Insulation contractors should know the many options available for spray foam applications.

Over the past 30 years, the insulation industry has experienced unprecedented growth and changes in the way we approach and address building envelope insulation. Modern architecture and building design, along with rising energy costs, have forced our industry to find better products and methods to seal building envelopes. The smaller, more rectangular structures of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, with flat 8-foot ceiling heights, have been replaced with much more elaborate homes that include various types of ceiling designs.

In today’s homes, framing members are very seldom laid out to accommodate a precut piece of batt insulation. These homes are highly customized with dozens of different architectural designs randomly placed throughout the floor plan. The foyer may have 12-foot ceilings, leading to a great room with a 30-foot vaulted ceiling that leads to a kitchen with a barrel ceiling over the granite island. Just off of the kitchen, you’ll find a breakfast nook with a beautiful dome ceiling followed by a room with a raised coffered ceiling, and down the hall is the master suite with a gigantic quadruple tray ceiling.

Very seldom do we see the standard 8-foot flat stippled ceilings throughout the structure with one fan/light combo placed directly in the center of each room. Today’s “cut up” house designs feature dozens or even hundreds of recessed can lights, which cannot be in direct contact with the insulation unless an insulation contact rated can light is used, which comes with its own housing that is pre-insulated. This poses a huge problem for the insulation contractor whose job is to achieve a 100 percent sealed insulation envelope. Can you imagine how inefficient the building envelope would be if the insulation was left 4 inches back from all can lights and there were 120 can lights in the attic of the home?

Problem Solving

Other problems such as bonus rooms with 2x6 roof rafters, concrete walls that are to be drywalled, crawlspaces with 80 percent relative humidity, etc., are driving many insulation contractors to diversify their existing conventional insulation business, by adding spray foam insulation to their current arsenal of products. Spray foam insulation, in both open and closed cell formulations, does a good job of stopping air infiltration, which is the largest contributor to energy waste we have in today’s buildings.

In addition to the air sealing advantage of spray foam, there is an added R value advantage. R values ranging from 3.5 per inch up to nearly 7 per inch can be achieved with spray foam insulation formulations.

Unvented attic assemblies are becoming increasingly popular in today’s building design. Conventional insulation materials do not perform as well as spray foam in this type of application. This system is particularly valuable in areas where the mechanical system is installed in attic areas. By installing spray foam directly to the underside of the roof deck and eliminating all attic ventilation, a semi-conditioned attic assembly is created that will remain cool in the summer, warm in the winter and will enable the HVAC system to work more efficiently.

Closed-cell spray foam insulation provides additional value by increasing the strength of the building envelope, minimizing moisture problems and is ideal for both ventilated and unventilated crawl space applications. Additionally, closed cell spray foam is widely used for masonry, metal building, agricultural, insulated tank and almost exclusively in cold storage applications.

Rewarding Venture

Spray foam as a stand-alone business can be a successful and rewarding business venture, but spray foam as an added product line to an existing insulation business is a must. More than ever, architects and engineers are specifying spray foam insulation in a large portion of their projects. This is true for both residential and commercial applications.

There is also an increasing demand from consumers for spray foam that is driven by the “green” movement, the architectural community, general contractors, television exposure, “word of mouth” testimonials and other forms of national, regional and local advertising campaigns. If you have been in the insulation business for 10, 20, 30 or 40 plus years and have not made the transition into offering spray foam insulation, now is the time to do so. We have all seen the housing industry suffer from the current economic recession. Even in this “down economy,” spray foam insulation demand continues to grow and prosper.

Having the ability to offer spray foam insulation in conjunction with other insulation product lines enables contractors to open up a plethora of opportunities that they may not be currently capitalizing on. Even if spray foam isn’t the primary product offering, having the ability to offer spray foam insulation can help contractors land jobs that they may not have otherwise been awarded.

Getting into the spray foam insulation business requires a few things:
  • Equipment: A capital investment of between $50,000 to $100,000.

  • Training: From an experienced, professional spray foam and equipment supplier.

  • Ongoing support: Through the initial learning curve and beyond.

Rig It Up

Spray foam rigs are primarily built in tag-along trailers (bumper pull or goose neck) or in commercial box trucks. The amount of floor space that is required is somewhere between 100 to 160 square feet depending on the type of equipment chosen and the scope of work that the contractor is targeting. Some rigs are built to be completely “self contained” meaning they have their own power source, while others are built to be power reliant. It is recommended to consult with a reputable, experienced equipment supplier to advise the best type of rig for your business.

A successful spray foam insulation business requires extensive upfront and ongoing training that must include:
  • Fundamentals of the material components of spray foam

  • Health and safety of spray foam applications

  • Equipment maintenance, trouble-shooting and repair

  • Spray foam applications of all types

  • Product limitations

  • Building science as related to spray foam

  • Spray foam marketing

  • Spray foam sales techniques

Most major manufacturers and suppliers of spray foam and spray foam equipment offer training courses to support their customers. There is also a unified group of spray foam contractors, manufactures, and suppliers known as the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (, which offers accredited courses relating to all of these subjects. It is imperative to partner with a reputable supplier to assist with technical challenges. These challenges may include equipment, material, application or building code clarification. Building design and building products have significantly changed over the last 30 years.

With great change also comes great opportunity. The spray foam insulation market is booming and has become a permanent fixture in the building design and construction industry. Demand from the building professional community, building owners and home owners continues to drive the need for qualified professional spray foam contractors making this the perfect time to enter the spray foam insulation industry.