Spray foam roof insulation: pros and cons

With ever rising energy costs and ever greener environmental awareness campaigns, almost everyone is aware of the benefits of better home insulation. Whatever climate you are in, you want to be able to maximize your home comfort and energy savings by helping your home retain heat during the winter, while also helping keep your property cooler during the summertime.

With that in mind, spray foam insulation is quickly becoming one of the most popular insulation choices for millions of people around the world. The reason for this is simple: Traditional panel, loose fill, and even insulating concrete forms, all have inherent insulation flaws. Namely, there will always be areas where drafts can sneak into a property, as well as areas where blown in insulation simply doesn’t reach.

Spray Foam as a Better Alternative

Spray foam insulation completely stops drafts from entering a property. At the same time, home and property owners can be assured of 100% complete insulation coverage wherever spray foam is applied. This is because spray foam insulation is applied in layers and is easy to apply and it seals even the most tricky joints and corners in a property’s roof or drywall. However, if you are thinking about adopting spray foam insulation yourself, it is important to note that there are two distinct application methods.

Closed Cell & Open Cell Spray Foam

All spray foam entails spraying a mixture of polyurethane and isocyanate chemicals which expand and harden in the area in which they are sprayed. However, this insulation barrier itself can work in two distinct ways. Closed cell spray foam insulation, for example, traps gasses within the sprayed mixture. These gasses will then work as a closed part of the overall insulation barrier itself.

As a second, often less costly option, open cell spray foam does not trap gasses as it is applied. Instead the applied foam is porous, allowing for atmospheric air to become trapped in much the same way as a sponge rather than a solid seal with gas trapped within it.

What kind of Spray Foam Might be Right for your Property?

While open cell spray foam insulation is often less costly than closed cell insulation, it is important to understand the different benefits of each type of application. Closed cell foam, for example:

  • Will provide added structural strength to a property.
  • Is perfect for both interior and exterior applications.
  • Provides the best possible insulation R-value per inch of insulation.
  • Can reject water and has the lowest vapor permeability.

Open cell spray foam, on the other hand:

  • Is less costly.
  • Can insulate for sound.
  • Still has a higher R-value than traditional insulation types.
  • Can accommodate slight creep and movement of buildings due to seasonal weather and temperature changes.

Of course, it can be difficult to initially decide between spray foam insulation types. Both, however, can provide better sound absorption and significantly better insulation and mold resistance than any other form of insulation presently on the market.

So, the chief question which home and property owners need to ask themselves is what kind of insulation application are they looking for (i.e. interior or exterior) and how much can they actually afford to invest in the insulation of their property.

How Spray Foam Insulation is Applied to a Property

As its namesake suggests, spray foam is applied as a spray to walls, roofs, foundations and all kinds of contoured property surfaces. However, due to the nature of the chemicals involved and their specific handling requirements, applying spray foam is not something which home owners should ever attempt themselves.

In the case of any foam application, contractors will be equipped with special protective clothing and possibly a respirator for use during the application process. They will also make sure that an area being sprayed is adequately ventilated and they will be able to advise you and any other property users when it will be safe to reenter a building. Meanwhile, spray foam insulation itself will always be applied in careful layers which are built up as the chemicals which make up the foam harden. This way, contractors and installers can ensure complete coverage of any area.

Spray Foam Insulation Problems

While inherently safe, more environmentally friendly than other insulation types, and ultimately more effective, problems during and after spray foam installation can sometimes occur. These are not a result of the chemicals, but are rather due to:

  • Insufficient layering and thickness of foam which has been applied.
  • Contractors rushing through the installation process and not ensuring 100% spray foam coverage.
  • Contractors not mixing chemicals correctly, leading to lingering vapors.
  • Installers not mixing chemicals correctly and foam not adhering successfully to sprayed surfaces.

Local environmental/climatic factors at the time of installation which a contractor has not taken into account when applying foam.

How to Avoid Spray Foam Insulation Problems

The key to avoiding problems during or after spray foam installation is to always work with the most reputable contractor possible. Ask to see safety data sheets for the spray chemicals being used and ask to have these explained to you. At the same time, make sure that any contractor applying foam to your property can fully explain the process and inform you of how long you must vacate your property for during the spray process itself. Lastly, it is always a good idea to have work independently checked and monitored both during and after the installation process.

Spray Foam Insulation & Energy Saving Benefits

On average, home and property owners can expect to save at least 20% on their annual home heating and cooling costs after investing in spray foam. Moreover, with heating and cooling accounting for 56% of a home’s overall energy costs, there is no question that spray foam can help property owners save in the long term. The only question is, are you ready to experience the benefits yourself yet? Moreover, if you have already invested in spray foam, how much have you saved already?