DIY Spray Foam Insulation, is it worth it?
We get asked this question quite a bit!
First of all, you may be asking what exactly is Do-It-Yourself (DIY) spray foam insulation kit?
A DIY spray foam insulation kit is a two-part, portable spray foam insulation application system. DIY Spray foam insulation kits are most suitable for small to moderate-sized projects. The components are sold as a two-part kit comprising of an isocyanate side and a polymer side. The kits also come with a reusable hose and replaceable nozzle tips.
Spray foam kits are advanced systems, not to be confused with a single component slow set can foams, commonly found at hardware stores. Coverage on spray foam insulation kits ranges from 100 board feet (100 sq. ft. @ 1″) on the low end to upwards of 1200 board feet (1200 sq. ft. @ 1″ or 400 sq. ft. @ 3″) on the high end.
Most kits are closed cell foam. This is due to closed cell foam not being as heat reliant during the application process. Though with new technology more open cell kits are starting to hit the consumer market.
When contemplating the purchase of a DIY spray foam kit, the first thing that should be factored in is what the total square footage is to be sprayed?
In most cases, you are going to want to install at least 3″ of foam to the areas being done, if using a closed cell kit. So on a typical 100 sq. ft. project (10’x10′ wall) you would need at least a 300 board foot (BF) kit.
Next to consider is will this be a one time use or do you plan on storing the canisters for any length of time?
It is important to note that most 2 part foam canisters only have a shelf life of 30 days after the first use. This is due to the isocyanate chemical hardening inside the canister from reacting with moisture in the air and also the slow depletion of aerosol from the tanks. It is important to judge the size of your project accordingly, for best results I recommend getting a kit just big enough to complete the project at hand.
We have never had much luck with a once opened kit, even when using it just days after first being opened.
Next to consider would be your geographical region? More specifically will you be doing the install while the temperatures are below 75°f?
It’s important to note that these DIY spray foam kits need to be properly heated up, prior to and throughout the install process to achieve optimal results. Most manufacturers recommend at least 75°f. I personally have had better results at 90°f plus range. the end product of our professional spray foam equipment has a range of between 115°f – 140°f. More heat = better overall end product.
Over 90% of the issues we see or have personally run into while using DIY kits are temperature related.
In order to function properly it is imperative that the temperature of the canisters stay at a bare minimum of 75°f during install. I have found that the more the better. If you are located in a cold northern climate the DIY kit must be stored in a heated conditioned environment and for best results that temperature threshold should stay above 75°f during the install process as well.
A trick learned when working with the kits while using spray foam kits in northern winters is to actually submerge the canisters in a garbage pail full of hot water, preferably above 150°f during the install process. This is especially important when working in unconditioned construction sites during the most frigid of winter days. The garbage pail trick will serve you well during these times. Yes; This is a hassle but is it worth it over wasting $300 to $1000 on an improperly functioning spray foam kit due to user error.
Symptoms of an improperly functioning spray foam kit include off ratio product delivery.
In this case one of the components either does not flow enough or in some cases will not flow at all. This is a very unfavorable outcome. You will lose yield due to an improper chemical mixture and worse yet you will have off ratio uncured foam to remove and deal with.
A good telltale sign of any of the above will be if you do not see a chemical reaction taking place. Examples include foam not expanding, foam is bubbling, foam is very runny when spraying on a wall surface or dripping when spraying a ceiling surface.
Those of us in the south should be free and clear of these issue in most cases. Though in the extreme winter months everyone should be aware of proper heating procedures, especially when temperatures drop below the 55°f threshold.
Small wall area of a high rise building sprayed with a portable DIY kit. Done for sound attenuation. The small size and transportability of DIY spray foam kits make them very versatile, even for professionals.
And the last factor to consider, which is the most important of all would be cost comparison?
A professional install, even for a very small project can be very costly. At our company we have a minimum site visit charge ranging from $1200-1500 depending upon project location, the material being applied and our scheduling availability at the time.
Even at the low end of our minimum charge price range of $1200, quite a few spray foam kits can be purchased for quite a bit less. If you are at all handy and don’t mind getting being hands-on, you may want to go the DIY route vs hiring a professional company.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you are just looking to do an area of less than 1 foot squared or other minor areas air sealing of areas around the house. This includes areas around leaky doors, windows, drain pipes, etc… You can save a ton of money by just going with a cheap single component reusable setup.