In the world of energy-efficient solutions, spray foam insulation comes to mind as an effective option. Not only does this powerful insulator save energy, but it can also act as a moisture barrier and deter mould.
The problem is that spray foam can be more costly than some of the alternatives. For that reason, you might wonder about its lifespan to ensure you don’t have to pay for pricey repairs or replacement in the future.
So, how long does spray foam insulation last? From factors affecting its longevity to tips on extending its lifespan, keep reading for all the details.
How Long Does Spray Foam Insulation Last?
Generally, spray foam insulation can maintain a lifespan of 80-100 years! The reason behind this impressive longevity is its chemical structure.
You see, spray foam insulation is made of polymers. For those wondering, the former are chemical compounds with numerous small chemical units. Those units bond together, forming larger structures.
Polyurethane is the primary component of foam insulation, and for good reason! This polymeric chemical compound is rigid and has low thermal conductivity. Additionally, it can withstand external impacts, such as air movement or moisture—all of which help it last a long time!
That said, spray foam’s longevity can vary depending on the polyurethane’s structure, which forms two shapes: an open or a closed cell structure.
Here’s a brief explanation of each type:
Open Cell Spray Foam Insulation
As the name suggests, open-cell spray foam has unsealed cells (bubbles). Those building structures are left loose, allowing airflow and soaking up moisture. Such a conformation makes the foam softer and more flexible.
However, as you might have guessed, the open cell structure isn’t as rigid as the closed one. That’s especially true if there are geometric deformities in the bubbles. Consequently, it might not survive for 80 years.
Closed Cell Spray Foam Insulation
Closed-cell foam, on the other hand, is durable thanks to the tightly pressed cells. These compacted pockets make the foam more rigid and stable, preventing air and moisture from seeping into the foam. As a result, it withstands external stressors and may last longer.
Factors Affecting the Longevity of Spray Foam Insulation
Aside from the chemical structure, several factors can affect the lifespan of spray foam insulation. These include installation, UV radiation, and maintenance.
Let’s discuss each factor in further detail!
As you might know, installing spray foam insulation typically follows four steps: preparation, application, expansion, and curing.
Now, several errors can happen during this process, preventing the material from adhering or working properly. As a result, the foam deteriorates prematurely.
Some of these common mistakes include:
- Failing to clean the substrate (walls) properly
- Applying spray foam to the wrong substrate
- Not removing old insulation or moisture properly
- Using dirty spray guns or contaminated foam
- Not heating the material to the recommended temperature
- Spraying the foam on substrates hotter than 27ºC or colder than 15ºC
- Applying the wrong thickness and leaving holes and cracks on the substrate
- Not storing the product as instructed on the label before use
Sure, polyurethane is sturdy, resisting chemicals and moisture, among other environmental conditions. Still, spray foam insulation isn’t bulletproof. Exposure to UV light damages the insulating layer over time, causing it to have a yellow, dusty appearance and lose its thickness.
Since polyurethane is durable, you might wonder: How does UV damage spray foam insulation?
The truth is that this chemical wears down quickly when exposed to UV light.
Not only that, but aromatic isocyanates, another component of spray foam, are also susceptible to sunlight exposure.
While both chemicals provide rigidity and increase mechanical strength, they can’t withstand radiation. So, you should only use this type of foam indoors—spray foam with aliphatic isocyanates is UV-resistant.
Maintenance and Care
Spray foam insulation is low-maintenance. Once you ensure proper installation, you can forget about the insulating layer, and it’ll still last for a long time.
However, proper maintenance can help extend the life of the chemical. That’s especially true with critical problems like moisture. Yes, closed-cell foam is waterproof.
Still, excessive humidity can cause the product to lose some of its insulation properties. Not addressing such an issue causes the water to seep into the covered surface. As a result, mould grows on the walls, which poses several health risks.
How to Extend the Lifespan of Spray Foam Insulation
As you can see, many factors damage spray foam, causing problems associated with poor insulation, like dampness. Not to mention, it can increase your energy bills.
For that reason, you need to properly care for the insulating layers, starting with installation and continuing after curing.
