Do It Yourself Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam is a brilliant home improvement tool that is most commonly known for being a home insulator. This is particularly important for homes in temperate climates with variable weather conditions throughout the seasons. It is one of the most critical elements in constructing a home that can withstand these conditions over time and as such, professional insulator fees can become costly and you may be wondering if you can do it yourself.

While it is recommended to hire professional foam spray insulator companies for large insulation jobs, there are DIY spray foam insulation kits available, ideal for small jobs or for those experienced in working with this type of insulation. There are a few factors to consider before you DIY.

Spray foam insulation is quickly overtaking conventional insulators like fiberglass and cellulose for home and office insulation due to its flexibility and efficacy at protecting against harsh temperatures however, there are a few factors to think about when deciding if it is the best option for your space and if you should do it yourself.

What is Spray Foam Insulation?

Spray polyurethane foam, is a chemical compound made of Icynene-Lapolla, that is professionally sprayed into the cavities of a new or existing home’s walls, expanding up to 100 times its size to create a sound, moisture, and thermal barrier for the building. Nowadays, there are DIY spray foam insulation kits that allow you to insulate your space at a slightly cheaper cost than professional insulators.

The expansion of the spray foam insulation fills any gaps or holes where it is applied making it an effective home insulator that can simultaneously lower energy bills for those in temperate climates. Spray foam has a long life span as it will not lose its shape, compress, or sag over time making it an attractive option for homeowners.

Spray foam typically comes in three types. High-density spray foam is typically used for exterior and roofing applications when constructing new buildings. Medium-density spray foam is most commonly used on interior wall cavities, in unvented attics, and where continuous insulation is needed. Low-density spray foam is used on interior wall cavities and sometimes in unvented attics. Both medium and low-density options can be applied retroactively to your home. Spray foam also comes in an open cell and a closed cell option.

Spray Foam Insulation Compared to Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass is a conventional insulation option, that can easily be DIY installed and is still found in most homes in North America. The popularity of spray foam insulation has increased due to its effectiveness and structural integrity. There are some notable differences between spray foam and fiberglass insulation that might impact your choice of whether or not to install spray foam yourself as opposed to classic fiberglass.

How Spray Foam and Fiberglass Insulation Work

Fiberglass insulation works by trapping air pockets within the minuscule glass fibers thereby, slowing the transfer of heat and cool air. Spray foam works as an air, moisture, and vapor barrier by expanding to fill any gaps or cavities upon application, creating an effective seal.

The Cost Difference Between Spray Foam and Fiberglass

Fiberglass insulation is noticeably cheaper to install than spray foam insulation ranging from $0.40 to $1.20 per square foot and $1.00 to $6.00 per square foot respectively.

Installation of Fiberglass versus Spray Foam Insulation

Fiberglass insulation can be installed in sheets by a professional or by the homeowner whereas spray foam insulation should be installed by a professional. Both can be installed to an interior retroactively or during new home construction.

Effectiveness of Fiberglass and Spray Foam Insulation

Fiberglass insulation does allow for air leakage through any gaps or spaces around it whereas spray foam creates a seal upon expansion. Closed cell spray foam is dense and rigid prohibiting air and vapors from passing through. Open cell spray foam may allow some air leakage due to its lower density although this air movement is minimal. Spray foam insulation’s waterproof qualities also prohibit mold growth wherever it is applied, thus protecting your home’s foundation from rotting in the long term.

Based on this, fiberglass insulation is less energy efficient than spray foam insulation which can reflect on your energy bills, particularly in harsher winter months. Fiberglass insulation loses heat quickly whereas spray foam has a minimal difference if any.

Spray foam insulation also provides soundproofing qualities to a room whereas fiberglass insulation does not.

Lastly, fiberglass does not add or detract from the structural integrity of your home whereas spray foam insulation (especially closed cell foam) can add up to 250% racking strength to your walls and roof due to its rigid, all-encompassing set.

Safety Hazards of Fiberglass and Spray Foam Insulation

Fiberglass insulation is typically fire-resistant though it could be slightly flammable due to foil or kraft paper placed on the batts. Spray foam is flammable and should be installed with a fire-rated barrier like drywall to mitigate possible fire damage. Closed cell spray foam is usually developed with a fire-rate fire retardant making it a safer option than open cell spray foam.

