18 Spray Foam Insulation Pros and Cons

Spray foam insulation is a product which has been available to homeowners since 1986. Many new construction projects use this product because it offers comfort and energy efficiency benefits. It can help to fix issues with inadequate insulation, reduce utility expenses, and retrofit crawl spaces or attics with a useful product that helps a house to feel more like a home.

This product acts as insulation and an air-barrier material. It creates a final result where there is limited air movement within the structure, which reduces the amount of energy loss that a home experiences as the seasons change. It can be sprayed into open cavities, never lose its shape, or settle over time like other insulation products.

While it is offering these benefits, spray foam insulation products positively impact the heat transfer and convection that can affect comfort levels in the structure. You can use open-cell or closed-cell products to create the specific results you want.

If your home could use an energy-efficiency upgrade, then here are the pros and cons of spray foam insulation to consider.

List of the Pros of Spray Foam Insulation

1. Spray foam insulation can provide a powerful level of support to homeowners.
If you opt for the closed-cell version of modern spray foam insulation products, then you will discover that it works far better than some of the other types that are available for homeowners today. The expansive nature of the product allows installers to seal off all gaps and corners that would be exposed otherwise. There is no other method available on the market today that can provide an air-tight seal like this one, which is why a correct installation can improve the energy efficiency of a home.

2. Spray foam insulation can reduce the utility bills for homeowners.
You can save a significant amount of money on your heating and cooling needs when choosing spray foam insulation for your structure. If you install this product in a home or business without any insulation, then the cost benefits are an average of 50% immediately. When you compare spray foam to other forms of insulation, the energy savings approaches 30%. You can even use this product with other types of insulation to reduce detrimental air flow issues that may go through your walls, floor, or ceiling.

3. Spray foam insulation provides an airtight seal that is difficult to break.
This insulation product expands quickly into the various cracks and holes that are in your crawl spaces, attic and walls. These leaks are usually one of the most significant costs that homeowners face because it increases the amount of energy loss that occurs. This product is 24 times less permeable to air movement when compare to other forms of insulation, which means your house stays cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. It can go almost anywhere to offer this advantage as well.

4. Spray foam insulation is impermeable to water.
This trait of spray foam insulation provides homeowners with two significant advantages to consider. It will not only protect your attic or crawl space from moisture that tries to come into the structure, but it will also avoid absorbing water during a flooding event like other materials sometimes do. That means your home can experience far less damage over the lifetime of the structure when this product is correctly installed and routinely maintained according to the instructions of the manufacturer.

5. Spray foam insulation can deter mold and mildew buildup.
The foam product uses for this insulation service is composed of an inert polymer. That means it does not provide a food source for mildew, mold, or bacteria even if it does get wet. Closed-cell products are better than open-cell ones for this advantage, but both provide better options than organic insulation products. There are even fewer issues with pest infestation in this insulation product compared to the other options that are available on the market today.

6. Spray foam insulation offers a longer lifespan compared to other products.
Both forms of spray foam insulation offer the possibility of having an indefinite lifespan after installation if homeowners take care of their structure over time. You can enjoy the many advantages of this product for decades at a time without worrying about the need for an upgrade or replacement. There are fewer needs to re-insulate this product after installation as well. That means there are multiple cost benefits to consider with this product, even if the initial installation cost is higher in some markets.

7. Spray foam insulation is an eco-friendly product.
There are several reasons why choosing spray foam insulation over other products is advantageous when you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your home. It helps to reduce your energy consumption, protects against moisture that can lead to premature wear and tear on the structure, and it uses fewer materials to create the product in the first place. You must hire an expert who is familiar with this product to maximize the potential of these advantages, but it is an effort that is worth considering because of what this insulation option provides.

8. Spray foam insulation can add strength to your walls and roof.
If you were to add a fiberglass insulation product to your walls or the roof, then you would not gain a structural integrity benefit. The sound barrier efficiency of this product option is quite low as well. Choosing a closed-cell spray foam insulation can reduce the noise pollution that exists outside while adding strength to your overall structure. It is possible for spray foam to add up to 250% racking strength to your roof or walls when the product receives a correct installation.

Spray foam insulation is a permanent installation that does not sag over time when installing the product correctly. Even in conditions of extreme cold, there is no difference in its performance.

9. Spray foam insulation does not lose its R-value over time.
Although there can be issues with improper installation to consider that can cause some spray foam installations to not meet code, one of the most significant advantages of this product is that it will not lose R-value over time. Open-cell products offer 3.5 per inch of aged R-value, while closed-cell products can offer up to 7 per inch of aged R-value.

