Helpful? 1

Post-cure/long term off-gassing with Bayer’s Bayseal closed cell spray foam insulation (“SFI”)

I am considering having Bayer’s Bayseal closed cell spray foam insulation (“SFI”) installed in the attic and basement rim joist at my New Jersey home. I am interested in hearing thoughts on the recent concerns over off-gassing of the SFI that I have been reading about. My questions assume SFI installation gets done correctly (I have read about the improper installation problems causing odors). Anyway, the issue of concern/interest for me is long-term off-gassing AFTER a properly done SFI job. None of the information on off-gassing I have seen draws a bright line between (i) the risks of SFI off-gassing during installation/before the SFI materials cure VERSUS (ii) risks of off-gassing in the post-curing period – the long run, i.e., a few days after the SFI cures and the ensuing months and years when the home is occupied.

It makes perfect sense to me that during spraying of SFI and a few days after the cure, there will be odors and off-gassing. But it seems to me that a few days after the SFI cures, there should be a dramatic drop in off-gassing as the SFI becomes highly stable. If one were to graph off-gassing, it would seem to me there would be an asymptotic decline in off-gassing after a few days post-installation.

A webpage within this very website (i.e., gba.com) seems to confirm my belief as stated above when it says: “Polyurethane is in a lot of stuff, from foam mattresses to bowling balls. When it is fully reacted or "cured," it is stable and its chemistry is not a significant concern. However, some products, however, such as adhesives, coatings, and spray foam, react while being applied by builders or homeowners doing insulation retrofits, and continue to react for some hours afterwards, and may contain "uncured" isocyanates to which people may be exposed.”

Other sources seem to corroborate that post-cure, SFI should be highly stable/inert. With regard to SFI's main ingredient, polyurethane, Wikipedia states that "Fully reacted polyurethane polymer is chemically inert." and cites to "Health Hazards Associated with Polyurethane" from the "Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (1966)". But, as cited, the article is from 1966; there has got to be more current info on off-gassing post-cure. Moreover, SFI is more than just polyurethane (SFI is also has halogenated flame retardants, etc.) so perhaps a clean bill of health on polyurethane does not equal a clean bill of health on SFI.

So, assuming a properly done SFI installation, I would like to hear comments on off-gassing and lingering chemical odors in the SFI POST-CURE PERIOD (weeks, months and years down the road). Of note, the SFI project I am contemplating on my 30 year old house which is presently insulated entirely with fiberglass is:

1. ATTIC - SFI (6”) on the floor of a vented, non-living space attic (vented via (i) vents (openings) on both gables; and (ii) a whole house fan (“HHF”) that vents through the attic and results in evacuation of attic air when the HHF is turned on (intermittent/when we feel like it); and

2. BASEMENT - SFI (2”) on the whole perimeter of the basement’s rim joist. Basement has no passive or automatic ventilation; one would have to open a window if one wanted fresh air.

3. Nothing else in the house to be changed (i.e., all other fiberglass presently in the walls to remain in the walls, etc.).

So is the concern with off-gassing (whether it be any of the ingredients in SFI or additives thereto (flame retardant additives (halogenated flame retardants in the B-side component that have been conclusively linked to birth defects and loss of fertility))), and other chemicals leaching a concern DURING install and the day or two thereafter, or are these concerns LONG-TERM, post-cure? I am already committed to leaving the home for a few days during and after installation so the question is to long term off-gassing. I thank everyone in advance for their insight and comments based on science and experience.

Asked by D S
Posted Wed, 05/14/2014 - 09:56
Edited Wed, 05/14/2014 - 10:30

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6 Answers

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1.
Helpful? 1

D.S.,
As far as I know, every case of lingering odors has involved installation errors. For more information on these problems, see Spray Foam Jobs With Lingering Odor Problems.

Builders routinely use spray-foam insulation to insulate rim joists, and the vast majority of homeowners are completely satisfied with these rim joist insulation jobs.

If you are at all worried about lingering odors, however, there is no reason to specify spray foam where its use is unnecessary. Most green builders would advise you that it makes more sense to use cellulose insulation rather than spray foam insulation to insulate an attic floor. You will get a higher R-value at a lower cost if you use cellulose rather than spray foam.

Of course, it's always a good idea to perform air-sealing work before installing cellulose on an attic floor. For more information on this topic, see Air Sealing an Attic.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Wed, 05/14/2014 - 10:09

2.
Helpful? -1

Dear Martin,
Would you also suggest using cellulose insulation under the floor? Or maybe mineral wool?
Thanks a lot!

Answered by Ohad Coen
Posted Thu, 05/15/2014 - 14:04
Edited Thu, 05/15/2014 - 14:04.

3.
Helpful? -1

Ohad,
I notice that you have already started a different thread with insulation questions:
http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/community/forum/green-products-and-m...

It can be confusing for one person to scatter questions in several threads.

If your house is on piers, you can find guidance on insulating the floor assembly here:
How to Insulate a Cold Floor.

If your house is over a basement or crawl space, I recommend that you insulate the basement walls or the crawl space walls, not the floor assembly.

If you need to install insulation because your joist bays include hydronic tubing for radiant-floor heat, you can use a wide variety of insulation products. Check out these three previous threads:

Heat Transfer Plates for Radiant heat under floor joists

Reflective barrier and insulation for radiant heat

What is the best method to insulate beneath PEX pipes installed under floor joists for radiant heat?

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Thu, 05/15/2014 - 14:31

4.
Helpful? -1

FYI: EPA considering action on certain chemicals associated with spray foam insulation, such as MDI & related polyisocyanurates

http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/actionplans/mdi.html

Answered by Terry Sopher Sr
Posted Thu, 05/15/2014 - 16:42

5.
Helpful? 1

This is the original questioner, DS, responding to Terry Sopher, Sr. who posted Answer #4. Terry, you seem to have missed the point of my question. The issue is SFI pre-cure versus post-cure dangers from off gassing. Certainly there are SFI pre-cure (during installation) dangers, but I could not find evidence of SFI post-cure dangers. SFI post-cure (long term) dangers, if any, is my issue. The EPA webpage you linked to says nothing about post-cure, but only discusses risk pre-cure. The EPA webpage says, "but EPA is concerned about potential health effects that may result from exposures to the consumer or self-employed worker while using products containing UNCURED (unreacted) MDI and its related polyisocyanates (e.g., spray-applied foam sealants, adhesives, and coatings) or incidental exposures to the general population while such products are used in or around buildings including homes or schools." (emphasis mine). The EPA is speaking of pre-cure (during installation) times, not post-cure, post-install. Regardless, thank you for your input.

Answered by D S
Posted Wed, 05/21/2014 - 16:30

6.
Helpful? 0

FWIW: Closed cell BaySeal is blown with HFC245fa, which has a global warming potential (GWP) of about 1000x CO2, whereas the open cell version (like most open cell) is blown with water:

http://www.productsafetyfirst.bayer.com/~/media/Product%20Safety%20First...

The 2" shot on the band joists is not going to be a crime against the planet, but 6" on the attic floor probably is- it will probably never recoup the GWP impact of the blowing agent in the reduced energy use over the life of the building when going with that much foam.

It doesn't take anything like 6" of foam to air-seal an attic floor, and there are much cheaper lower impact methods of getting higher R values there. Some amount of spray foam for air-sealing may make sense there, but unless it's a cracked/crazed plaster & lath ceiling below, it won't take a full coverage to air seal it. (Even a 1" flash shot of closed cell would be good enough if it's too tough to air seal otherwise.)

Answered by Dana Dorsett
Posted Thu, 05/22/2014 - 15:11

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