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?


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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?


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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.


What to do if your SPF is off gassing.

I wish I had an easy answer for everyone who has been in contact with me about a SPF horror story.

Nothing about having SPF that  is off gassing is easy.  It is overwhelming to say the least to realize your largest asset and your health are in limbo.  It is very worse when people tell you SPF is safe and you are ‘just sensitive.’

If you are sick from your home take action:

Recommendations from our personal and others experience are as follows:

-Contact the Installer and SPF company.

-Contact an Industrial Hygienist with experience in SPF or isocyanates.

-Get your own IAQ and SPF chamber tests

-Do NOT allow any removal of foam unless done in a controlled fashion (the dust is a dermal and respiratory sensitizers )

-consider legal help, so far the SPF companies only do so much then you are on your own.

-Be cautious of advice from industry specialists as most will defend SPF and erroneously declare that the off gassing is only a “nuisance” odor.

-Keep all info you send and the info sent from the SPF company organized and easy to access.

-Agree or disagree only in writing.

For more info, contact me at






Are you worried about your spray foam insulation?

If you are concerned that your home spray foam insulation is making you feel sick or has an odor,  is crusty or too soft or irritates your eyes, throat, chest, head or gives you body aches, or are coughing while in your home, it is time to get an inspection.

Not all foam looks bad to be bad.

If you feel sick in your home and you have spray foam insulation, please contact us at foamproblem (at)

We can provide you with referrals in your area that understand SPF.

Bette to know if your home is a bath of SPF off gassing before more damage is done.



Do You Have Spray Foam?

Itchy, burning irritated eyes, headache, chest pain, sore throat, running nose, increased mucus in head/throat, breathing problems, cough, bronchitis, skin rash are some of the common complaints from families living in a home with spray foam insulation.

Does your home have a sweet almost chemical like smell that intensifies in the heat (attic on a hot day).  Some foams are fishy smelling.  Spray foam is NOT suppose to have an odor so if it does you may need to start asking questions.

Do your symptoms go away if you leave your home for awhile?  If so – you may have a problem with your foam.

Looking at your foam can sometimes help determine a problem because of physical characteristics, but lots of problem foam homes have ‘ok’ looking foam.  Well, ‘ok’ until tested in a chamber to see the gross amount of chemicals that ooze out at low temps of only 73 degrees.

Is your foam sticky, soft and wet or dry and flaky?  Is it a cream color or yellow/orange?  Is the color consistent or marbled?

Do you smell areas more than other areas?  try cutting a mason jar sized piece out and put it in a mason jar, close it up for a day then smell it.  Is it potent or no odor?  If the whiff test makes your nose cringe, you very well may have a problem.

Did the installer ventilate your home while installing?  Did the put a warning sign on your property to stay out for 24-48hr post spray (and during spray)?

If you think your foam is off gassing (yes, that means if it has a smell and sometimes the smell can minimal, but if you have symptoms as stated above with or without the smell) it is best to act sooner than later.  We do not know the long term affects from SPF that is not inert.  However it is well publicized that the chemical that make up SPF are all very dangerous and many are classified as carcinogens.  So its better safe than sorry to have your SPF looked at and you indoor air to be tested if you even suspect you may have something wrong with your spray foam.

Contact me at or leave a message on this blog.







Blog Name Change – sprayfoamdangers

Seeing that I am getting a good amount of traffic to my blog, I felt it was time for a name change.
Spray foam does suck, but my blog will know be called Spray Foam Dangers.

Now that we have lots of lawyers on board, I will use my time to educate and raise awareness to the inherent dangers of spray foam insulation.

The lawyers can fight it out with Demilec and the others, but I will try to help give you info on what to do once you figured out your foam is making you sick.

I encourage others to send info and research to help others. I will NEVER post a name or fact that you do not want posted, but please send me your spray foam stories so I can post under a ‘real life SPF stories” this will help us all while we navigate through living with bad foam.

Installers, who is protecting YOU?

I got to admit, I almost feel sorry for the installers. Unfortunately it seems the companies they are working for keep them in the dark about what is really going on in the world of spray foam complaints.

Watch your backs, because I bet your company doesn’t have it.

Keep the info coming, as always anonymity is 100%. It has been a HUGE eye opener to hear from ex and current installers. If you think you have health problems (cough, sensitivities, asthma, chest pain, skin rash, headaches, eye or throat irritation ect, ect) you also need to be heard. We have a growing list of medical professionals that are researching symptoms like yours.

Owens Corning throws Demilec to the dogs

The MSDS has never been a good source for what is REALLY in a product. I was sent this link from another family dealing with Demilec Sealection 500 and found it very note worthy.

Power in Numbers


Sooooo….when our symptoms first started when we were in the house with SPF, I questioned if WE were crazy. It is no secret that I am dramatic at times, but my husband, he is pretty anti-dramatic. This was my first red flag (well, aside from the fact that breathing was hard and my eyes and chest stung) indicating something was not right with our new SPF. My husband reacted enough that to this day, he will only stick his head into the front door for a second as he has been advised to stay out of the home.
Dr Carrie Redlich of Yale Hospital is keeping busy with all of us ‘SPF gone wrong’ folks. She is seeing similar things among all of us, so perhaps it will be just a matter of time until a correlation may be drawn. Some of us families have a definite diagnosis and some of us are not there yet. Some of us have big labs testing our homes, some have the EPA researching our homes. Some have had news stations film the demo of parts of their homes,some of us have the SPF installers putting liens on our homes because they think THEY GOT SCREWED. Hey, I’d happily have my installer come collect some of the 600 garbage bags I had to pay to have DUMPED in a landfill for some of my money back (never mind even thinking about OWING YOU more money (BTW, almost all the other SPF homes were done in too cold of conditions). Some of us have big law firms behind us, some have small firms, some are trying to do it without, some simply have to say nothing because all the money in the home would potentially be lost if it was exposed that our SPF was off gassing in the home. Some try to fix the homes, some live in campers or hotels or rentals in order to keep some kind of normal. Some of us have fixed our homes and swallowed the entire financial and emotional burden on our own because the SPF company is just that bad to try to deal with. Some do what the SPF company wants and silently moves on in hopes of getting back to a normal life in another home.
The bottom line is no matter how we individually are handling this nightmare; our symptoms, complaints, and responses from the SPF company are all the same. Something is to be said in the sheer number of SPF families.

If you are interested in being part of a documentary (indicate if travel is possible) please contact me at