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Spray foam vs conventional insulation

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam is a relatively new method of insulation, at least compared to fiberglass. The polyurethane foam is sprayed into walls and ceilings, where it expands to form a seal that is air tight and, in some cases, moisture tight.

Spray foam can be used as the primary method of insulation in a new home or as supplemental insulation for a new or existing home. One of the product’s best attributes is the ability to seal off small crevices that other types of insulation can’t reach, but we’ll discuss the pros and cons in detail later on in this guide.

Types of Spray Foam

Spray foam insulation comes in several forms: one-part formulas in aerosol cans, two-part formulas suited for use with low-pressure sprayers and two-part kits applied with high-pressure sprayers. The aerosol cans are ideal for small do-it-yourself jobs such as adding insulation around a doorway, but the two other methods of application typically require the equipment and training of a professional. Kits for low-pressure sprayers work for smaller jobs; high-pressure is better for big jobs.

No matter how it is applied, spray foam falls in to one of two categories: open cell or closed cell. Closed cell is the denser and more expensive of the two. It insulates about twice as well with an R-value of about 6 to 7 per inch, compared to 3 to 4 per inch with open cell. Closed cell is also moisture tight, while open cell is not, so it should be used in basements or other areas where insulation could come in contact with water.

How Much Does Spray Foam Insulation Cost?

The price of spray foam insulation depends on many factors: the size of the home, which areas of the home are insulated with foam, the type and quality of the foam, your geographic location and the applicator’s experience. Because costs vary so dramatically, it’s not very useful to offer an estimate of total project cost.

The price of spray foam insulation is usually discussed by the board foot, which describes a 12×12-inch space that is 1 inch thick. Open-cell foam usually goes for about $0.45 to $0.80 per board foot, while closed cell costs more like $1 to $1.50 per board foot. (All prices include material and labor.) If you can figure out how many board feet you need covered, you can get a rough estimate of cost.

By the square foot, which is how fiberglass is usually priced, costs range from about $1.30 to $3.50 per square foot of wall space. Open-cell spray foam falls on the lower end of that range, while closed-cell foam usually costs at least $1.75 per square foot.

Keep in mind that prices can be higher for hard to reach areas. Small projects are likely to cost more per board foot than large projects. And these figures are only meant to be estimates – costs vary dramatically from one region to another.

Spray Foam Pros

  • Energy efficient – Spray foam insulation naturally expands after it is applied, sealing around crevices and joints where fiberglass can’t reach. Because of this, it is a more energy efficient method of insulation. Your energy bills will be lower than with fiberglass insulation if the spray foam is properly installed.
  • Longer lasting – Spray foam doesn’t break down as easily as fiberglass, so it has a much longer lifespan.
  • Prevents other types damage – High-quality spray foam insulation comes with the added bonus of protecting your home from pests and mold damage. Pests such as rodents will not be able to permeate the insulation, nor will water if you spring for closed-cell foam.