Can You Spray Closed Cell Foam Insulation in Cold Weather?
By: Amanda Ringler on December 17th, 2018
So, you want closed cell spray foam insulation for your project, but it’s 14 degrees and you’ve read online that it simply can’t be done.
The Internet strikes again! Well, sort of.
The simple and quick answer to can you spray foam insulation in cold weather is yes, but it does come with some complications, specifically when talking about closed cell spray foam and metal structures.
RetroFoam of Michigan has been spraying foam insulation for well over a decade, so we have mastered the techniques that allow us to spray a premium product no matter the temperature. With that being said, there are products on the market and contractors who don’t have the experience we have.
This is why there is information on the web that says closed cell below a certain temperature is a no-no.
In our continued efforts to educate homeowners like yourself, we are going to clear up how the claimed impossible is possible.
Spray Foam Insulation in Winter
It seems like cold weather really makes any job harder, which is the point when we’re talking about closed cell spray foam.
There are two primary issues when spraying closed cell foam during the winter – low expansion and condensation.
Let’s tackle the low expansion rate first.
Closed cell spray foam doesn’t have a high yield to begin with, but when you’re spraying onto a cold substrate, it’s even less. Especially when we are talking about a metal structure, like steel, that’s highly conductive.
Because of this issue, the project is going to take longer to do and could end up costing more because of the use of more products and man-hours.
Next up – condensation.
We all took science classes and understand that when a hot substance meets a cold surface, it can create condensation.
Think about a pop can in the summer. The cold can will start to form condensation because the hot air is coming into contact with it. Think of the cold temperature in the winter and realize, depending on the manufacturer, the closed cell is between 130- to 150-degrees.
This is why an insulation contractor has to be careful when spraying closed cell foam on the cold substrate. If the condensation is left unchecked, the foam won’t adhere properly. This can even happen with wood if there is high humidity in the air.
Now you might be thinking you could just heat the structure with a Salamander heater to warm the substrate. Doing this would actually create condensation before the foam is even sprayed because it is still the issue of hot meeting cold on the substrate. Also, these types of heaters add a lot of moisture to the air, adding to the problem.
A few other things that can make the job more difficult is ensuring the trailer where the product is mixed stays warm and circulating the lines to keep their temperature up.
All of these issues aren’t as much of a problem for open cell spray foam because it has a much higher expansion rate. While you might lose some of the yield, it doesn’t make as much of a difference as it does with the already low expanding closed cell.
RELATED: Open Cell vs Closed Cell Foam Insulation: Which is Better for My Home?
At What Temperature Can Spray Foam Insulation Be Applied?
Now you’re wondering if there really is a cutoff for temperature and spraying foam insulation.
Well, yes and no.
There are some manufacturers who will recommend not spraying closed cell when it’s super cold outside. Basically, they are saying once it gets below a certain temperature, then you’ll have a cold substrate and risk creating condensation.
As manufacturers, they have to state this because they don’t know the contractor’s level of expertise. An experienced contractor already knows the job is going to take longer and that they’ll have to use more product to ensure a proper air seal.
Now, how about those temperatures?
Well, those vary depending on the manufacturer. It could be 30-degrees all the way down to 5-degrees depending on the material.
Insulating Your Metal Structure
When it comes to closed cell spray foam concerns in cold weather, people are usually looking to insulate their pole barn or other metal structure.
If you would like to learn more about closed and open cell spray foam for your metal structure, check out the Learning Center on our website.
About Amanda Ringler
Amanda previously has worked as a breaking news and crime reporter, TV news producer, and editor in Flint and Detroit. Throughout her career as a journalist, she has won several awards from The Society of Professional Journalists - Detroit Chapter and the Michigan Press Association. As part of the RetroFoam of Michigan family, Amanda uses her experience as a journalist to write content that will help educate homeowners on the benefits of foam insulation. When Amanda isn’t writing, she’s spending time with her husband and rescued huskies. She also loves knitting, making art, cooking, and hosting dinner and a movie night for friends and family.