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Why Being Careful with Spray Foam Insulation can Pay Off in the End

5 November 2013

Of all the green home renovations a homeowner can make, spray foam insulation is one of the most popular. Mike Holmes, celebrity contractor, has helped make the alternative insulation extremely popular in this country by endorsing it on his show Holmes and Homes, and the more people hear, the more they like it. Today spray foam insulation is installed into 300,000 to 400,000 Canadian homes every year, because homeowners believe it will increase the energy-efficiency of their home, and be more durable than other types of insulation used in the past. But while spray foam insulation can in fact be a green home renovation, just like anything else homeowners need to be very careful about the contractor they hire to do it.

As you can see watching many popular home renovation shows, spray foam combines two chemicals together before it’s sprayed through a hose onto the walls to keep heat and cold in or out of the home. But mixing the material isn’t easy. It’s an entire process of mixing it thoroughly at the right temperature, and then layering the insulation on. If this process is done incorrectly, the foam won’t cure properly and so will crack or cause off-gassing, a problem that results in the entire home stinking – sometimes to the point where homeowners can no longer stay there.

And once it’s in, it’s not so easy to get it out if there was a problem during the installation process.

There are simply no protocols laid out currently to tell contractors how to remove the foam, and that’s why some companies stay away from removal entirely. And even if the homeowner can find someone who will take the foam out of their home, it’s still going to cost them thousands of dollars to do it. After that, the homeowners may still be living with the foam – and its possible health repercussions – afterwards.

Bernie Bloom is an air quality scientists from Maryland. He says, “If you try to hack the foam out mechanically, you make foam dust, and the foam dust travels. Air moves through the house, and you wind up with foam dust in house dust.”

The only recourse homeowners have at the moment is to contact the Canadian Urethane Foam Contractors Association (CUFCA) – and that’s only if their contractor is certified through the organization. This is the organization that certifies contractors to install foam insulation, but the courses the contractors have to attend are often only a few days long; and some wonder if that’s long enough to fully understand this type of insulation, and the proper installation processes for it. The CUFCA says that they try to help customers who have had a problem with their insulation installed by one of the CUFCA contractors.

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll look at how to deal with this kind of insulation when you want it in your home, and to try your best to ensure that it won’t cause you problems in the future.

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