Basement Insulation - Exposed in Utility?

nicoleternityMay 2, 2012

Hi folks,

We had our basement insulated with spray foam (then finished the rest with stud walls and drywall), and looking back it was stupid to have this done in the utility room BECAUSE...

Now we have exposed insulation in a room we did NOT intend to finish. It has taken over a year and all we have financially, ability wise, emotionally, etc. to complete this total DIY project (large basement living room, bathroom, linen closet).

Of course when we had the insulation contractor out they told us it was no problem to leave it exposed, and that if we wanted we could paint it with fire retardant paint if we were concerned. Shame on me for not doing my homework on this; so far, this is our major area of failing to do homework on the DIY project, I am happy to say the rest has gone OK if super long and difficult.

I am now devastated to realize that what we thought would just be a 10x10ish space with furnace, water heater, soil stack, misc utilities, and a little storage might have to be finished because there will be exposed insulation on two of the walls and in the rim joists.

The vents and utilities that cover the ceiling in half the room would make the ceiling height about 6' there, and a nightmare to frame out. This is a 1950s house.

As you can see I am down to my last nerve here on this project :), but really the idea of finishing a whole 'nother room by building stud walls (esp given the challenges of this utilities in this area) and drywalling, AND putting in a drop ceiling around about zillion vents, soil stacks, utilities, pipes, etc. is a nightmare! That's why we weren't finishing it to begin with. If I had only told the contractor NOT to spray foam the area we'd have just paint-sealed the concrete and left it... now I am desperate to come up with something other than a total finish.

Any ideas?

We looked into intumescent flame-retardant paint for just this purpose (over spray foam) and thought this might solve our problem in terms of safety and selling the home in a few years. However, it appears that while this provides an "alternative 15-min fire rated covering" to drywall, it is only approved for non-occupied spaces and utility areas "that are accessed only to service utilities, etc.". Because this is part of our house, even though it's a storage and utility area, I'm concerned that it counts as an "occupied space?" but I might be wrong I have no idea!

If we finish the walls by building stud walls and putting up drywall, the rim joists will still be exposed... I am concerned about safety/fire, homeowner's insurance, and inspection as we won't be living in this home more than 5 more years, maybe a few more.

Here's the best overview I could find (below).

Thanks so much,


Here is a link that might be useful: Spray Foam Ignition Barrier Summary

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A 100 sf room accommodating your furnace, water heater, plumbing stacks etc. certainly sounds like a utility room to me. Your local AHJ can tell you for sure.

In a home I built for clients, for the basement they chose to finish the walls only, not the ceiling. I was able to satisfy the inspector on fireproofing by using sprayed plaster. But we're not governed by the IRC.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 5:29PM
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Thanks so much for the feedback, I'm glad you're thinking it might be reasonable to qualify as a utility space, that gives me some hope ;).

Forgive my naivete... but it seems like my local AHJ (the city building inspector is who I think we're referring to here, they have a department for this) is going to be unlikely to answer a hypothetical question about a space they've not inspected and an insulation project for which we did not get a permit...? But then again I don't know.

I get the idea of asking them the hypothetical "does all insulation in utility rooms need to be covered with drywall" and "what qualifies as a utility room". It's just that I think they are most likely to tell me they can't answer any questions over the phone, and to apply for a permit, submit the plans as drawn up by a certified person, etc.

Or maybe I am wrong and they do answer questions over the phone? I don't see any hotline info or online FAQs.

And perhaps when I posted most people would assume we have a permit and are having this inspected, and I should have clarified right away:).

Either way, thanks for your feedback, I do really appreciate it!


    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 6:28PM
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For anyone else looking into this, another informative article re: thermal barrier and ignition barrier for spray foam insulation... a good place to start reading.


Here is a link that might be useful: More Information

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 6:45PM
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"Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive." Sir Walter Scott, 1808

In any case, I'd fireproof it asap. A plumber inadvertently burned just a thumbnail-sized fragment of CCSPF in the house I referred to above and everyone fled from the absolutely sickening and toxic fumes.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 6:46PM
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I agree, for safety I'd like to "fireproof" it ASAP; I am still working on finding out if the intumescent latex coating sold by spray foam manufacturers will be sufficient. I'll keep looking into it!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 6:52PM
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"insulation contractor out they told us it was no problem to leave it exposed, and that if we wanted we could paint it with fire retardant paint if we were concerned. "

So paint it now.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 10:23AM
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Thanks Brickeye. I sure wish it was that simple.

Unfortunately, I was stupid to take the contractors word for it. I now know it's a big fire hazard to have it exposed -- and even flame-retardant painted it seems it won't pass inspection when we sell the house, and looks like also an issue for homeowners insurance.

I am still trying to get answers re: local building code, I have left some messages. Also to find out if application of cementitious flame retardant material would do it.


    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 10:59AM
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