Anybody actually have problems after spray foam?

politicauxMarch 25, 2009

I've seen a lot of discussion on the web about problems that people think MIGHT show up after a house is spray foamed - the roof MIGHT rot when a leak shows up IF the foam doesn't allow water through, the roof MIGHT overheat and melt, the air in the house MIGHT get stale for lack of ventilation, dogs and cats MIGHT start sleeping together...

Has anybody actually experienced issues related to spray foam? I'd be particularly interested in stories by those in hot, humid clients (like, for instance, New Orleans).


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The ventilation problem is a real risk. But I believe in "build it tight and ventilate it right". This is, do the air sealing/insulation, measure tightness with a blower door, calculate air changes per hour (ACH) and install and HRV or ERV of needed.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 4:29PM
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Not dogs and cats but I've heard in some places down south like New Orleans males and females within the same immediate family tend to have sex togther. Oh wait, that doesn't have anything to do with foam in the walls,,,,,,,,,never mind. :-)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 8:37PM
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The leak problem won't show up until the roofs over the foam get old enough to leak. The big problem is that you may not be able to tell there is a leak. My opinion is that foam would be best reserved for use under metal roofing, preferably standing seam.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 6:56PM
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I wonder if you could do a variation of the cardboard inserts that preserve the air flow to the soffits, so you had an air gap between the plywood/osb on top of the joists, and the spray foam, a kind of formwork if you know what I mean.

I went to a home show today and spoke with the only people I know of in town here in BC that do sprayfoam, he says the city is yet to approve closed cell as an air/moisture barrier.

Kind of silly because I've seen very few poly barriers that are anywhere as well sealed as foam, and rim joists? Fuggeddabahdit. Mine have insulation but no plastic at all, from what I can see. Unfortunately my basement is finished with a fixed ceiling (I don't love suspended but I sure wish I had it here) so I can't really fix the rim joists, otherwise I would get them all done when I get my garage ceiling done. I don't really think the moisture barrier approval thing is an issue for me, since the house was built in the '80's (and there is no moisture/air barrier under the floor above the garage, despite it being originally a carport, and therefore a cold area)

The guy says $4.50 cdn + GST (no pst for enviro/energy-friendly stuff usually) for 3" of closed cell, I will do my sums and see if it's worth doing myself. I bet he'd be a lot faster and neater than me!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 7:45PM
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You won't have the roof issue unless you are doing a sealed attic with closed cell foam.

We have a vaulted ceiling in one area of the house where the foam is (obviously) sprayed between the joists at the roof. Our metal roof leaked there after a violent storm. We knew within 20 minutes inside where it was leaking because it was open celled foam (Sealection500).

Same thing where the overflow pan for the A/C leaked one time early on and we saw some water on the bathroom floor below. The attic is sealed on the attic floor with the same stuff. That's why we would never use closed cell foam in such areas.

We only have cats, so can't address the final question.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 2:10PM
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Thanks for the responses, that helps.

We're looking at 5" open cell on the roof and about 3" open cell in all walls before sheetrock goes back up (the advantage of a gutted house). I know the theory is that open cell allows water to penetrate and tell you there's a leak, but I've also read that it may not work as designed. Dallasbill, your story makes me less concerned.

I also went to a home show this weekend and there were about 15 foam booths. One said his method is to spread a mesh cloth over the joists and then spray foam onto that, rather than directly onto the underside of the roof. He said the air pocket that creates (1) better insulates and (2) prevents the roof from melting. I don't buy either of those arguments because (1) that air pocket would get to the same temp or hotter than the roof and (2) roofs just don't melt like that... anywhere. Any disagreements with that?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 5:55PM
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Trapped air is, in itself a good insulator. I can see the air gap thing working well if it allowed air flow to and from the soffit vents, assuming you have them, although if I envision it correctly the soffit vents would now only ventilate the cavity between the rafters and the suspended foam. You would need to add vents to provide fresh air to the roof space, assuming that the roof space is not now part of the conditioned space. Assuming it isn't, you'd need the vents.

I guess your insulation laid on top of the ceiling keeps house warm/warm air out of roof space, new foam on rafters provides further barrier to snow on roof melting, and, in summer, a barrier to heat penetrating beyond that.

I've heard of people using a perforated foil barrier, which would still allow for airflow etc.

In Australia, which is, admittedly a mostly hot climate with mild winters, it's pretty much standard to use 'sarking' which is an air/moisture impervious underlay directly under the roofing. Advantage of that is no issues of moisture damaging timber and it stops the heat right there. Most popular roofing there is terracotta or concrete tiles, followed by colorbond steel roofing.

Having said all that, I look out my window here in British Columbia and see it's lightly snowing, and it's almost April, and I wonder about the wisdom of moving back here!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 1:50PM
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I assume your attic is sealed, as that is the only reason to apply it to the roof underside.

