Spray foam insulation experts Bill Bilben and Ken Wells offer answers to commonly asked questions about spray foam, including how the right contractors get picked and what the cost benefits mean to homeowners and pros alike.
How do I choose the right SPF contractor?
Choosing the correct SPF contractor is important. Experience and knowledge is key. Typically, the local SPF mom and pop shop deliver the best quality and service.
Look for contractor membership in professional organizations like SPFA, ICAA, SFWW, NAHB. Call local chamber of commerce and ask them for a list.
Can SPF be applied to any surface?
Nearly any surface. Most Surfaces just need to be clean, dry and oil/dust free. SPF will sometimes have trouble adhering to very slick surfaces and some types of polyethylene liners. Some extremely smooth/slick surfaces will need preparation. For the most part SPF will adhere almost any surface that can be painted.
Can SPF damage pipes and wires?
Properly installed SPF will not damage any pipes and wires. There are however many different types of foam from different manufacturers, with different installation procedures and processes. To avoid damage, the material supplier’s processes must be adhered to by a qualified SPF contractor.
Can a SPF “wand” be used to insulate tight areas?
There is no spray foam “wand,” or at least one has not been designed yet that has been accepted by the industry as an effective option. The fact that this question gets asked so often, is actually a ongoing joke among spray foam professionals.
Can SPF be installed with other trades on the job site?
It is generally accepted that all trades on smaller job sites need to stay out of the building during the spray processes and for 12 hours after installation is completed. Permanent respiratory damage and sensitization can occur from exposure to the atomized airborne chemicals without proper respiratory protection. On larger job sites, ventilation fans and polyethylene walls, and danger signs can create “safe zones” and “no entry” zones.
Can installing SPF save money in other areas of the build?
Yes, you can actually reduce the size of the HVAC systems needed, by correctly matching the the size of the HVAC system with the tightly sealed spray foam building envelope, thus reducing the cost of the system. In some instances, utilizing closed cell SPF can eliminate the need for a vapor barrier.
Can SPF help the re-sale of a home?
Yes, and we are seeing more and more homes using their utility bills as a strong selling point. There has recently been a shift, with high energy prices, and microscope has been placed over the cost to run and maintain a home. There’s just no comparison between an SPF insulated home and a similar conventionally insulated home.
Can interior walls and ceilings be spray foamed to reduce sound transfer?
Yes, and SPF’s ability to air seal help greatly with airborne sound transfer. Spray foam works great for sound control in combination with other insulation materials. It should be noted that significant sound transfer happens mechanically, through the building structure, so if sound “deadening” is paramount, building design (whole wall and ceiling assemblies) will also need to be addressed.
Is there a way to test if my job was done correctly?
Yes, there are qualified companies that will do a blower door test with infrared cameras and smoke wands to test the air seal and identify possible missed areas.
Essentially, a blower door test depressurizes a home by blowing indoor air outside. The pressure difference between the inside and outside is converted to airflow in CFM (cubic feet per minute). The airflow measurement can be used to determine the air change rate, measured in ACH or Air Changes per Hour, which is the time it takes for the entire volume of air in a home to be replaced.
What are the structural benefits of closed-cell SPF?
Because of its rigid nature and ability to adhere to many materials, closed-cell SPF (ccSPF) can provide structural enhancement to framed buildings. Racking strength of walls, as well as uplift strength of framed roof decks can be significantly increased with the addition of just 2-3 inches of SPF.
About the authors:
Ken Wells is a SPF contractor, advocate and co-owner at Elite Insulation & PolyPro out of Broadway, Virginia.
Bill Bilben is a SPF contractor, advocate and founder of the website SprayFoamww.com as well as the Spray Foam World Wide Facebook group dedicated to connecting professionals in the industry through networking, education, support and information.