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Building Science

FAQs for Professionals

How does spray foam insulation seal my building?
Is thermal barrier required and when is it needed?
At what point in the construction should spray foam insulation be applied?
Can spray foam insulation be applied directly to electrical wiring? What about installed electrical devices like recessed lights?

Q. How does spray foam insulation seal my building?
A. Spray foam insulation is sprayed on as a liquid which reacts and expands in place. This expansion action also seals all of the cracks and crevasses in your wall's exterior sheathing. The result is that air can no longer slip in: your building will be less drafty and more comfortable. Air leakage can also introduce moisture into the wall cavity, resulting in wet insulation and mold and mildew. With the sealing effects of spray foam insulation; this will not be a concern.

Q. Is thermal barrier required and when is it needed?
A. A thermal barrier is a covering on the surface of the spray polyurethane insulation which will protect it for at least 15 minutes in the event of a fire. ½-inch gypsum wall board, such as Sheetrock®, is an approved 15 minute thermal barrier.
Building codes require the installation of a thermal barrier between foam plastics (such as spray polyurethane insulation) and any occupied space. Exceptions apply in some cases; review local codes and/or confer with your local building code officials.
The building code provides for an exception to the thermal barrier requirement in attics and crawl spaces where entry is made only for the service of utilities. In such cases, the spray polyurethane insulation must be protected from ignition. Several manufacturers offer a spray-on or hand applied ignition barrier coating for these areas

Q. At what point in the construction should spray foam insulation be applied?
A. Normally spray foam insulation is installed at the same point in the construction cycle as other types of insulation. That is, using traditional building techniques, spray foam should be installed after the rough plumbing, electrical wiring, and heating and air conditioning ducts have been installed. If you decide to seal the entire exterior shell with spray foam insulation, it may need to be installed in some areas before the entire job is completed; ie. behind showers/tubs, behind electrical panels.

Q. Can spray foam insulation be applied directly to electrical wiring? What about installed electrical devices like recessed lights?
A. Spray foam can be applied directly to electrical wiring. Recessed lights or other fixtures may require a certain amount of air circulation around them for cooling purposes. In these cases, a box can be build around the fixture with gypsum wall board; then spray foam can be sprayed directly to the outside of the box.

topics: Professionals, Education, Installation

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I am SO glad I decided to use Icynene to insulate the entire envelope of my house. We did a full-renovation, and the 100% air barrier has been fabulous. Ameri-spec tested our house for the federal renovation grant, and said we were more heat efficient than most of the new "green" homes going up on the west side. Icynene definitely contributed to the $3800 rebate we got.
Tim, South Lethbridge