What is Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation is a spray-applied liquid plastic that expands many times its size. It is commonly installed as insulation and air or moisture barriers. Also known as spray polyurethane foam (SPF), spray foam is durable and maintains its physical properties over time. SPF has been used for over 60 years and is an extremely stable, long-lasting and a versatile material.

SPF is also among the ‘greenest’ insulation alternatives, as it requires minimal energy to transport and install. As a single product, depending on the project and formula, SPF can take the place of 3-4 other products like air barriers, sealants, vapor retarders, and weather barriers. Furthermore, studies have found that it does not release toxic gases or leach harmful chemicals into the air or soil.

Proper technical training and specialized equipment is used to apply the spray polyurethane foam in order to get the best results.

Top 10 Reasons to Air Seal Your Home

  1. Return on Investment.  It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.  Air leakage is responsible for up to 40% of your heating loss.  Imagine spending less than a $1000 to have a professional crew come in and, in half a day with no mess, reduce your heating and cooling bills by up to 32% (or 80% of 40%)?
  2. Rebates, rebates, rebates.  If you’re like most of the country, you’ll also get up to $2000 back in government sponsored rebates.  So, it’s not only good business, but it’s basically free.  Imagine investing in the stock market and both getting to physically enjoy your investment and being able to realize an immediate return on your investment.  How often does this happen?
  3. Whole House Comfort.  It will make your home more comfortable.  Drafty windows and doors make for uneven heating throughout the house.  So, you end up with some places that are too hot and others that are too cold.  Imagine your home heated evenly throughout so that you could put your bed right next to your windows.  It’s possible, it really is.
  4. Painless and Immediate.  It’s quick, quiet and clean.  About 80% of air sealing of a home can be done by a team of trained professionals in half a day or less.  You’ll realize the differences immediately.
  5. Noise Reduction.  Air sealing doesn’t only keep cold air out, it also keeps out noise.  So, your house will be more comfortable and quieter.
  6. Improve Indoor Air Quality.  It can also keep out mold and pollen.  So, if you’ve got allergies or are sensitive to mold, your home can finally be a safe haven.
  7. Prevents Ice Dams.  Ice dams are caused by air leakage to the underside of your roof.  This air is heated and melts the snow on top of the roof.  The melted snow then drips down the roof until it refreezes causing those beautiful icicles hanging off the gutter.  While they definitely are pretty, the damage they cause is extremely well known.
  8. Damage Control.  Most frozen pipes could have been prevented with air sealing.  If you’ve ever had a pipe freeze and a pipe break, you understand how valuable that can be.
  9. Pest Control.  Air sealing can also keep out unwanted guests, such as birds, bugs and rodents.
  10. Prevents water damage.  Water will follow the same holes that the air comes in through.  When that water comes in, it often hides in the wall cavities destroying the building materials and acting as a breeding ground for mold and termites.   If you air seal using the right materials, it will stop the air, the water, the mold and the pests.

Top 10 Questions Asked About Spray Foam Insulation (and their answers)


1. What’s the difference between open cell and closed cell spray foam insulation?

Answer: The raw materials of both types of foam are nearly identical.  The main difference between them is how dense they are (or, how much we fluff up the material during the spraying.)

The closed cell foam is the denser formulation of the material.  This change in density affects its physical properties in many positive ways.  However, the open cell is generally the much more affordable choice of the two.  Therefore, whenever there aren’t reasons to disqualify Open Cell foam’s usage, it generally will be the product of choice

2. When do I use open cell vs. closed cell?

Answer: The general rule to follow is that one should treat open cell foam identically to fiberglass or cellulose.  It is an excellent insulator giving the end user a near perfect fit.  In doing so, it also creates a nearly perfect air seal (in contrast to fiberglass or cellulose).  This air seal is responsible for up to 40% of heating and cooling savings of the house.

However, closed cell foam can be used in numerous situations for which there is no other answer.  It is intrinsically structural, a vapor barrier, a drainage plain, an air barrier and, of course, perhaps the highest R-Value per inch available on the market (usually around 7 per inch).

3. Are all spray foam insulations the same?

Answer:  No. There are multiple manufacturers of spray foam. Like with any product, there are some lower-quality spray foam insulation on the market that have been imported from abroad. Be sure to know exactly what you’re getting for the price you’ve been quoted.

4. Can I install spray foam insulation in an unvented roof ceiling?

Answer:  Yes.  However, care and thought should go into determining if closed cell spray foam is necessary when mapping the potential locations for condensation in the wall cavity.

5. Can I install spray foam insulation in an unvented crawl space?

Answer:  Yes.  However, one should only use Closed Cell spray foam.  Open cell spray foam does not deal with dampness well and is an excellent nest for rodents and others.

