Fall Checklist: DIY Spray Foam Insulation with Dow Froth-Pak!

This blog mini-series is a paid partnership with Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

If you’ve read the title of this post and are thinking it’s already winter, then meteorologically yes, you’d be correct. BUT NOT ACCORDING TO ASTRONOMY, which places the first day of winter on December 21st this year, so take that! We’ll now move forward with the premise that it’s still fall and I’m right on schedule with wrapping up a semi-gargantuan to-do list of time-sensitive projects I really wanted to accomplish before this winter—at which point I will…uh…keep working, but on different stuff. Fun stuff. I’m excited for this winter stuff.

So. Having taken care of some overdue work like overseeding my grass, planting shrubs, pressure washing filthy siding, securing my garage/personal lumber yard, and wrapping up the major outstanding work on the side of the house, I’m turning my attention back toward the inside of the house. And there was a pretty major, glaring issue that I’m a little ashamed to admit. Behold:

It’s literally been YEARS since we’ve talked about it, but maybe you remember this room above my kitchen? It’s been through a lot…maybe this will jog your memory? Behold, again:

When I bought this house, it had been divided into two apartments and this room served as the upstairs apartment’s kitchen. I wrote about the preliminary demo work all the way back in 2013…and then evidently didn’t mention it again except in the context of the exterior work which involved removing the door and the window and replacing them with two little casement windows—an approximation of what I think that back wall originally looked like.

Anyway. At some point in there, I gutted the whole room. Part of one wall had been lost early on to a plumbing issue. Another wall because of the new window arrangement. The rest of the walls and ceiling were a material probably installed in the 1930s called Celotex, which is generally used as a rigid insulation board rather than a finished wall surface, but I digress. It all had to go—nothing original left anyway. Unlike the rest of the house, this section is 1 1/2 story—meaning there’s no attic above this room, and no reason the ceiling can’t be vaulted up to the ridge. Sweet!

Except…that was approximately 3 years ago. And aside from becoming a dumping ground for random crap (what else do you do when your mom sends you boxes of stuff you thought had long since been disposed of from your childhood bedroom?), it’s just sat that way. A shell full of potential, but not even approaching the top of any priority list.

Do you spot a problem here? I’ll give you a big hint that’s literally in the title of the post: NO INSULATION. I LIVE IN UPSTATE NEW YORK, PEOPLE. HEAT IS EXPENSIVE AND IT GETS COLD COLD COLD. WHAT A BAD CHOICE.

Seeing as this uninsulated room also became an unheated room as a result of other work, and therefore basically a barn atop my kitchen, this has meant a frigid kitchen below and the necessity of a space heater up here in the winter to prevent the pipes from freezing, as my bathroom is on the other side of one of the walls. Lest you feel like that’s overkill, I initiated this program only after the pipes had already frozen.

Twice.

Now, I’m no energy efficiency expert (SURPRISE!), but this much I know. Hot air rises. Insulation keeps it from rising up and out of the house. I chose not to insulate between floors in my house (a subject of some debate in the renovation world), meaning that any heat from my kitchen/first floor rises up into this room, and then promptly out the walls/roof and away into the sky. You know that emoji of the flying stack of money? That’s kind of what I’ve come to picture emerging from my roofline around this time of year.

If you’ve worked on an old house, you’ve likely encountered the issue of insulation at one point or another. There are many options out there, each with their own pros and cons, but one that’s been gaining major traction for the last couple decades is closed-cell spray foam insulation. There are a lot of great things about it—it’s efficient, fairly quick to install, provides a vapor barrier, and even improves the structural rigidity of a building. That last aspect dovetails nicely with the fact that it fills irregular gaps and areas in an existing structure that might be difficult to access/fill with more traditional products like fiberglass bat. Old houses tend to have both weird areas like that and structural components that may not necessarily be a problem but also wouldn’t meet modern building standards, so the added structural strength—while it shouldn’t be relied upon to resolve an actual structural issue—is a nice bonus. To my knowledge, closed-cell spray foam application has always been the purview of professional installers, but now there’s an option for the ambitious homeowner or budding professional too! That’s me!

We are talking specifically about the Dow Froth-Pak system, available at Lowe’s! Right off the bat I want to make clear that this stuff is SERIOUS BUSINESS—while this post is intended to help others and share my experience, you absolutely must read the manual that comes with the kit, take all necessary precautions, and research anything you feel uneasy about before trying this at home. Don’t be stupid, basically. Let’s dive in.

When I first saw this product, I didn’t totally know what to make of it. Is it closed cell or open cell? Can someone like me even use it? Is it just a big version of those cans of Great Stuff? Can I do a whole room? A whole house? What is a board foot??! I will try to address all of these things, because there isn’t a ton of information online about it in one place.

EVALUATE YOUR PROJECT

So you’re thinking of using Dow Froth-Pak to meet an insulation need. There are a few things to consider.

