Professional technician installing spray foam insulation inside a wall cavity | REenergizeCO

When & Where Should You Use Spray Foam?

Foam insulation spray is the premier option for insulating your home. Unfortunately, a simple online search will turn up countless horror stories of homeowners whose houses suffered serious damage after spray foam was installed.

Each of these stories is a cautionary tale. In each case, the moral is: Foam insulation spray should only be installed by an experienced professional.

REenergizeCO has been a trusted spray foam insulation company for more than 10 years. We help homeowners in Denver, Fort Collins, and throughout the Front Range control their utility bills with high-quality energy efficiency solutions. Our personalized approach to each project enables us to determine when foam insulation is appropriate—and when it is not.

How Does Spray Foam Insulation Work?

Before we delve into the advantages and disadvantages, it is important to have a basic understanding of how spray foam works.

Spray foam insulation starts as a liquid mixture of two primary components: an isocyanate and a polyol resin. These components are stored separately in tanks and pumped through heated hoses to a mixing gun. At the tip of the gun, the two components are mixed together at a precise ratio and sprayed onto the surface.

As the mixed components exit the spray gun, they react chemically and undergo a rapid expansion process. Expansion causes the liquid mixture to foam and fill the cavity or space being insulated. The foam expands quickly, adhering to surfaces and filling gaps, cracks, and voids. As the foam expands and cures, it hardens into a solid, rigid material. 

There are two types of foam insulation spray:

  • Open cell spray foam has interconnected cells that are not completely encapsulated, allowing air and moisture to pass through.
  • Closed cell spray foam has cells that are completely enclosed by a non-permeable membrane, providing a barrier to air and moisture.
    NOTE: We use closed cell spray foam in our installs.

Spray foam insulation has excellent thermal resistance. This makes it ideal for making your home more efficient and comfortable.

Is There a Downside to Spray Foam Insulation?

In our experience, the reported downsides of spray foam insulation largely stem from improper installation. Many stories of foaming gone wrong come from homeowners who try to do it themselves, or from people who hired an inexperienced or unqualified contractor.

Proper installation of spray foam insulation requires specialized equipment and training. As such, we strongly discourage DIY attempts and emphasize the importance of verifying the company’s experience and training with foam insulation spray before letting them work on your home.

Some of the problems that may arise if spray foam isn’t properly installed include:

  • Incomplete coverage: Uneven application or inadequate thickness can leave gaps that compromise the insulation’s effectiveness.
  • Too much insulation: Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. Excess foam can cause bulging or distortion of walls, ceilings, and other surfaces, as well as structural damage.
    • These issues are why REenergizeCO doesn’t foam existing walls. Instead, we use a drill-and-fill approach using blown-in fiberglass insulation.
  • Moisture problems: If moisture is present during installation or if the insulation is not properly sealed, spray foam insulation can trap moisture within walls or other cavities. Mold and mildew may start to grow behind the spray foam.
  • Foul odors: The chemicals that make up spray foam need to be mixed in the proper ratio. If they’re not, the unpleasant smells generated during the curing process can linger inside the house. Sensitive individuals may suffer respiratory irritation and other health issues.
  • Compatibility issues: Spray foam doesn’t adhere well to other types of insulation materials. This makes it an unsuitable option for retrofitting insulation.

A reputable spray foam insulation company knows how to avoid these issues and obtain great results for your home and your wallet.

Where Not to Use Expanding Foam

Spray foam insulation should not be used in certain areas of the house. These include:

  • Ventilated attics: Foam insulation spray is great for unventilated attics because it seals attic air leaks. Ventilated attics, however, are designed to allow air to flow freely between the exterior and interior of the attic space. Adding spray foam can restrict this air flow, as well as trap moisture between the insulation layer and the roof deck.
  • HVAC ducts: Spray foam insulation should not be used inside HVAC ducts, as it can disrupt airflow and potentially damage the ductwork. Specialized duct insulation materials should be used instead.
  • Existing walls: As mentioned above, spray foam should not be added to the existing walls of your house. You would need to remove drywall and any current insulation, which is time-consuming and costly. There is also a risk of overfilling the wall cavity, resulting in substantial damage to the wall.
  • Directly against electrical wiring or fixtures: Spray foam insulation should not be applied directly against electrical wiring, fixtures, or recessed lighting unless they are rated for contact with insulation. Contact with insulation can cause overheating and pose a fire hazard.
  • Areas prone to flooding: Closed cell spray foam is waterproof and open cell spray foam is water-resistant. This might sound like foam would be ideal for insulating around pipes, plumbing fixtures, and other areas prone to water damage. In reality, however, foam insulation can pose an obstacle to repairing areas damaged by flooding or water intrusion.

Experienced professionals know to avoid using foam insulation spray in these areas. They can also advise you whether spray foam or another option is best for insulating your home.

Contact a Reliable Spray Foam Insulation Company

At REenergizeCO, we use home energy audits to evaluate your home’s overall energy efficiency. The condition and effectiveness of your insulation is a major focus of this assessment.

We often find that spray foam insulation is an ideal way to upgrade efficiency and reduce your energy bills, but there are limitations. Our experts will only recommend foam insulation spray if it’s the right choice for your needs, goals, and budget. We also perform the installation with speed, quality, and respect for your home.

Contact REenergizeCO to find out if spray foam insulation is right for you!