Another Reason Why Foam Fails – Its R Value Degrades!

Ken from High Performance Building Supply has published his 3rd article on Foam Failures…Thanks Ken for the info:


Reason Foam Fails #3 – Degrading Thermal Insulation Values

Posted on May 16, 2013 by 475ken

Polyisocyanurate (polyiso),  XPS and spray closed-cell foams substantially degrade over time as the insulating blowing agent gases diffuse out and plain air diffuses in.  How much does it degrade and at what rate?    To answer, industry has come up with something called Long Term Thermal Resistance (LTTR) testing.   LTTR testing takes into account degradation by providing R-values measured on a time weighted average over the “long term”.

What do you suppose is meant by long term?   100 years?  75 years?  50 years? 25 years?  No.   According to industry “long term” is 15 years.

How could this be?    To answer that, we need to understand that foam is viewed, by-and-large, by industry, as flat roofing material.  Foam started on flat roofs and its testing and evaluations have been set based on those industry parameters.   As foam use has grown to cover entire buildings – the parameters for testing and evaluation have largely remained stuck at roofs.

So again, why 15 years?  Because industry says that 15 years is the average life of a commercial roof.  At which time, presumably, it all gets replaced.   However, with closed-cell foam now buried in facades and framing it may be more reasonable to assume that – in all these non-flat commercial roof situations – the foam won’t be removed and replaced.

So let’s talk crazy and assume you’re planning on having the closed-cell foam stay in place on the building indefinitely – for 25, 50, 75 years or more, what then?   What’s the weighted average over the actual functioning life of the foam installation?    There’s no data.   No one can tell you.   The only thing we know for sure is that it is going down, down, down.

The chemical companies that make foam are tight-lipped about leakage rates.   When Alex Wilson andJohn Straube looked to leaking gases to examine the global warming impact of some of these foams for Alex’s article Avoiding the Global Warming Impact of Insulation – they were left having to make educated guesses.   They explained their guess of 50% depletion over its useful lifetime as being conservative.

This general lack of understanding has been well know and documented for many years including an authoritative January 1988 article, Aging of Cellular Plastics: A Comprehensive Bibliography, in The Journal of Thermal Insulation by Ronald P. Tye.  And still today, 25 years later, architects, consultants and builders have no solid idea what the true insulating value of that closed-cell foam that they are wrapping their “high-performance” buildings in.   Astonishing, no?

The onus is on the chemical companies to prove their products effectiveness through clear and useful information on truly long-term performance.   If you are putting foam in place that is intended to stay there for 50 years or more – then the test data should reflect that.    A 15 year average is not long term.

To add insult to injury the data that the chemical companies have provided on LTTR is substantially misleading, overstating the R-values by 6% for polyiso and 10-25% for XPS, according to a study by Sachchida N. Singh and Paul D. Coleman of the Huntsman Advanced Technology Center.

As the rate of diffusion generally decreases at a slower rate over time, the LTTR 15 year time weighted average is typically represented by the insulation value measured at five years of aging.   The National Roofing Contractors Association have also completed independent LTTR testing and conclude in an article by Mark Graham in Professional Roofing, in January 2006:

Seventeen of the 20 samples tested exhibited R-values less than their established LTTR values. All these samples were less than five years old, the relative age the LTTR methodology is intended to represent.  Four of the samples with R-values less than the established LTTR values were less than one year old.  On the basis of this data, a positive bias in the LTTR methodology clearly is apparent—that is, the LTTR methodology appears to overstate a product’s actual R-value at five years of relative aging.

So if independent testing has demonstrated that the R values are consistently being overstated by manufacturers – geez, I wonder,  industry wide, how much lost energy and money to consumers these overstatements might represent?

But for the moment it seems we are stuck with these “long term” tests – so what are some of the parameters?   A key parameter is that the foam is tested with an exterior mean reference temperature of 75 F.   This may make  perfectly good sense if you are in the roofing industry – roofs get darn hot after all.  But what if the external temperature is lower?  What if you dare use foam insulation on a wall?  Or soffit? With a vented rainscreen in front of it? Or a north facing one at that?    What happens if the exterior temperature is freezing?   The foam performs substantially still worse.    The Building Science Corporation recently issued a paper identifying some of these temperature testing anomalies, extensively referencing the work, from 2003 through 2010, of the NRCA.

Although polyisocyanurate in heating climates is typically sold by the chemical companies as R6 or 6.5, based on it’s testing of non-aged foam, at colder, more realistic temperatures, the NRCA concluded in 2010 that in heating climates specifiers and designers should use an in-place design value of R5.

Mark Graham of NRCA wrote in Professional Roofing Magazine:

Although the LTTR method of R-value determination and reporting may be appropriate for laboratory analysis, research comparison and procurement purposes, NRCA does not consider LTTR use to be appropriate for roof system design purposes when actual in-service R-value can be an important aspect of roof system performance.

One wonders what the recommendation should be for foam walls with vented siding over 50 years in a cold climate?  Can we reasonably speculate that the polyiso foam should be valued at less than R5?  How low should we go?   We don’t dare speculate.

The chemical companies are not going to change unless they are forced to change.   As long as you keep specifying and installing foam, you will never know what you have 25 years from now.

So as opposed to foam where you don’t know what you’ll have 25 years from now, look at dense-pack cellulose and fiberglass, mineral wool, wood fiberboard, cork and cellular glass – insulations that will, when properly installed, maintain their R-value indefinitely; and in their reliability, provide true high performance.

This post is the third in a series called Foam Fails.


Aging of Cellular Plastics: A Comprehensive Bibliography, by Ronald P. Tye, Dynatech Scientific Inc, Journal of Thermal Insulation, January 1988

Avoiding the Global Warming Impact of Insulation, by Alex Wilson,  Environmental Building News, June 2010.

Accelerated Aging Test Methods for Predicting the Long Term Thermal Resistance of Closed-Cell Foam Insulation, by Sachchida N. Singh and Paul D. Coleman, Huntsman Advanced Technology Center

Info-502: Temperature Dependence of R-values in Polyisocyanurate Roof Insulation,  By Building Science Corporation   Created: 2013/04/11

Revised R-values NRCA has revised its longstanding design R-value recommendation for polyisocyanurate insulation, by Mark S. Graham, Professional Roofing Magazine, December 2010

R-value concerns, by Mark S. Graham, Professional Roofing Magazine, May 2010

Testing LTTR, Research reveals the LTTR method may be over-reporting results, By Mark s. Graham,  Professional Roofing Magazine, January 2006

Testing polystyrenes’ R-values: R-value tests for polystyrene insulation produce mixed results, by Mark s. Graham,  Professional Roofing Magazine, May 2011

Childrens EPA – Nancy Swan and SPF Dangers

Here is a blog post from Nancy Swan, Director of Children’s Environmental Protection Alliance known as Children’s EPA

Proposed Connecticut House Bill 5908 -To protect the health and safety of spray foam insulation installers and their customers,

Introduced by: General Law Committee,  referred by House to Committee on the Environment on April 4, 2013
To monitor status of this Bill:
Proposed Connecticut House Bill 5908: an act concerning safety and certification standards for the spray Foam Insulation Industry.
Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) Spray on Foam roofing and insulation industry has been named by the US EPA and major health organizations as responsible for injuring schoolchildren, employees, and homeowners for more than thirty years, yet no state or federal government has succeeded in regulating this powerful and reckless industry.
The SPF industry continues to exploit a regulatory loophole which causes tens of thousands of injuries and deaths – each year.  Storage of deadly chemicals and their use in the manufacture of products and safety of employees is regulated only in manufacturing facilities.  However, SPF are transported off-site where manufacture of the foam takes place in individual homes, businesses, day cares, and schools.
Odd as it may seem,  SPF applicators are not required to be certified in the safe storage, manufacture or application of one of the most deadly chemicals manufactured – isocyanate. SPF sellers are too eager to make a profit and applicators are “intermediaries.”
The Intermediary Defense is a legal term used to manipulate the judge and confuse juries by pointing the finger of blame at each other- the manufacture or the applicator- so that neither is held accountable for injuries.
As a result the failure to regulate the SPF industry, innocent consumers and inhabitants of these buildings are not warned of the known and potential health dangers caused by SPF, no first aid is provided, and injury and death end up drawn out in civil court for sometimes fifteen or more years, like my case.
Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) roofing, Spray on Foam roofing and insulation, and Spray on Foam sealant have been heavily marketed to school boards around the world for the last 30 years as a “green solution.”   A bill has been introduced in Connecticut to regulate the use of Spray on Foam products.
Get involved:
  • If you live in Connecticut, call your lawmaker to support CT H. B. 5908.
  • If you live outside Connecticut, write a letter in support of federal SPF regulation to President Obama using the CT Bill 5908.
  • Ask national and state health and environment organization to fax a letter of support to CT House Committee on the Environment.
Spray on Foam products may help to reduce energy consumption BUT SPF increases a children’s exposure to deadly, asthma causing, and cancer-causing chemicals.
Spray on Foam is a dangerous product which if properly or improperly applied, cured, and maintained can seriously injury or kill you or your child.
The terms “Green” and “Green solution” are not regulated by USA and most other countries, and therefore have no useful meaning to school boards or to the consumer.  “Green” and “Green solution” are product and advertiser hype words only.
Sale and use of this product needs to be tightly regulated throughout the USA and other countries.

