Launch Slideshow

Johns Manville. The companys offerings include JM Corbond III, a medium-density closed-cell polyurethane foam with an R-value of 6.6 per inch that can be used alone or in hybrid systems with fiberglass to create affordable applications. New to the portfolio is ocSPF, an open-cell insulation with an R-value of 3.8 per inch; according to the maker, the products blowing agents are made with 100% reactive catalysts to minimize emissions during spraying. Finally, the manufacturer offers IB Coating, a fire-retardant spray that adheres to polyurethane foam and other substrates to provide an ignition barrier. JM ocSPF and JM IB Coating have been third-party certified by ICC-ES, and JM Corbond has been third-party tested by IAPMO-ES. 800.654.3103. www.jm.com.

Spray-Foam Insulation

6 Spray-Foam Options

Spray-Foam Insulation

6 Spray-Foam Options

  • Demilec. Sealection 500 open-cell, spray-applied, semi-rigid polyurethane foam is fully water-blown and delivers an R-value of 3.81 per inch. The companys premium product, Agribalance, is a water-blown open-cell foam that contains more than 10% renewable agricultural-based materials and delivers R-4.45 per inch. Both products are certified by Energy Star and EcoLogo. Finally, Heatlok Soy closed-cell foam is made of recycled plastic materials and renewable soy oils, and uses Enovate 3000, a blowing agent the firm says has a low GWP. It offers R-6.6 per inch and carries Energy Star, Air Barrier Association of America, and Greenguard certifications. Sealection Agribalance and Heatlok Soy meet Biobased Affirmative Procurement Program criteria. 877.336.4532. www.demilecusa.com.

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    Demilec. Sealection 500 open-cell, spray-applied, semi-rigid polyurethane foam is fully water-blown and delivers an R-value of 3.81 per inch. The companys premium product, Agribalance, is a water-blown open-cell foam that contains more than 10% renewable agricultural-based materials and delivers R-4.45 per inch. Both products are certified by Energy Star and EcoLogo. Finally, Heatlok Soy closed-cell foam is made of recycled plastic materials and renewable soy oils, and uses Enovate 3000, a blowing agent the firm says has a low GWP. It offers R-6.6 per inch and carries Energy Star, Air Barrier Association of America, and Greenguard certifications. Sealection Agribalance and Heatlok Soy meet Biobased Affirmative Procurement Program criteria. 877.336.4532. www.demilecusa.com.

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    Demilec.
    Sealection 500 open-cell, spray-applied, semi-rigid polyurethane foam is fully water-blown and delivers an R-value of 3.81 per inch. The companys premium product, Agribalance, is a water-blown open-cell foam that contains more than 10% renewable agricultural-based materials and delivers R-4.45 per inch. Both products are certified by Energy Star and EcoLogo. Finally, Heatlok Soy closed-cell foam is made of recycled plastic materials and renewable soy oils, and uses Enovate 3000, a blowing agent the firm says has a low GWP. It offers R-6.6 per inch and carries Energy Star, Air Barrier Association of America, and Greenguard certifications. Sealection Agribalance and Heatlok Soy meet Biobased Affirmative Procurement Program criteria. 877.336.4532. www.demilecusa.com.

  • BASF. Comfort Foam and Spraytite medium-density, closed-cell spray polyurethane foam insulations provide an R-value of 6.7 per inch and 6.6 per inch, respectively, and meet FEMA guidelines as suitable insulation materials for flood regions. Also in the companys portfolio is Enertite, a low-density, open-cell water-blown polyurethane foam that delivers an R-value of 3.5 per inch. All three products are Energy Star and Greenguard listed and incorporate renewable, sucrose-based polyols and recycled and/or bio content. 800.526.1072. www.basf.com.

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    BASF. Comfort Foam and Spraytite medium-density, closed-cell spray polyurethane foam insulations provide an R-value of 6.7 per inch and 6.6 per inch, respectively, and meet FEMA guidelines as suitable insulation materials for flood regions. Also in the companys portfolio is Enertite, a low-density, open-cell water-blown polyurethane foam that delivers an R-value of 3.5 per inch. All three products are Energy Star and Greenguard listed and incorporate renewable, sucrose-based polyols and recycled and/or bio content. 800.526.1072. www.basf.com.

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    BASF.
    Comfort Foam and Spraytite medium-density, closed-cell spray polyurethane foam insulations provide an R-value of 6.7 per inch and 6.6 per inch, respectively, and meet FEMA guidelines as suitable insulation materials for flood regions. Also in the companys portfolio is Enertite, a low-density, open-cell water-blown polyurethane foam that delivers an R-value of 3.5 per inch. All three products are Energy Star and Greenguard listed and incorporate renewable, sucrose-based polyols and recycled and/or bio content. 800.526.1072. www.basf.com.

