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Spray foam insulation is an alternative to traditional fiberglass insulation during construction or planning for construction. This expandable, foam substance can easily be sprayed into existing wall cavities during construction or onto a roof.
Cost Of Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam is available in two different types: open-cell spray foam which is usually $0.44 to $0.65 per board foot and closed-cell spray foam which is about $1 to $1.50 per board foot. The average cost to have spray foam professionally installed is about $2,021. This number can vary depending on whether the home being insulated is newly constructed. However, finished homes are not a good candidate for spray foam insulation but great for weatherization or an energy audit.
Spray foam insulation, when properly installed is both an air barrier and when closed cell foam is used at the proper depth a vapor barrier! Before hiring any contractor you should establish the brand of foam being used and verify that with the named manufacture. Please ask for ESR reports and MSDS sheets on any foam being installed in your home. A couple areas where you might consider spray foam insulation include:
HVAC: Spray foam insulation optimizes the performance of your heating and cooling system when installed around the pipes, condensers, floor registers and ductwork. Reductions in extremely hot or cold climates can often offset upfront costs of buildings or additions with foam.
Exterior uses for spray on insulation include:
Where the siding & foundation meet
Electrical & gas penetrations
Wall joints in the garage ceiling
Around exterior faucets and vents
Stone wall repair
Water feature fillers
Securing block walls in the landscape
Choose open-cell or closed-cell spray insulation based on the purpose and placement of the insulation and the recommendation of the insulation contractor.
Open-cell is also known as half-pound foam. It has an R-Value of 3.5-3.6 per inch, and its density is bout 0.5 pounds per cubic food. Low-density foams like these are made partially from raw biological materials Carbon dioxide or water is also used in the makeup. Open-cell uses far less material than closed-cell, but its R-Value is lower. Also, open cell requires a vapor retarder (like gypsum wallboard) and is riskier when used for roof sheathing. It's not highly recommended that you use open-cell insulation if you live in a cold climate unless you have that extra barrier. You should also compare how much money you spend versus how effective the open-cell insulation is wherever it's installed.
Closed-cell (aka two-pound foam) is denser than open-cell at about 2 pounds per cubic foot. Its R-Value is between 6-6.5 per inch. As a result, this kind of foam is much more expensive than its counterpart. The reason closed-cell doesn't need a vapor retarder is because it already has one. It's permeance is 0.8 perm, which means it can handle cold climates without the use of an additional board or drywall. Closed-cell uses hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) as part of its makeup. However, this material has been known to have a high global warming effect. If you want a green insulation solution, this is not the material to use. A way to avoid this and still use closed-cell is by installing it alongside fiberglass batts.
If you choose to install foam insulation on your own, you can choose from various brands including:
GREAT Stuff (PRO)
Touch 'n Foam
Touch N Seal
Foam It Green
The average price to cover 200 square feet with a foam insulation kit will run between $300 and $600 (about two to three kits). Inside these kits is something called Icynene, a foam made from two liquids that are heated and pushed through a gun on the can. When Icynene is released, it expands up to 100 times its size as it hits the surface area you're covering. These can contain a lot of gasses, making its installation a dangerous process. Even low-pressure sprayers can be harmful to homeowners' health.
In addition, it's difficult for an inexperienced installer to evenly spread the insulation foam over a surface. Miissing spots can leave holes and gaps for cold air to get through. Proceed with this project yourself only if you're doing a small insulation project -- such as installing foam in a crawl space or around your plumbing. Leave larger projects like the attic, basement or garage to the professional insulation contractors. Insulation professionals have the tools, equipment and background knowledge necessary. Moreover, they know how to accurately price insulation, whereas you could inaccurately budget for a DIY project and end up paying significantly more. Don't take the medical, physical or financial risks that come with pursuing this as a DIY project unless you're absolutely certain you have the skills.
R-Value should be part of your decision when installing spray foam or another type of insulation. However, measuring insulation by R-Value alone is not the best method. Because heat loss/gain can occur in many ways, there are six total mechanisms to determine insulation's effectiveness by. These include:
Spray polyurethan foam does effectly prevent all six of these heat transfer methods from occurring. These should be the mechanisms by which you judge insulation, in addition to their R-Value. If you're uncertain about installing spray foam insulation, Energy Star has a map that recommends levels of insulation by R-value and cost-effectiveness in the United States.
There is a significant price difference when it comes to using foam insulation to insulate a new versus older home. Spraying insulation inside a newly constructed home is easier because the installation company can ensure the insulation will work effectively and design it for optimum defense against sound, heat transfer and utility costs. Installing spray foam in older homes that contain existing insulation can cost additional time and money -- it is not usually recommended as compared to weatherization or an energy aduit.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam insulation helps lower utility costs because it blocks heat and cold from the outdoors. Recent studies by the U.S. Department of Energy state that around 40 percent of all energy is lost through poor insulation. Spray foam insulation is able to insulate homes at least 50 percent more than traditional insulation products. Spray foam insulation can also provide protection against moisture, which otherwise leads to the unwanted development of mold and mildew. And it can also be used for noise reduction as well. In fact, spray foam is good for homes and buildings in which outdoor noise can be a distraction.
The drawback to spray foam insulation is it's been known to cause certain health issues such irritation of the eye and the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. Direct contact can cause inflammation to the skin, and some individuals have been known to break out in a rash on the arms, chest and neck area. Spray foam insulation has also been linked to a few cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This condition can cause:
Most quality spray foam manufacturers have addressed problems associated with isocyanates, so the side effects are far less common than they used to be. If you have any hesitation, ask the insulation contractor for their thoughts on the spray foam before it's put in.