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Incorrectly installed spray foam remediation?

During a major remodel with the house vacated open cell Demilec APX was applied under the roof sheathing to create a conditioned attic. A Demilec rep was on site for three days. A strong odor remained for months. A different Demilec rep sent a sample of foam to their lab. Results were it wasn't applied thick enough, so it lacked the exothermic reaction to properly off gas in 72 hours or less.. The installers acknowledged the problem, pulled (48 days after application) the new ceiling drywall and removed +90% of the foam. During removal I kept foam samples and had it tested by Eurofins. The VOC test of the foam resulted in extremely high levels of diethyl ethanephosphonate. After the removal the odor was less, but still present. For another month the house was ventilated with large squirrel cage fan. This helped, however the odor was still present on +70 degree days with sun heating the roof. Four months after application the attic air quality was tested. The results from Eurofins were the diethyl ethanephosphonate remained moderately high.

Demilec says spray over with closed cell foam, but won't guarantee it will work. That is the extent of support from Demilec. It seems next to impossible to totally encapsulate the Demilec APX overspray on the trusses, duct insulation, electrical romex, pex pipe, and drippings.

Since the off gassing didn't occur within a few days what building products have absorbed this odor? From Demilec's own wesite; If not adequately ventilated during and shortly after application, the odors can be absorbed in adjacent materials such as fibrous insulation, wood framing and household or stored items.

1. Are there any "proven" methods to re-mediate this problem with case studies?
2. What professional should be hired to evaluate and determine the proper methods of remediation? It would be best that this person is knowledgeable and experienced in spray foam remediation.

Thanks for all your input!

Asked by Brad Dorken
Posted Wed, 01/29/2014 - 16:51


6 Answers

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Where is this located?

And, if you search this site, you will find several other threads on similar problems with spray foam, many times involving Demilec.

Answered by David Meiland
Posted Wed, 01/29/2014 - 17:56

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The location is far northern California near the Oregon border. I have read some of the other threads and they mostly lack a followup discussion of solutions, outcomes, and results. Plus they are 2-3 years old. My posting, hopefully, will bring up new knowledge and insight that homeowners and professionals have learned the past few years. I hope to learn what really works.

Answered by Brad Dorken
Posted Wed, 01/29/2014 - 18:23

Helpful? 0

I have a similar problem with SPF off-gassing (BASF ComfortFoam), in my case for three going on four years. What did you ask Eurofins to test for? Any VOC? Which Laboratory did you contact and how much did it cost?

Answered by David Fay
Posted Wed, 01/29/2014 - 21:34

Helpful? 0

Brad, I have been studying health complaints associated with spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation for the past 5-6 years, and this is the 1st time I have seen someone name a specific VOC found in both a sample of the foam, and in ambient air months later. The chemical you named, diethyl ethanephosphonate [same as diethyl ethylphoshonate, or DEEP] is an organophosphate. I do not know if it is part of the Demilec formulation, or it forms as a result of the exothermic reaction that occurs after the liquid comes out of the spray gun and hits the wall. These questions lead to the next- is DEEP in anything else in the attic, independent of the SPF? Knowing the answer will help us to better evaluate the post remediation sampling results.

Most of the odor complaints that come my way have been described as sickly sweet, or fishy. We attribute this to the amine-based catalysts used in most of the SPF formulations. Again, the fact that you isolated an organophosphate and not one of the amines is very interesting.

Brad, would you mind contacting me off line so I can explore this further with you? My email address is . Thanks.

Answered by Marian Heyman
Posted Thu, 01/30/2014 - 17:34

Helpful? 1

David, I used Eurofins in Sacramento CA. For the foam sample I did the 24 hour VOC chamber test. The test was $400 without shipping. The foam sample is shipped in a mason jar & kept cool (gel ice packs in small lunch box sized cooler). They are a certified lab per CA 01350 criteria (there is a lot of good info/history about this test on the internet). This test has been adopted by other countries as it tests for 35 specific compounds (mostly known carcinogens). The 24 hour test also includes other VOC's such as aldehydes. If you know the specific VOC's of concern, discuss that with them beforehand and they may adjust the test or put more importance on them.

For the air quality test, you rent the air pump (less than the size of a shoe box) from Eurofins. It comes shipped in a medium sized box. The filter (less than a 1/2 diameter) is in a lunch sized cooler box packed with ice gels. The air pump samples the air for 6 hours, either on a manual or automated mode. You will have to determine were to place the air pump; attic or in the house? The operation of the pump is real simple and they have good instructions. You need to sample the time of day and month when the odor is the strongest. The items are repacked and shipped back. The filter has to be kept cool on return! The air quality test cost $480 with shipping to my house (does not include return shipping). Eurofins was very responsive to my questions with great answers/explanations about the testing.

I have a questions for you. Did BASF or any other foam expert inspect the foam? Did you submit an insurance claim? What were the responses/results? This odor issue is a gray area from what I'm learning, no standards of what is acceptable. Hope this helps! If you need any other information let me know.

Answered by Brad Dorken
Posted Fri, 01/31/2014 - 01:16

Helpful? 1

Marian, For the benefit of other readers I will answer your questions on this site. I will also contact you directly. Demilec APX foam is an open cell foam that is fire rated and approved for use in attics that have an ignition source. This fire rating, to my knowledge was required in the State of California starting in 2013. APX was thousands of dollars less than using a closed cell foam. It was only used in my attic. It meets CA 01350 criteria and advertised as their lowest VOC, best performing SPF that can be used in California schools. After my application and the odor I knew something was wrong. I called other installers using APX in the Sacramento area. Their response about the product was it will off gas for 48-72 hours, after that you have to stick your nose in it to smell it. One installer puts his clients in a hotel for a few days if the SPF is used in an occupied dwelling. All this made me pursue the foam test and air quality test.

Concerning your answer to the phosphonate; The foam sample was from the middle of the insulation, it did not have contact with other substrates. All that is in my house is wool framing, sheet rock, greenguard mud, and concrete floor. No paint or flooring products.

Phosphonate/phosphorus has a variety of uses; fungicide, detergent, fertilizer, water treatment, plant growth regulator, and a fire retardant. My assumption is the phosphonate is the fire retardant.

The VOC test of the foam sample and the attic air quality test results mirror one another. I detect an odor of chewing tobacco that has been spit into a cup. No one has mentioned a fishy smell, most cannot identify the smell, however they can smell something wrong. I know there are health issues with breathing this VOC in higher concentrations, but unsure of the low level exposure over time.

Thanks for your response!

Answered by Brad Dorken
Posted Fri, 01/31/2014 - 02:22

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