Is Spray Foam Insulation Worth It?

Patricia Oelze
by Patricia Oelze

If you are building a new home and are thinking of using spray foam insulation, this is the time to look at the pros and cons of the process. Installing spray foam insulation in a home that is already built is a trickier situation, however; and there are other things to consider.

Spray foam insulation is worth it because it can save you thousands of dollars in energy bills. The upfront cost of spray foam insulation is higher than blown-in, but spray foam is more effective. Spray foam insulation gets in every crevice behind your walls and fully insulates your home effectively.

While there are some downfalls of using spray foam insulation besides the cost, the major downfall is almost always the high cost. Because the upfront cost of this type of insulation is so much higher than the others, many people are tempted to go with the cheaper option to save money. They do not even consider the higher costs that not using spray foam insulation can cause.

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Spray Foam Insulation Does Cost More

It is true, spray foam insulation is more expensive than all of the other types of insulation. In fact, it can be up to three times more expensive. And you do not want to spend more money than you have to. Cutting corners on simple things like getting a laminate sink rather than marble is okay. But scrimping on the insulation is not okay.

Try not to think about the upfront costs. You have to think of the money that the spray foam insulation is going to save you over the life of your home. On average, you can save up to 50% on your monthly utility bills.

For example, if you are paying $2,400 a year to heat and cool your home with regular insulation, you could knock that down to $1,200 per year with spray foam insulation. After about five or six years, the cost of spray foam insulation pays for itself.

You Can Save On More Than Just Utility Bills

But it is not just about the utility bills either. Your spray foam insulation can also protect your home from moisture damage and strengthens your ceilings and walls. Because spray foam insulation sticks to the ceiling and wallboards and hardens, the insulation makes your home more structurally sound.

Protection From The Elements

As far as protecting your home from moisture and water damage, spray foam insulation is number one. When it is applied correctly, your entire home will be sealed off from air, moisture, and other elements you do not want in your home. However, this only works if you choose closed-cell foam insulation

Closed Cell Versus Open Cell Spray Foam Insulation

There are two different types of spray foam insulations. The closed-cell is the best and of course, the most expensive. Closed-cell insulation is denser and creates a complete seal between your interior and the outside elements including heat, cold, wind, and moisture. It will not soak up moisture like other insulation products, so you never have to worry about rot or mold.

Open cell is less expensive but is not water-resistant. That means it will soak up moisture eventually, although not as bad as other insulations. When using open cell insulation, a vapor shield is also added to protect the insulation from mold and rot from moisture. However, there are times when open-cell is a better choice than closed-cell insulation.

Open Cell BenefitsClosed Cell Benefits
Has an R value of 3.5 per inchHas an R value of 6.5 per inch
Better for soundproofingDenser than open cell
Much more affordableIt is waterproof
Expands a lotStrengthens your walls and ceilings
Is easier to trimProtects you from pollen and other irritants
Seals leaks around pipes and other areasKeeps bugs and other critters out

What Exactly Is R-Value?

The R value is how well the layer of insulation resists the temperature and the absorbance of heat. Higher numbers of R value have a higher thermal resistance. For example, closed-cell spray foam insulation has an R value of about 6.5 while fiberglass only has an R value of 2.5. Still, even with a high R value, the insulation must be installed by a professional for best efficacy.

When You Should Not Use Spray Foam Insulation

Sometimes closed-cell spray foam insulation is not right for the job. And in some instances, you may not want to use a spray foam insulation at all. For instance, the open-cell foam is typically used in walls because it is easier to trim and it expands to fill in the gaps between the boards. It is also better at soundproofing, so the walls are a good place for open-cell foam. Some of the main places not to use either type of spray foam insulation include:

  • Areas that are too close to electrical boxes because the foam can get in the box and it is flammable.
  • If you are on a tight budget because spray foam insulation is expensive.
  • Any area near ceiling lightboxes like canister lights because it may trap the heat and cause a fire.
  • Closed cavity spaces like between studs because of the rate of expansion.
  • If you are highly allergic or have asthma the chemicals in the spray foam insulation can aggravate your condition.

The Dangers Of Spray Foam Insulation

Some of the chemicals used in making spray foam insulation are hazardous to human health as well as to the environment. If you do not believe this, watch the professionals spray the insulation. You will notice that they are wearing a complete protective suit with gloves as well as a ventilator. Also, the residents of the home are told not to enter the house for at least 24 hours.

The Two Parts Of Spray Foam Insulation

There are two parts to spray foam insulation. One part has highly reactive chemicals that are called isocyanates. This can cause severe skin and breathing problems as well as permanent scarring of the lungs. In fact, it can be fatal. This can continue to be a problem even after the spray has dried and cured for 24 hours if the chemicals are not mixed correctly.

The second part of foam insulation is the part that is less understood, making it even more frightening. While the experts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warn against exposure, they are not quite sure what the exposure may cause. The point is, though, that both parts of the foam are dangerous.

The Pros And Cons Of Using Spray Foam

As with everything in the world, there are pros and cons to using spray foam insulation. Below, we’ve listed just a few of each category to help you fully understand spray foam insulation as a whole.

Pros Of Using Spray Foam

Even though spray foam is relatively new as a method, it is also used as the primary method for insulation in businesses and new homes. Also, it is used for supplemental insulation. You spray a polyurethane foam into the areas you want to insulate. It expands and forms an airtight seal.

Some of the benefits of spray foam are that it:

  • Gets into small crevices that conventional foam cannot reach
  • Protects your area from rodents, and pests
  • Helps avoid mold growth and damage
  • it doesn’t break down as easy as fiberglass and has a longer lifespan

You cannot forget that it’s also the most energy-efficient out of all insulation options as it helps to seal the smaller areas that other types of insulation cannot reach. But for the best method, you can use fiberglass insulation as well as spray foam to ensure the best form of protection in your business or home.

Disadvantages Of Using Sprayfoam

One of the largest disadvantages of spray foam is that it costs a lot more than the fiberglass. It is triple the cost, or sometimes it can even be more than that. Not only that, but it can be hard to apply because it is quite messy. Even professionals have a problem applying it correctly at times.

This is not to say that you can’t apply it yourself, but that you should take the necessary precautions in order to do it properly. Or, if you decide to hire a professional, make sure they’re experienced with using spray foam. That way you can ensure you’re paying for a job properly done.

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Wrapping Things Up

The main takeaway here is that while spray foam insulation can be dangerous in the wrong hands, it is perfectly safe when used correctly. As long as you have a professional insulation technician installing the insulation, and you are out of your home for at least 24 hours, you will be safe from the toxic fumes and chemicals.

As for whether it is worth it or not, the math says yes. Even if you have to come up with the money up front to pay for it, you will end up getting that money back with lower heating and cooling bills. In addition, your home will be more comfortable, stronger, and have a higher selling value.

Patricia Oelze
Patricia Oelze

I am a DIYer who loves writing about anything home-related. When I am not writing, you can find me studying for my PhD in Psychology, photographing nature, and swimming at the lake with my grandkids.

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