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Attic open-cell foam: off-gasing / odor

user-7075353 | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

We have a traditional 1966 two story home, dual-zoned home in Atlanta (zone 3A). On April 18th we had our existing inadequate fiberglass insulation removed and open cell foam installed in our 1200 sq ft attic. We have had odor / off-gasing problems since. On cool, cloudy days it’s not very noticeable but on hot, sunny days the odor is quite pronounced and our second floor A/C (handler in the attic) is not usable as it blows in the odor/gases. We’ve been living with open windows and fans upstairs since. The odor is closer to the paint-like I have read about, not the fish-like. My wife has had significant reactions to this gas – sore throat, throat closing up, coughing, etc.

The installer and I first worked the problem as a temporary issue by opening up the attic at the gable vents and forcing air through the attic. I went as far as rent a manhole blower for 8 days removing air from the attic.

The foam is Accella’s Foamsulate 50. At this point I’m ready to declare the foam install a failure. The installer is no help. Seems to be two schools of thought on next steps. One is to cut out, scrape out the bad foam, vacuum it up as much as possible and go back with better installed open cell foam. Replace the ductwork while I’m at it. That’s the cheap option.

I’ve also had advice that the entire roof needs to be replaced, including some support (struts?) that had foam on them.

Any thoughts on next steps?

Thank you.

David Carlson

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    It sounds like you understand the situation fairly well. You might want to begin documenting the situation by communicating with your contractor via registered letters (dated, of course). Keep copies of all letters.

    You might also want to consult with a lawyer who has experience with construction defect litigation.

    If you haven't seen it yet, you should read this article: Spray Foam Jobs With Lingering Odor Problems.

    Good luck.

  2. Jeremy_G | | #2


    I'm having a similar problem with open-cell SPF made by SWD Urethane. It was installed just over a month ago (mid-May) and we have a sweet chemical smell that's much more prominent when it's hot. The SPF is installed under the roof deck. I'm now ventilating with a fan in a gable vent. I'm the one having the so-far minor health symptoms, though I worry particularly about my young kids.

    The installer has tried to blow me off so far and I just put a call in to SWD yesterday. The installer claimed that the equipment prevents them from spraying bad foam. However, the foam has pulled away from the rafters in a bunch of places (up to 1/4"), which SWD's own literature suggests is due to incorrect temps.

    Anyway, I think I need to start my own thread rather than hijacking yours. Hope you're able to find a good resolution. Would you keep us posted? Despite apparent improvements in the SPF industry, it's clear that some people are still getting a bad installation and the consequences are significant.

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