Spray Foam Insulation: The Basics
Spray foam insulation is widely known in the building industry for its effectiveness. Specialized equipment processes isocyanate (iso) and polyol resin on the job site to manufacture the insulation. The combination of these two chemicals expands to form a solid insulating barrier.
Choosing the right spray foam products can be overwhelming. New products enter the market every month to add to an already broad selection of options. This guide provides an overview of the top considerations for your next purchase.
Closed-Cell vs. Open-Cell Spray Foam Insulation: Which is Best for Your Project?
The first choice is whether to use closed-cell or open-cell spray foam. These two products are often referred to as 2-lb foam and ½-lb foam, respectively, based on their density. Closed-cell foam is denser and more rigid, around four times heavier than open-cell.
The decision between closed and open-cell foam will depend primarily on job requirements. Some areas require certain R-values to be up to code, making closed-cell the most popular option of the two.
Closed-cell has a higher R-value per inch of thickness, making it more effective at preventing heat transfer. Closed-cell also creates an airtight seal that acts as a vapor barrier, keeping both air & moisture out. This property makes closed-cell an ideal choice for basements and other damp applications.
Despite superior heat retention, closed-cell is generally more expensive and can be challenging to install.
Open-cell foam is cheaper and more effective at reaching tough-to-reach spaces. It expands to almost 100x of its original volume once installed. The tradeoff is that open-cell foam has a lower R-value per inch when compared to closed-cell. It is also less durable and more prone to moisture and air infiltration. You must install an independent vapor barrier with open-cell, as it doesn't provide vapor barrier characteristics.
When deciding between open and closed-cell, consider job requirements and local regulations first. While open-cell may be cheaper and easier to install, closed-cell is usually the preferred product for increased energy efficiency. Careful consideration of all these factors can help you choose the best foam insulation product for your business.
If you're in the market for insulation, you've likely heard of "R-value." R-value is a measure of thermal resistance used to evaluate how well insulation products resist the flow of heat. In general, the higher the R-value, the better the insulation is at reducing heat transfer.
Open-cell spray foam usually has an R-value of R-3.5 to R-4.2 for each inch of thickness.
Closed-cell spray foam typically has an R-value of R-6 to R-7.2 per inch.
R-value may differ among manufacturers and foam types, so check the exact specifications before buying.
Understanding Spray Foam Board Footage
Board footage is a measurement used to calculate the insulation required for a project. Every spray foam product produces slightly different board footage. There are significant board footage differences between open and closed-cell. Open-cell is less dense and expands more, requiring additional material to achieve the same R-value. Closed-cell spray foam is denser and more rigid, providing a higher R-value with less material.
When calculating board footage, you must consider the thickness and surface area of the space.
To calculate board footage, multiply the surface area by the insulation's thickness in inches. For instance, let's assume you need to insulate a room measuring 10 feet by 12 feet with a height of 8 feet. For this example, you will install spray foam at a depth of 2".
To calculate the required board footage, determine the surface area to be covered:
2 x (10 feet x 8 feet) + 2 x (12 feet x 8 feet) = 352 square feet.
Then, multiply the surface area by the insulation's thickness in inches: 352 square feet x 2 inches = 704 board feet. In this example, you would need approximately 704 board feet to cover this space with 2 inches of spray foam.
Many manufacturers formulate certain open-cell products to provide extremely high lift and board footage (yield).
Beyond R-Value: 5 Factors to Consider When Selecting Spray Foam Insulation
Not all Spray Foam products are created equal. Here are some other things to consider when making your next purchase.
1) THIRD-PARTY CERTIFICATIONS
It is crucial to select products from a manufacturer that offers third-party certifications. Organizations like the International Code Council (ICC) provide certificates verifying that products meet strict industry standards, giving you and your clients peace of mind.
2) CURE & RE-ENTRY TIME
The time it takes for spray foam to cure is another crucial consideration. Re-entry time can also vary depending on the brand and can be anywhere from 2 to 24 hours. The re-entry & cure time of your spray foam may be a relevant factor to consider if you are on a tight project schedule.
3) MATERIAL COMPATABILITY
Make sure to check the compatibility of your spray foam products with the other materials used in the project. Adhesives, sealants, and coatings may all demand the use of specific products. Incompatible materials can result in reduced performance or failure of the entire system.
4) ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS & IMPACT
As of 2021, authorities have introduced new regulations to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are harmful greenhouse gases often used in spray foam blowing agents. While HFCs provide excellent thermal resistance, they have a high global warming potential. Many states in New England have already implemented restrictions on HFCs. By clarifying the blowing agent used in your spray foam products, you ensure compliance with regulations while making the environmentally responsible choice.
5) PRODUCT APPLICATION & TECHNICAL SUPPORT
No matter which spray foam material you choose, it's crucial to partner with a distributor that not only stands behind their products but also provides technical and application support. Combining top-quality spray foam products with a dedicated and knowledgeable support team can significantly boost your business and ensure a seamless experience for both you and your clients.
Every brand of spray foam has a unique installation process, and your team or clients may prefer one product over another. Choosing the right spray foam insulation product requires careful consideration of many factors. While all of the above are extremely important, cost also plays a pivotal role. By evaluating your options' pros and cons, you can make an informed decision that meets your requirements. Regardless of which products you use, having the experience & proper training to install them correctly is most important.
We hope this spray foam guide has equipped you with the knowledge needed for your next purchase!