Spray Foam Saga

July 12th, 2012

I’ll preface this by saying that I have lusted after spray foam insulation for a decade or more. My first house was a handbuilt log cabin with no insulation to speak of, and I would gaze longingly at my Fine Homebuilding magazines, showcasing this amazing technology. So the night before the spray foam truck was to arrive was like the night before Christmas. This was to me, the most exciting and rewarding part of this project I now found myself thrown into. Sure I’d be mortgaged to the hilt – but I’d finally have spray foam! And a mold free bedroom.

So things were moving right along with our project until we got to the spray foam portion. At that point things got unpleasantly off-track. Hence the 7 month hiatus on status reports. This should have been posted around the middle of December 2011.

Day 1

It began innocently enough with the project manager calling the night before they were to arrive, explaining that there was a leak in their hose which needed to be fixed, so they’d be a day behind. Then they showed up Tuesday late and running behind. The project super was sick with the flu, clearly not feeling well and didn’t have his ‘usual’ crew with him. They worked like molasses, and spent most of the day hiding in the back of their truck. The pictures above show what I found the next morning upstairs. They had taped things off and applied about 4″ of closed cell foam to the lower half of the entire roof.

Day 2

Day two seemed to move along much smoother. The super was in better spirits and seemed to have more competent help with him. They worked all day and completed the entire roof. Unfortunately they laid down massive amounts of foam, didn’t leave the thermostat set, and the temperature dropped hard that night. That night we kept hearing loud popping noises upstairs as the house cooled.

Day 3

Day three was Thursday and they were behind the 8 ball working fast and furious. They went full bore on the wall cavities with the open cell foam.

Day 4

Friday they cleaned up and got the heck out of here. I was disenchanted enough at this point to stop taking photos. The dumpster was piled two times over with bags of excess trimmed foam. So much waste.

Quality Control

Monday we went to work installing the vent for our ERV and started discovering problems with the foam. Namely dinnerplate size voids in the wall cavities. As we probed more of the walls, we realized that these hollow spots were everywhere. I had 3.5″ of open cell swiss cheese in my walls. Better yet, both gable end walls had already been covered with a layer of rigid foam and strapping – ready to receive drywall.

Remediation

The foam contractor agreed the open cell wall foam was unacceptable and sent some folks to fix it. Halfway though the first day, I went upstairs to see how the repairs were going. I found they were selectively removing the void areas, and then trimming rigid foam to fix the areas and foaming it into place. Since so much of the foam needed to be replaced this was an asinine approach – and I requested they stop. I spoke with the project manager who agreed to completely remove all of the wall foam and replace with layers of rigid insulation sealed into place. They spent two days removing and redoing the walls. More bags in the dumpster. On what’s supposed to be their last day of work, I hear the air compressor fire up at 7pm and realize they are planning on staying as late as it takes to finish today. I go upstairs and find a huge mess of trimmed foam and tools, and the gable ends still need foam and strapping. “So, what’s your plan?” I ask. “We’ll be out of here in 45 minutes.” replies the super. I look around and survey the mess. “I’ll give you $50 if you can clean this up and be out of here in 45 minutes – it’ll never happen.” About this time, the other crew member who was outside comes charging up the stairs and starts tearing into me verbally. Long story short, I tell them to leave my house and never ever return. 2 days later the project manager comes and completes the work himself, all apologies.

Remediation Redux

Sometime after the first spate of repairs we got a nice thin snow cover that provided a telling image of the roof. We still had hotspots and big ones too. The project engineer was in the area and stopped by to inspect the repairs their crew had done. He found that in the area which they had claimed to carved out and replaced with 4 layers of rigid foam – only 1 layer. Once he excavated the foam properly, it was clear that shrinkage had caused a void between the foam and the rafter. This was allowing warm moist air to hit the underside of the cold roof deck and condense. So he made the proper repairs so we could get on with our life and get some drywall installed. Then it snowed again:

Drywall Installed, More Foam Issues : (

Fast forward to today, we decided that we couldn’t let these people work on our house anymore. Sometime before winter our general contractor will come open the roof from the topside and correct the last remaining hotspots.

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