Home & Garden

Ask me anything about spray foam insulation

  • Last Updated:
  • Sep 27th, 2016 12:49 pm
[OP]
Newbie
User avatar
Feb 3, 2014
65 posts
23 upvotes
Mississauga

Ask me anything about spray foam insulation

Hi all. I've used RFD for years to research various topics and find great deals, so I thought I would finally contribute with something that I actually know about: spray foam insulation. I have 15 years of experience in the industry in Ontario and know the product and the business inside out. Ask me anything about the stuff and I'll be happy to answer.

--
Peter
242 replies
Sr. Member
Nov 24, 2002
890 posts
66 upvotes
Toronto
Peter. Why is Spray Foam so expensive relative to batt insulation? Install time is 1/2 of batt so labour cost should be much less. Is it really more expensive to manufacture than batt?

The other question: what is the recommended method of removing the stuff if it touches windows of finished doors? (The gap filler rattle can stuff). Goof off? Goo gone?
Deal Fanatic
Feb 1, 2006
9099 posts
215 upvotes
What are your thoughts on the problems that have cropped up recently with homeowners who have spray foamed their homes, and then had major mould problems and had to remove all the foam, which is a major job?
Jr. Member
Mar 25, 2012
156 posts
26 upvotes
Ottawa
In addition, what are your thoughts on health problems resulting from being exposed to or living in houses with spray foam? Is it really a matter of improper application, or might there be a problem with the stuff itself? What are the chances of having an improper application?
Sr. Member
User avatar
Mar 30, 2004
914 posts
8 upvotes
Newmarket
how much foam does it take to make it cheaper to bring in a professional, than buying a kit? ( Tigerfoam, etc)
We have enough youth.. what we need is a fountain of smart
Deal Addict
User avatar
May 24, 2008
2646 posts
557 upvotes
Toronto
Bullseye wrote:
Feb 5th, 2014 6:01 am
What are your thoughts on the problems that have cropped up recently with homeowners who have spray foamed their homes, and then had major mould problems and had to remove all the foam, which is a major job?
Could you provide some sources that speak about these problems?

We have spray foam in our basement and attic, so I have researched spray foam extensively. I have never heard about any mod problems directly attributed to the spray foam.

Sure, there's the mold problems when a house has become too air tight and not enough mechanical ventilation has been added. That's not the foam's fault, that's just design issues combined with stupidity.

Also, I've heard about problems where open cell foam has been used in the attic, which has led to moisture and mold problems because of the permeability of the foam. Again, stupidity is at play, and use of closed cell foam would have solved the problem.

In addition, I have heard about moisture problems with the foam-in-a-can products (Great Stuff), but that has nothing to do with foam insulation.

Is there anything else you have heard about that I'm missing?
Member
Nov 13, 2007
223 posts
34 upvotes
Toronto
Hi Peter, I was thinking of using spray foam to insulate the attic floor. Maybe just 2 inches of foam to get around R14 and then top up with batts. I have read that the 2 inches will give me a vapour barrier between the second floor and attic. I am concerned about electrical octagon boxes in the second floor ceiling/attic floor. Can you just spray foam over them? What about the fan for the bathroom? The easy answer is to say to just build a box around each one but this would be a big challenge. If I have to, then fine, but if it is ok to spray over them then I would prefer this. What do you think?
Deal Addict
Jan 19, 2004
1617 posts
147 upvotes
Bullseye wrote:
Feb 5th, 2014 6:01 am
What are your thoughts on the problems that have cropped up recently with homeowners who have spray foamed their homes, and then had major mould problems and had to remove all the foam, which is a major job?
Do you recall the source that indicated mold from spray foam? I've been reading this subject for the past two days from various sources (ie. Greenbuilding, mike holmes, diy forums, etc.) and have not come across any article stating mold from spray foam.

Really need to completely replace the existing insulation in my basement. It currently has batts only and I can see moisture and mold from the joist. Just took possession of the house a couple weeks ago.

I am considering using both foam boards and close spray foam. My approach is to use foam board from the concrete floor all the way up to the joist then spray foam the top area.

Would that approach work?

Looking at ~500 sq ft in the basement (rough estimate for now)...until I have time to fully measure.

Alternatively, what's the cost to spray foam closed-cell) professionally?


Thank you.
Banned
User avatar
Jun 22, 2012
4738 posts
657 upvotes
Shhanada
Can you comment on the horror stories we've seen in the media where some installations are off-gassing and ruining people's houses?

I think it was on Marketplace where the installation was sprayed on too thick and the resulting fluid was making the occupants sick. I think they said it's supposed to be done in layers, giving each layer time to solidify or something like that.

