Spray Foam Vs. Rigid Foam Insulation
Best-suited for big jobs. Two-part spray foam provides excellent air sealing and insulation, and is often sprayed against open framing, as in this attic installation.
Remember when a pink panther held the monopoly on home insulation? Those days are gone. Today homeowners, contractors and building scientists (the experts who study home energy performance) spend a lot of time talking about foam insulation. But this newly popular insulation can come in many forms. Right now, let's consider the differences between the spray foam and rigid foam. More specifically, we can compare the closed-cell spray foam that requires two components to be mixed at the application nozzle, and the rigid foam insulation boards that come in different thicknesses.
Both two-component spray foam and rigid foam are useful for improving home energy performance. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide whether spray foam or rigid foam is best for a particular application.
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Here are the PROs and CONs for both options:
Two-component spray foam PROS
- Provides both insulation and air sealing; air sealing is excellent because the foam expands to fill gaps and cracks.
- High R-value —about R-7 per in. depending on formulation.
- Speedy installation.
- Once cured, spray foam insulation stays in place; it won't shift, settle, or fall out of place.
Two-component spray foam CONS
- Messy; overspray can deposit foam where it must be removed.
- Respirators and protective clothing must be worn during installation.
- Temperature sensitive; cold temperatures can cause problems with foaming action or curing.
- R-value can degrade slightly over time.
Rigid foam insulation PROS
Rigid foam is easy to work with. No respirators or special equipment are required.
- Provides both insulation and air sealing, provided that seams between foam panels are sealed with tape.
- Less messy than spray foam.
- Different thicknesses are available to suit different application & R-value requirements.
- Panels are easy to cut and can be installed in any temperature.
- Safe handling; no harmful emissions during installation.
- Best installation for insulating crawl space and basement walls.
- Some rigid foam panels (like SilverGlo™, for example) include a radiant barrier for additional energy savings.
Rigid foam insulation CONS
- R-value varies based on type of rigid foam. It can be as low as R-3.8 per in. or as high as R-8 per in.
- More time-consuming installation than spray foam in some (but not all) applications.
- Sometimes single-component spray foam must be applied around edges of rigid foam to seal and hold panel in place.
Be sure to check out our other content to help in choosing the best spray foam insulation and the best spray foam contractor in IA.
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