Solved! Who Installs Foam Insulation?

Foam insulation is growing in popularity, but not every contractor works with it. Looking for who installs foam insulation? Here’s who can do the job.
Who Installs Foam Insulation

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Q: I’m looking to install new insulation in my attic, and I heard foam insulation is the best at maintaining temperatures in the house. Who installs foam insulation? Do I need a particular type of contractor?

A: Insulation is integral to protecting a home from harsh temperatures and allowing an HVAC system to work efficiently. While undamaged insulation can last for decades, some insulation batts can start failing after 15 to 20 years, especially if it’s been subject to water or disrupted by pests.

Foam insulation is one of the longer-lasting and more durable types of insulation. It comes in two forms: spray foam and rigid foam board. Both have their ideal applications and possible drawbacks. For homeowners searching for who installs foam insulation and how to hire an insulation contractor, keep reading to learn who to hire.

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An insulation contractor can install spray foam insulation and foam board insulation. 

When in doubt about who to hire to install insulation, a homeowner can’t go wrong with an experienced insulation contractor. These professionals are knowledgeable about the different types and brands of insulation, their best uses, and how much insulation is needed for different spots in the house. A local insulation contractor will know the recommended R-value (thermal resistance) for insulation in the region to ensure that the home stays comfortable year-round. Additionally, spray foam insulation installs should be done by contractors with the proper experience and equipment. While the material may look easy to apply, it requires considerable skill and finesse to apply the material to receive the correct R-value. Spray foam insulation costs aren’t cheap, and hiring a professional could actually save a homeowner money because a contractor will do the job right the first time.

A handyperson may be able to install foam board insulation. 

Homeowners who prefer rigid foam board insulation may be able to hire a handyperson for the job. Rigid foam insulation is most commonly found in basement and exterior walls and is much simpler to install than its spray foam counterpart. A local handyperson should know how to install rigid foam board insulation on exterior walls or in an attic, and the insulation cost won’t be as high as more expensive options like spray foam.

For those wondering how to install foam board insulation on interior walls, drywall will need to be removed and replaced to install it on existing finished walls. While this can be a DIY project, removing and replacing drywall is messy and time-consuming, and it’s a project many prefer to leave to a professional.

Who Installs Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation should always be applied by an experienced professional. 

There are a few reasons a professional should install spray foam insulation. First, drywall must be removed if the foam isn’t being applied between already exposed studs (like in the attic or an unfinished basement). Without removing the drywall, the rapidly expanding foam could crack and damage it. Homeowners can remove drywall themselves, but it makes a mess and can be a hassle, especially if insulation is needed through multiple areas of the house.

Additionally, if the previous insulation isn’t removed and the area isn’t properly prepped, the spray foam could be ineffective. For example, suppose previous insulation was water damaged and not removed before spray foam was added on top. In that case, this could create a breeding ground for mold to proliferate, which could cause further damage to the insulation and compromise the structure of the surrounding studs and walls.

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Foam insulation processing and materials are damaging to the environment. 

While they’re excellent insulators, spray and rigid foam insulation aren’t the most environmentally friendly choices. For both types, a blowing agent is required to puff up the foam to give it insulating power. Those blowing agents are often hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which have extremely high global warming potential (GWP) ratings. HFCs trap thousands of times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, making them a significant contributor to climate change. The foam materials are also often derived from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource with harmful combustion and processing emissions.

There are some more environmentally friendly foam and blowing agent options. Hydrofluoroolefins, or HFOs, have markedly lower GWP ratings than HFCs—around 1, or the same rating as carbon dioxide. Some foams can also use water vapor as a blowing agent, which has a negligible GWP. Soybean-based foam is an example of materials made from renewable resources that are significantly less damaging to process.

Other types of insulation are more environmentally friendly and can insulate as well as foam. 

Ultimately, insulation plays an essential part in keeping a home comfortable and allowing an HVAC system to run efficiently. An inefficient HVAC system wastes energy, which has its own negative effects on the environment—so the solution is not to forgo new insulation altogether.

There are plenty of alternatives for homeowners who decide the environmental detriments of foam insulation aren’t worth it. Recycled textiles or blown-in cellulose (about 80 percent recycled paper) are two eco-friendly alternatives to foam insulation. Blown-in insulation is also easy to add on top of existing insulation or behind drywall.

Hiring a professional insulation contractor can ensure that the right type and amount of insulation is installed. While hiring one of the best insulation contractors may result in slightly higher home or attic insulation costs, an insulation contractor’s knowledge and experience can ensure your home stays at an appropriate temperature, and you save money on your energy bills.