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INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT
ACOUSTICAL SEALANT CHOICES
AIR LEAK MINIMIZATION
ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION IN BUILDINGS
BASEMENT CEILING VAPOR BARRIER
BASEMENT HEAT LOSS
BRICK LINED WALLS
BRICK VENEER WALL AIR LEAKS
BUCKLED FOUNDATIONS due to INSULATION?
CATHEDRAL CEILING INSULATION
CATHEDRAL CEILING VENTILATION
CEILINGS, DROP or SUSPENDED PANEL
DEW POINT TABLE - CONDENSATION POINT
DUCT INSULATION, ASBESTOS PAPER
FIBERGLASS PARTICLE CONTAMINATION
Fiberboard Insulation Sheathing Mold
FIBERGLASS INSULATION MOLD
Fireproofing containing Asbestos
FRAMING DETAILS for BETTER INSULATION
FRAMING DETAILS for DOUBLE WALL HOUSES
FRAMING METAL STUD PERFORMANCE
FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING
HEAT LOSS in BUILDINGS
HEAT LOSS PREVENTION PRIORITIES
HEAT LOSS R U & K VALUE CALCULATION
HOUSEWRAP AIR & VAPOR BARRIERS
HOUSE DOCTOR, how-to be
HUMIDITY LEVEL TARGET
ICE DAM PREVENTION
INSULATION AIR & HEAT LEAKS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY & HOUSE TIGHTNESS
INSULATION FACT SHEET- DOE
INSULATION IDENTIFICATION GUIDE
INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT
INSULATION LOCATION - WHERE TO PUT IT
INSULATION R-Values & Properties
LEED GREEN BUILDING CERTIFICATION
LOG HOME ENERGY EFFICIENCY
MOLD in FOAM INSULATION, RESISTANCE
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
RIGID FOAM USE INDOORS
SHEATHING, FOIL FACED - VENTS
SLAB INSULATION, PASSIVE SOLAR
STAINS on & in BUILDINGS, CAUSES & CURES
STRAW BALE CONSTRUCTION
STUCCO WALL METHODS & INSTALLATION
STUCCO OVER FOAM INSULATION
SWEATING (CONDENSATION) on PIPES, TANKS
Thermal Expansion Cracking of Brick
THERMAL IMAGING, THERMOGRAPHY
THERMAL MASS in BUILDINGS
THERMAL TRACKING Indicates Heat Loss
TRUSS UPLIFT, ROOF
VAPOR BARRIERS & CONDENSATION in BUILDINGS
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
WALL CONSTRUCTION BARRIER vs CAVITY
WIND WASHING INSULATION At EAVES
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Insulating foam type identification: this article provides simple visual and tactile methods that anyone can use to reliably tell the difference among several common types of foam building insulation products. We include a Photo guide to identification of different foam building insulation materials and tactile, crush-test, crumble test, color examples, foam densities and weights, and other easy physical methods that can distinguish among most foam building insulation products including UFFI - urea formaldehyde foam building insulation, Icynene® foam, open and close cell foam insulations, 1/2 pound and 2-pound foam insulations, soy based foam insulation, polyurethane foam building insulation, and latex foam building insulation. We also describe special purpose foam insulation sprays such as fire-block foam used at mechanical passage openings through walls, floors, ceilings.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
How to Make a Sure Distinction Among UFFI Foam, Icynene® Foam, and Latex Foam Insulating Products in buildings
Our page top photo illustrates an open celled 1/2 pound polyurethane foam, two can-sprayed polyurethane foam sealant/insulation products, Icynene foam, and UFFI. All of these insulations are applied as foams that cure to a finished product. But their properties vary significantly as may installation costs and best uses. Solid slab and pre-shaped cut styrofoam and other insulating board products are described separately at Insulation Material Identification Guide.
Besides the details we outlined just above, it's easy to make a reliable distinction among urea formaldehyde foam insulation, Icynene® foam building insulation, and latex spray foam building insulation products using our simple finger probe test.
If the foam insulation product you find is quite firm it is probably a newer product such as icynene spray foam insulation. But beware: another soft foam insulation product is latex foam spray insulation sold in small spray canisters at building supply houses. It's easy to tell the difference. The latex foam spray and icynene foam spray products are not crumbly.
UFFI foam insulation is very crumbly and soft. It is very easy to break off a section of this foam with your hand using almost no pressure at all - the foam is very fragile. (Photo above left)
UFFI foam insulation will compress and usually disintegrate into a fine powder if you compress it, even by pressing on it with just a finger, and you'll see that UFFI leaves a dusty residue on your finger if you crush it. (Photo above right). Because any fine dust particles can be a respiratory irritant, even when the particles are not themselves toxic, we recommend that you wear a respirator when performing this test.
(To avoid making a mess we conducted these tests inside of a disposable cardboard box.)
Icynene foam insulation is elastic. If you compress a sample with your finger, as we show in these two photos (above), it will remain intact and will expand pretty much back to its original shape when you remove your finger.
We discuss the properties of Icynene® foam spray insulation at Icynene Foam Spray Insulation.
The insulating or "R-value" properties of Icynene foam are at INSULATION R-Values & Properties.