  • Johns Manville. The companys offerings include JM Corbond III, a medium-density closed-cell polyurethane foam with an R-value of 6.6 per inch that can be used alone or in hybrid systems with fiberglass to create affordable applications. New to the portfolio is ocSPF, an open-cell insulation with an R-value of 3.8 per inch; according to the maker, the products blowing agents are made with 100% reactive catalysts to minimize emissions during spraying. Finally, the manufacturer offers IB Coating, a fire-retardant spray that adheres to polyurethane foam and other substrates to provide an ignition barrier. JM ocSPF and JM IB Coating have been third-party certified by ICC-ES, and JM Corbond has been third-party tested by IAPMO-ES. 800.654.3103. www.jm.com.

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    Johns Manville. The companys offerings include JM Corbond III, a medium-density closed-cell polyurethane foam with an R-value of 6.6 per inch that can be used alone or in hybrid systems with fiberglass to create affordable applications. New to the portfolio is ocSPF, an open-cell insulation with an R-value of 3.8 per inch; according to the maker, the products blowing agents are made with 100% reactive catalysts to minimize emissions during spraying. Finally, the manufacturer offers IB Coating, a fire-retardant spray that adheres to polyurethane foam and other substrates to provide an ignition barrier. JM ocSPF and JM IB Coating have been third-party certified by ICC-ES, and JM Corbond has been third-party tested by IAPMO-ES. 800.654.3103. www.jm.com.

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    Johns Manville.
    The companys offerings include JM Corbond III, a medium-density closed-cell polyurethane foam with an R-value of 6.6 per inch that can be used alone or in hybrid systems with fiberglass to create affordable applications. New to the portfolio is ocSPF, an open-cell insulation with an R-value of 3.8 per inch; according to the maker, the products blowing agents are made with 100% reactive catalysts to minimize emissions during spraying. Finally, the manufacturer offers IB Coating, a fire-retardant spray that adheres to polyurethane foam and other substrates to provide an ignition barrier. JM ocSPF and JM IB Coating have been third-party certified by ICC-ES, and JM Corbond has been third-party tested by IAPMO-ES. 800.654.3103. www.jm.com.

  • BioBased. BioBased 502 and BioBased 1701s are made by incorporating Agrol polyol, a 96% soybean-based polyol. 502, a second-generation open-cell, water-blown spray-foam insulation, has 12% bio-content, offers an R-value of 13 at 3 1/2 inches, and is BRE-certified. A higher density, water-blown, closed-cell, 1.7-pound foam, 1701 serves as an air barrier and a Class II vapor retarder at 2 1/2 inches with an R-value of 19 at 3 1/2 inches; it has 16% bio-content and is certified to Greenguard Children & Schools. Both products are Class I fire-rated. 800.803.5189. www.biobased.net.

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    BioBased. BioBased 502 and BioBased 1701s are made by incorporating Agrol polyol, a 96% soybean-based polyol. 502, a second-generation open-cell, water-blown spray-foam insulation, has 12% bio-content, offers an R-value of 13 at 3 1/2 inches, and is BRE-certified. A higher density, water-blown, closed-cell, 1.7-pound foam, 1701 serves as an air barrier and a Class II vapor retarder at 2 1/2 inches with an R-value of 19 at 3 1/2 inches; it has 16% bio-content and is certified to Greenguard Children & Schools. Both products are Class I fire-rated. 800.803.5189. www.biobased.net.

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    BioBased.
    BioBased 502 and BioBased 1701s are made by incorporating Agrol polyol, a 96% soybean-based polyol. 502, a second-generation open-cell, water-blown spray-foam insulation, has 12% bio-content, offers an R-value of 13 at 3 1/2 inches, and is BRE-certified. A higher density, water-blown, closed-cell, 1.7-pound foam, 1701 serves as an air barrier and a Class II vapor retarder at 2 1/2 inches with an R-value of 19 at 3 1/2 inches; it has 16% bio-content and is certified to Greenguard Children & Schools. Both products are Class I fire-rated. 800.803.5189. www.biobased.net.

  • Icynene. The companys portfolio of 100% water-blown spray-foam insulation products ranges from 0.5-pound light density to 2.0-pound medium density. LD-R-50 contains renewable content greater than 7% based on ASTM D 6686 testing and exceeds the renewable content specification set by the USDA BioPreferred program and ICC-SAVE; it offers an R-value of 3.7 per inch. MD-R-200 medium-density spray foam has many of the performance characteristics of a closed-cell product, but since it does not rely on synthetic blowing agents, it has extremely low Global Warming Potential. Compared to its light-density products, MD-R-200 has higher R-value per inch of 5.2, higher compressive strength, higher tensile strength, and lower vapor permeance, and it contains up to 12.6% recycled plastic in the resin. Icynene products comply as Low-Emitting Materials under Collaborative for High Performance Schools EQ 2.2 Section 01350. 800.758.7325. www.icynene.com.

