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Community and Q&A

Help identifying off-gassing from spray foam insulation

LAllenP | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

Our Demilec Agribalance open cell polyurethane spray foam insulation has been off-gassing a smell since it was applied 7 months ago. Before I move my family back into the house I’d like to know what’s coming from the foam, especially since Demilec lists a safe exposure level for their amine catalyst (a likely cause of the smell) at only 0.05ppm.

Demilec has offered to foot the bill for air quality testing, but only for specific tests that can’t detect amines. (I went to them first since they’re the experts in their own proprietary chemistry; although they acknowledge there’s a smell coming from our foam and that it’s a familiar smell to them, they won’t identify it for us. They’ve also “lost” the first foam sample they took from our house and reneged on a promised chemical analysis of the second sample, and they’ve bounced us around to three different people for months. Overall thus far they’ve been less than helpful.)

No test labs or industrial hygienists I’ve spoken with to date have a way to test for unspecified chemicals, particularly amines. I understand that this is more difficult than routine tests. I think at this point I need someone with more specific knowledge & experience: I’m looking for a recommendation to someone—a lab or consultant—who’s successfully identified chemicals off-gassing from spray foam.

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  1. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #1

    If you haven't been able to live in the house for seven months, you should talk to a lawyer.

  2. LAllenP | | #2

    We had already moved out, as part of a larger remodel, when the foam was applied. While the off-gassing concern has delayed our progress significantly, health is our greater concern rather than timing.
    If you have a lawyer experienced in foam issues to recommend, please send contact info as that may be helpful in the long run. Until we have specific evidence of a health threat or until Demilec refuses to make good on their offers of mitigation assistance, I don't see a clear claim against them.

  3. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #3

    If, as a result of the foam installation, your house is uninhabitable, you have a claim. Whether it would be worth pursuing is a different matter. Any experienced construction lawyer should be able to advise you.
    Demilec has been the subject of lawsuits alleging similar problems to yours.

  4. LAllenP | | #4

    Agreed. My goal, if possible, is to quantify "uninhabitable" first with the help of science and then involve lawyers only if necessary.
    Best case scenario: credible tests show no hazard and we can move forward.
    Middle scenario: credible tests guide remediation decisions and establish criteria for follow-up tests to confirm remediation success.
    Worst case scenario: credible tests show that the house is not safely inhabitable and we have an empirical basis for a much larger claim.
    Referrals to experienced lawyers are welcome, but at present I'd prefer to know what risk I'm dealing with before claiming damages.

  5. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    A smell that lingers after 7 months is a certain sign of defective foam. There is no test better than your nose. If Demilec acknowledges that the foam still smells, and you wrote that they do, you have a case. Get a lawyer.

  6. 124bcd | | #6

    Allen we are in a similar position with our foam. Any advise on what you were able to discover would be very much appreciated.

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