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Spray foam insulation is a type of building insulation that can be used in walls, ceilings, crawlspaces and other parts of buildings. It is used to keep the heat inside when it is cold outside and the hot air outside when the weather is warmer. This type of insulation comes in spray cans and is composed of resin and certain chemicals, such as polyurethane or other isocyanates. When sprayed, the chemicals and resin create a foam that expands and solidifies in place. Spray foam insulation originally was recommended to be applied by professionals, but do-it-yourself kits are now available, although safety measures are heavily advised during application.
When the foam insulation is sprayed, it coats the surface and quickly expands as it solidifies. It dries quickly, providing insulation that is relatively permanent and will not sag. If the foam expands beyond the desired area, the excess insulation can be trimmed or cut away to the desired size.
Spray foam insulation is somewhat dangerous to people when it is being sprayed. Particles can get into the eyes, on the skin or breathed in through the mouth and nose if proper safety equipment and clothing are not worn. The chemicals can irritate the eyes and the respiratory system and can cause inflammation or rashes on the skin. It is recommended for a person to wear goggles, a breathing mask, gloves, long sleeves and long pants when spraying foam insulation.
Like any insulation, there are pros and cons to spray foam. Spray foam insulation is more expensive than fiberglass insulation. The process isn't neat, and the foam can be accidentally sprayed into places other than the intended target. If too much insulation is sprayed in, walls that are thin might buckle as the foam expands. Safety also is a concern for anyone who is attempting to apply this type of insulation.
Cost and cleanliness aside, there are clear benefits to using spray foam insulation. As a spray, it can get into and fill tiny nooks and crannies, providing better insulation. This can eliminate drafts and keep the building warmer when it's cold. No cold air can escape in the summer, either. These advantages can help lower the building's utility bills. By filling cracks and crevices, foam insulation also helps keep bugs and vermin from getting into the building, which can help save on extermination bills.
Spray foam insulation also adheres well to surfaces, so it can stick to the inside of walls or can be applied to the underside of floors and insulate from underneath. Homes that are insulated with spray foam often have a higher resale value than those that use fiberglass insulation or other types of insulation. There are environmental advantages as well; most notably, there aren't any fiberglass particles floating around in the air. Spray foam insulation also does not cause itching when it is touched, and it inhibits mold growth because it doesn't absorb water.
Do-it-yourselfers can purchase cans of spray foam insulation at most home improvement stores. Along with normal uses for insulation purposes, it also can be used to fill cracks around doors and windows as well as gaps around pipes and fixtures. If an insulation project is too large or difficult, however, it might be in a person's best interest to call in a professional. This might be more expensive, but it usually will ensure that the job is done properly.