Spray Foam Insulation Surveys

30 May 2024

Spray foam insulation has become one of the most popular ways to install all-important insulation in properties throughout the UK. It’s made even more popular due to the fact that it’s easy to apply in areas that might require a bit of extra effort with traditional insulation methods.

However, it has been the case recently that surveyors, lenders, and insurers have all become concerned about the potential consequences that poorly or incorrectly applied spray foam insulation might have on a property.

Luckily, Timberwise can help you learn if your property has been negatively affected by the application of spray foam insulation with our spray foam insulation survey.

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What Is Spray Foam Insulation?

Spray foam insulation is a product which works exactly how it sounds – it’s a foam layer of insulation which is applied to surfaces via the use of a spray gun. The foam itself is polyurethane, and it was designed to improve the thermal efficiency of the surfaces it is applied to, which would in turn reduce the cost of the energy bills for the property.

There are two types of this foam that can be used when applying spray foam insulation. The first is a porous form, and you can tell it’s porous if when you prod it, its soft and spongy to the touch.

The non porous form of the foam is used in properties to offer additional support to the roof’s longevity. The non-porous foam works as a binding for the roof coverings, potentially prolonging the lifespan of the roof itself. This type of spray foam is hard to the touch.

Spray foam insulation is commonly used on spaces like attics because it is a quick and easy way to insulate otherwise complicated sections of roofing and timber rafters.

The foam solution application process should go as follows. First, a backing card should be affixed onto the surface where the spray foam will be applied. This creates an air gap between the foam and the surface it is being applied to.

Then, the spray foam will be sprayed onto those backing cards directly, before it expands and sets as a layer of insulation.

Obviously, this is a quick and easy solution when it comes to insulating a space like a loft because it is less work than measuring and cutting blocks of insulation to size, which will then need to be fixed into place below boarding and between the rafters.

In theory, spray foam insulation is a great idea. However, reports of the insulation causing problems in the properties it has been applied in have been on the rise.

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Why Might Spray Foam Insulation Damage Your Property?

If spray foam insulation is incorrectly applied to your property’s walls, it could well cause a problem with moisture retention within your timber, leading to further complications that may well need professional repair.

Porous spray foam insulation is designed to allow for the passage of air, however the foam itself can act a bit like a sponge, absorbing moisture and then holding it against the timber it was designed to protect.

Non-porous foam however does not allow for air flow, and any moisture that comes into contact with the foam will sit on top and be held against the timber by the foam, again causing a potential moisture problem in the timber.

Both of these examples are problems, the only difference is the method through which the spray foam insulation causes moisture to enter your property’s timber.

So, if improperly applied or bonded, spray foam insulation can cause timber to absorb and retain moisture, leading to issues such as dry and wet rot, which can spread easily and ruin your timber.

Reducing the ventilation capacity of a roof can also heighten the risk of condensation building up within the roof void, causing an attic to develop potential damp and mould issues in the future.

Of course, it isn’t just property care issues that can be brought about by poorly applied spray foam insulation.

It may well be the case that if there is a leak in your roof you might not have noticed it, as any leaking rainwater hasn’t made it’s way past the spray foam insulation, potentially soaking into your property’s timber. Often this can mean that the repairs needed on your property are urgent, but go unnoticed thanks to the spray foam insulation coating the problem. Often this can lead to the problem compounding, the solution getting more complicated, and ultimately, more expensive.

Often, spray foam insulation is not what causes the direct damage to a property. Instead, it acts as a catalyst, allowing for the buildup of condensation, or covering up other property defects as they occur.

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How Do You Know If Spray Foam Insulation is Harming Your Property?

Because spray foam insulation is normally applied in space we don’t spend much time, it may well be difficult for someone to absent-mindedly notice an issue developing in their loft.

Even if somebody was to look at their loft in greater detail there is still no guarantee that they will spot a problem with the insulation, because it would be impossible to see what is happening beneath the foam.

It could well be that your roof has a leak and the water is collecting behind the foam, that the timber in the roof is rotten, or that maybe even some of the building materials have degraded behind the insulation which is impossible to see behind the foam.

Of course, if you have noticed that condensation in your loft space has built up, dry rot beginning to spread through the timber in your loft, or woodworm beginning to take hold of the timber, then perhaps the spray foam is causing an issue.

Essentially, it’s very difficult for a layperson to judge.

The best way to understand if spray foam insulation has had a negative effect on your property is to call in a properly qualified surveyor, and have them inspect your spray foam insulation.

How Do Timberwise Check Spray Foam Insulation?

Just like any other property care defect, the best way to understand and ascertain if there is a problem with spray foam insulation in your property is via an in person survey.

Our team will visit your property, and inspect the areas that have been covered with spray foam insulation for signs that it could, or already has, damaged your property.

Our surveyor will check over the spray foam insulation and establish its basic nature, and how it has been applied. Things like whether the foam is considered open or closed cell, if the foam has been applied evenly and to industry-acceptable standards, the depth of the foam, and what the foam has actually been sprayed onto.

We will take moisture readings from rafters, purlins, wall plates, ceiling joists, and any other relevant materials by removing a small section of the spray foam insulation, which allows us to see the condition of things like the timber, roofing felt, or other underlays.

This process also allows our surveyor to check for any signs of active woodworm, or fungal decay or growth within the timber which would indicate an issue with the application of the spray foam insulation itself.

As members of the Property Care Association, we follow the new protocols set up by the PCA and the Residential Property Surveyors Association, which were set up with support from policymakers and lenders to address and understand the issues posed by spray foam insulation, and in the long run, create a framework where suppliers and installers of spray foam insulation can provide a quality and lasting service.

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Worried About Your Loft?

I Have Spray Foam Insulation in My Property, What Should I Do?

If you are confident that the spray foam insulation in your property was installed correctly, then realistically you won’t need to do much at all – just ensure the space in which the spray foam insulation has been used in continues to be well-ventilated.

It is worth knowing that should you choose to sell your property, mortgage Lenders are now in some cases requesting surveys of the roofing timbers where spray foam insulation has been removed, to establish if the foam has caused any fungal decay or woodboring insect attack before releasing funds. If you have reason to suspect that maybe your property has been suffering from a poor installation of spray foam insulation, then please give our team a call and arrange a spray foam insulation survey.

We can help give you peace of mind that your property is safe, and let you know whether the spray foam insulation installed in your property needs to be removed to save you from costly repairs. Just call 0800 288 8660, or fill in a survey form today.

Please note, a fee does apply to this specific type of survey.