The Dark Side of Spray Foam

spray foam is a unique building material that’s sprayed on-site to insulate and seal walls, rim joists, attics and small gaps and cracks throughout the house. It limits air infiltration and movement between inside and outside, helps reduce energy consumption, keeps pollutants, allergens and odors out and makes the home more comfortable to live in.

Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to spray foam, a toxic chemical concoction made from petroleum derived chemicals like MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate). This substance emits a mixture of bio-accumulative and carcinogenic dioxins and furans. And if you’re exposed to it frequently enough, it can even cause chemical sensitivities that can make you permanently sick.

As it’s sprayed on site, spray foam expands to several times its original volume, filling gaps, cracks and crevices with an airtight seal. Then, it starts to cure and harden into a solid insulation layer.

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While there are DIY kits available for spray foam application, it’s best to hire a professional. The pros can tailor the mixture to ensure optimal performance, deal with the inevitable mess and are less likely to miss tight spots that a DIYer might overlook.

It’s also important to note that not all spray foam is created equal. Open and closed cell foam have drastically different R-Values per inch. Lastly, it’s essential to choose spray foam containing blowing agents with low global warming potential, or GWP. HFCs have a much higher GWP than CO2, so switching to low GWP foam will save energy and reduce greenhouse gases.