Spray on Foam products seriously and permanently injured me and more than two dozen children at the school where I had been teaching.   Toxic Justice – Nancy Swan

This tragedy is happening in every city and thousands of schools across the USA.
How can you prevent this product from harming you or your child?
After watching the following video, please visit
Bill to regulate Spray on Foam use in Connecticut
Tags: SPF, Spray Polyurethane Foam, SPF Insulation, Spray On Foam, Spray On Foam Roofing, Spray on Foam Sealant, Spray on Foam products, School Board, Brain damage, Asthma, Green Solution, Green, Connecticut, WTIC, Homeowners, insulation, Children’s EPA, Toxic Justice, legislation, environment, health, children’s health, asthma, brain damage, respiratory irritant, cancer, American Chemical Council, EPA, CDC, Connecticut, H. B. 5908, chemical safety, OSHA, FEMA, NIOSH, CDC

Of Course It Will Take A Mom To Fight This…Time To Mom UP.

The couch is gaining a ton of attention because it is filled with flame retardants – But Hello??? What do you think is in the foam of your spray foam insulation??? And yes, it does become part of your interior envelop, so to all the ignorant architects protecting the projects you spec’d over the years, wake up. Your pretty, energy efficient homes are flame retardant filled dust boxes, sleep well and karma sucks.

This blog from LaurasRules is priceless…

Dear Governor Brown and Chief Blood:

After years of being duped by stooges from the chemical industry, you have finally taken a big step in the right direction.

Your proposed rule on flame retardants in furniture (TB 117-2013) would greatly improve the lives of both Californians and the rest of America, which buys furniture impacted by California’s standards, by allowing furniture makers to drop the use of IQ-destroying, fertility-lowering, carcinogenic chemicals.

In fact, your previous “fire safety” standards did not protect public safety, as tests by federal regulators show, because they delay a fire by only 2-3 seconds, while making smoke, toxicity and soot worse. A comprehensive paper by Arlene Blum and other leading scientists, “Halogenated Flame Retardants: Do the Fire Safety Benefits Justify the Risks?” from Reviews on Environmental Health in 2010 (pdf link here) explains, on pages 281-2:

Laboratory research on TB117 supports this lack of measurable fire safety benefit. A study at the National Bureau of Standards in 1983 showed that following ignition, the important fire hazard indicators (peak heat release rate and the time to peak) were the same in TB117-compliant furniture where the foam was treated with chemical flame retardants and in non-treated furniture. A small flame was able to ignite both regular furniture and furniture meeting the TB117 standard—once ignited, the fire hazard was essentially identical for both types.

A 1995 report from the Proceedings of the Polyurethane Foam Association provides further evidence that TB117 does not improve fire safety. Small open flame and cigarette ignition tests were performed separately on 15 fabrics covering TB117 type polyurethane foam, conventional polyurethane foam, and polyester fiber wrap between the fabric cover and the foam cores. The study found no improvement in ignition or flame spread from a small open flame or cigarette ignition propensity using TB117-compliant foam.

The authors also provide other reasons why the old California test, which exposed the internal foam directly to flame, is pointless — for one, because the fabric often also catches on fire and can provide its own ignition source.

In fact, though its not due to chemicals, the number of people (and children) who die in a fire has gone down dramatically over the past century, which makes sense when you think about the absence of headlines about cows allegedly knocking over lanterns and lighting whole cities ablaze. It’s a resounding victory for public safety measures, as these numbers from the National Fire Protection Association (pdf) indicate:

Out of a million Americans, average number who died of unintentional injury due to fire:
in 2007: 9

in 1992: 16

in 1977: 29

in 1962: 41

in 1947: 56

in 1932: 57

in 1917: 105

Nonetheless, California evidently was taken in by chemical company goons posing as fire safety “experts” touting lies and exploiting the tragic deaths of infants for their own profits.

Interestingly, California lacks a law that provides penalties under the law for lying to state officials or lawmakers. In contrast, federal law has criminal penalties for intentional deception of a federal official, and the federal rulemaking docket at the CPSC on flame retardants, curiously, does not have any comments on burned babies as a part of the submissions. My conclusion? You guys should get one of those laws that makes it illegal to lie to you about important things.

In this case, the consequences were awful. For all of us, really. Because of your terrible judgment, we have pounds of dangerous and pointless chemicals in our homes, in our indoor air, and in the bloodstreams of our children. As the Blum papersays:

Many of these chemicals are now recognized as global contaminants and are associated with adverse health effects in animals and humans, including endocrine and thyroid disruption, immunotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, cancer, and adverse effects on fetal and child development and neurologic function.

Given that a recent paper reported on by the New York Times, found flame retardants in the blood of 100 percent — every single! — toddler they tested.

How many kids have you put at risk? Let’s make a rough estimate. A table under the Population tab on this page indicates that there are an estimated 50.7 million children in the U.S. ages 0-11 today. The CPSC study (pdf) as to chlorinated tris (just one of these chemicals) in 2006 specifically concluded:

The estimated cancer risk for a lifetime of exposure to TDCP-treated upholstered furniture was 300 per million. In children, the estimated cancer risk from exposure during the first two years of life alone was 20 per million. Both of these risks exceed one-in-a-million. A substance may be considered hazardous if the lifetime individual cancer risk exceeds one-in-a-million.

So the overall risk for a child from exposure to tris is 20 times 50 million children, orone thousand kids (extra) with cancer. And, sadly, childhood rates of the worst kinds of cancer are on the increase. According to the National Cancer Institute:

Over the past 20 years, there has been some increase in the incidence of children diagnosed with all forms of invasive cancer, from 11.5 cases per 100,000 children in 1975 to 14.8 per 100,000 children in 2004.

In fact, it appears that a person’s lifetime risk of dying of cancer is 192 times their risk of dying in a fire:

Lifetime odds of death for selected causes, United States, 2008*

Total, any cause 1 in 1

Heart disease 1 in 6

Cancer 1 in 7

Exposure to smoke, fire, and flames 1 in 1,344

And that’s just for cancer risks. There’s also reproductive harm, attention deficit issues, and other health damage linked to flame retardants. For just one example, here’ssobering coverage of a 2012 study linking maternal-fetal levels of PBDEs, another ubiquitous flame retardant found in 97 percent of the study subjects, to delayed development in the child at age 7.

In sum, you’ve royally screwed up. The best thing to do when you’ve made a colossal error in judgment? Apologize and try your best to make it right.

There’s really no two ways about it, California: you owe Americans a new couch. One that won’t poison our homes and make our children sick. One that won’t show up in our bloodstreams, ‘fer Pete’s sake.

Seriously. This is really not too much to ask, given the harm you’ve caused. IMHO, the chemical companies could pay for it out of the profits they made peddling all that cancerous stuff. Certainly, the good people of California, who have the highest levels of flame retardants in their bodies in the world, have suffered enough.

At any rate, I look forward to hearing from you. A (flame-retardant-free) loveseat in a nice brown or beige would do just fine.

All best,


Blog Link Here

Why Plastic Foam Insulation Is Like a Twinkie: Lessons Green Builders Can Learn From Michael Pollan

Tree Hugger has a fantastic point about SPF in the following article.

As for my own experience, I can vouch for the fact that SPF will never be a ‘green’ product for many reason, but one obvious reason is this stuff does not biodegrade.

When we had to remove over a hundred plastic bags filled with failed or bad SPF from our home, it was very obvious that this will sit in a dump somewhere – for-EVER!

Lloyd Alter
Design / Green Architecture
December 20, 2012Green building means different things to different people, but improved insulation and reducing energy use is certainly up at the top of everyone’s list. Some of the most effective insulations are made from plastic foam, either in rigid boards or sprayed foams.

But there are concerns; Architect Ken Levenson recently wrote a controversial article, Why Foam Fails. Reason #1: Dangerous Toxic Ingredients, which was the start of a series that is very critical of foam insulation. I wrote about it in Does Foam Insulation Belong in Green Buildings? 13 Reasons It Probably Doesn’t and at the Green Building Advisor, the discussion almost turned into a flame war between those who think that plastic foam does a great job, and those who agree with Ken Levenson.

The more I read the discussion at Green Building Advisor, the more I thought that the arguments sounded familiar. At TreeHugger we have covered both green buildings and green food, and the arguments about the merits of plastic insulation vs natural products, what we put in our houses, are almost identical to those we have been having about what we put in out mouths.

Consider the Twinkie.

Consider the Twinkie. It sort of looks like polyurethane foam and lasts about as long. It’s made from “37 or so ingredients, many of which are polysyllabic chemical compounds.” (see them all here). The manufacturer of Twinkies recently went bankrupt for the second time, not because of unions or Wall Street shenanigans, but because their sales had been declining for years. Peoples’ tastes changed and they simply were not buying as much of this kind of food. More people wanted real, more people wanted healthy, more people wanted something that may have been a little bit less efficient at delivering easy calories but on the whole did a better job of it.

