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How much should I be worried of living in a house with spray polyurethane foam insulation surfaces under the floor tiles?

Recently a few surfaces of spray polyurethane foam were installed in
our home, for insulation
purposes. There is going to be a heating system, based on pipes
running hot water (~30 C
degrees), above the SPF surface, and above it they will place the floor tiles.

Currently the house is completely empty and fully ventilated (there
are no windows yet) and it will take around additional 6 months until
we will enter it, but I am still worried about potential off gasses
coming from the stable SPF surface even after that time.

The below EPA link discusses ASTM WK30960, a future method for
determining volatile organic compounds, diisocyanates, oligomeric
isocyanates, and amine catalysts emitted from SPF insulation products
designed for on-site application in buildings, but the knowledge about
this is still limited:


From what I see, most of the concern is during the period of time this
insulation is not yet fully cured, and 6 months may or may not be
enough time for it to be fully cured (the vendor claims it
takes seconds but I don't really trust him...).

I keep getting completely different opinions about this and feel I
need to consult with someone who really understand chemistry and
materials, and who will maybe know this material a bit more. I also keep reading horror stories about this material.

I talked to our vendor, and they have never performed any
tests for offgassing from this product. They said they never heard any
requirement to do that.

How much should I be worried? Is there any test I can/should do? Or
would I better just remove those SPF surfaces and ask for some other
insulation which should be safer (couldn't find one yet) ?

From what I understand, this material is vastly used in the US, Canada and Europe, but I'm not sure this is
enough to be calm..

Thanks a lot!

Asked by Ohad Coen
Posted May 15, 2014 3:07 AM ET


4 Answers

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I don't think that health experts know enough to answer your question. It's safe to say that hundreds of thousands of people live in homes that include spray foam insulation, and the vast majority of these people have no health complaints that can be traced back to the spray foam.

The question of "multiple chemical sensitivity" is fraught with controversy. You can read more about the issue here: Helping People With Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Because different people react differently to certain odors -- and because some people claim to detect odors that others can't even detect -- it's difficult for building scientists to give health advice.

Only you can determine whether odors bother you, and only you can determine what level of risk you want to assume.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted May 15, 2014 5:20 AM ET
Edited May 15, 2014 5:22 AM ET.


Thanks so much for the reply.
There's no odor at all, but I'm still worried from the potential offgassing risk I keep reading about. If I scrap the SPF surfaces away, am I completely safe? I'm not worried about SFP dust, because it will ~6 months before we move in and the entire building will be cleaned and fully ventilated, and the surfaces will be covered with floor. But I'm worried about the potential offgassing from the potential remaining particles. really not sure what to do and whether there's a safe path from this point.
Also not sure if a VOC test will be enough to judge whether we're safe or not..

Answered by Ohad Coen
Posted May 15, 2014 6:49 AM ET


Dear Martin,
I feel my safest bet would be to remove the SPF surfaces.
Is there any resource that will help me do that safely (I would like to hire help, but I want to know the safety rules and make sure they are enforced)?
Thank you so much for all your help!

Answered by Ohad Coen
Posted May 16, 2014 1:29 PM ET


I've heard of cases where people remove cured spray foam -- usually because of odor problems. Some jobs are thorough, and some are sloppy -- but in all cases it's a messy, labor-intensive business. Just claw the stuff out with flat bars, wrecking bars, or hammer claws -- and then try to get the clingy pieces with drywall knives and putty knives.

Needless to say, you have to be careful of any wiring or plumbing in the framing bays.

Good luck.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted May 16, 2014 1:49 PM ET

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