Are there some products more/less prone to this kind of issue? Is there any certification for installers to make sure they are doing a good install?
[OP]
Newbie
User avatar
Feb 3, 2014
65 posts
23 upvotes
Mississauga
leonk wrote:
Feb 5th, 2014 12:01 am
Peter. Why is Spray Foam so expensive relative to batt insulation? Install time is 1/2 of batt so labour cost should be much less. Is it really more expensive to manufacture than batt?

The other question: what is the recommended method of removing the stuff if it touches windows of finished doors? (The gap filler rattle can stuff). Goof off? Goo gone?
Spray foam is more expensive for several reasons:
1) The material is a thermal plastic; a by-product of crude oil. As the price of oil goes up, so does the price of spray foam.
2) Essentially, it’s a high performance product and the price reflects it.
3) Installation requires specialized equipment and training. Anyone can install batt but you need to be certified to install foam.
4) Manufacturing batt is essentially spinning fibreglass = cost is lower. With spray foam the process is more complex as you’re mixing chemicals, etc.

Regarding removal - Certain solvents can damage vinyl and other materials . If you need to get the stuff off a window, for example, a razor blade works well. To get it off vinyl try magic eraser with fine sand paper. Off brick go for a clean soft bristle bbq brush. If you want to use a solvent try carburetor cleaner, but don’t use it inside. Test it on a sample of the surface to make sure it doesn’t destroy it.

Bullseye wrote:
Feb 5th, 2014 6:01 am
What are your thoughts on the problems that have cropped up recently with homeowners who have spray foamed their homes, and then had major mould problems and had to remove all the foam, which is a major job?
When you spray a whole house you make it air tight and moisture tight. Living in the house (taking showers, cooking, plantlife, etc) produces moisture. To prevent mould problems from cropping up if you’re spraying a whole house you should have a heat recovery ventilator system on your furnace or run a dehumidifier if you want. Opening a window once in a while is something we should all be doing regardless of the insulation in your homes, and that will help with moisture/mould problems a lot. Honestly, I’ve never run into a mould problem myself.

Remember, open cell (.5lb) creates only an air barrier. If you have it in your attic make sure you have adequate ventilation. Also do not have it installed below grade (basement) since it will only trap the moisture inside of itself because in the end its just a sponge in your walls. 2lb closed cell is the way to go. Only advantage .5lb has is price and it’s better at sound dampening.
StTakla1 wrote:
Feb 5th, 2014 8:19 am
In addition, what are your thoughts on health problems resulting from being exposed to or living in houses with spray foam? Is it really a matter of improper application, or might there be a problem with the stuff itself? What are the chances of having an improper application?
When good quality foam is installed correctly according to the industry’s safety standard code CAN/ULC 705.2 it poses no health risks. I find that in the past few years there has been more talk of people having problems since the number of foam manufacturers with CCMC (Canadian construction materials council) approval has increased. Whereas before you only had one or two, now there are at least a dozen foam suppliers allowed in Canada and IMHO the quality of a lot of them is sub-par. Most people think foam is foam but that’s not true; the lower grade foams are cheaper and when installed improperly can cause serious issues. Off-gassing occurs and it’s hazardous. It’s rare but it happens when you try to save a dollar.
Tjalfe wrote:
Feb 5th, 2014 8:47 am
how much foam does it take to make it cheaper to bring in a professional, than buying a kit? ( Tigerfoam, etc)
If you plan on spraying just the header cavities of your basement you’re going to save about $200 by using the dyi stuff BUT the problem is that stuff like tiger foam is messy and I feel like their recommended safety precautions (paper mask) are inadequate. Also:
- It’s not 2lb density foam, it’s only 1.5 lb density.
- You only get an air barrier not vapour barrier.
Only time I would suggest it is if you want to do things like repair a hot tub or insulate basement headers or you want to spray a cottage on an island (because you’d have to pay to pay to have a barge bring the truck to your island to do the spray job)
clax66 wrote:
Feb 5th, 2014 9:45 am
Hi Peter, I was thinking of using spray foam to insulate the attic floor. Maybe just 2 inches of foam to get around R14 and then top up with batts. I have read that the 2 inches will give me a vapour barrier between the second floor and attic. I am concerned about electrical octagon boxes in the second floor ceiling/attic floor. Can you just spray foam over them? What about the fan for the bathroom? The easy answer is to say to just build a box around each one but this would be a big challenge. If I have to, then fine, but if it is ok to spray over them then I would prefer this. What do you think?
Yes, the vapour barrier is achieved with 1 5/8” of the high quality foam and 2” of lower quality.

I think you should do the following– box the bathroom exhaust (If you ever have to replace it it will be a lot easier if its boxed in and it will save you time and money) and as for octagon boxes the foam will penetrate the openings so if you don’t want that happening then put tape over it. If you have pot lights definitely put large boxes over them since they have thermal switches on them and the foam won’t let the heat escape. Another option is to go with LED’s that don’t generate the same heat if you don’t want to go with boxes.
Dragon120 wrote:
Feb 5th, 2014 12:58 pm
Do you recall the source that indicated mold from spray foam? I've been reading this subject for the past two days from various sources (ie. Greenbuilding, mike holmes, diy forums, etc.) and have not come across any article stating mold from spray foam.