Plastic foam is like that. It stops calories of heat dead in their tracks, it’s a very efficient insulator. Like the Twinkie it is made from a pile of chemicals that nobody really wants to know about. But there is a perceived price in health that people do not necessarily want to pay any more.

If we are going to think of building materials like we do about food, We should learn from the master, Michael Pollan. I have taken his wonderful little book,Food Rules, and have reinterpreted his rules for the building industry, subsituting “build” for “eat” and “building products” for “food.” A lot of them apply.

Full Article Here

Blog in Scientific American Concerning Flame Retardants – A Concern to Homeowners with SPF


Spray foam insulation has LOTS of Chlorinated Tris flame retardants that also become part of the indoor air.   I do love that families are being educated about the dangers of couches and bedding that contain FR, but does it worry anyone else but me that SPF has it too?

Spray foam insulation encases entire homes so it would be reasonable to expect much more toxic dust in a home with SPF.

I think this gives us good reason to look more closely at SPF (aside from its off gassing and dangerous chemical make-up)

Here is another great article about the dangers of flame retardants by Kalliopi Monoyios from Scientific American.

Kalliopi Monoyios blogged:

Worse Than Bedbugs, It’s the Couch Itself

By Kalliopi Monoyios | November 28, 2012 |  Comments3
ShareShare  ShareEmail  PrintPrint


Last week, millions of Americans ceremoniously started the Holiday Gorge by putting off their diet and exercise resolutions as they helped themselves to another (and another?) slice of pie. Then, with the grace of an elephant in a tutu, they plopped triumphantly onto their favorite couch to bask in the bliss of their food comas. And while you’d have to be living in the most absurd bubble not to know that these types of lifestyle decisions – overeating, eating the wrong things, not exercising enough, and repeating day after day after day – are what’s killing most of us, many of us are not aware of another legitimate threat to our modern-day struggle to survive: it’s that couch you collapsed on.

See, when you sank down into the cushy goodness of your TB117 labelfavorite couch or chair, your freshly fed derriere forced the air out of those foam cushions and with it came a poof of dust. Ever wonder what’s in that dust? If pressed to answer what makes up the couch foam we sit on, most of us would shrug our shoulders and reply it’s foam and air, but most of us would be dead wrong. As it turns out, there is a third component very few of us know about: our couch foam is up to 11% by weight flame retardant chemicals. And according to two new studies released today in Environmental Science and Technology, these chemicals are not necessarily guests you’d have invited into your home for Thanksgiving or otherwise. One such chemical, Tris, was banned from children’s clothing in the 1970s because of concern over its ability to cause cancer, one is the globally-banned pentaBDE, a known hormone disruptor and neurotoxin in animals. And still others are completely untested for safety, despite structural similarities to known carcinogens and other toxic substances.

So back to that poof of dust displaced by your tush. The flame retardants in your couch foam don’t stay put; in fact, these pesky chemicals perpetually migrate out and are found in high concentrations in household dust (as if dust bunnies weren’t sinister enough). If it were as simple as sweeping this dust under the proverbial rug, that would be that. But blood samples confirm that these chemicals are making their way into our bodies. In 2004, Americans had more than 15 times the levels of pentaBDE in their systems than Europeans. And toddlers have 3 times the levels of adults. PentaBDE was phased out of furniture foam in 2004, but discouragingly, it is being replaced with our old friend Tris (see fig 1). Meanwhile, the option to purchase flame-retardant-free furniture is diminishing to essentially nothing.

graph of flame retardants found in couches 1984-presentFig. 1: Following a 2004 phase-out of pentaBDE, a known endocrine disruptor and neurotoxin in animals, furniture manufacturers are increasingly meeting fire safety standards by adding the flame retardant Tris to couches instead. Tris was banned from children’s clothing in the 1970s because of concern over its ability to cause cancer.

Nobody knows what elevated levels of these chemicals in our bodies means for our long-term health, but there have been some studies that suggest it is particularly worrisome for pregnant women and their developing fetuses. Even if you’re not a pregnant woman or a fetus, with cancer deaths due to environmental pollutants responsible for an estimated 30,000 deaths per year (compare that to 2650 deaths on average in house fires annually), known carcinogens in large concentrations in your home are probably something to be aware of. If you are one of the millions of people who have purged plastics containing bisphenol-A (BPA) from your life because of concerns over its ability to mimic estrogen in our bodies (and do nasty things like increase the risk of breast cancer), there’s no reason you shouldn’t be concerned about flame retardant chemicals for similar reasons. Even more so since BPA is removed from your body quickly after your last exposure to the chemical. In contrast, many flame retardants accumulate in your body fat and stick with you for years.

The kicker in all of this is that these flame retardant chemicals added to our furniture foam don’t even do what they should – that is, reduce risk of house fires, or increase our safety in the event of one. In the latter case, they may actually increase our risk; most fire deaths are due to smoke inhalation, not complications from burns, and flame retardants actually increase the amount of smoke and toxic gases. (In one study, pentaBDE doubled the smoke, created 7 times the carbon monoxide and 88 times the soot – all for a three second delay in ignition). Not only that, but when the flame retardants do burn, they produce dioxins and furans, highly toxic compounds believed to contribute to the higher rates of cancer among fire fighters.

So how are flame retardants at preventing fires in the first place? Unfortunately the data there are damning as well. The current requirement for fire safety is set by a California standard, TB117, which states that furniture foam must withstand exposure to an open flame for 12 seconds before igniting. In theory, this sounds good, but in practice, furniture foam is almost always safely encased in fabric, which itself can have flame retardant properties without the use of added chemicals. In fact, a study conducted by the Consumer Products Safety Commission estimated that 85% of upholstered furniture would require no change to their product to meet fire safety standards for smoldering if the flame retardant chemicals were eliminated from their foam. And while fire safety proponents cite the decline in upholstered fabric fires since the addition of these chemicals into our couch foam, the decline also correlates beautifully with the decrease in smoking since the 1980s. And smoking is by far the leading cause of upholstered fabric fires.

Decline in smoking

Of the average of 2650 people who die in house fires each year in the United States, only 500 deaths are attributable to fires that were started on upholstered furniture. This begs the question: are we exposing ourselves, our children and our pets daily to known toxic chemicals to prevent the extremely remote chance that we will be killed in a house fire? Considering there are smarter, safer ways to protect our favorite couch from being a fire hazard, we need to reevaluate California’s fire safety standard that sets the nation’s standard and in so doing, provide alternatives for concerned consumers.

Fortunately, the governor of California has called for a revised furniture standard in 2013 that aims to improve fire safety without requiring the use of unsafe flame retardants. If the proposed changes are implemented, it should be possible to purchase fire-safe furniture without added flame retardants in the foam by next summer.


Mark Brinkley Blogs Spot

I found a blog out of the UK that covers SPF problems back to 2006.

It is a good read;

21 MAR 2009

On Icynene

Icynene has arrived in the UK. What is it and why should it raise you from your slumber? It’s a spray-in foam insulation system, hailing from Canada and its makers claim you can get PassivHaus style performance from it without having to build walls and roofs which are 500mm thick. In fact, it gets used in the high Artic where the temperature falls to minus 60°C at only 90mm thickness.I interviewed Jeff Hood, one of Icynene’s owners and the man responsible for bringing the product into Europe. Since the company’s formation in 1986 in Toronto, it’s achieved spectacular growth in North America and now accounts for around 5% of installations in US new housing. It works equally well in hot climates as in cold. Unlike the more common polyurethane foams, Icynene is blown with water: this was originally done to avoid formaldehyde off gassing but they have stuck with it to produce a unique sponge-like product that remains flexible. This flexibility is one of the keys to its success because it produces a truly airtight barrier and one that will stay airtight indefinitely. Hood tells me that this factor alone makes Icynene much more effective than almost any other insulation system. “We don’t believe boards are really effective because the caulking around them is never going to be done perfectly and in any event it will crack over time.”

So far all well and good. However, Icynene faces one or two problems before it can become widely adopted in Europe. “Europe is U value obsessed,” says Hood. “We believe we can get excellent performance from this product at fairly minimal thicknesses and that, whilst we could apply it at 300mm depth, there is no point because the performance improvement is absolutely minimal. Why waste footprint needlessly?”

Europe however is still feeling the effects of a nasty little tiff with the multifoil industry which, in truth, is still not satisfactorily resolved. The multifoil manufacturers make very similar claims and thus far have not been able to establish them via traditional testing methods. Icynene is a very different product to multifoil but the claims made by Hood and his colleagues have many similarities. Thus far Icynene has won BBA approval for use in walls and roofs, but only as a substitute (in performance terms) with glass fibre and/or polystyrene, which makes it rather poorer than the polyurethane family. But Hood’s contention is that it’s actually much better than all the other available mainstream insulation products and to prove it he has hired the building scientists at Napier University in Edinburgh to run some tests on Icynene in their laboratory in Glenrothes, a facility I visited last year with the UK Timber Frame Association. Results should be available soon. If they confirm Hood’s contentions, it could re-ignite the debate over the effectiveness of the established testing method, the guarded hotbox test.

