DIY Spray Foam Insulation Application

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Insulation is very important to the home. It provides resistance to heat flow, which will help keep the heat inside during the winter, and the heat outside during the summer. Another added benefit of a properly insulated home is the energy saving effects that will benefit the environment. There are many types of insulation to choose from depending on your specific needs. Here is a look at spray foam insulation and some tips and tricks for applying it to your home.

What is Spray Foam Insulation?

Spray foam insulation is a type of liquid foam that can be sprayed, injected or poured into place. Unlike commonly used blanket insulation, spray foam insulation can be used to fill small cavities. It's a great choice for areas with odd shapes and angles and around any obstructions where you would be unable to use blanket insulation.

Spray foam is commonly used for adding insulation to existing finished areas, like an already existing enclosed wall, or a wall with newly open cavities, and unfinished attic flooring. Think of spray foam insulation as a way to close up any air leaks in your home, which will save you money on both your heating and air-conditioning bills.

Most of the materials used today that make up spray foam are no longer harmful to the earth's ozone layer. Some materials of foam insulation can even be found in certain mattresses and pillows. Common materials used for spray foam insulation include: cementitious, phenolic, polyisocyanurate and polyurethane. Urea-fomaldehyde foam used durinth the 1970s and 1980s are no longer available for residential use due to the harmful agents it contains and the health-related issues that occurred due to its use.

What is R-Value

If you've been researching and shopping around for spray foam insulation, you've probably heard the term "R-value" numerous times. The R-value of a type of insulation indicates its resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation is at resisting heat flow. Also keep in mind that the higher the R-value, the higher the cost.

Where to Install Spray Foam Insulation

Now that you know spray foam insulation can help you save money and save the environment, here is a list of places you would want to install it in your home:

  • Crawlspaces
  • Walls
  • Attics
  • Home additions
  • Garage ceilings
  • Floors
  • Pipe insulation
  • Under flooring
  • Roofing
  • Between rooms and floors for sound deadening
  • HVAC ducts
  • Rim joists
  • Sill plates
  • Cavities and penetrations

DIY Installation

It is highly recommended that you hire a certified professional for installing spray foam insulation. Installation of spray foam insulation requires experience and special equipment, however there are DIY spray foam kits available for use by the average homeowner. If you have one of these kits, or you feel confident and have the equipment to install spray foam insulation yourself, here are some tips and tricks that will help you for the job:

  • Don't' just focus on R-value. While it is an important factor, there are other things you need to think about like fire rating, how well a type of insulation works against air leaks, or how it handles moisture and mold. You also want to know how it fairs against pests since you'll be installing insulation in areas where pests are likely to dwell.
  • Let the DIY spray foam warm up. Spray foam should be distributed with an even stream of the chemicals provided in the kit. The colder the chemicals are, the harder it will be to spray the foam. Makes sense, right? There are special blankets and cases used to warm spray foam tanks, but that's just an added expenditure. An easy way to warm your spray foam kit is to keep it in a warm room, and cover the chemical tanks with an electric blanket for a long period of time. Check on the tanks periodically; you want the core temperature to be over 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Run a test spray. Use the spray foam kit's gun or applicator to do a test spray on a small, open area before you try insulating the entire room. This will give you an idea of how the spray foam expands and how fast it dries.
  • Use a saw and shave excess foam. If the spray foam expands too far, you'll need to shave it off. This applies to spray foam insulation that is being applied between drywall. If the foam extends past the studs, you'll to shave it off to properly fit the drywall.
  • Check your work. Thoroughly check every crack and corner that you are insulating. Missing a spot will defeat the purpose of your insulation job.
  • Do the job when it's warmer, but not too warm. Warmer temperatures well help you heat the spray foam tanks, and will allow the foam to expand properly. Spraying foam on a cold surface will prevent the insulation from bonding properly. Keep in mind, if you live in a region with higher temperatures, you won't want to perform the job when it is too hot, like during the summer months. If you're working in the attic, the heat might create some unbearable working conditions. Remember, it should be warm when you perform the job, not smoldering hot.

Call a Professional

Installing spray foam insulation can be a difficult job. If you aren't confident in your abilities or you lack the proper equipment, call in a professional. While you may be able to do minor insulation work, a major insulation job should be performed by someone with the right equipment and certification. If you decide to hire someone to do the job, do your research. You don't want to hire someone who does shoddy work. Get recommendations and look for customer reviews. While the contractor is performing the job, make sure to look over the work being completed and check for any holes in the insulation or areas that might have been missed.

Just because you've hired a professional, doesn't mean you need to put 100 percent faith in their work. It's your home, have the contractors show you their work and answer any questions you might have about the job.

Last Updated: July 23, 2012
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About Matthew Cenzon Matthew Cenzon has been writing for numerous publications since 2003, covering topics ranging from health and nutrition to the real estate industry. He is one of the contributing writers for, and is a college graduate of the University of California, Riverside, with degrees in English and Asian literature. Matthew’s interest in interior design and home improvement stem from his background working in the residential real estate appraisal business for over five years, where he witnessed many of the Do's and Don'ts of home decor.

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