Because spray foam insulation is made with reactive chemicals, exposure to it can cause respiratory or skin sensitivities, exacerbating conditions like asthma. Fiberglass insulation can be a skin irritant if your skin comes in direct contact with it.

Lifespan of Insulation

Fiberglass insulation should remain effective for 10-25 years as long as it remains dry. Spray foam insulation boasts an impressive lifespan of 80 years or more due to its moisture-resistant composition and structural integrity.

What Are the Reasons to DIY Spray Foam Insulation?

There are two main reasons why you might want to install spray foam insulation yourself aside from being able to take pride in doing it yourself. The first reason is the lower cost of DIY spray foam kits than professional installation. For small jobs, DIY spray foam is cost-effective however the DIY kits can be costlier for large jobs along with running the risk of improper application which could incur further repairs down the road.

The second reason is that you may be located remotely away from cities where professional insulators are. Applying spray foam insulation yourself can be the accessible option however, caution should be adhered to with large insulating tasks.

What Comes in a DIY Spray Foam Insulation Kit?

DIY spray foam kits like these include an ISO(A) cylinder, a Polyol (B) cylinder, INSTA-FLO Dispensing Spray Gun, 6 cone spray nozzles, 4 fan spray nozzles, and a 9-ft gun hose assembly (GHA). The insulation is fire rated though caution should be taken to apply it in even coats and necessary coverage.

What Do I Need to Know about DIY Spray Foam Insulation Kits?

DIY spray foam insulation kits are an appealing option to save a few dollars on professional installation fees however, there are a few important features of DIY kits to take note of before you start your insulating task.

Sealant vs. Insulation

Before buying your DIY Spray Foam Insulation kit it is important to note that there are also closed cell spray foam sealant kits available, however, the two are not interchangeable. Sealant should only be used to fill small cracks and the perimeter of the wallboards where fiberglass insulation will be installed. When used over a large surface, spray foam sealant loses its fire retardant qualities making it a serious safety hazard.

Wear Proper Protection

Because spray foam insulation is made of reactive chemicals, it can aggravate skin and respiratory conditions. Before you start applying DIY spray foam insulation you should always wear, goggles, a high-quality respirator mask, closed-toed shoes, a head-to-toe protective suit, chemical resistant gloves, and tape to seal any exposed skin space between your gloves and the rest of the suit.

The Cost of A DIY Kit Compared to Professional Installation

The average cost of professionally installing spray foam insulation into an existing home with closed wall cavities can range from $1.50 to $2.25 per square foot and you will need to take into account the added labor costs required to remove existing insulation depending on the insulation company

DIY spray foam insulation kits available allow you to install spray foam into your home yourself. The average cost for about 200 square feet is $300.00 to $600.00. These kits typically include two types of liquid (Icynene), which are heated then pushed through a gun.

The average cost to install spray foam insulation yourself can be appealing as it is lower than a professional install however, if you are not experienced at working with spray foam insulation, it can be challenging to apply in even coats.

If improperly installed, the cost to repair and redo the insulation can be high. It should also be noted that DIY spray foam insulation is typically only cost-effective for small jobs and can be more expensive than professional installation for larger insulating tasks. It is also recommended to use professional insulator services to uphold the safety and fire retardant qualities of the spray foam once it is applied.

Where Can I Use Spray Foam?

The main goal of spray foam insulation is to reduce air, vapor, and sound transfer in your home.

Sealing the Spaces Around Doors and Windows

You can use low expanding spray foam to seal any gaps around newly installed doors and windows, as the frame tends to be slightly larger than the door or window itself.  Please note, that a spray foam sealant may work better in these spaces than spray foam insulation.

Seal Areas Where Air Loss May Occur

In attics, basements, or crawl spaces, check carefully for any gaps or light leaks that may indicate a point where there is air transfer. Apply spray foam (ideally closed cell) to seal these gaps.

Seal Small Cracks and Holes That May Be Used by Insects or Pests

If you discover insects or pests in your home without an obvious reason, check for small cracks or holes that they could be coming in through. These cracks can then be filled with spray foam. Please note, that if a hole is large enough to let through mice or rats, you should get it professionally repaired or apply wire mesh to the area before spray foam as larger pests can sometimes chew through spray foam.

