Spray foam: safe, effective insulation option

The first time I saw spray foam insulation in action was in the winter of 1988, while working as a carpenter on a commercial construction site. I’ve been impressed with this stuff ever since.

Over the years spray foam has slowly earned growing acceptance in more and more residential projects and there are good reasons why. Spray foam delivers amazing energy performance because it does three things well: it seals perfectly to limit air leakage into your home, it delivers significant insulating value and it solves moisture and condensation problems in cold climates like nothing else can. In fact, spray foam is the only reliable choice for some very specific and common Canadian home insulation challenges.

But as good as all this is, people are afraid of spray foam these days. I see it every time I recommend the stuff. And the crazy thing is, knee-jerk fear of foam is not only unfounded, it also keeps Canadians from enjoying more comfortable, more economical houses.

Canada is a country with some of the widest seasonal temperature swings in the world. This gives us the incentive to be leading innovators of air sealing and insulation technology, and one company I’ve had long experience with has done just that. Icynene (icynene.com) is a Canadian firm that developed a unique, water-blown, high-performance type of spray foam 30 years ago. It hit the market in 1986 and I first recommended it in 2005. That’s when my parents-in-law dealt with a long-standing wintertime condensation problem in an unheated attic storage area off an upstairs bedroom.

Warm air would creep around the door into the storage area during cold weather, forming condensation and frost on the underside of the roof sheathing. Warm weather eventually melted this frost, causing water damage to the rooms below. Icynene spray foam solved the condensation problem by turning the former cold space into a heated part of the house. Warm indoor air never came in contact with cold surfaces any more, so no frost formed.

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