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June 1, 2018

The dangers of DIY spray foam insulation

If you’re thinking about buying a do-it-yourself spray foam insulation kits for your home, fire officials and those in the industry recommend you think again because of safety and fire issues.

Spray foam acts as a great insulator and vapour barrier, but it’s made up of chemicals and needs to be handled with care. While kits are available at hardware and big box stores that allow homeowners to install it themselves, experts recommend people hire professionals to do the work.

“The [building] code requires for a product like this, [that you use] a licensed installer for the foam and the intumescent paint [thermal barrier] that you’re going to put on top of it,” said Matt Covey, the fire prevention division chief with Halifax Regional Fire.

CBC went to a big box store and purchased a kit with two canisters that pre-mix the materials.

The package said it was “For Professional Use Only,” included multiple warnings and came with an instructional DVD. It also included goggles and gloves, and a list of other protective clothing needed to keep the installer safe.

“There’s a way to do it right and a procedure to follow that [homeowners] probably are not aware of,” Covey said, adding they could be installing a product that could perform very poorly in a fire.

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Fire is also a consideration when spraying the foam.

“The actual vapour itself is flammable, so you cannot have any open flames or actual ignition sources anywhere around or near where you’re working,” said Stephen Archibald, the operations manager at MJM Energy, a building contractor with locations in Dartmouth and Sydney, N.S.

He said people who spray the insulation themselves may not consider their oil-fired furnace as a possible combustive source.

“It may come on while you’re working, [so] you have to physically make sure that that is turned off and you should let the air replenish itself or clear out prior to turning that furnace back on,” Archibald said.

The do-it-yourself kit CBC News purchased warns about storage conditions and spraying temperatures to ensure the product works as it should.

Keep reading on CBC News


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