If you compare these figures to fiberglass insulation, then the advantages are clear. You receive 2.2 per inch of non-aged R value and it loses quality over time, requiring a replacement in as little as 10 years even if the product stays dry. Since there is no other way to replace the insulation except to tear down the drywall, the cost to maintain efficiency levels in a home can be very high over the long-term when choosing something other than spray foam insulation.

10. Spray foam insulation can keep contaminants out of the home.
Because you are creating an air-tight seal with spray foam insulation when this product is correctly installed, it is possible to keep more contaminants out of your indoor air. You will be able to keep more pollen and dust out of your house with this insulation option compared to others that are on the market today. That means it reduces the capacity requirements of your HVAC system, giving you an extra cost benefit by limiting the maintenance and wear of the equipment in your heating and cooling system.

List of the Cons of Spray Foam Insulation

1. Spray foam insulation does not always fill every possible cavity.
Although spray foam insulation offers a flexible solution for improving the energy efficiency of a home, it is not a magical solution that can solve every problem. There are sometimes gaps that can form in the walls, ceiling, or floor that the foam does not always reach as it is expanding. When this issue occurs, the house becomes warmer in the summer, colder in the winter, and you can hear more of the noises that are outside. Missing cavities can also cause air leakage to occur.

2. Spray foam insulation might encourage water damage for some homeowners.
When cavities are missed by installers when using a spray foam insulation product, then this creates the potential for a higher risk of water damage throughout the life of the structure. When air gets into the various pockets of the home, especially ones that are in the attic, then the pressure change can encourage water to seep in through building imperfections. This process can cause premature damage to the walls and roof of the structure. Because it is unknown to the homeowner if a lack of coverage occurred until the damage is noticeable, it can be challenging for them to recoup their losses outside of their insurance policy.

3. Spray foam insulation can sometimes shrink.
Spray foam insulation is becoming a preferred product because it is fast and easy to install at a reasonable price. As this product ages, it is possible for the insulation to start shrinking and thereby reducing the insulative qualities it provides. Homes that are located in geographic regions where extreme temperature differences occur typically have the highest risk of experiencing this outcome. When it begins to pull away from the framing, the other disadvantages mentioned above this one can occur. The only way to solve this problem is to install more spray foam or tear out the original application to install something new.

4. Spray foam insulation requires a lot of experience to get it right.
The issue that many spray foam insulation installers face is that the product cures quickly once the installation process begins. This issue impacts those who choose the open-cell form of this product in particular. As the material cures, it will begin to fold over itself, creating areas that are unfilled that you cannot see. Some installers can miss whole sections if they are not careful. If the product is too heavy or too thin, then there are future problems that the homeowner will face with this product.

5. Spray foam insulation installations may not meet necessary R-value code requirements.
The depth of insulation that spray foam requires to meet local building code standards is different than what other products require. Some installers don’t realize this fact. Inspectors often see this product with about four inches of insulation support along the roof and fewer than three inches in the exterior walls of the home. The R-value of the product is about 3.5 per inch (sometimes up to 4) which means the product doesn’t meet energy code minimums in some locations.

6. Spray foam insulation costs more to install than other options.
Fiberglass insulation products are significantly cheaper to install in homes across the United States when compared to spray foam insulation. If you were to install a fiberglass product in your home, then you can expect to pay roughly $.40 per square foot to receive the protection you want. If you were to choose the closed-sell version of spray foam insulation, then you could pay up to $1.50 per board foot. (A board foot is a 1×1 foot square with one inch of thickness.)

Because you may need 4 inches of thickness or more with spray foam insulation, the total cost per square foot could exceed $6 for some consumers.

7. Spray foam insulation does create health effects and risks to consider.
Many of the risks that are associated with spray foam insulation involve the installer only. Some of the primary ingredients in this product are called “isocyanates.” These chemical compounds can irritate the lungs, eyes, and stomach when coming into contact with them. If your skin comes into contact with the foam, then some people can develop swelling, skin rashes, and inflammation. You must wear a respirator, goggles, and gloves when working with this product. Long-term exposure can trigger asthma attacks and chemical bronchitis.

8. Spray foam insulation requires time to cure.
Once the spray foam insulation has an opportunity to cure properly, it is a non-toxic inert product. The foam does emit a gas during the curing stage that can trigger issues of blurred vision and respiratory distress. If the contractor or manufacturer failed to mix the foam in the proper proportion, then there is a small risk that the product could emit the gas permanently even after it is cured, rendering the home unlivable until it could be removed.

The pros and cons of spray foam insulation seek to balance out the issue of cost and longevity with the risks of an inadequate installation process. Experienced contractors can quickly and effectively place this product in a home to provide energy assistance benefits for years to come. Because this is a commodity product for most communities, the installation quality may vary. Some workers might not know enough to evaluate their work correctly. That is why you should hire an experienced contractor for this service to ensure an adequate result.

About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.