Many people will think that we’ve been here before. The multifoil debate raged for many years and it was all based around the validity or otherwise of the guarded hot box as being the best (or only) method for measuring the effectiveness of insulation materials. The difference this time is that, in Icynene, we have a manufacturer who can quite happily supply insulation at any thickness. As Hood explained to me: “We can spray at whatever thickness the client wants, we just don’t want to waste their money, or use more material or footprint than is necessary. We think that’s green. And we think the move in Europe towards PassivHaus-style massive insulation is a costly mistake.” With Icynene installed in over 200,000 buildings including several LEED platinum standards, it could be that our future insulation standards could once again be up for debate.


  1. One must remember that insulation performance is subject to a reciprocal law: to halve your heat loss you have to double the insulation thickness – and each successive doubling is halving and increasingly smaller amount. Diminishing returns set in very rapidly. It really is serious overkill to go for 300mm of fibreglass if you haven’t built airtight in the 1st place. This is why Icynene does so well in a Canadian context: airtightness is enshrined in the building practices here as are the requisite ventilation systems to reduce heatloss due to the minimum air exchange required to remove indoor pollutants. Icynene gives the ability to achieve air tight construction in a straightforward way and is a good enough insulator that a huge thickness is not required. I believe there are quite a few other water blown polyurethane foams on the market over here though.



  2. This comment is actually from Jeff Hood himself made privately to me but he said it was fine for me to add it to the blog. Jeff writes:

    Hello Mark I enjoyed reading it and found it balanced and a good recap of our conversation. A couple of points:

    1. You refer to Icynene as a “sponge” which might cause people to think our foam soaks up water. In fact Icynene is hydrophobic and does not wick water as some other foams do. If Icynene ever did come in contact with liquid water the open cell structure permits it to drain and dry out.

    2. On the subject of the guarded hotbox. One problem I have with this test is that it is only performed at 22C or 70 F -which is when you don’t need insulation for comfort in your building
    - but coincidentally is where insulations have their best resistance to thermal conductivity on the hotbox test. You may be interested to know that in North America there is a movement championed by leading building scientists to have thermal conductivity tested over a range of temperatures from -50 to + 50C which would give a much more accurate look at the performance of an insulation when it is cold and when it is hot. The fact is that foam insulations lose only a small fraction, something like 15% of their effectiveness at low and high temperature extremes, whereas fibrous insulations are believed to lose a high percentage. What is proposed is a new metric where instead of a u value measured at only one temperature the consumer would receive a graph indicating the performance over the range of temperatures which would permit a much more informed choice. Needless to say some of the entrenched players in the insulation industry are fighting this tooth and nail.


  3. How come this stuff is so great when it only has the same thermal performance as mineral wool. Plus is must be more wastefull and messy. Just think about all the excess foam that needs to be cut off and sent to landfill!

    As for air tight constructions, that just is more than adequately done by a vapour control layer installed to the inside of the wall (timber frame).

    I see no place for this sort of material in any building context.



  4. “Anonymous” obviously has no idea what they’re talking about. There is no excess that is “cut off and sent to landfill”. Icynene is more effective than mineral wool because it is airtight, but still vapour permeable. Timber frame construction needs an airtightness barrier on the outside and a vapour control layer on the inside.



  5. Paul, of course there is excess – they shave the foam to install drywall. There is even more excess when an entire home has to remove its foam because it was installed wrong. This is happening very often.

  6. PaulM

    I am looking at the BBA certificate right now… it states in paragraph 14.5 “Once cured, the product is trimmed flat using a saw and covered with linin board.”

    If you look at the photo on the front of the BBA certificate, there is a LARGE excess of foam that will need to be removed and disposed of.

    As for air tightness layers, well that is a slightly different issue. HOWEVER, its straight U values are NO better than mineral wool. Are you suggesting that we stray away from a hotbox test and adopt real life testing of products in test challets?



  7. A word from Canada. There are a number of problems I see with Anonymous’ argument that good old fashioned fibrous insulation which was state of the art 60 years ago is all we need. Most building sites I visit don’t have pefectly installed batts with properly detailed air wraps and vapour barrier. The insulation crews I run into around the world are typically interested in getting in, getting out and getting paid – not in ensuring perfect installation and minimizing air leakage. What results is batts jammed in every which way and negligent detailing of barrier films leaving great air pathways open. To this add the way batts are mashed in around wires and pipes resulting in virtually no insulation value. No one is disputing that if you work hard enough and long enough at it you can get a reasonably airtight wall using fibrous insulation – for a time. Problem is that most big builders won’t cover the time and costs necessary to do it. The other problem is that fibrous insulations slump over time, due to gravity, leaving voids. I have a great photo of cars encased in ice in a house where a heated bedroom with ensuite bath was built over an unheated garage. The floor space over the garage was packed with a fibre insulation which subsided and the pipes froze and cracked in our sub zero winter weather resulting in a class action lawsuit against the builder and code changes by local authorities to mandate the use of foam insulation in horizontal applications like floors. In the UK with a relatively mild climate some builders have been able to get away with sloppy techniques in the past but the demands of new legislation to reduce CO2 emissions mean the old ways don’t work any more and we need to adopt new stategies. Soft foam insulation offers a proven and effective approach and provides effective air barrier as well as insulation. The issue of scarfed excess foam is just a red herring as uses exist for the material and techniques to minimize expansion beyond the studs also exist. The critical issue of our time is air leakage not u value which only describes a fraction of the total energy transfer in a building.


  8. JeffH

    Did I ever state that mineral wool/fibre insulaton is all we need?

    Fibre insulation, I believe will see a decline for a while (in the short to medium term (5 – 10 years)), in favour of rigid foil faced insulation products. I personally think, however, that over a longer time scale (10 – 30) years, it will see a resergence and become the staple insulation of choice again. I think the main reason for the decline will be wall thicknesses, and I think the main reason for a possible future increase (in framed constuctions)is problems arrising with rigid products, and people realising that breathable fibre insulations are better for the building and better for them.

    At no point in this time line do i ever percieve there to be a large market for spray foam insulation.


  9. Good article, but Mark’s trying to create a spurious controversy. Icynene are promoting their stuff aggressively by comparison with conventional expectations of insulation performance, by saying that the inherent gapfilling/airtightness of Icynene takes its routine, foolproof performance far beyond what you’d get with other, roll or board insulations of same or even better lamda value, the gappy, leaky way they’re typically, or even ideally installed. That’s not controversial the way multifoil is controversial – anyone should be able to accept the argument. I’m not saying Icynene is the answer, there may be other snags/considerations, but as far as the above is concerned, they’re right.


  10. From AtlantaJune 30, 2009

    There are other problems with Icynene that the company doesn’t apprise you of. In fact, its information on this topic is, in my experience, quite misleading.

    We installed Icynene under our attic roof on June 11, 2009. It’s now June 30, and we haven’t been able to live in our house since because the fumes were so intense they give use headaches. We’ve be ventilating the house 24/7 since then, and the intensity of the fumes has decreased, but not our headaches.
    Our next door neighbor is a PhD research chemist, and he says the ingredients of Icynene are very toxic. If the chemical reaction were 100% completed that would not be a problem. However, he says that a 100% complete chemical reaction is rarely, perhaps never, achieved. That means outgassing of toxic fumes.
    We are now sensitized to the chemical, so we may have to replace our whole roof. The company claims you can inhabit your house after 24 hours, but don’t believe it. That’s a problem when your Icynene installation is a retrofit rather than a new build when the outgassing might occur before you inhabit the house.


  11. Leonardo CarparelliSeptember 15, 2009

    I am installing Icynene and it is true that there is excess to be cut off, but what they do is take it away and mush it up into smaller pieces which they use in attics. Now that’s what I’m told. I was thinking if they didn’t do that, then why take it away with them, why not just let me dispose of it. any way I find it, so far to be grand.


  12. If they use the shaved foam for attics, watch out the dust harbors lots of flame retardants and other nasty chemicals that will become part of your building envelop.
    Nothing safe or green about spf

  13. Another word from Canada, and from another Jeff as it so happens. I must say, I am somewhat surprised by Mr. Hood’s gleeful mention of litigation, what with his own company’s familiarity with the defendant side of the courtroom. There is also a certain irony in that the example he chose has its parallel in the low-density “soft” foam insulation world. About 20 km NW of Icynene’s Toronto facility is a residential development known as Halton Hills within which there is a street with a number of homes that were plagued by freezing plumbing. One of the owners took her problem to the producers of the HGTV show, Holmes on Homes resulting in a Season Six episode entitled, ‘Frozen Assets’. (EP6078; the show is syndicated and airs in the UK.) The Holmes group found a design issue with the house but noted that the builder attempted to mitigate the problem through the use of low-density spray-foam insulation in the horizontals. The spray-foam subcontractor, however, allegedly took some short cuts and the house was compromised. Perhaps Mr. Hood will comment on whether or not the sub involved was one of his boys.

    The subject of excess material due to cavity overfill has been a thorn in the side of Icynene’s marketing department for aeons. Waste speaks against not only cost effectiveness but also against a cultivated image of ‘being green’. Based upon research, observation, and personal experience with Icynene’s product and some of its people I consider Anonymous’ remark to be highly relevant to the topic at hand, especially in light of the above quoted comment of Mr. Hood that “… we just don’t want to waste their money, or use more material or footprint than is necessary.” I therefore ask that Mr. Hood expand upon his response to Anonymous.

