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Spray Foam Insulation Problems: Look Out for These 7 Issues
Amanda Ringler

By: Amanda Ringler on May 22nd, 2017

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Spray Foam Insulation Problems: Look Out for These 7 Issues

spray foam insulation  |  insulation  |  spray foam insulation problems

Are you considering spray foam insulation for your home, but you have concerns about what could go wrong?

Spray foam insulation has been the material of choice for many builders and homeowners for nearly 30 years. Just like with any other product, as something becomes more popular, there will be an increase in misuse.

RetroFoam of Michigan has more than 15 years of experience insulating homes across the lower peninsula. We know a lot about injection and spray foam insulations because that is all we do. We’ve seen what can happen when an inexperienced contractor attempts to install spray foam insulation, and it isn’t pretty.

From poor application to chemicals not mixing correctly, we have seen and fixed it all.

In our ongoing efforts to educate our customers, we have compiled a list of seven things that can cause real problems when installing spray foam insulation and how to fix them.

RELATED: Which Insulation is the Best for My Existing House?

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Spray Foam Insulation Problems

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  1. 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.
    Solution: The best way to solve this problem is to make sure that you are working with a licensed contractor that is providing you with the spray foam insulation material you agreed upon. Not all spray foam is created equal, so you need to understand  what you are getting and review the tech and information sheets for the products they are using.

  2. 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 odors, and the lack of adhesion.
    Solution: To ensure your spray foam insulation is applied correctly, only hire licensed contractors who have experience with the material you requested and have been trained by the spray foam insulation manufacturer. Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor how long they have been installing spray foam insulation. Also do your homework and look for online reviews of the company.

  3. 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.
    Solution: Mistakes happen with all contractors, but how they are handled speaks to the ethics of the company you are working with. A good contractor will have something in writing between the two of you – like a lifetime warranty – stating if something goes wrong or a space was missed, then they will come back out and fix it.

  4. 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.
    Solution: Make sure that you have a reputable contractor that has experience installing the spray foam material you have chosen. Also ensure you know what the correct thickness of application should be, because going into a project with knowledge is power.

  5. 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.
    Solution: Spray foam insulation has to be installed at a certain thickness before it creates an air barrier. For example, Icynene open cell spray foam must be installed at 3 inches before an air barrier is created. Be sure to have that discussion with your licensed contractor and don’t be afraid to double check the information before the project begins.

  6. The 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.
    Solution: Make sure that the contractor you hire is licensed and has experience installing high pressure spray foam insulation, along with the right equipment. Also ensure the contractor offers a lifetime warranty with the product, so if anything goes wrong, they will come back out and fix it.

  7. The 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.
    Solution: A good contractor will ensure large air exchange units are placed in the area where the spray foam insulation is being installed. This will help to dissipate the odor and any potential off-gassing.

Choosing Spray Foam Insulation for Your Home

RetroFoam of Michigan is an experienced, licensed, and insured contractor. We also offer a lifetime warranty on both the products and workmanship of our foam insulation services. If you have decided you would like spray foam insulation in your home and you live in the lower peninsula, give us a call at 866-900-3626, or fill out a free estimate form on our website.


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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 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.