Seal Around Exterior Electrical and Plumbing Penetrations

Where electrical and plumbing pipes are run into a house, are common points for air leaks and can be filled with spray foam insulation.

Where Should I Avoid Using Spray Foam Insulation?

Do Not Use Spray Foam on Foundation, Driveway, Concrete, and Other Structural Cracks

It is best to get a professional assessment done on structural cracks on your property as it is hard to gauge the depth of cracks. Depending on the depth of the crack, there may be other issues that need to be fixed before the crack can be repaired.

Do Not Use Spray Foam to Fill Structural Gaps

If you are flipping or building a home and cut a piece of foundational wood the incorrect size, do not fill the gap with spray foam as it is not structurally rated.

Do Not Fill Eaves and Soffits

In some homes, eaves and soffits are used in attics as ventilation space for the home. If these are filled, your home will not be able to vent effectively with the airflow needed.

Do Not Seal Water Leaks from Plumbing Fixtures

It can be tempting to use spray foam to stop a leaky pipe however, it is best to call a plumber to assess the cause of the leak and properly repair any damaged piping. Using spray foam to fix a water leak can lead to much larger and costlier damage down the line such as allowing water to build up, supporting mold growth, and causing foundational wood rot.

Do Not Use Spray Foam Too Close to Electrical Boxes

Because of the way spray foam insulation expands, it could potentially hinder and jam up parts of electrical boxes. If spray foam is to be used near an electrical box, it should be a low expanding, closed cell foam. Installing spray foam insulation near an electrical box also poses a fire risk as it is made of flammable chemicals.

Do Not Use Spray Foam Too Close to Light Boxes

Similar to the issue with electrical boxes, if spray foam insulation is applied too closely to recessed ceiling lights, heat can be trapped in posing a fire risk. Some recessed lighting is graded compatible with spray foam insulation however this should only be done by a professional if attempted.

Do Not Try to Use Spray Foam in One Session

Oftentimes, people will try to use as much spray foam as they can since the straws on the spray cans or nozzles on DIY home kits can become clogged. It is best to use spray foam insulation in small amounts and buy extra straws or nozzles if needed. DIY kits usually come with multiple nozzles.

Skin and Respiratory Health Concerns:

If you have a history of skin sensitivity, respiratory health issues, or asthma, spray foam insulation can be an irritant. Because spray foam is made of reactive chemicals it can cause or exacerbate skin and breathing problems. For this reason, installation is best left to professionals to minimize contact with the chemicals.

Why You May Not Want to DIY Spray Foam Insulation

The average cost to install spray foam insulation yourself can be appealing as it is lower than a professional install however, if you are not experienced at working with spray foam insulation, it can be challenging to apply in even coats.

If applied unevenly or with gaps left in the application, it fails to create a fully waterproof, air, heat, and sound transfer-resistant seal which could cost you more, in the long run, to redo and nullifies the benefit of how effective spray foam insulation can be when properly installed. If you are new to working with spray foam insulation, limit your work to small spaces and consult with a professional company for larger areas.

The Dangers of Doing Spray Foam Insulation Yourself

Aside from possible uneven coating, applying spray foam insulation yourself can be risky. Most spray foam is flammable and should not be applied too close to electrical boxes or lightboxes as the foam can set and damage the units and be at risk for combustion.

It also takes practice and skill to learn about how much any type of spray foam will expand once applied. This can be a safety and foundation issue to your home when you are applying spray foam insulation to a closed cavity space.

In a closed cavity space, it is best to call professional insulators. The expansion rate of spray foam is rapid and can offset the pressure in a closed cavity space that can lead to structural damage.

Final Thoughts

DIY spray foam insulation can be appealing to save on costs for small insulating jobs or if you are in a remote location away from professional insulating companies however, if you are inexperienced at working with spray foam insulation, it is best to call a professional to ensure safety and cost-efficiency in the long run.

Sources

What it is

Three types

Open vs. closed cell

Amazon kits

DIY Kits

Average cost

DIY cost

Spray foam vs. fiberglass

Spray foam allergies

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