    Mr. Hood states that the critical issue of our time is air leakage and not u value and argues that glass fibre fails to address this in large part due to the rampant installation problems that exist out in the real world. We will concede this point to Mr. Hood as said problems have been thoroughly discussed by such writers as Michael Uniake and Bruce Harley, publications such as Home Energy Magazine and Energy Design Update, and broadcast journalism (Dateline NBC for example). The thing is, the root of the fibre installation problem is a lack of accountability within the industry and Mr. Hood’s presentation is entirely predicated on the readers’ acceptance of an implied premiss that a similar state of affairs does not exist in the spray-foam realm.


  14. One should keep in mind that it is critical that the soft foams, which are marketed as a one step “system”, be properly stored, prepared, and installed if they are to meet the manufacturers’ performance claims, especially so if a manufacturer is declaring that a little dab’ll do ya or that the product negates the requirement for a vapour barrier/retarder. “The product does the work of fitting and sealing, without relying on the applicators’ skill and dedication …” wrote one Icynene Dealer on his Web site back in the heady days before litigation. “With the Icynene® Insulation System the responsibility … shifts from the many trades involved to the material itself in a single application.”(1) Is it all really that foolproof? Mechanical bits such as proportioners and spray guns can and do malfunction. Cleanliness is next to godliness in terms of equipment maintenance. The quality of the spray rig is also known to have a direct effect on the outcome and ditto for even the type of hose used. The installer must factor in – and adjust for – changing ambient conditions. An improperly mixed drum of resin will not provide “optimum foam” on first use nor will it provide optimum foam thereafter on subsequent jobs even if then properly mixed for those. Heads are scratched when the drum of one of the two components has emptied whilst the other is still a quarter full. There have been repeated comments in print and on-camera by industry people about the installer making or breaking a job, the words “skill” and “art” popping up every now and again. “Pressure, nozzle angle, nozzle distance from target surface, etc. are in the hands of the applicator” Icynene’s [former] president Rankin is reported as saying. Aside from product cost and waste, “gaps”, voids, and adhesion issues appear to be the more common of the criticisms cited in discussions that are specifically about Icynene’s foam. There are reports of bad batches of Icynene’s product that went undetected before being installed. (An aside: Icynene’s warranty, which must be registered within 30 days of occupancy, only covers the cost of the material, not the labour.) Continuing my romp through my files I see the newsgroup report from a builder who subcontracted his first Icynene job that “looked beautiful” just after installation but then began to pull away from the wood studs at an alarming rate overnight and through the next day. His closing remarks were “… I can’t risk liability problems that could ensue from crappy insulation. Yes, I know. Icynene is supposed to be the premier problem-solving insulation, but then again, Icynene is NEVER supposed to shrink. It just ain’t so, folks.” Then there is the open v. closed-cell discussion that took place on the CPI Industry Forum earlier in the decade that turned nasty with allegations flying that Icynene’s Dealers were poorly trained and were going to give the whole industry a bad name. [It is unclear if all of the stories were actually about Icynene's boys but one of the more entertaining ones concerned an enterprising cellulose contractor who showed up at a Greenprints Conference (Atlanta, GA) armed with photographs of spray-foam jobs gone wrong.] As for Icynene, Inc. itself, the company used to require its Dealers to sign a rigid supply agreement whereby it contractually forbade them from spraying any other foam but its own. If one holds that no type of spray-foam is aptly suited for all applications then it could be argued that the possibility of a compromised job was built right into Icynene’s very business model.


  15. The case study is one of Icynene’s favoured marketing tools so let us use my own experience as an end user of this company’s product as the foundation of a discussion turning upon accountability. Just some of the highlights (discovered in stages over time) are as follows: Extensive and substantial damage occurred to the plaster substrate in the areas where the foam was injected between the roof decking and the sloped ceilings of the 1 ½ story house. (The Dealer effectively blames the product, contrary to categorical statements made by Icynene in its advertising literature which we relied upon.) The foam was riddled with voids ranging in size up to 18 x 14 inches (the largest, on the backside of a knee wall was like a giant soap bubble – thin skinned and nothing but air inside of it). In some spots there was no foam at all and the original vapour barrier could be seen. All of the soffit vents were covered over. From what I saw the installation did not conform to the standards set out in the Building Code (Icynene’s response to this was that the job was a retrofit and the Dealer could therefore do whatever he wanted). The Dealer, whose surname forms his company name also installed substantially less foam than he quoted on in writing and charged for. He had also sealed the access points to the side attics with plugs of foam effectively hiding the hack job and the cheating from view. He was told in writing and over the telephone how I knew that there were problems with the foam and that the attics were going to have to be opened up again. His initial response was an attempt to walk away and when presented with a Demand Letter he tried to lowball his way out. He later reneged on the terms and conditions of a written settlement agreement shorting us once again, this time on the amount of payment.

    Icynene knows all of this (and much more) as I sent a written complaint to the president of the company. I stated at the top of my letter that I was willing to rewrite it in the form of an affidavit and I included a full spread of documentation: copies of estimate, invoice, correspondence, calibrated blower door/smoke stick test results (which the installation failed), 35 photographs, and other items related to the manner in which the Dealer was presenting himself to the public. I also recounted the Dealer’s explanation for the damaged plaster. President Rankin’s response was as one would expect from Icynene, a legal disclaimer (“an independent businessman who uses the Icynene® product”). He delegated a sales rep to contact me and it became apparent that the purpose of the call was to attempt to determine if I was going to take my experience to the media. (Sales Rep went at it from various directions, finally saying in a question posed as a statement that I was just giving Icynene a heads up. When I responded “yes” he lost interest in the conversation. We had two conversations in total and both times he remarked that Icynene would not want to be getting negative press over this.) Sales Rep also seemed to be attempting to rationalise or justify keeping this Dealer on. Despite all of the exhibits that I had enclosed with my letter he started to say “[the Dealer's] side of the story” then did an about face after I shut him down, claiming that he told the Dealer that [Icynene] could not have him doing that sort of thing. He then broached the subject of Icynene’s supply agreement (which I had first learned of several years before) and his wording led me to believe that it was still of the rigid type that I referred to above.(2) To paraphrase, the Dealer appeared to be “in breach” said the sales rep but he wasn’t sure that Icynene would be able to dump the guy. I never asked what my Dealer’s sales ranking was relative to Icynene’s other Dealers.


  16. To the best of my knowledge Icynene made no attempt to ensure or even investigate this Dealer’s competency. Furthermore, it became clear during my second conversation with the sales rep ten months later (2004) that there was not even an awkwardness between the Dealer and Icynene. In fact, carrying on like the three of us were the best of friends and he was catching me up on the news Sales Rep mentioned that he had just been helping the Dealer with a marketing project. Incredulously, he also said that Icynene had deemed the matter settled with the Dealer and had archived my letter, this despite my having succinctly stated during our first conversation that we were going to deal with [Fluffer] in the courts.

    How did the Dealer react to the claimed admonishment by the sales rep about not doing that sort of thing? At some point during the ensuing five month period he urinated on the shoes of Mr. Hood and his cohorts by putting up a new Web site wherein he re-branded Icynene’s product as “Locktite (TM)” and BASF’s Walltite as “Sealtite (TM)”, claiming to be exclusive representative and installer of both of these fictitiously named products even though there was a second Icynene Dealer in the immediate area. Fluffer later corrected the names following my second chat with the sales rep but he continues to this day to claim exclusive status for both spray-foams. Things got really interesting after I sent the Dealer a second Demand Letter (2006); there was an exchange of correspondence, he and his lawyer pulled a stunt that blew up in their faces, and I contacted the other Dealer in my area to arrange to have Fluffer’s foam work in the side attics repaired. The second Dealer expressed no concerns whatsoever about cleaning up Fluffer’s mess and we discussed several options, he favouring “industrial foam” as he called it (closed-cell polyurethane). The conversation ended with him saying that he would call back early the next week to arrange to meet at the house. I never heard from him again. Not long after his company’s name disappeared from the Dealer Locator section of Icynene’s Web site. Fluffer removed his company name from the ‘Insulation Consultants’ section of subsequent editions of the telephone book.


