spray polyurethane foam, health and safety

What to Expect?

If you will be having spray polyurethane foam (SPF) installed by a professional, you should be well informed about the kind or kinds of SPF that a contractor may use in your home. Here are a few considerations when working with a professional contractor to have spray foam insulation installed in your home.

Your role - some steps you can take include:

Learn about the product being installed in your home

To learn about the product or products selected for installation in your home, ask lots of questions! Understand the different types of products available, and their performance characteristics. Your contractor can discuss the specific chemical constituents of the material that will be mixed and reacted to make foam, and will have access to all the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for the product available during the job. If you have any questions about the chemicals that will be mixed and reacted to make the finished foam product, or what to expect during and after the installation, you can ask your contractor to review the SDS with you. The product label and literature from the manufacturer can also be valuable information sources for you.

For more information, please read: Have You Read the SDS?

Be selective when choosing a contractor

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.

Discuss reoccupancy guidance with your contractor

The home may not be occupied during installation. 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 two-component foam installation. Reoccupancy time is dependent on a number of factors, including SPF formulation, the amount of foam applied per volume of space, temperature, humidity, the degree of ventilation and other variables. Evaluation reports for many types of building products, including SPF insulation, often include the suggested reoccupancy time, which is variable: for an interior application using two-component high pressure SPF, some manufacturers recommend 24 hours before reoccupancy, and for an interior two-component, low pressure SPF kit application, some manufacturers recommend a one hour  reoccupancy time. Ask your SPF contractor about reoccupancy guidance appropriate for your specific SPF installation and follow that guidance.

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. Consult with the building manager and/or SPF contractor to ensure appropriate mechanical mechanisms are in place.

Visit Selecting and Working with Your SPF Contractor for more information when considering an SPF contractor.

Your contractor's role and his/her responsibilities:

Overseeing a safe and effective installation:

Your contractor may review with you the entire project, from start to finish, including safety measures he/she will take on the job. Part of this review may include items such as:

  • Taking steps to minimize overspray and to control dusts. Protecting exposed surfaces from SPF overspray by covering them and/or masking them off;
  • Isolating and marking off the work area;
  • Addressing ventilation of an interior application, such as opening windows and/or setting up fans;
  • Extinguishing all sources of ignition in the spray area, adjacent rooms and behind neighboring walls, including pilot lights to gas stoves, dryers, furnaces and water heaters; and
  • Clearing the area of children, pets and other workers/adults without protective gear until the home can be safely reoccupied.

During spraying, the contractor:

  • Will limit site access only to workers equipped with the proper protective gear, including eye protection, gloves, full-coverage clothing and for some applications - a respirator; and
  • Will take appropriate precautions to avoid high heat or flame near the application site, including having all workers avoid smoking on the job site.

To finish the job, the contractor:

  • Is responsible for cleaning the work site thoroughly so unprotected workers or occupants can safely occupy the building.

Following proper storage, handling and disposal practices:

Your contractor should be well informed of acceptable workplace practices regarding safe storage, handling and disposal of empty or partially used SPF products.

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