We discuss the reduced risk of mold where Icynene® is in crawl spaces at Mold risk in Icynene Foam Insulation.
Latex foam insulation is not really elastic. If you press down on latex foam insulation spray product after it has cured, it will compress and remain pretty much squashed into the smaller volume you've made.
Latex spray foam insulation is also whiter in color than the golden yellow of UFFI or Icynene and its finished surface is a dull matte not very shiny.
Like Icynene, latex foam insulation is not fragile but you can tear off a section from a larger chunk of cured latex foam insulation with your bare hand.
We have not found latex foam insulation used for complete building insulation retrofit, but it is often used by consumers to seal small building air leaks.
Visual and Tactile Characteristics of Open Celled 1/2 Pound vs Closed Cell 2-Pound Spray Foam Insulation
Our photos below illustrate application of a lightweight 1/2-pound open-celled spray foam insulation used in both new construction (left) and a retrofit insulation job at the same building (below right). This lightweight open-celled foam (Demilec™) was sprayed to fill the building cavities and trimmed flush with the rafters, studs, or floor joists. This material is easily compressed between a thumb and forefinger, but is elastic and will spring back to nearly its pre-compressed state.
We chose this foam product for the installation shown above because we had room for plenty of insulation. Framing was using 2x6 wall studs and 12" I-joists for the roof and floor support system. Because this is an open-celled foam and vulnerable to water accumulation and leaks we felt that the design worked best below a standing-seam metal roof - a covering likely to be extra-resistant to penetration, even from falling tree branches, for a long time. Photos courtesy Galow Homes.
Below we illustrate field-observable properties of Demilec's 1/2 lb. foam used in the building shown above. At below left is the exposed expanded cured side of the foam and at below right we show the interior of this foam "overspray" where it was trimmed from the building ceiling. You can see that the foam is uniform in interior, unlike some of the canned spray polyurethane sealant applications we demonstrate in this article.
Below we illustrate the compression behavior of this foam material. Note that in normal application one would not compress the foam as we did for this illustration. But you can observe that if you squash this type of foam it is not very elastic. Don't do that.
Demilec's Sealection Agribalance® spray foam insulation, in contrast, is an open-cell semi-rigid polyurethane foam insulation system, a water-blown insulation that is also spray applied, using "... more than 20% renewable agricultural based materials (refined vegetable oils) in the resin."
In contrast, closed-cell "two pound" spray foam insulation (see Icynene above) is a more dense and heavier product. Closed-cell foams are also by nature more resistant to both moisture and water penetration.
According to Demilec their Heatlok Soy-200 spray foam building insulation is a closed-cell polyurethane foam insulation that "... incorporates renewable oils and recycled plastic bottles in the creation of a high-performing insulation" that meets LEED requirements in various categories.
The product is formulated for use primarily as a moisture/vapor barrier and thermal insulation on above grade or below grade interior and exterior applications. You might want to take a look at the MSDS and other technical details provided by the company when evaluating this and all other insulating products.
Demilec's HeatLok Soy spray foam building insulation, is a similar product.
Canned spray polyurethane foam was used to fill gaps around the windows being renovated (below left). The foam expands in response to moisture in air, is very dense when cured (and horribly sticky messy when wet). It is trimmed using a sharp knife or saw.
An example of a consumer-use spray-can applied foam sealant product is Dow Chemical's Great Stuff insulating foam.
Below we illustrate the elasticity and other properties of this polyurethane foam sealant-insulation. You can see that in this slow-tech empirical test we observe that the polyurethane foam insulation is harder to compress (more dense) than some of the other products discussed here, and that it is quite elastic (below right), springing back to close to its original shape when pressure is removed.
Watch out: however, for too-rapid spraying or using too much quantity of this foam. In the window sealing application we illustrated above, when we trimmed off some of the sections of polyurethane foam sealant overspray that exuded out of the gaps being filled, we observed large voids inside the insulation. These voids reduce the foam's effective R-value, and depending on how it is trimmed, can also leave you with air leaks unless you make a second and more careful pass with the sealant.
Dow Chemical produces two versions of Great-Stuff spray foam insulating sealant commonly found at building suppliers.
Visual and Tactile Characteristics of Fire-Block / Fire-Break Foam Spray Building Penetration Sealant
Fire-block foam is a fire-resistant foam spray used to seal building floor, wall, or ceiling penetrations, especially in new construction or a spray-foam insulation retrofit job.
Fire retardant foam spray insulation (shown at left) hardens and cures similarly to the polyurethane foam illustrated at the window seal job above, but has a characteristic orange color to help building inspectors recognize where it has been applied.
Cured this foam is quite hard and dense.
A producer of fire resistant spray foam in individual cans is Convenience Products . The company's product label describes their Toucn'nFoam FireBreak flame resistant sealant as a fireblock penetration sealant is intended to fill and seal building ceiling, wall, or floor penetrations, and meets the following standards:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about how to identify different types of foam building insulation
Questions & answers or comments about foam building insulation products: UFFI, Icynene foam, Polyurethane foam insulation, Latex Foam insulation
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Technical Reviewers & References
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