  17. Fresh from the sea, today’s Special concerns what is known in the glass fibre industry as “fluffing” (“overblowing” or “cheating”). Certain brands are purported to be more conducive to this sort of activity which involves the fluffing up (over-aerating) of a blown-in glass fibre insulation so that less material is used than required for a prescribed coverage but the appearance of the proper depth of insulation is maintained. The material will not perform at its expected value and will also settle over time. The beauty of Icynene’s spray-foam to an unscrupulous installer is that not only can it be “fluffed” but it will not settle over time. I have seen it done on a piece of plywood … a flick of the wrist whilst spraying and there’s your void, undetectable to the eye until a cross-sectional cut is made. Back to that soap-bubble type void I mentioned above; it was 18 inches high, ran the width of the stud cavity, and on the side of it that faced away from the attic access point was a hole about the size of a fist. The circumference of the hole had the shiny skin which indicates that this huge void was definitely detectable at the time of installation by my Icynene Dealer. I could look inside of it and see the bare studs, sole plate, and backside of the knee wall. Again, nothing but air inside of it. One of the photographs that I enclosed with my letter to Icynene’s president was taken when I opened up the SW attic for the first time after the foaming. I leaned in to take several shots but it was not until I physically entered the attic that I could see the hole. When I was trimming up the foam to make the repair (with rigid) I found the adjacent stud cavity to be filled with a number of large voids necessitating full removal and replacement of the foam in that cavity as well. I will hold short of alleging that my Icynene Dealer intentionally “fluffed” the foam but I will say that it was impossible for him not to have been aware of the problems which he then chose not to correct then sealed away from view. That said, neither he or Icynene have ever proffered an explanation as to how such a void as the one described could occur during a normal application of the foam. I reiterate my comment about another matter of installing substantially less foam than he contracted for with no adjustment in price, that along with a double contravention of The Retail Sales Act which I allege was done for fun and profit. In addition, knowing that the side attics access points were still sealed he accused me of lying about the problems with the foam. I am also alleging that he interfered with my attempt to get an infra-red scan done by the only thermographer I was able to locate in my area. (In a stellar display of intellect Fluffer went on to prove a connection between the two by sending the shorted payment via courier from the thermographer’s business address.) Icynene’s president who, again, knew all of this wrote in his response to my letter that, “We have no control over his actions in dealing with his customers, although we do expect Icynene Dealers to act with honesty and integrity in all their dealings.” Expected perhaps but apparently not a requirement.


  18. Training and certification programs are in place for fibre contractors and installers who choose to avail themselves. “Support for training begins to address the lack of contractor skills. But it needs to be reinforced by inspections.” wrote Alan Neier, Executive Editor of Home Energy Magazine (Nov./Dec. 2000). “Second, we need enforcement at all levels. We need code officials (who also need to be trained) with the experience (and the time) to inspect and recognize both fraud and incompetence. … Much can be done to minimize cheating and incompetence, but the one missing ingredient is personal integrity. No amount of legislation or regulation can create that.” Mr. Hood is implying that not much has changed since Mr. Neier wrote that editorial. But in terms of accountability I have seen nothing over the years that would lead me to think that the situation is all that different in the spray-foam world. Simply put, foam is not a panacea for the ills of the insulation industry. It is the same inspectors for example who are doing the grunt work for both fibre and foam and some builders and contractors report that theirs are still not up to speed on how to properly assess a spray-foam job (if the job is assessed at all). Moving away from regulation and inspection toward the individual one may note that a number of spray-foam contractors came from the fibre world and many of them continue to do batts and blown in addition to foam. It is reasonable to think that those who were conscientious installers with fibre would continue to be so with foam. It is irrational to think that a hack and/or a cheat would find in foam something akin to a religious awakening and change his or her ways. My own experience is not an isolated incident for Icynene nor for the spray-foam industry at large. Yes, certainly a far less common one than in the fibre segment but then look at the grossly skewed market share between the two. Do we expect experiences such as mine to become less, or more prevalent as foam moves into the mainstream as it gains popularity? Rather than run through a number of examples I will, for the sake of brevity, provide a quote from the Senior Administrator of the Spray Foam Q & A Forums (6/22/2009) which speaks volumes. The topic is titled, “State License Requirements for Spray Foam Insulators” and reads as follows: “I have heard a bit of discussion about this lately. Many of the veterans think it will be a nice barrier to entry, but a better barrier to prevent crappy quality, lower than cost bidding, and premature failure of an industry with a great future”.

    Building Codes in Canada require that spray-foam installers be properly qualified in the application of the product(s). Icynene trains its Dealers and certifies them competent by licensing them. THE question for me was how did my Dealer ever manage to get his hands on a spray gun in the first place. When I put this to Sales Rep he dismissed it out of hand, launching into Icynene’s marketing schtick by rhyming off some of the subjects that the company’s training course covers, which, in the end, says nothing about anything. (It’s the same as stating that a cake contains eggs, vanilla, and baking powder. A similar criticism can be leveled at Icynene’s claim that its Dealers are “stringently selected”. The statement is meaningless unless one knows the criteria used for selection and the weighting given each.) When all was said and done Sales Rep did allow that Icynene’s Dealers were given the “basics” in installation. So, not a learn-while-you-earn programme but still quite removed from what Icynene appears to want the public to infer through its repeated use of phrasings such as “intensive training programme”, “Icynene Licensed Dealers”, and “Your Quality Assurance”.


  19. Gybing ’round the buoy for the downwind leg gives mention that cavity overfill used to be the norm for Icynene installations. February, 2002, Icynene took another write-down for advertising on the PBS show This Old House (#2115). The president of the company handled the ‘interview’ himself and the opening preamble of host Steve Thomas was, “We’re very impressed with it [but] we’re having a hard time selling it to anybody else because of the cost.” Mr. Rankin’s explanation was that the high price was due to the cost of the materials used to make the foam. 2005, Vol. 9/Issue 4 of Drumbeat [Icynene's quarterly newsletter for its Dealer Network], the president reported that the company was expecting annual growth of 36% over 2004 [but] “Because of the extraordinary increase in material costs resulting from escalating oil and gas prices, this market expansion has not resulted in increased profits, and that is the major disappointment in an otherwise successful year.” 2008, Vol. 12/Issue 1 of Drumbeat (pg.3), “After taking into consideration the valuable input from Gold Circle Dealers and many other members of the Dealer Network, changes were made to reduce product pricing …”. From Vol. 12/Issue 2 (pg.3), “[Icynene] has been positioned as a premium product delivering superior performance; however, the price premium has often been seen as a stumbling block.”

    I will leave off with reference to one of Mr. Hood’s comments from above; “Needless to say some of the entrenched players in the insulation industry are fighting this tooth and nail.” On a parallel tack one of Icynene’s other VPs has written, “[The] Glass Fiber industry has continuously issued proposals favorable to their own products. At first, their efforts were seen as methods for saving energy, but recently the committees have started to recognize these proprietary changes for what they are”. (Drumbeat, Vol.10/Issue 4, p.6.) For those unfamiliar with Icynene, it too has its registered lobbyists (which it refers to as “Manufacturer’s Representatives”) along with its Low-Density Insulation Committee. The company also views code recognition and approvals “[as] one of the most inexpensive, yet extremely effective marketing there is.” (Drumbeat, v.10/i4, p.6.) Readers may juxtapose Icynene’s rhetoric with an article that appeared in Energy Design Update Vol.28, No.11 (Nov.2008), “”Thirty Percent Solution” Defeated In Minneapolis”. I consider this article to be required reading but will only quote one sentence; “Icynene’s opposition to the proposal was based on fears that its open-cell spray foam insulation, which has an R-value of only 3.6 per inch, will lose market share to closed-cell spray foam if energy codes are tightened.”

    I have directed my comments toward the installation and accountability issues within the spray-foam world but for those who are interested in the building science side of Mr. Hood’s ’2 or 3 inches is all you need’ presentation then I recommend reading through a discussion that took place last year on The Journal of Light Construction Online Forum, “What is your experience with Icynene?” ( ) Subjectively speaking, after comparing melt patterns and ice buildup at the eaves before and after the Icynene installation at the house referred to herein, along with comparison to a neighbouring house of similar construction with upgraded insulation (DIY, batts) I will opine that 2 or 3 inches of Icynene’s product on its own will not get the job done in climates of 5400 HDD or colder.


  20. My last contact with Icynene was May 7, 2004; with the Dealer (via his lawyer) May, 2006. I have stayed out of the spray-foam discussions in the past and this is the first time I have recounted my Icynene experience in public. That I do so now is an indication that I feel quite strongly about the issues at hand. I strive for fairness and objectivity so Mr. Hood is most welcome to publicly respond to my comments but as it currently stands his presentation here on the blog strikes me as being rather disingenuous. I should add that we will not be reading or hearing of a single, “Ohhhhh, I never said that” from Sales Rep.


    1 Environmental Foam of Vermont Inc.

    2 Sales Rep spoke differently of the supply agreement when I specifically asked about it during our second conversation (which I initiated). Dealers are now allowed to use the high-density closed-cell foams but are still prohibited from spraying any open-cell foam other than Icynene’s. The first record I have of the rigid supply agreement being relaxed was a comment made by a New England spray-foam contractor, “[Milestones - 2002] Added Icynene products to our offerings. First contact in 1994. Ethical concerns resolved, all major industry products now available.” Please note that this does not necessarily mean that the agreement was relaxed across the board in 2002. This particular contractor had been quite outspoken about Icynene’s supply agreement in the past stating in a FAQ on his Web site prior to 2002 that he did not install the Icynene brand name foam system [because], “As our goal is to always use the best product for a given project application, we supply most quality foam systems available in the market place; however, Icynene requires an exclusive license arrangement and this would prevent us from providing closed-cell products when they are necessary to meet our clients needs.” One should be aware that some Icynene Dealers openly defied the company on this supply agreement. Admittedly, I am curious as to what (if any) impact all of this would have had on Moffitt v. Icynene, Inc. (District of Vermont, 2005). The Moffitts specified closed-cell poly but the contractor, a licensed Icynene Dealer, showed up for the job with Icynene’s foam. Court documents state that the work was carried out in October, 2000 and I see no mention of the supply agreement in the Magistrate Judge’s Report & Recommendation (File No. 1:04-CV-115, which concerns motions by both parties for summary judgments) but then, I have not seen the associated depositions or spoken with the plaintiffs or their attorney.


