spray polyurethane foam, health and safety

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Homeowners

Energy efficiency is more important than ever in today's homes and buildings. That's just one of the reasons why spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation, a highly efficient insulation and air sealing material, is rapidly growing in popularity. Spray foam products are available in a wide variety of types.

If you are planning to have SPF insulation professionally installed in your home, here are some frequently asked questions and answers to help you better understand the product.

Getting help from a professional contractor...

 

What to expect during SPF application...

 

After the application...

 

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Getting help from a professional contractor...

What are the different types of spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation and where is it used?
Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is a tough, resilient solid foam material that can be used to improve energy efficiency in many areas of your home, ranging from air sealing mid-sized holes and gaps to insulating large surfaces in both interior and exterior applications.

Several types of SPF are known as two-component foam because the chemicals used to make the foam come in two separate containers. The chemicals are mixed together in a mixing chamber and are applied using a spray pump or spray gun. Generally, two-component SPF products fall into two main types, either low pressure or high pressure systems:

  • Two-component low pressure SPF kits: used by contractors or weatherization professionals to air seal and insulate small to mid-size areas (e.g., crawl spaces, attics, joist retrofit or to fill seams and gaps in primary insulation).
  • Two-component high pressure SPF systems: used by SPF contractors to insulate larger areas (e.g., new construction - walls and roofs or major renovations).

 

A professional energy audit on your home by a professional auditor can help identify areas where extra insulation would be beneficial.

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What should I look for in an SPF contractor? What sort of questions should I ask?
As with any professional you would hire for work in your home, a few things you might want to look for in an SPF contractor or weatherization professional include:

  • Appropriate training in SPF installation
  • Insurance
  • A good reputation and references

 

He/she should be able to advise you on the following:

  • Where to install SPF insulation in your home
  • What to expect throughout each stage of the installation
  • Safety precautions and technical specifications for the products being installed

 

As an added service, your contractor may also offer guidance on how to take advantage of local and federal utility rebates or tax credits.

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Can I install two-component spray polyurethane foam insulation myself?
Mid to larger-scale SPF insulation projects (e.g., walls, attics, roofs) using two-component systems are sophisticated applications well-suited to professional installation by a trained SPF contractor or weatherization professional. SPF professionals will have the appropriate training and protective gear (also called "personal protective equipment" or PPE), including respirators, to handle larger-scale SPF insulation jobs.

There are insulating foam sealant products available in cans for Do-It-Yourselfers at home improvement stores. These products are used for small "bead-type" applications, such as sealing windows, doors, and filling small gaps and cracks.

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What to expect during SPF application...

Can I be at home when SPF insulation is installed?
Two-component spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation: Before the job, consult with your contractor for guidance about the period of time before you, your children, and your pets may reenter your home following installation.

If you live in an apartment complex or work in a commercial building where two-component SPF insulation is being installed, consult with the building manager and/or SPF contractor regarding measures to keep building occupants from breathing chemical vapors or mists while the foam is being installed. 

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I have other contractors working in my home. Will SPF affect them?
As part of the pre-job consultation with your SPF contractor, discuss the other work being conducted in the home. Connect your SPF contractor with any other contractors working in your home in advance of the SPF application so appropriate arrangements can be made for their protection. 

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After the application...

What should the worksite look like after SPF installation?
You should discuss worksite expectations with your SPF contractor so it is clear what you can expect during every stage of SPF installation. Some general expectations include:

  • After the installation, removal of dust, debris and foam trimmings by workers wearing appropriate protective equipment and
  • removal and disposal of any empty and partially used SPF containers or drums in accordance with applicable federal, state, provincial and local requirements.

 

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How long will SPF insulation last? Does the foam degrade over time?
For information regarding the expected lifespan of the SPF insulation being installed in your home, consult your contractor and/or the product manufacturer. One of the benefits of SPF insulation is that it resists structural deterioration/decomposition over time and resists settling.

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What should I do if I smell an odor after SPF installation?
In the event you have concerns about odors that you believe may be related to the SPF insulation, contact your contractor to ensure proper installation procedures were followed and a thorough clean-up was completed. If your concerns are not resolved, contact your local or state consumer protection office or local or state licensing board for contractors.

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Can SPF insulation help control moisture in my home?
Gaps and cracks in the building envelope can allow uncontrolled movement of moisture-laden air in and out of the building. Loss of interior moisture control can make the interior air excessively dry or moist, which can cause occupant discomfort, poor indoor air quality, higher heating and cooling costs to control moisture, and in some cases, hidden deterioration of the building and possibly mold and mildew growth. Air sealing these gaps and cracks with SPF can help control interior moisture levels. For a list of SPF benefits, go to "Why select Spray Polyurethane Foam insulation."

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Will I have a problem with insects attacking the foam?
Typically, SPF does not attract insects. Generally, it is known to be an effective impediment against insects and other pests because it can be used to seal the gaps from the outside where insects and rodents typically enter. Although SPF is not a food source for pests, some pests may chew through the foam over time.

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Does the SPF insulation in my home pose a fire hazard? Is it flammable?
SPF products typically contain flame retardants and are designed to meet applicable building and fire code regulations when installed properly. Consult the product label or manufacturer for more details.

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