I've seen this only once, and it was with closed cell foam, but I've heard of it happening with open cell foam, too. I don't know the details, but I've heard it could result from a bad batch of chemicals, improper mixing, or too high a temperature. Whatever the cause, it's not a good thing. The photo below shows how the spray foam pulled away from the studs. A little bit of uninsulated area like that adds up to a lot of heat loss/gain when the whole house has that problem, as it did here.
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As this example illustrates, it's important to seal the envelope completely. One of spray foam's biggest selling points is its air-sealing ability, but it can't seal places where it's not sprayed. One of the nice things about using spray foam in new construction is that you can do a Blower Door test before the drywall goes in. Even better, you can test for leaks with a fog machine.
Although spray polyurethane foam has many advantages over other types of insulation, spray foam installation isn’t foolproof. Some builders have reported problems with sloppy foam insulation. For example, some installers have been known to begin spraying before the chemical components are up to temperature, which can affect component mixing and foam performance. When components are poorly mixed, or mixed in the wrong ratio or at the wrong temperature, cured foam has been known to shrink away from rafters or studs, leaving cracks. Some installers rush through their spraying, resulting in voids.
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For example, a hybrid solution of spray foam and fiberglass batts or rolls combines the air-sealing and vapor-retarder benefits of foam with the economical thermal performance of fiberglass. Another option might be to install spray foam in places that are hard to reach or seal, such as rim joists, the attic floor, and eaves, and then install fiberglass batts and loose-fill in the in the open areas, greatly reducing any draftiness while helping the project budget. Incorporating spray foam into hybrid solutions enhances the building envelope and seals efficiently at a reasonable cost.
Spray foam is a fully adhered insulation that is spray applied into wall cavities, providing a continuous air and moisture barrier. Spray foam allows efficient use of your HVAC system and helps regulate the temperature fluctuations and humidity in your home. Spray foam effectively seals the building envelope, filling in any cracks and crevices, the common source of air and moisture infiltration as well as temperature variations.
“It’s been scientifically proven that the temp of the shingles rises only a couple of degrees when there is an unvented attic compared to a vented attic,” said Garry Barlow, estimator at RetroFoam of Michigan. “If we lived in a southern state it has been proven that the longevity of the shingle did diminish by only one year. In the northern states there was no difference in the life span of the shingles.”