insulation, as these products are more adaptable and capable of meeting the new demands from building code while also requiring less material thickness to do so.

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