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Spray Foam Insulation FAQ’s

Is Spray Polyurethane Foam Toxic?
Cured polyurethane foam is NOT toxic. However, when the foam is being applied we are basically making a foam plastic and thus, there are hazardous chemicals involved at the time. Depending on the structure and area being sprayed, within several minutes to an hour of application AND with proper ventilation there are no hazardous fumes present in the building.  Many companies skip the venting procedure as its just another thing to do that takes time and brainpower.  Avoiding this step can lead you to a smelly attic.  Hence the importance of an experienced crew.  After the installation, its simply an inert foam plastic that will last at least a century.

Is Spray Polyurethane Foam a Fire Hazard?
No, Spray Polyurethane Foam is not a fire hazard. At least 15% of its components are fire retardants. Its flame spread and smoke developed index are approx. 21 and 216, respectively, which are the magic numbers for building code acceptance. If you were to try to light Spray Polyurethane Foam on fire it would simply melt and char. Once you took the flame source away, it would self-extinguish.  Certain situations and municipalities require an Intumescent Coating sprayed over the foam to protect the foam from the occupants and activities of the building.  This is common but only utilized in less 5% of our work.

How can R-19 of Spray Polyurethane Foam outperform R-38 of fiberglass?
R-Value is one of the most misused, misapplied and misunderstood measurements in the world. The test results are determined in a 75-degree (F) lab with no wind load and ideal humidity in what is referred to as a Guarded Hot Box Test. This is as far from a real world setting as you can get. Every attic here in FL is terribly hot and always moist. The glassine fiber insulation companies will admit, in fine print of course, that when air moves along the top of any loose fill glassine fiber insualtion, the R value goes almost to ZERO. However, when you insulate with air stopping polyurethane foam, you’ve completely stopped the air and moisture transfer. This is what we call “insulating”. Spray Polyurethane Foam is an air barrier AND it is physically adhered to the wood framing members of a structure thus minimizing air infiltration and creating a seamless substrate of foam. Think of fiberglass as the window screen and Spray Polyurethane Foam as the window. Coincidentally, most furnace filters are made from fiberglass. These filters are obviously designed to allow the free movement of air through them. In short, insulation is only as good as its ability to stop air, if it doesn’t stop air it wont insulate, only slowly mitigate.

Why would I pay twice as much for Spray Polyurethane Foam when I could just use Fiberglass Instead?
One has to look at the complete cost of something they are putting into their house before making a decision. The cost of insulation is small compared to the ongoing heating and cooling costs of your home after you move in. In new construction the HVAC unit wont have to be as large to compensate for a would-be bleeding attic, therefore saving cost on its original purchase. Now your attic will be airtight and the temperature roughly 75F less, approx. within three or four degrees of your thermostat! The Heating and Cooling load on a home is the gas-mileage of the home forever and a day. You also have to weigh the plus’ of a clean, toxin-free attic. Typical conventionally insulated residential attics in the U.S. are simply disgusting on all fronts. This is based on many years of experience. The chemicals involved in glassine fiber insulation in regards to keeping it “fireproof” and extruded (fluffy) are nasty. There are dozens of chemicals involved in this process and they float around your attic every hour of the day and eventually seep into your living space where they are aspirated by you. Not to mention the fecal matter and dead animals that we encounter daily that are less than an inch from your living space.

Can my house be “Too Tight”?
Yes it can, but it’s highly unlikely, especially in the windy climates of the southeastern United States. CMU and wood framed homes will always have some small gaps and cracks no matter how well they are framed or insulated. Windows will also have small amounts of air infiltration. Whenever a door is opened to the outside of the home air exchange occurs of approx. 300 cubic feet. Our position is that you only get one chance to insulate a new home. If you under-insulate you will regret it. In the unlikely event that you over-insulate the situation can be remedied with low cost ventilation.

What are the advantages of flexible foam?
Any foam such as Spray Polyurethane Foam that adheres to building materials, must remain flexible in order to maintain its air seal. Buildings expand and contract with changes of season and temperature. If the foam is too rigid, it will inevitably develop cracks along the studs and ultimately the air seal will be destroyed. While other types of non-rigid insulation — such as batts and loose fill cellulose — can slip, sag, or settle, leaving uninsulated gaps that wouldn’t stop air even if they were properly installed.

Is the insulation corrosive to metals?
No. It is non-corrosive, neutral — neither acidic nor alkaline — and ideal for metal construction and can be applied to pvc, cpvc, sprinkler pipe metal or plastic, electrical wires etc.

Do I need Attic and Roof Venting?
No. Attic and roof venting were developed simply because of the placement of loose fill/glassine fiber insulations that cant defy gravity. Therefore they had to be dropped on the floor of the attic and spread around when it came to an Open Attic Assembly. So now the air above the insulation had to be dealt with. The only two things you can do with air is expel it to the outside, or make it conditioned like your living space. Enter venting….the decision was to open various holes throughout the attic and eves to allow air and moisture not to be stagnated, but to be relieved to the outside. The only way to get the moisture out of the house was to create off ridge and soffit venting. In the summer, venting is typically used to remove hot air from un-insulated attic spaces, one of the purposes of which is to protect the underside of roof shingles from excessive heat. With Spray Polyurethane Foam and a Closed Attic Assembly there are no such problems because the insulation is used in the same manner as the insulation in the walls in regards to building envelope insulating. The only difference is that the walls are vertical and the roof is on a slant. We insulate at the roof line and seal it up completely from the outside, therefore treating the attic as a conditioned space, even though we are not directing blowing air into the attic, it still stays within a few degrees of the living space temperature. The building code only recognizes an “attic” as the unconditioned portion of a home. A spray foamed house with a Closed Attic Assembly does not have an “attic”.