Insulation is vital to keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and spray foam insulation is one of the most effective types of insulation out there. If you've chosen spray foam insulation for your home, you've made a good choice. However, before you buy the foam and install it yourself, there are a few things you need to know so that your installation goes smoothly.
Closed-Cell or Open-Cell?
Before you even buy a spray foam kit and bring it home, you need to know whether you want closed-cell or open-cell spray foam. Both provide good insulation, and both are eliminate the need for a vapor barrier. So what's the difference, and which one should you choose?
Closed cell foam is more rigid and dense, and it provides a higher r-value than open-cell foam. It may also be easier to install, as you can buy closed-cell spray foam in an aerosol can, while open-cell foam has to be applied with a sprayer (however, you can also purchase closed-cell foam that can be applied with a sprayer if you prefer.) Typically, contractors use closed-cell foam in areas where moisture might be a problem, because the denser material is somewhat less permeable than open-cell foam. On the other hand, areas that you want to be sound-proofed are better off insulated with open-cell foam. For dry areas where sound-proofing is not an issue, it comes down to personal preference—either closed-cell or open-cell foam is acceptable. Just keep in mind that you'll need to buy twice as much open-cell foam to equal the r-value of closed-cell foam.
How to Prepare for Spray Foam Installation
First, identify the areas where you'll be applying the foam. Spray foam can dry and clog the nozzle of the sprayer quickly, so you'll want to be able to quickly move from location to location. Look for cracks that allow drafts of air into the home or expose daylight—these are the areas that will need to be insulated.
Once you've identified the areas to insulate, clean up any debris and remove any exposed nails. The surface doesn't need to be spotless, but it does need to be fairly clean. You'll also want to cover any furniture in the areas where you intend to apply the foam, and turn off or remove any sources of open flames, because spray foam is flammable. Be sure to open a window or turn on a fan for ventilation before application.
Spray Foam Applicator Equipment
Professionals like Durham Insulation apply spray foam with high pressure sprayers attached to a commercial truck. If you're doing a DIY job, though, your only options are a spray can or a low-pressure sprayer. Low-pressure sprayers usually come as part of a kit, and they can be difficult to use. Make sure to read the assembly directions carefully. To apply the foam, you should stand a few feet away from the area you'll be insulating, and spray the foam across the wall in thin, even layers, much the way that you would if you were spray painting.
If you apply too thick a layer, the foam will be too heavy as it expands, and it may just fall off of the wall. The thin layer will slowly dry and expand to a thickness of about an inch. Once it reaches an inch of thickness, you can apply another layer for added protection.
Make sure that you use safety goggles and protective clothing while installing the insulation. The last thing that you want is spray foam insulation in your eyes and hair. If you're unsure about your ability to protect yourself and your house while applying spray foam, consider hiring experts to handle the job instead of doing it yourself.