  21. Does anyone other than Cit_J have anything else to say on this?


  22. Affiliate Marketing is a performance based sales technique used by companies to expand their reach into the internet at low costs. This commission based program allows affiliate marketers to place ads on their websites or other advertising efforts such as email distribution in exchange for payment of a small commission when a sale results.


  23. HI– I insulated my house (rebuilt after a housefire) with Icynene– i told the installation folks that where I lived (1600ft) was colder than where they were, and they had better get up there before November if they wanted to do a good job– they said no problem. The installers came wearing shorts and couldn’t believe the temp inside the structure, even with 4 salamanders running. They sprayed anyway, and the Icynene pulled back from the walls leaving voids. They said they’d take care of it, and tried to backfill later but there were still voids behind where they had sprayed. The walls were cold to the touch, and you could literally feel air movement with your hand against the sheetrock when the walls were finished and the wind was blowing. Now the mice are having a field-day as they love to chew Icynene and make tunnels through it. I can hear them chomping away but can’t get to them. All around the basement floor, there are piles of chewed Icynene, and there are even a couple places where they’ve burrowed/chewed right through to the plywood on the outside. I’ve had an exterminator in, set poison, traps, etc. but they keep on chewing. Now I wish I’d gone the toxic foam route, or cellulose as i think both of those inhibit varmint and insect chewing– I wish I’d known this before I insulated and keep googling for solutions– anyone have any ideas?


  24. I am posting up a comment from Jeff Hood again, in response to some of the stuff that’ been written here over the past year or so.

    Jeff writes:
    One of the saddest things about the internet is that anonymous posters to a blog can defame a company’s reputation and say any sort of libellous things hiding behind a username. Unfortunately what we have noticed is that as the popularity of soft foam insulation has grown the attacks and slagging by opponents, who are mainly competitors, grows more and more shrill, vicious and ill founded.

    The truth is that Icynene has not faced a torrent of lawsuits as your correspondent would have you believe and in fact if the company is advised of a legitimate problem, (not like the self – builder himself putting the vapour barrier on the cold side ie. the wrong side, as occurred in an instance in Vermont) we have intervened if warranted.

    Our dealers have to go through our training program which is recognized as the best in the industry and are required to be re-certified bi-annually. Dealers who don’t adhere to our standards of conduct and professionalism are decertified from our network.

    Icynene has been thoroughly tested for emissions by reputable third party laboratories in North America, Europe and other areas of the world and does not release toxic gases. In fact it has been used in 4 buildings at the Mayo Clinic, many other hospitals, clinics and nursing homes and the “Health House” program of the American Lung Association. The product’s performance is well accepted after more than 23 years of use and over 200,000 buildings have been successfully insulated.


  25. Mr. Hood: is it Icynene’s position that our Dealer adhered to its standards of conduct and professionalism? I stand behind my story and if doing so results in my incurring unrecoverable legal fees for defense, then so be it, I’ll take the hit.

    I am not an anonymous poster hiding behind a username, at least not in any way that is relevant. What matters here is that Icynene knows who I am. I chose to use a moniker out of a desire for my own privacy, and out of a sense of fairness I extended the courtesy of privacy to Sales Rep, my Dealer, Dealer Two, the VP, a newsgroup poster who had given his name, and so on. (I had not even mentioned president Rankin by name in the draught but then realised that the arrival of a new president on deck required differentiation, so I edited.)

    I used the singular for courtroom and defendant, and the Dealer whose Web site I quoted from was, alongside Icynene, a defendant in the Vermont suit (which was relevant to my post). How does that wording manage to become “a torrent of lawsuits”?

    The comment that the self – builder put a vapour barrier [Thermo-Ply] on the cold side does not adequately convey the issues of the Vermont case.

    Despite all that happened with the Dealer, no demands or requests – overt or implied – were ever made of Icynene and the company’s path was unfettered and of its own choosing. The reasons for my having the amount, and type of information that I do are valid, rational, and just. Addressing my motive for my lengthy posting; I read our host’s, “On Icynene” entry, turned to the comments, and had one of life’s, “That’s it!” moments. (My letter to Icynene’s president was also the result of a “That’s it!” moment; in that instance first entry into the East side attic.) But if speaking out to bring balance has somehow made me an agent of KAOS then can I be Siegfried?


  26. i have gone through this blog. i found it really interesting fot my job and my future career

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  27. Subsequent to my last post I purchased the equipment required for converting material heretofore in analogue form into digital. A smattering of this material has now been uploaded to . The items are captioned.

    I stated in my first posting, “… a flick of the wrist whilst spraying and there’s your void, undetectable to the eye until a cross-sectional cut is made.” I have included in the set a photograph of the foamed piece of plywood that I wrote of. (This photo is the only item in the Flickr set that Icynene has not seen.)

    I also mentioned “a neighbouring house of similar construction with upgraded insulation (DIY, batts) …” and I have uploaded a photograph of the roof of that house for comparative purposes. (Taken early morning following first snow.)

    I wrote that I was recounting just some of the highlights of my Icynene experience and as you peruse the set you will see yet another one of the Dealer’s stunts, the blown-in fibreglass. Icynene’s opinion that one needs only two or three inches of its product has no bearing whatsoever on this. Bilked is bilked, no matter how you dress it up.

    Erratum: “I could look inside of it and see the bare studs, sole plate, and backside of the knee wall.” That should be, “… sole of the top plate …”


  28. I used Icynene in my rebuilt house after a housefire– half new construction, half gutted. It was very cold the day they arrived to spray (wearing shorts) and they had trouble getting the job to stick– everywhere the Icynene pulled away from the studs, and they left me cans of the “other foam” to backfill– not nearly enough product to do the job, and very difficult to accomplish as many gaps were behind the foam. They left approx 1/3rd of the product as sliced-off material which I then had to deal with (I used it between the floors and covered it with poly but I find the scraps do nothing as an insulator when used this way). After the insulated walls were covered, I could feel the cold coming through them even though I had covered all the walls with poly as well and used Tyvec paper under the siding (we have 80 mile hour winds regularly and I wanted to be certain of a tight house). I now use more heating gas per year than the old house (pre-fire, same size). Another issue is the rodents that have decided to chew through the insulation and live in the walls. Every week, there are new piles of Icynene along the basement walls where they are chewing paths all the way to the plywood sheathing. I called the installer and they take no responsibility for the poor job. The warranty is worthless as far as I can tell. I have since purchased an infrared camera to take pictures of the walls to show the heatloss, and it is clear that at every junction of the walls, there is very little insulation. So much for a tight house! Do not be fooled by Icynene’s promises of “only needing a candle to heat your house when it is done”. I would have been better off with fiberglass at 1/3rd the price, or cellulose which would have been rodent-proof and whose installer takes infrared photos to guarantee the job. Good luck, Europe!


  29. Paul RimasMay 12, 2010

    Have I missed or no one mentioned the ageing process of the Icynene (shrinkage, ability to stick to the material, etc.) over the longer period of time i.e. two or three years?


  30. i have gone through your site information and it is the sae oppertunity that i was looking for thr facilities, the process that what you are offering , are perfectely matched to my expection, very soon you will get responce from my side.

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  31. Spray Foam Roofing Systems provide many benefits to building owners. The two most important benefits is the value of the seal / leak prevention and insulation.


  32. Only when the installers are “Properly” trained or it can be the most expensive system you ever paid for! Now the real trick is finding that company with years not days under their belt!

  33. As a homeowner in the States, rebuilding after a housefire, I used Icynene as it was promised that I “would be able to heat my house with a candle” once the job was done. I can say for certain that a HUGE amount of Icynene was sliced off to make the walls flush for sheetrock, and by shaving it off, the walls were by no means airtight any longer. There was also a lot of shrinkage when the warm Icynene hit the cold walls, and I was given a couple of cans of foam insulation to fill the voids which by no means did the job. I covered the interior with plastic sheeting to make it airtight and used the scraps (gigantic sausage-rolls of pieces wrapped in large polyethylene which they said I needed to dispose of) in the ceilings but they give almost no insulating benefit, and the mice and squirrels have had a hayday, chewing tunnels through the walls and right to the perimeter of the building. The company had touted that it was not harmful to animals, was in fact, non-toxic. I would say that is true as far as ingesting or the rodents would be dead by now. I have piles of chewed insulation all along the perimeter of the basement. My heating fuel usage since the fire is HIGHER than my usage before the fire in which I had used R-19 fiberglass in the walls and R-30 in the attic, all covered with polyethylene or Tyvek as a vapor barrier). I was told I wouldn’t need to use Tyvek on the exterior but I could feel the wind moving through the house before it was sided so I did it anyway. Be careful of warranties and installers. They will tell you one thing but do another. I really tried to do something good by using Icynene, and spent more than double on insulating my house than with fiberglass. The rodent attraction is something that needs to be addressed, as does the need to slice it after installation, thereby losing it’s closed-cell characteristic. I am also a builder and try to stay on top of new technologies. So far, Icynene does not impress me.