Here are a few tips to help you extend the lifespan of spray foam insulation:
- Choose the Right Product
As mentioned earlier, spray foam insulation comes in two types: open-cell and closed-cell. Choosing the right product is essential for the best results and longevity.
Generally, closed-cell foam is the better choice. Due to its compact structure, this material is dense, making it suitable for exterior applications and harsh environmental conditions.
Still, open-cell spray foam has its perks. The former is lighter and expands well, reaching the hardest nooks inside your house. So, it’s a good choice for indoor applications as long as the weather is moderate.
- Prepare the Surface Properly
Surface preparation is probably the most pivotal factor for spray foam longevity. For starters, dirt, dust, and other debris can all prevent proper adhesion, making the thermal barrier ineffective.
Likewise, any cracks or holes can cause a moisture problem since the foam might not reach them. For that reason, it’s important to clean the walls using water and solvents when necessary. Remove gravel and other contaminants if present.
Additionally, make sure the surface is dry. One way to check that is through litmus paper; if it changes colour, the wall is still wet. As for the cracks, seal them using a joint compound, or you can just hire a professional to avoid all the hassle.
- Clean Up as Needed
Even if you live in a clean area with a moderate climate, chances are dirt and dust can still find their way into your house. Over time, that can accumulate on the insulating layer and damage it. The good news is that you can easily detect an unclean foam layer from its appearance.
Once the foam’s surface changes colour, it’s time to give it a good cleaning. All you do is use a damp cloth and gently wipe the layer. You can also vacuum around the edges and seams to prevent dirt from reaching the wall’s surface.
- Install a Vapour Retarder
Since moisture is a pesky issue, you should take extra measures to prevent it from reaching the walls and wearing off the insulation. One way to avoid humidity hassles is to install a vapour retarder.
These materials are designed to prevent water from passing through the walls and other tiny holes. As a result, it helps keep the surface dry.
As a rule of thumb, you should install these barriers on the wall’s exterior if you live in a hot climate. Conversely, mount the vapour retarders on the interior surfaces if you live in colder regions.
- Regular Inspection and Monitoring
Regular check-ups, at least once annually, are important to ensure your foam layer is in good condition. Plus, it’ll help you detect any damage early on, preventing costly repairs.
Aside from that, monitor the temperature and humidity levels frequently to ensure they don’t drop below or go beyond the recommended levels. If that’s the case, contact your insulation specialist to prevent further damage.
What Is the Lifespan of Other Insulation Types?
Compared to other options on the market, spray foam insulation is the premium choice. It provides excellent thermal insulation and lasts for a long time.
Still, other insulation materials are more affordable than spray foam. These include fibreglass, cellulose, and mineral wool insulations.
Let’s discuss the durability and longevity of each alternative!
Fibreglass insulation is made of molten recycled glass fibres. Some plastic can also go into the mix to strengthen this insulating layer.
Since this product is more eco-friendly, you might expect it to last a short while. However, that’s not the case. On average, fibreglass insulation can last around 25 years. If kept under favourable conditions, it can go up to 80-100 years without deteriorating!
As the name implies, cellulose insulation is a product of various plant materials, including paper, wood, and cardboard, among others. The natural material is recycled and treated with chemicals to increase the insulation’s durability and strength.
Although it’s among the greenest options on the market, cellulose insulation doesn’t last that long. They have an average lifespan of 20-30 years, with signs of deterioration beginning after 15 years.
Mineral Wool Insulation
Mineral wool insulation is a fibrous material made of rock, slag, and ceramic. While it has a cotton-like texture, mineral wool is pretty durable, resisting high temperatures without being affected.
Generally, these insulators can last up to 80 years or more with proper maintenance and care.
Spray Foam Insulation Longevity Conclusions
So, how long does spray foam insulation last? Thanks to its composition of sturdy polymers, spray foam insulation has an impressive lifespan, ranging from 80 to 100 years! However, its longevity can vary depending on several factors, including the structure type, installation quality, UV exposure, and maintenance.
Compared to other options, like cellulose or fibreglass, spray foam insulation stands out as a premium choice, offering the highest thermal resistance and longevity. So, if you’re after long-term, energy-saving products, spray foam insulation is your go-to option!