Really need to completely replace the existing insulation in my basement. It currently has batts only and I can see moisture and mold from the joist. Just took possession of the house a couple weeks ago.

I am considering using both foam boards and close spray foam. My approach is to use foam board from the concrete floor all the way up to the joist then spray foam the top area.

Would that approach work?

Looking at ~500 sq ft in the basement (rough estimate for now)...until I have time to fully measure.

Alternatively, what's the cost to spray foam closed-cell) professionally?


Thank you.
Will it work – yes and no. The boards will work but the problem is they do not have intimate cohesion with the substrate so there will still be an air gap behind the foam where moisture can condense; with foam boards and tuck taping and gluing you will never achieve as a good a job as you would with spray applied. The header idea is good but it’s not gonna cost you that much more to have a pro come out to do the full 500 sq feet. If you factor in the cost of doing the boards, etc, having the full 500sqfeet professionally sprayed (vs the headers by themselves) is the more cost effective option.
anville wrote:
Feb 5th, 2014 1:24 pm
Are concerns about VOCs from spray foam valid?
No. good quality foam use does not contain any VOCs. I’d be more concerned installing a new carpet at my house because of the glues inside of it.
SurplusPlus wrote:
Feb 5th, 2014 3:50 pm
Can you comment on the horror stories we've seen in the media where some installations are off-gassing and ruining people's houses?

I think it was on Marketplace where the installation was sprayed on too thick and the resulting fluid was making the occupants sick. I think they said it's supposed to be done in layers, giving each layer time to solidify or something like that.

Are there some products more/less prone to this kind of issue? Is there any certification for installers to make sure they are doing a good install?
Yes I can comment. What it comes down to is home owners looking for the lowest price. There are companies out there that will put ppl in danger by doing risky business to increase profit margins slightly by having the foam installed too thick and too quickly which lowers the density and increases the sprayer’s profit.

--
Peter
Owner, VIPFoam.com
Deal Fanatic
Feb 1, 2006
9099 posts
215 upvotes
SurplusPlus wrote:
Feb 5th, 2014 3:50 pm
I think it was on Marketplace where the installation was sprayed on too thick and the resulting fluid was making the occupants sick. I think they said it's supposed to be done in layers, giving each layer time to solidify or something like that.
This was the story I was referring to. I've always thought of foam as a good reno to do to your house, and I still do, the problem is that a layman like myself has no way to gauge the quality of the foam or the job being done, not being an expert at it. So I'm a bit put off on doing it for now, I want it to become more mainstream and there are established companies with solid reputations for I take the risk.
Deal Addict
User avatar
Dec 10, 2008
3145 posts
218 upvotes
St. John's
Bullseye wrote:
Feb 6th, 2014 6:32 am
This was the story I was referring to. I've always thought of foam as a good reno to do to your house, and I still do, the problem is that a layman like myself has no way to gauge the quality of the foam or the job being done, not being an expert at it. So I'm a bit put off on doing it for now, I want it to become more mainstream and there are established companies with solid reputations for I take the risk.
I was more worried about resale. Cheap spray foam could become the next formaldehyde insulation.

I ended up going with rigid board and batts. It's not as airtight, but it's cheaper, cleaner and found in literally every home.
Let's hug it out
Flickr
Deal Addict
User avatar
May 24, 2008
2646 posts
557 upvotes
Toronto
Bullseye wrote:
Feb 6th, 2014 6:32 am
This was the story I was referring to. I've always thought of foam as a good reno to do to your house, and I still do, the problem is that a layman like myself has no way to gauge the quality of the foam or the job being done, not being an expert at it. So I'm a bit put off on doing it for now, I want it to become more mainstream and there are established companies with solid reputations for I take the risk.
More mainstream??? Spray foam has been used as insulation for decades and has for example been featured by Mike Holmes on almost all his reno shows.

If anything, when it becomes mainstream is when you have to watch out. As Peter has already mentioned more companies are now producing the foam, and some of it is much lower quality. With fewer companies around, it increases transparency and IMO actually makes it safer than when it goes mainstream.

Now, let me ask you this: As a layman, are you able to gauge the quality of a batt insulation job? Do you realize that the mold and rot problems caused by a bad batt insulation job could be enormously damaging to your house?
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Mar 13, 2004
7520 posts
609 upvotes
Toronto, Ontario
Whats your opinion on say spraying a wall with 1inch spray foam to make it airtight & then using regular sound proof batts for the rest? Any issues I would run into?
Maximum Repair
Computer & Cell Phone Repair
PM me for more info
× < >

Top