The "mesh guy" sounds like a complete crock, and proves said with the shingle melting myth.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 2:56PM
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Our company has been in the insulation business for 36 years in the north east region of the country. There are several pros and cons about spray foam. here are a few. PROS: 1)excellent air infiltration blocker 2) High r value per inch for CLOSED CELL only. 3) good vapor retarder for CLOSED CELL only. 4)..ummm thats it!!!!! CONS: 1) expensive (about 6-7 times more expensive than fiberglass or cellulose) 2)not tested long term for future problems 3)shrinkage. 4) vapor barrier on wrong surface..typically vapor barriers go against warmest surface not exterior cold surfaces. in stick built construction spray foam will only be a nominal fill with closed cell which is definitely the foam you should use..OPEN CELL manufacturers are getting hit with law suits for their open cell product due to its non ability to stop moisture permeance. when 2 part foams came back around open cell was being widely used with no vapor barrier, hence moisture issues and mold.. now they said it must be covered with a retarder ex poly.. Paint DOES NOT WORK!!! Air can still get into wall sytems near floor and outlets. closed cell is a nominal fill 2" may be 2.5" so there is 1" of space behind drywall. Well foam shrinks a little over the years about 2-3% and lumber shrinks 3-4%, well gaps open even tiny tiny gaps, cold air meets warm air in the space behind drywall and guess what happens.. water water everywhere. 5) spray a roof deck and let me know when you need a roof tare off in 10 years because decks will not stay cool and wood sheathing like OSB will get damaged, and oh yeah guess whats attached to the sheathing..foam, so reinsulating will be necessary, glad i spent $5000 to spray roof 6)just added another 5000+ cubic feet of heating space in the attic. 7)if sprayed on roof deck they dont cover rafters with the proper depth so as the heat in the houses rises into attic and all vents are blocked the heat transfers to roof and melts snow causing ice dams if you live in a snow climate. 8) did you have plans for an air to air exchanger? add another $3k to $5k. if you dont make up air will be a problem and you be living in your own atmospheric waste climate.. and also may have drafting and spillage problems with gas appliances. And if a barametric damper is recommended to open to allow make up air in the dead of winter then what the hell did you spend all that money for for spray foam? 8)must be covered with ignition barriers.. OK you see some of the cons??? ive seen these issues first hand!!! It may seem like I dont like foam but I Really DO!!! But like everything in construction each material has a purpose and should be installed in a manner to offer the most comfortability, protection, efficiency, and cost effectiveness!! This is how you do that!! 1) Foam Seal all windows and doors with a window/door foam 2) use one part closed cell foam (about 100$ for a 16lb canister)and apply a bead of foam down all studs at exterior sheathing and all horizontal sheathing joints. this will make cavities air tight, You cant blow through ply wood. do the same for the ringjoist and basment bandjoist. 3) caulk all wall plates to floor and all stud jacks and gaps around headers and any place that foam cannot be used because of drywall interference 4) insulate with high density fiberglass r-15 or the math these R values = closed cell r values..keep in mind they will only do nominal fills. if they do complete cavity fills with closed cell get your bank routing number ready!!! .90 per inch per sq ft. as average installed for closed cell. so $3.15 for 2 x 4 and $4.95 for 2 x 6 plus extra for shaving. 5) install a vapor barrier - 2 or 4 mil poly (against code for closed cell) 6) eave block, install bubble wrap at flat ceiling eaves to force ventillation past the ceiling insulation without windwashing. 7) increase ceiling r value to r-49 or whatever your heart desires because r-100(unnecessary) is going to be pocket change compared to foam. 8) foam all penetrations from basement to living space and to attic (light fixtures etc..)
This method will perform the same as spray foam for 20% of the cost, and protect the structure the way it should with vapor barriers and so on.. (Thats from Blower Door Tests) dont forget about make up air.. but you just saved enough $ to get a free air exchanger!! and a new 65" plasma tv and a surround sound system and a fireplace and maybe new appliances!!! DONT BE TRICKED BY WHAT YOU SEE ON TV OR WHAT PEOPLE SAY... R VALUE = R VALUE IT DOESNT MATTER WHAT MATERIAL YOU USE JUST STOP AIR INFILTRATION AND YOUR SET!!! AND IF YOU STIL LIKE FOAM THAT MUCH PUT IT ON THE OUTSIDE OF HOUSE TO CREATE A THERMAL BREAK(1/2" DOW BLUE BOARD NO TYVEK NEEDED) OR ON INTERIOR CEILINGS (1/2" DOW TUFF R BOARD) BEFORE DRYWALL FOR THE SAME AFFECT. and its still cheaper than spray foam!!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 12:21PM
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Yes. In fact, I think I have bigger problems than my roof leaking and rotting. I think I'm now living in a toxic time bomb. My whole house smells like chemicals, and I've since been told it's because parts A & B weren't mixed correctly. It's been just 11 days since my attic was sprayed and I feel like I'm being poisoned and I feel like I need to move out now or I'll have some really big health problems. Help.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 8:50AM
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Also, I talked to the roofer who did some excellent roof work for me, and one of his first questions was about trapped moisture affecting the rafters and shingles. Unfortunately, this was after the attic was sprayed.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 8:53AM
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2001; what state do u live in?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 11:00AM
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@joe_mn I live in North Carolina. Two or three days after I made my first comment above, I had to move out of my house. Everything in the house seems to have been saturated with the vapors from the foam, including my clothes; even my cats smell like the foam and feel sort of uncharacteristically coarse (I had to have one of my longhaired cats shaved and boarded at the vet after she began throwing up, and another of my cats developed a sort of rash on his ears and abdomen). My attic now stinks like something foul, and I noticed even after washing my clothes 3-4 times they still have a faint odor similar to the current odor in the attic (initially my clothes smelled like the foam chemical vapors that were dispersed through the house). The off gassing is so bad that if I'm in the house for just a short time I get dizzy, I feel like my brain is foggy, my eyeballs feel sticky, my sinuses become irritated, and if I stay too long I wake up the following day feeling very fatigued and like I'm coming down with a cold/flu. I also feel like there is a very fine, fine "dust" on my skin after I've been in the house; it's very strange and it seems like whatever it is I'm feeling in the air also has a very rapid drying effect as my lips, nostrils and eyes quickly feel like all the moisture is being sucked out of them. The last time I went into my attic, I felt like I was going to collapse, and it took several days to recover. Yeah, it's a BIG problem, and I'm telling everyone I meet to stay away from spray foam insulation.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 12:06AM
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