Design Trends

Spray Foam Insulation

We recently invited a vendor to provide a brief training session to our staff  on spray foam insulation. We wanted clarity on the efficiency, durability and potential downsides of this type of insulation and learned about the details of open cell and closed cell foam insulation, including a few pros and cons of each.

Closed cell insulation, which has a tighter cell structure, is often used in walls to provide a barrier against air leakage. Closed cell insulation can be used in basements to protect against dampness, but may not provide a complete solution for all homes. It can also be be used in crawlspace walls and many other places. The disadvantages of the closed cell foam is that it’s denser, requires more material, and therefore, is more expensive.

Open cell insulation can be also used in many areas of the home, including roofs, because it’s vapor permeable. Hence, if your roof develops a leak, you’ll find out sooner rather than later. With closed cell foam, rook leakage could go undetected, allowing water to collect between the roof and the foam. The advantages of the open cell foam is that it’s lighter, requires less material, and therefore, is less expensive than closed cell insulation.

Both types of foam insulation show strong durability, although closed cell foam will generally last longer and provide better insulation. Additionally, there are both traditional and “green” spray foam products that may offer the right solution for your home. And, you might also consider other insulation alternatives, including denim insulation, made from post-consumer recycled denim scraps.

Like all insulation, foam comes with comes with potential downsides. On the website, we read that “Urethanes are non-toxic and only require protection for our operators during installations, but the finished product is completely safe and has no formaldehydes.”  Yet, some homeowners believe that out-gassing is possible and have reported reactions to it. If you have chemical sensitivities or worry about other hazards, it’s important to research this, and any potentially offensive materials that will be installed in your home.

As with any other service, installation plays a critical role in the success of your project. Buying good paint, but then having it applied by a non-seasoned painter will yield vastly different results than having seasoned painter do the job. Hiring a professional, licensed and competent foam insulation installer will ensure the best results.

Questions? Comments? Reach me today at (301) 946-2356 or

David Merrick
Merrick Design and Build

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