Lingering Odor from Poor Spray Foam Installation
I have seen a lot of posts about lingering odors after a bad spray foam job, but I want to ask about another issue that happens.
I had open cell spray foam installed in multiple attic areas of an existing house. The installers did not block the attic off from the rest of the house, and there was no mechanical ventilation during the install. When they came back three days after the install to add fans, they blew air from the attic to a bedroom down below. At least some windows were open. Baffles were installed prior to the foam being installed, so the only way for the offgassing to go was down. One of the attic accesses is at the top of the stairs above my kids’ playroom, another above a bedroom.
I have talked to just about everybody, but cannot figure out what to do about the lack of ventilation. The manufacturer states that if not properly ventilated, odors from whatever chemicals can be soaked into porous surfaces. I reached out to discuss how long these smells will stay, but they obviously don’t have anything to say about it. I reached out to a couple people who wrote methods of remediating misapplied spray foam, but there wasn’t much knowledge on what to do after an unventilated install. I’ve heard everything from ventilation not mattering to improper ventilation rendering a house worthless.
Clothes – All clothes that were out have a chemical smell that we believe was the catalyst. We have washed all the clothes, towels, linens, and the smell goes away. Clothes that were in dressers or were not in the area that was foamed did not seem to have a smell, but we washed them anyway.
Furniture – Cloth furniture like couches have a similar smell. I am considering a steam cleaner as that seems like the most likely solution. Wood furniture doesn’t seem to have a smell to it.
Toys / Stuff – Some of toys were covered with a yellow dust that looks like the foam dust. Most was easily wiped off, but a little was pretty sticky. I have cleaned these with soap and water at the advice of the SPF consultant that came out. Some of the cloth toys and cloth bags that the toys were in had this same smell. We have thrown in the washer what we can, and that seems to take care of it.
Walls – There was spray foam stuck to the walls below the attic entrances. We just scraped this off and moved on. Don’t know if it smells or not, and I plan on painting all of the walls with a shellac primer to cover up any smells that may still be in there.
Building materials – Some rugs do have this smell to them, and I plan on pressure washing them to clean them up. Lumber in the attics is probably the biggest issue.
We think the smell – sort of like a chemical or glue smell, somewhat sweet – is the catalyst since that was found in an air sample 3 weeks after installation. But I have no idea how to tell for sure, and I am not sure it matters. I talked to an industrial hygienist about testing clothes; the cost of testing is multiple orders of magnitude more than the cost of the clothes.
I have found a complete lack of knowledge on how to clean up belongings in a house after an unventilated and uncontained spray foam install, so I figured I would reach out to see if others had dealt with this.
GBA Detail Library
A collection of one thousand construction details organized by climate and house part