The issue of spray foam insulation is in the news more and more at the moment. As the cost of energy remains high the importance of good insulation in the home is likely to become even more of an issue in future.
Here’s what you need to know about the possible problems with spray foam insulation all explained in a simple way.
What is spray foam insulation?
Spray foam is a form of thermal insulation. It may also be known as spray polyurethane foam or SPF.
Spray foam insulation is usually applied to the internal roof surface of a property, in the loft or attic, in order to help retain the heat within the house. It performs much the same function as conventional mineral wool or fibreglass insulation except that, as the name suggests, it is in a form that can be sprayed onto surfaces.
Spray foam insulation is considered to be very effective at retaining heat and hence saving money on energy bills. It is relatively cheap and easy to install compared to other methods of insulation and can therefore offer a good return on the cost of installing it.
What are the issues around spray foam insulation?
Not every type of spray foam nor every spray foam installation is necessarily problematic.
An issue has been identified with what is known as closed cell spray foam insulation. The closed cell structure has better insulating properties than open cell spray foam. However, it does not allow air to circulate. This has been linked with problems such as condensation, damp, and decay in roof timbers.
Also there are concerns as to whether some spray foam installations have been installed correctly. Correct installation relies on a professional survey and risk assessment being carried out first.
A connected issue is that spray foam has been an officially government-approved insulation method, and has qualified for relevant government grants.
Spray foam insulation and mortgages
The main issue with spray foam insulation and mortgages is that some mortgage lenders will not lend on a property which has spray foam insulation. Others will only do so where there is proper evidence that it has been correctly installed. This is due to the risk of current or future damage to the structure and a possible impact on its value.
This may be particularly a problem when selling a house with this kind of insulation. It may be difficult for a buyer to get a mortgage, and so difficult to sell the property as is.
There can also potentially be a problem with remortgaging. Affected home owners may find they cannot remortgage easily and so are unable to move their mortgage where a better rate becomes available.
Another issue has been identified with spray foam and equity release schemes. That is, where home owners want to release equity from their homes but stay living there. Most equity release providers will not release equity on affected properties.
What to do if you have spray foam insulation:
Forewarned is forearmed is the best course of action. This is especially the case if you are thinking of selling your property in the near future.
First, know if your property has spray foam insulation. If possible find out what type it is and collect any paperwork from the original installation.
Take professional advice at an early stage. A trusted builder can identify an installation and ascertain if it may be problematic. A surveyor can identify an installation and advise on the best course of action depending on your circumstances. A mortgage expert can advise whether or not it will be relevant when obtaining a mortgage or remortgage.
It will not always be necessary to remove spray foam installation. It will depend on the type, type of property, and how it was installed.
Professional advisers may in some cases recommend the removal of spray foam. However if you are not planning on selling, remortgaging or using equity release this may not be a matter of urgency.
Spray foam insulation and buyers/investors
If you are buying a property be aware there is a chance it could have spray foam insulation. It is estimated that around 250,000 properties in the UK have this type of insulation.
If you have survey carried out before purchase a surveyor will be able to advise you. If you are not commissioning a survey, for example if you are a cash buyer or buying at auction, be aware that you could purchase an affected property without knowing.
Property owners who are considering new insulation should be aware of the issues around spray foam. This also applies to landlords and investors who may be considering improving the insulation in their buy to let in order to comply with Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) and EPC requirements for rented property.