6. Can I install injection foam insulation into existing cavity walls or other inaccessible spaces?

Answer:  Yes.  Both open cell and closed cell foam is available for injection into inaccessible spaces.  The material is injected as a liquid and then rises to completely fill and insulate the void.  Injection foam is a tool that few builders know about and can be a cost effective solution to numerous retrofit problems.

7. Is the spray foam insulation flammable?

Answer:  Yes.  According to the International Building Code, all Foam Plastic Materials (not just spray foam, but Styrofoam, sound proofing foams, extruded polystyrene, foam boards, etc.) must be considered flammable (no matter what any salesman tries to tell you.)  Different manufacturers’ foams have different flammability.  Currently, there are a number of foams that perform over and above the standards required by the International Building Code.  However, the literature of each manufacturer’s foam should be reviewed before a project commences.

8. Can I install spray foam insulation directly to masonry?

Answer:  Yes.  Only Closed Cell Spray foam may be used directly to masonry.  (Open cell foam will get and stay wet soon after installation.)  A primer is generally not necessary.  However, a dew point/wall condensation analysis should be completed to insure that moisture within the masonry does not free within the masonry itself and cause an untimely degradation of the wall.  Although this is a theoretical possibility, we have never witnessed it on any of our projects.

9. Can I leave spray foam insulation directly exposed to the sun?

Answer:  Yes, with limitations.  Spray foam left directly exposed to the sun and weather will begin to seriously degredate after about 1 year.  However, after a few days, the foam will change colors and begin to yellow.

10. Is spray foam insulation waterproof?

Answer:  Some spray foam insulations are waterproof.  This depends on the density of the foam.  However, open cell foams are definitely not waterproof or water resistant.  Rather, open cell foams can hold a tremendous volume of water.   Lower density closed cell foams are water resistant, but not completely water proof.  However, higher density closed cell foams can be water proof.  Check with your installer or the foam manufacturer for more details.

10 Ways To Make Your Home, Office, or Warehouse Feel More Comfortable to You

How would you like it if I told that I could make your home more comfortable?

Engineers have a secret society (ASHRAE) in which they create standards for the rest of us.  They’ve got standards on everything you could imagine.  Each standard tries its best to define goals using measurable quantities.  I’m not an engineer, I’m a chemist and general contractor, but I like how they think.  If you can measure it, you should be able to adjust it, and if you can adjust, you can control the results.

Last year I came across an ASHRAE Standard for Thermal Comfort (55-2004).  The very thought that someone could define a standard for Thermal Comfort fascinated me.  It meant that underlying our general comfort within a fixed space lay measureable variables.  So, if I want to get more comfortable, I just have to adjust each of these variables, individually, until I feel great.  Unfortunately for you, if you’re sitting next to me, what makes me feel great may feel horrible to you.  So, I’ll first state each variable, and then the Ways To Make Your Home, Office, or Warehouse Feel More Comfortable to You as subsets of each variable.

Variable #1:  Air Temperature

  1.  Adjust the temperature of your place up or down, until it feels just right.  If you share a space, your fellows may not want the temperature the same as you do, so read along.

Variable #2:  Mean Radiant Temperature

  1. Have you ever noticed that your thermostat tells you that the temperature in the house is different than how you feel?  That’s because physical objects within your space have their own temperature which affects you in a radiative manner.  How do you fix cold exterior walls?  Insulation.  You can have foam or cellulose injected into the wall cavities of your home with minimal damage to the house.  You can even do it between floors or rooms.  Note that foam will benefit Variable #3 as well.
  2. Or, if you rent (or are broke), try hanging blankets on your walls and drapes over your windows, it’s cheap and effective.

Variable #3:  Air Movement

  1. You may have too much air movement, or too little.  So, you can turn off that ceiling fan  or redirect the heat register.
  2. Or, for a bigger project, hire some air sealing specialists to seal up your home.  This can often be done using available rebates from your utility company. The goal is to make the air move on your terms, not Mother Nature’s.

Variable #4:  Relative Humidity

  1. Some people like it humid, others like it dry.  This one is hard to compromise on with roommates.  Good luck.

Variable #5:  Insulative Clothing

  1. You’re cold?  Put on a sweater, wear better socks!  Don’t just turn up the heat.
  2. Are you hot?  Well, I’m cold and I’m sitting right next to you.  Take off your sweater and lend it to me.  I don’t care if it’s pink, it’s only the two of us here.

Variable #6: Activity Levels

  1. Of course you’re cold you dope, you’ve been sitting in that chair working on your computer all day.  So, either get yourself better clothing, or take a break every so often and walk around.  Get some exercise, it’s good for you and it will make you much more comfortable.
  2. Oh, and stop playing basketball with that sweater on, of course you’re going to be uncomfortable.