With the rise of DIY spray foam insulation kits, homeowners now have more choices when it comes to improving the energy efficiency of their homes. In the past, deciding to add insulation to a building was simple – just make a phone call and write a check when the work was complete. Now, ambitious home owners can tackle the job themselves to save money, but going the DIY route means more planning is needed. Read on for 8 things to consider when planning your DIY spray foam project.
1.) Protective equipment – There’s a reason the professionals wear tons of protective equipment when handling spray foam insulation. Whether you’re using a big industrial machine to apply the insulation or a small DIY canister, you’ll still be working with 2 sets of chemicals, both of which can be dangerous if they get on your skin, in your eyes or in your lungs. When the 2 chemicals mix, they produce a fog that can cause allergic reactions in certain individuals, so it’s important to wear a respirator, safety goggles, a Tyvek suit and gloves.
2.) Clogs – When you’re mixing 2 chemicals into a solid product, clogs are inevitable. Once side A and side B of the canister mix together, the liquid should shoot out of the nozzle as it is sprayed. However, once on the outside, that liquid can set up in as little as 30 seconds. Thinking that the reaction would never take place inside the hose is foolish. You can avoid clogs by keep a continuous spray or by having replacement nozzles on hand so you can switch clogged nozzles out quickly to avoid problems. If you don’t replace a clogged nozzle in time, you can clog the gun. Once that happens you’ll have to replace the whole thing which is much more expensive.
3.) Cost – Spray foam DIY kits are expensive. Even if you’re not doing a very big job – say just 160 square feet, you’re looking at $600 or more for a decent R value. That’s just the materials. Once you factor in the cost of your time and labor, that’s a lot of money. Hiring a professional that can do the job much quicker and who already has the proper tools may actually save you money in the long run.
4.) The size of the job – DIY kits are only intended for small jobs. You can’t do your whole house or cover a large area. The tanks that come with the kits are small and the plastic parts are really only intended for short periods of use. Only consider insulating small areas like around doors, windows, ductwork or other minor areas. If you’re looking to do more than about 200 square feet, you should just call in a professional.
5.) Temperature matters – Spray foam is picky. It only works well in certain environments and the chemicals in the tanks must be stored at a steady 65 to 80 degrees F. Many DIY kits have a temperature strip on the outside to indicate if the product is the correct temperature. If it’s not, you’ll either have to adjust the thermostat or wait until a better day to do the project.
6.) There’s a lot of prep work – Before you can start spraying you need to make sure the chemicals are the right temperature, you need to shake them properly, set up the hoses and tank components, hand-turn the correct nuts, lubricate the o-ring, install the mixing nozzle, open all of the correct valves, disengage the safety, re-check the temperature, put on all of your safety equipment and so on. If you miss just 1 step, the whole project could fall apart.
7.) Installation – Point and spray isn’t really the right technique to get an even, effective coating of spray foam insulation. The professionals use a certain technique and it’s tough to get it right on the first go-around. You need to hold the gun about 18 to 24 inches from the surface and work in a way that no single area gets too thick of a coating. If you install the product too thickly, you’ll get heat buildup which can damage the final product. While you spray, you’ll need to check the temperature and keep a steady stream of insulation coming out to avoid a clogged nozzle. If any one thing goes wrong, you’ll end up wasting product and possibly even having to scrap the whole job.
8.) Disposal – The canisters and leftover liquid can’t be thrown in the regular trash. The liquid is a hazardous chemical and has to be separated from the tanks before disposal. There are different disposal methods depending on whether chemical is leftover and which side is left. The tanks themselves count as industrial waste and your local trash man isn’t even authorized to pick it up.