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Community and Q&A

Seeking Advice on Defective Spray Foam Insulation

BPortnoy1 | Posted in General Questions on
I’m writing here to seek advice regarding an issue I’ve been facing with the spray foam insulation in my home. A few months ago, as part of a retrofit, I opted for a combination of flash and batt with closed cell followed by open cell foam. However, from the beginning, I noticed a strong smell (not fishy) coming from the rooms and attic, which was accompanied by feeling sick after exposure.
After approximately a month, I decided to conduct air testing, and the results were concerning. The tests revealed significantly elevated levels of chemicals, solvents, and blowing agents. Recently, I received back core samples that point to the foam being manufactured defectively (versus wrong install) and are considered unacceptable. 
Although the colder weather and increased ventilation via multiple ERVs I’ve installed have stabilized the situation for now, I have been advised to remove all the foam as it will continue to off-gas. My concern is that I’m unsure about the necessary steps to take and who else I should report this issue to, apart from contacting the installer and supplier. Will add this this product is marketed as green guard gold for very low emissions. 
Additionally, I would appreciate any information on professionals who specialize in spray foam removal. Is it possible to remove the foam using methods like cold blasting? Moreover, even if I were to replace the roof, the foam is also present on the attic walls, adding to my dilemma.
In the meantime, I am considering covering the foam with attic foil as a temporary solution until I can arrange for its removal. However, I understand that this may not completely resolve the off-gassing issue.
This whole situation seems surreal to me, as I’ve only ever heard of off-gassing problems resulting from improper installations. To ensure accuracy I used a highly regarded lab and conducted two core samples, three air samples, and an outside sample for comparison. I have no doubt these results are accurate. 
I would greatly appreciate any advice, suggestions, or personal experiences with similar situations that you can share. Thank you in advance for your help.

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  1. walta100 | | #1

    Sadly, this forum will see a few similar posts about spray foam each year. I do not recall anyone ever posting about how the story ends. All we can guess is the poster Googled “spray foam litigation” and the lawyer first words are stop posting on the internet and when the dust settles, they have signed a non-disclosure agreement and can never talk.

    “I received back core samples that point to the foam being manufactured defectively (versus wrong install) and are considered unacceptable.”
    To my ear this sounds wrong the stuff is likely made in large batches under controlled conditions and samples from of every batch would be lab tested before shipment. It seems very unlikely you could prove bad product. How the product was transported, stored, mixed and applied are the huge uncontrolled untested variables.


  2. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #2

    It's unlikely the precurser chemicals were "manufactured incorrectly", it's far more likely the mix was incorrect at install time. If you have core samples showing improperly cured spray foam, then you are pretty much stuck having to physically remove it. I would try a company that handles mold abatement and see if they can sand or shot blast the affected areas to clear them.

    You can use a hermetic barrier to seal the bad foam areas for now. Hermetic barriers tend to be metal and glass materials. Aluminized mylar (something like Reflectix) may be good enough here, but 1/2" foil faced polyiso would likely be much better -- the foil facer on that stuff is a thin metal sheet, which, when taped with foil tape, gives you a hermetic barrier (mostly -- your tape seals won't be perfect), which is what you need to block solvent penetration. Solvents will migrate through other materials like polyethylene sheet.

    I'd still keep some negative pressure ventilation running in the problem areas though just to be safe.


    1. BPortnoy1 | | #4

      Do you think for the attic the foil faced could be a long term solution? I’m scared of doing more harm by removing all the foam. It’s 10 inches of foam over 2400 square foot of room space. I especially would have closed cell. Open cell. Foil faced. Which isn’t ideal to have the two vapor barriers but my attic is very dry and the VOCs are the bigger issue in my opinion. Thanks for the help

      1. Expert Member
        BILL WICHERS | | #6

        The foil does create a vapor barrier, so you have the risk of moisture issues. I was thinking that your more immediate concern is to contain the stink (which comes from solvents), so the foil would be there primarily to contain that stink with moisture a distant second in terms of your concerns. This assumes a short-term setup though -- long term, moisture issues could be a big problem.

        It's possible to leave the polyiso in place permanently, but you run this risk of moisture issues and rot. If you go this route, I'd put some moisture sensors in the rafter bays in a few strategic spots so that you can monitor moisture levels over time. This would help you limit the risk of moisture damage IF you act on the readings (i.e. if you see high moisture, you take corrective steps).


        1. BPortnoy1 | | #7

          Thanks Bill

  3. Patrick_OSullivan | | #3

    > To ensure accuracy I used a highly regarded lab and conducted two core samples, three air samples, and an outside sample for comparison. I have no doubt these results are accurate.

    Receipts, please. Post your reports.

    I would be surprised that a lab could reach the conclusion that the product was "manufactured defectively", and say so in a definitive manner. Such an assertion imputes fault, rather than just stating clinical facts.

  4. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #5

    You should talk with Henri Fennell; he provides consulting for people in your position:

    1. BPortnoy1 | | #8

      He owns a spray foam business and really doesn’t have time for consulting. He also deducts most of your time for logistics related to scheduling a time to talk which never happens.

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