APPLYING SPRAY POLYURETHANE FOAM
Improper installation is often the cause for symptomatic reactions to SPF although some people have had adverse reactions with very limited exposure to the chemicals commonly found in SPF. Manufacturers assert that the chemicals used in spray foam are supposed to lose toxicity once it is sprayed inside homes, but other research indicates that the foam releases formaldehyde gas and other toxic substances even after it is installed.
Workman’s comp claims have also been on the rise from spray foam installers who have become ill as a result of repeated exposure to the chemicals in the foam. William Swietlik, co-chair of the EPA’s workshop on spray foam dangers, has asserted that the chemicals used in the insulation are “a leading cause of workplace asthma and are a well-known sensitizing toxicant to humans.”
The bottom line: be sure to research your installer, their safety protocols, and reviews. SPF has been effective for reducing heating and cooling costs; however the risks with improper installation and exposure to the compounds at any time during the process may outweigh the benefits.
“Curing” of SPF means that the chemicals in the product are reacting to produce polyurethane foam. SPF material is highly adhesive and will stick to most surfaces. SPF may appear hardened or “tack-free” within a range of a few seconds to a few minutes after application. However, at this stage, the foam is still curing and still contains unreacted SPF chemicals.
Some manufacturers recommend 24 hours after application for the two-component high pressure “professional” SPF system for worker re-entry without the use of PPE and for re-occupancy by residents and other building occupants, but the recommended time may vary.
First of all, by using spray foam insulation you will be reducing the ability of your home to breathe. Spray foam does such a good job at creating an air tight environment inside an attic that moisture and condensation issues often arise, (see the photo below for reference). When you have moisture in a warm environment you tend to see mold problems so if you’re going to use spray foam as an insulator make sure you add an HRV unit, (a Heat Recovery Unit), This is a way of exchanging indoor air with fresh exterior air at a minimal heat loss. Some HRV systems are better than others so please do your homework to find the one that is best suited to your home and will meet your goals.
Misrepresentation of the spray foam insulation products used – Since there are dozens of brands of spray foam insulation available, it is important to make sure you are getting what you want and what you paid for. For example, the name Icynene has become a synonym for the term “spray foam insulation” with builders, architects, and homeowners alike since the company developed modern open cell spray foam in the 1980s. The problems include lack of adhesion to the cavity the foam is sprayed in and moisture management issues that can create mold and mildew have occurred because an imitation product was falsely represented, according to Icynene.
Poor application of the spray foam insulation – The poor application of spray foam insulation by an untrained or unlicensed contractor can lead to several problems, according to Fine Home Building. Poor application includes off-ratio spraying of the material, bad odours, and the lack of adhesion.The spray foam insulation installers rush the job, missing spots and leaving gaps. When there are gaps in your insulation coverage it will reduce the efficiency of the spray foam insulation. It will also make your home less comfortable and will not help to reduce your monthly energy bills.
Installers try to install the product too quickly – Different from being hasty and missing areas, a contractor may try to apply a closed cell spray foam at too high a thickness. If the foam isn’t applied at the correct rate or thickness, the contractor will need to touch up spaces. A permanent odor can also be created when this happens. The reason this occurs is because the chemicals in the spray foam get too hot and a permanent odor is created. This is due to the chemicals not having time to cool before more material was applied.The spray foam insulation isn’t installed at a thickness that creates an air barrier. Spray foam insulation will create an air barrier that will keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer if it is applied correctly. If that air barrier isn’t created and air movement is allowed in your home, your AC unit and furnace will be working overtime as you attempt to keep your home comfortable. This will also lead to higher energy bills.
Spray foam insulation chemicals weren’t mixed properly – If the chemicals in the spray foam aren’t mixed properly it can cause the insulation material to pull away from the cavity where it has been applied. When this happens, an air barrier is not created, thus cool air will still be able to move around the insulation which will make your home uncomfortable. This can also lead to high energy bills as your appliances work overtime in an attempt to heat or cool your home.
Spray foam has an odor and off-gassing – All spray foams have an odor at the very least during the installation process. The problem lies in how the contractor handles the odor. Some odors only last for maybe an hour or two, while others can last much longer if the space to be insulated isn’t well ventilated. Another issue is potential off-gassing that can cause breathing problems or other adverse health effects, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. While all spray foams have an odor, not all have issues with off-gassing.