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Community and Q&A

Spray foam fire-retardant painting

JoshuaB | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

Recently I had my cellar a crawl space professionally sprayed with closed cell foam. The company was supposed to return to spray on fire-retardant paint. The crawl space is difficult to work in and they company has offered me several hundred dollars discount to leave it unpainted. They tell me that there is actually no requirement for the fire retardant paint in a crawl space, and that because there is no source of ignition in the crawl space, so it is safe. There is a living space directly above the crawl space. The fellow I spoke with said that in his own house there is a crawl space which he had foamed and that he did not have the fire-retardant foam done there.

Another wrinkle is that after the foam spraying, they said that they would be back the following day to paint, but there was a snowstorm and my recollection is that they put it off and was under the impression that, so far, none of the painting has been done. But when I spoke with the company representative today, he said that the foam in my cellar has already been painted, and that it is only the crawl space which needs to be done. So I am left uncertain as to whether he is correct, or if he is mistaken about the cellar having been painted. d

Here are my questions:
1. I would value any recommendation about the efficacy of leaving the crawl space foam unpainted and saving money, vs. painting it as a safety concern?
2. Is there something that I can observe which would confirm for me whether or not the foam spray in my cellar actually has been painted with fire-retardant paint?

Thanks in advance.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Building codes require all spray foam installed in a crawl space to be protected by an ignition barrier. This is a less stringent barrier than a so-called thermal barrier (which basically means 1/2-inch drywall), but it is still important. An intumescent coating (what you call fire-retardant paint) is a type of ignition barrier.

    The code does not allow you to skip this step. For all of the relevant code references (and lots more information on this topic), see Thermal Barriers and Ignition Barriers for Spray Foam.

    I'm not a lawyer, but as far as I know, contractors (including insulation contractors) are required to comply with applicable building codes, in every state of the U.S.

    Before you take your contractor to small claims court, you might remind him in a certified letter that his company is required to comply with all applicable building codes. That might get his attention.

  2. JoshuaB | | #2

    Thank you, Martin Holladay. Your answer is very helpful to me in making my decision.

    The second part of my question is: How can I tell whether or not the painting has been done? What does it look like compared with unpainted closed cell spray foam?

  3. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #3

    Joshua, intumescent coatings are usually--always, in my experience--white. Spray foam is almost always a shade of yellow, or sometimes dyed blue or green.

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