  34. All SPF insulation is potentially dangerous. My blog will help navigate through the craziness of failed or bad spf.


  35. “All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third it is accepted as self evident.”
    -Arther Schopenhauer-


  36. As a homeowner in the states I can say for absolute certainty that Spray Foam should not be your first choice! As with everything moderation is best! To much is too much and you can not go back if the project goes sour! There are to many variables which must be investigated before it’s use. Installer’s must be “Properly Trained”, “years not days!” A “IAQ Aldehyde/TVOC analysis” needs to be performed and recorded prior to installing the product, the same test needs to be performed after 72 hours of the installation and again after the project is completed. It would not hurt to test again after the consumer moves into the home. Now you must employ mechanical ventilation to rid the home of all the chemicals which will become trapped due to the tight building envelope. These gases are from all the building materials, spray foam, plywood/OSB, cabinets and on and on. Third party inspection absolutely needs to be a priority prior to starting the project and or committing to solely spray foam insulation. Hire a reputable “Environmental Engineer” who is familiar with spray foam and who has a minimum College Bachelors Degree in science! Not just some IAQ self professed scientist with some certificates of completion from some seminar’s he/she attended. Understand that spray foam insulation is an on-site manufactured chemical product. Your home becomes the manufacturing plant. In a legitimate testing lab numerous environmental measures are taken. Be certain, your home is not that lab but will become that lab without all the precautions actual scientist take. Please understand the men/women who install your foam insulation are not scientist and they are mixing a two part chemical which you will be breathing for the duration of time that you live in your home. Document, document, document! If you ignore the above you only have yourself to blame if you should become sensitized for life due to inhaling or touching these dangerous chemicals! Do not and I mean do not stay in the home or office when these chemicals are installed or after for a minimum of 72 hours and longer of the proper ventilation is not taken. Make sure the proper ventilation through mechanical (high powered filtered fans) means is implemented prior to the installation! Once again, employ an environmental engineer to over see the project or you could find yourself in dire strait as many have found out the hard way in the states, especially when the project goes sour.


Health Issues Related to Spray Foam Insulation

Health Issues Related to Spray Foam Insulation
by Richard Beyer

From Green Building Advisor Comments Under:

Spray Foam Jobs With Lingering Odor Problems

The largest part of all Spray Polyurethane Foam discussions is ignored. “HEALTH.”
People are constantly asking for help and no one will touch the topic. There are a few who understand this is a real issue and there are those who dismiss the issues.

Do any of you readers understand the health ramnifications of using spray foam insulation?
Do you understand what these products will do to you, your family and others you recommend it to? Well, I do and it’s not pretty. Try keywording some of your own health questions. You may be shocked to find there are very, very few answers. That is unless you know where to look. Here’s a couple links for you: and

All to often builders and industry experts make a claim to fame when something new is introduced to make our lives safer and more economical without doing the research first. I will be the first to admit, I did this to. However, I did do the research on spray foam insulation and came up with nothing but the positives of spray foam (aka SPF). The real issue with these SPF products (open and closed cell) is any keyword you use online dating back to 1997 to current is industry promoted.
HGTV and many other DIY channels are promoting Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation without publishing any research on the health implications. Holmes on Holmes appears to be in the room as the guys are spraying the foam. Bob Villa and Norm of This Old House promote these products now and in years past. As a matter of fact, my SPF applicator was the same company which recently sprayed a home for This Old House in a Rhode Island home. This company is one of the largest in the northeast and sprayed my home with off-ratio foam. (ie; closed and open cell name brand foams)

What would you say if I told you part A-side of SPF was modified Formaldehyde changed chemically to make (MDI) methylene diphenylene diisocyanate. Well, it is! This is the A-side of all SPF manufacturers foam insulation. Many have Formaldehyde in the B-side as well. In CT Formaldehyde containing spray foam is legal as long as it is Urethane or Styrene foam and not (UFFI).

See: CGS Sec. 29-277. Urea-formaldehyde insulation: Definition; prohibition concerning use; penalty. (a) Urea-formaldehyde (UF) foamed-in-place insulation, also referred to as formaldehyde-based insulation, means any cellular plastic thermal material which contains as a component chemical formaldehyde, formaldehyde polymers, formaldehyde derivatives and any other chemical from which formaldehyde can be released, but does not mean urethane foam insulation or styrene foam insulation.

(b) Urea-formaldehyde foamed-in-place insulation shall not be installed in any building or structure on or after June 1, 1981.

(c) Any person who violates any provision of this section shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars for the first offense and for each subsequent offense shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars.

(P.A. 81-250, S. 1-4.)

Are you aware that if you are in a home when these products are installed without respiratory protection the chemicals can cause permanent lung damage and death?
“Persons developing sensitivity to isocyanates may have dangerous systemic reactions to extremely small exposures, including respiratory failure. MDI should not be heated or sprayed except with strict engineering controls and personal protective equipment.”

Are you aware that the medical community is studying humans who have these products installed within their homes? Are you aware the medical community is studying the men who apply these products? Dr. Redlich of Yale University is the most known doctor researching the effects of SPF and humans.
Are you aware our own government is just recently taking notice and most recently are studying the health implications of these products.

Do you think the government is studying these products just because they want to help us. No!

People are complaining and are injured. ie; health and property damage. Many believe SPF is the next Chinese Drywall and the next (UFFI) Urea-Formaldehyde Foam Insulation which is banned in many states.

I know first hand because my contractor contaminated my house with 3 different spray foams and they all failed.

My reason for posting is to help you. Every SPF company I have spoken to will not tell the truth and/or are afraid to. Reality is this… you complain, you are ISOLATED.

Ask your State Department of Public Health and or Building Officials for information relating to health and SPF. Do not feel shocked when you learn as I did they do not know how to handle issues relating to spray foam insulation.

Please do your homework first guy’s. There is a lot more to building than energy conservation. There is responsible building to.

I’ll be the first to tell you, these products do not belong around people or children with Asthma!! If you still want to specify or use these products, call the manufacturer and verify your applicators credentials first. Do not trust the salesman! Call the manufacturers corporate office for credential verification. Make sure you get “EVERYTHING IN WRITING” from the manufacturer and the installer. Do not believe the verbal claim’s because when you have a failure (odor, shrinking, cracking, etc.) and you do not take the proper steps, this will easily become the most expensive insulation you ever gambled on. One last piece of mind for you…..your homeowners policy will not cover you for any SPF failures. You better verify your contractor is insured for a minimum $1M policy plus an umbrella policy endorsement for at least $5M. Do not be afraid to ask to be named as an additional insured. The future is only going to bring numerous lawsuits as more and more people have these products installed in their homes and complaints surface. Builders, Architects, Designers and Applicators are not immune from the claims.

I hope my experience helps you all. If you are like my family and have experienced smelly foam, health problems and off-ratio foam, feel free to call me 860-460-5434 and I will share with you my findings. I have spent hundreds of hours researching these products to find the answers for my family since my SPF application company and the chemical manufacturer refussed to take responsibility for their actions. I do not work for the industry and I do not have a financial interest in this. What I do have is failed Spray Foam Insulation and I’m not happy about what this industry has forced me to do to get answers.


Blog opinion About Mold and SPF

Mold is also a big issue with SPF, especially on roof decking and crawl space – PS…if you have open cell in your crawl space = fail, only closed cell should even be considered.

Here is a write up from

Mold Testing: Closed Cell Spray Foam Insulation?
Posted by William Flaherty on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 @ 10:18 AM

In an industry forum that I frequent on LinkedIN, there was a post regarding this question that I thought was interesting. I wanted to share his input and my take on it for your benefit.
Closed cell spray foam is a widely used method of applying insulation to seal buildings from air and moisture intrusion. Spray foam is the “new” fix for everything product.
Although there are installation guidelines, the real issue may be lack of certification and training that ultimately leads to poor application practices. There are many companies running around eager to fill your home with foam …. But I say buyer beware.
The author had several clients that had 1: Spray foam applied in a crawlspace without encapsulating it resulting in high mold spore counts in the crawlspace and upper level floors buckling from the wicking of moisture, 2: off-gassing from the foam due to improper installation, 3: Soffit area spray foamed in an unconditioned attic. Although there was a ridge vent and gable vent the area between the attic floor and gable had no ventilation resulting in significant mold growth. In a 5 year old home, moisture was trapped between the roof decking and insulation causing deterioration of the roof decking.

During installation, if the chemicals are not mixed correctly or at the proper temperature, incomplete curing of the two checmicals can occur, ether of which is toxic on its own. Although rare, the risk is still there.
Once applied (correctly or incorrectly) a house is bound up and glued together in a manner that is impossible to reverse, limiting the ease of future renovations dramatically. It also can produce toxic gases in the event of a fire.
I’m certainly not against foam insulation but as a professional and homeowner I would make sure the application methods are sound.
I could just sit back and let the spray foam industry build my business for the future but I’m more interested in helping my clients make the right decisions to ensure a healthy home.

Spray Foam and Twinkies !!??

Thank you TreeHugger for posting this eye catching article about the crap that is in spray foam insulation.  Hopefully the so called ‘green’ architects and builders will start to ask some much needed questions about their products that they spec to trusting homeowners.