Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost?
We like to say insulation doesn’t cost, it pays. Although it can be double a cellulose insulation bid and three times higher than a fiberglass insulation bid, spray foam can lower your utility bills up to half and has a 3-5 year return on investment for heating alone. Spray foam usually costs around $2-3/sq ft installed in a new home or building.
At first, there is often ‘sticker shock’ associated with a spray foam insulation bid because it is higher than traditional insulation. However, it becomes a very smart investment when compared to other components in your home. For example, a good quality carpet and pad can cost around $4-5/sq ft and is not intended to be permanent; it will need to be replaced. Spray foam is a major, permanent component. It will not ever shrink or settle and does not ever need to be replaced. The extra money you spend on spray foam insulation will usually be made up in 3-5 years on heating alone. Add cooling and the pay back is even faster.
There are only a few things you can do to a home that will actually make you money in the future. Insulation is #1, good doors and windows are #2 and from there a good HVAC system, ground source heating, etc.
Homes and buildings that are insulated with spray foam can usually expect utility bills of at least 50% less of an identical home or building that used other conventional types of insulation. If you are in the pre-build phase, you can downsize the HVAC system by 30% if the HVAC contractor uses the J-manuals for the load calculations. If you use closed cell, you can downsize the dimensional lumber, from 2×6 to 2×4’s. This will save you money on your lumber and door and window jambs, and you can also eliminate all attic and soffit ventilation. All these things will help offset the cost of the spray foam insulation.
What is the return on investment?
The extra money spent on spray foam insulation over conventional insulation has an average payback of 3-5 years on heating alone in this region. Fast return on investment means money in your pocket in the future.
For a new home, this does not take into account the money saved on the HVAC system, dimensional lumber, elimination of roof vents, etc.
A building insulated with spray foam insulation can usually be heated with a simple electric heater and does not need an HVAC system.
What is the difference between open cell and closed cell?
Closed cell is a high density spray foam insulation. It is very firm, highly resistant to moisture, adds structural strength and you can spray it anywhere on any surface.
Closed cell is basically waterproof, although the manufacturer does not want us to say that, but rather say it is highly resistant to water and water vapor. Closed cell spray foam should be used anywhere moisture is prevalent, such as concrete walls, foundation walls, etc. Due to its rigid nature, it also adds two to three times the structural strength of a building, taking a pole frame building with an average wind rating of 80-90 mph up to 160 mph sustained wind loads. It is used in hurricane regions to better withstand high winds. Closed cell spray foam is also a self-supporting foam, meaning it doesn’t need any framing members (rafters, joists, beams, etc.) to lock into. It can be used anywhere, on any surface, and is especially excellent for concrete basement walls, foundation walls, long/large flat surfaces or ceilings and any moist area.
Open cell is a light density spray foam insulation. It is firm, expands to fill cracks and voids and has natural sound deadening properties.
After it is sprayed, it is soft enough you can grab it and pull out chunks. It is a maximum expansion foam, meaning it expands about 100-150 times its initial mass, filling all those little cracks, crevices and voids where air infiltration and air loss is most common. It is excellent for soundproofing bedrooms, bathrooms, offices, theaters, etc. We recommend using open cell in residential applications and especially the roofline areas.
Why is spray foam better than conventional insulation?
Polyurethane spray foam insulation is the only true air barrier system. Going on in a liquid state it glues itself to all the framing members and substrate creating a seamless monolithic system, expanding to eliminate all air infiltration. Unlike all other types of conventional insulation which are considered loose fill systems, spray foam insulation does not shrink or settle, holding its effectiveness indefinitely.
What is the R-value?
Spray foam insulation is measured by thermal efficiency rather than R-value which was created to rate fiberglass insulation.
Comparing conventional types of loose fill insulation such as fiberglass and cellulose to spray foam is not comparing apples to apples. For polyurethane spray foam, consider thermal efficiency. Closed cell high density spray foam insulation (approximate R-value 7 per inch), at one inch stops 76% of all heat transfer, the second inch stops 95% and the third inch stops 96.5% of all heat transfer. Two inches of closed cell is what is recommended by the manufacturer for heating and cooling purposes. However, we have sprayed many metal buildings with an inch and a half of closed cell and they work great. For open cell foam (approximate R-value 4 per inch), we recommend at least 4-5 inches. Five inches is about 95% thermal efficient.
Is foam an active vapor barrier?
Two inches of closed cell high density spray foam insulation is an active vapor barrier. For open cell light density spray foam insulation, the active vapor barrier is the skin that develops on the leading edge of the foam, the outer part that comes in contact with the air.
For this reason, it is never a good idea to target to spray past full and saw off the extra because it eliminates that active vapor barrier. But rather, for instance, in a 2×6 wall with 5 1/2 inch studs, target for 5 inches for just under full, to maintain that active vapor barrier.
When we spayed the Extreme Makeover television show in Ottawa KS (Hall family residence) the manufacturer dyed the spray foam orange, and, at their request, we sprayed it past the studs and sawed it off. This was all for added visual effects for the show. For best results, it is not recommended.
Where can I use spray foam?
Spray foam is a seamless monolithic system and will stick to any surface making it ideal for any area, any substrate and any project – homes, buildings, warehouses, theaters, businesses… walls, attics, basements, concrete walls, foundations, floors, tanks, pools, storage containers, sound deadening, etc. It is everywhere; we are surrounded by it. Your couch, vehicle steering wheel, seats, some mattresses and even your toothbrush almost always have spray foam.
How long will it last?
Unlike conventional types of insulation, spray foam insulation holds its effectiveness indefinitely, never shrinking or settling. It will not lose its thermal efficiency or have any decrease in performance.
Can I paint it?
Yes, any latex paint will work, just make sure to use a high adhesion primer first. Darker colors will minimize the bumps/variances in the foam.
Is it safe?
Yes. The manufacturer recommends you stay out of the area sprayed for 48 hours. After that point, if the foam has been properly proportioned and applied, the foam is cured and hardened and the air is safe to breathe.
Is it flammable?
Spray foam insulation has a Class 1/Class A fire rating, meaning it is highly resistant to fire and does not spread flames quickly. Class A building materials are the safest and required in most hospitals, prisons, nursing homes and schools.
The fire rating class test for spray foam involves spraying a room and then igniting that room with a propane torch or equivalent. The Class rating is based on how long it takes to see smoke and flames on the spray foam. This is also how they get the difference between the ignition barrier (is good but not best) and the thermal barrier (took longest to see flame).
Flame-spread rating test scores range from 0-100 with zero being an asbestos cement sheet and 100 being pure red oak (straight from the tree). A Class A fire rating has a score of 0-25 in a flame-spread rating test.
Will it melt or harm my speaker/audio/electric wires?
No, any wire covered in Romex, or equivalent, as almost all wiring is, will be perfectly safe and not harmed.
How can I make my existing house more energy efficient?
Spray foam in the attic, crawl space/foundation walls, rim joist, garage or any other exposed accessible area will increase the energy efficiency. Replacing windows and doors can also help.