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    Icynene. The companys portfolio of 100% water-blown spray-foam insulation products ranges from 0.5-pound light density to 2.0-pound medium density. LD-R-50 contains renewable content greater than 7% based on ASTM D 6686 testing and exceeds the renewable content specification set by the USDA BioPreferred program and ICC-SAVE; it offers an R-value of 3.7 per inch. MD-R-200 medium-density spray foam has many of the performance characteristics of a closed-cell product, but since it does not rely on synthetic blowing agents, it has extremely low Global Warming Potential. Compared to its light-density products, MD-R-200 has higher R-value per inch of 5.2, higher compressive strength, higher tensile strength, and lower vapor permeance, and it contains up to 12.6% recycled plastic in the resin. Icynene products comply as Low-Emitting Materials under Collaborative for High Performance Schools EQ 2.2 Section 01350. 800.758.7325. www.icynene.com.

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    Icynene.
    The companys portfolio of 100% water-blown spray-foam insulation products ranges from 0.5-pound light density to 2.0-pound medium density. LD-R-50 contains renewable content greater than 7% based on ASTM D 6686 testing and exceeds the renewable content specification set by the USDA BioPreferred program and ICC-SAVE; it offers an R-value of 3.7 per inch. MD-R-200 medium-density spray foam has many of the performance characteristics of a closed-cell product, but since it does not rely on synthetic blowing agents, it has extremely low Global Warming Potential. Compared to its light-density products, MD-R-200 has higher R-value per inch of 5.2, higher compressive strength, higher tensile strength, and lower vapor permeance, and it contains up to 12.6% recycled plastic in the resin. Icynene products comply as Low-Emitting Materials under Collaborative for High Performance Schools EQ 2.2 Section 01350. 800.758.7325. www.icynene.com.

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    CertainTeed. CertaSpray polyurethane foam insulation is offered in open- and closed-cell formulas. CertaSpray closed-cell, a medium-density, MDI-based thermoset rigid foam, delivers an R-value of 5.8 per inch. The open-cell formula, a low-density, MDI-based semi-rigid foam, offers an R-value of 3.7 per inch. The product has achieved ICC-ES approval and is certified under Greenguard and Greenguard Children & Schools. 800.233.8990. www.certainteed.com.

In addition, new blowing agents are in development, with several chemical companies expected to introduce fourth-generation blowing agents within the next two to three years, with zero ozone depletion characteristics and a radically improved climate change profile of less than 15 GWP, according to Duncan. The EBN article acknowledges that this would change the equation.

Recycling polyurethane foam presents another challenge. As a thermoset material, it cannot be melted or broken down into its components for reuse. This means that even jobsite waste is hard to recycle, so proper installation with minimum overspray is essential to achieve environmental efficiency. Foam can be shredded and used as packing material or filler, but given that foam sticks to building structures and is difficult to extract and separate from other materials during demolition, the labor, transportation, and processing costs required for reuse are not usually justified.

Toxic Blowing Agents and Fire Proofing

Fully cured polyurethane foam contains no residual off-gassing. Nevertheless, foam insulation contains hazardous chemicals such as benzene and toluene, which pose a potential hazard concern during manufacture, transport, and installation. This is why installers must be trained and wear protective gear—a portion of the blowing agents in closed-cell foam dissipate during installation, releasing VOCs and greenhouse gases during application.

Manufacturers no longer use polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), synthetic fire-resistance chemicals that pose grave health and environmental risks, but concerns remain with their replacement. Many manufacturers now use halogenated retardants that pose a health risk to installers and occupants if the foam burns. Safer chemicals exist, such as triethyl phosphate (TEP), a non-halogenated fire retardant, and some manufacturers are moving in this direction.

Regardless of its petroleum makeup and toxicity during application, foam products provide such compelling durability, air infiltration, moisture management, and energy-saving advantages that their use continues to grow. Manufacturers are working to keep improving their products from an environmental perspective, including a new generation of high-density open-cell, water-blown foam.

Cost remains the most significant market barrier to more prevalent use of foam in the building industry at large, but some contractors have found ways to obtain the advantages of foam while shaving off some of the increased cost. For example, some builders use a hybrid insulation system called “flash and batt,” applying 1 to 2 inches of closed-cell spray foam to a wall cavity first followed by a standard fiberglass batt, cellulose, or, in some cases, even open-cell foam. This provides the air-sealing benefits, with improved R-value, at lower cost. Some builders use foam only in difficult-to-insulate areas, such as rim joists and eaves, where even the best installers have trouble matching the air seal and vapor-retardant qualities of foam.

Fernando Pagés Ruiz develops ecologically minded affordable housing in the Midwest and mountain states. His two books, Building an Affordable House and Affordable Remodel, are available from The Taunton Press.