  1. How much area are you trying to cover? My room is about 13′ x 16′, with a vaulted ceiling about 10′ at the peak. Two of those walls are exterior walls that need to be insulated, as well as the whole ceiling. I haven’t excluded windows in that calculation, which is my lazy way to round up when figuring out what I need plus accounting for some waste. I think this product is good for a situation like mine—where you need to do ONE room or ONE ceiling or something like that, or you want to seal up areas like where floor joists meet the rim joist over a foundation in an entire basement. If the project is bigger than that, I’d definitely recommend at least quoting the job with a professional spray foam installer—it may actually be less expensive than buying the amount of kits you’d have to buy, and obviously save you some serious, potentially hazardous work.
  2. Is there a product better suited to your needs? There are several compelling reasons to choose spray-foam insulation—but fiberglass bat, blown-in cellulose, or a number of other products may help bring costs down. In my case, I have irregularly spaced studs, meaning variably sized stud cavities, as well as a lot of weird shapes and angles  (due to post-and-beam construction and the vaulted ceiling) that would make installation of other products difficult. Obviously insulation works best when it achieves good coverage, and all of the irregularities with my framing would leave opportunities for lots of gaps and cracks with a product that can’t easily adapt to the shape of its space.
  3. Are you up for it? If you’re not one for following directions or reading warning labels, avoid this. It’s not technically difficult but it can be somewhat physically demanding and messy. You also need to be at the proper stage of your project—which is AFTER framing work (including adding nailers or furring!), rough electric and rough plumbing are done. If you aren’t ready to put up drywall, you aren’t ready for spray foam insulation.

CALCULATE THE AMOUNT OF PRODUCT YOU NEED

  1. Dow Froth-Pak is closed-cell insulation, created by combining the contents of two tanks. One difference between closed-cell and open-cell spray foam is the thickness you want to spray. Open-cell spray foam is less dense, so you can fill a stud cavity and cut away the excess before installing your finished walls. Closed-cell is denser (with a higher R-value) and ideally should be a bit recessed in the stud bay—it can be cut back, but it’s more difficult. The amount of product you need will depend on the thickness you want to achieve. Each inch of thickness creates about R-6. So two inches = R-12, three inches = R-18, and so on. Local building code may require a minimal R-value depending on where you’re installing—always check.
  2. Calculate your BOARD FEET. The Froth-Paks come in different sizes—to make it simple, let’s look at the Froth-Pak 210. The “210” refers to the number of board feet—which is a measure of volume, NOT surface area, but all you need to know to calculate it is the square footage of the areas you need to cover. It’s a simple calculation:

Length in inches x Width in inches  x Preferred depth of the spray foam in inches. Divide the result by 144.

So for example, an 8′ x 8′ wall with 3″ of foam would be:

96″ x 96″ x 3″ = 27,648 / 144 = 192 Board Feet

In other words, one Dow Froth-Pak 210 will provide about 3.25″ thickness of foam over an 8’x8′ wall.

AND THAT IS AS MUCH MATH AS I EVER WANT TO DO IN BLOG FORMAT. This is not a math blog. I’m sure those exist and I’m also sure I’m not interested.

I was hoping to get about 3 inches of spray foam on all exterior walls/ceilings, and my total board feet was about 1,350. Ideally I would have bought two Froth-Pak 650s and one Froth-Pak 210, but the 650 was out of stock so I bought all 210s instead. The product is the same, it’s just the amount in each kit that changes.

The total cost of that, by the way? A little over $1,800 clams. Add in various other supplies (we’ll get to that!) and it’s about $2,000 to insulate this room. To be honest I was excited to try the product and didn’t try to quote it out to a professional, so I can’t tell you how they compare cost-wise, but local labor prices can be all over the map so I’m not sure how helpful that would be anyway.

INSTALLING THE DOW FROTH-PAK FOAM INSULATION KIT

SO. With framing, furring (mostly just to compensate for old, uneven framing), and electric complete, it’s time to get down to it! Again—I AM NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE MANUAL. I’m just a guy with a dream of a warm house in January.

Step 1: Check the temperature of your tank contents—this threw me for a loop so I’m making it item 1. There is a small temperature gauge on the side of the tanks, and a cut-out on the front of the box so you can read it without even unpacking everything. The interior contents of the tanks need to be between 75-85 degrees for optimal performance/mixing. This is a two-part system, so dispensing the proper mix is essential, and the temperature affects that. 75-85 degrees is WARM! Just sitting in my house, the tanks were reading much too cold so I placed the whole box on top of my cast iron hot water radiators (which are toasty to the touch but nowhere near enough to burn you), making sure to check them every 20 minutes or so as the contents slowly warmed up. NOTE: Dow recommends use of a particular heat tape or heat blanket for this purpose. I didn’t have them. Again, don’t be stupid—this had the contents heating at a pace of about 5 degrees per hour, so it took a few hours. Heating too rapidly/aggressively could cause an explosion, you crazy thing!

Step 2: Prep! If you don’t want it to get covered in spray foam, mask it off—ideally with something you don’t mind throwing away at the end. I had some already used 6-mil plastic in the garage that I used to mask off the chimney, the baseboards, and the door to the room. If I had more I’d have used it on the floor, too, but I just had this tarp. You also want to seal off the work space from the rest of the house as well as you can, and ventilate it (I opened all the windows and had a good cross-breeze, but the manual goes into good detail). I used my Bostitch pneumatic staple gun (currently on sale for $40!!) to keep my masking in place—it was a bit easier to put it up when working alone, and more secure than tape. Contractor bags worked nicely for wrapping the collar ties, which will probably be cleaned up a little and left exposed.

Step 3: Put on your costume! Like I said—this is serious business. Spray foam is both extremely sticky when wet and all kinds of toxic, so this is not a place you want to skimp. That means a disposable full-body suit, full protective eyewear, chemical resistant gloves, and a full-face or half-mask air-purifying respirator—I used this 3M one from Lowe’s, fitted with these cartridges. Small tip I wish I had: cover the face of your goggles with clear packing tape that you can remove and replace as needed. Dried spray foam can be removed from glass with a razor blade, but goggles are plastic and overspray may accumulate and make it difficult to see, and the spray foam will not come off without scratching them up too much to be usable. A headlamp may be helpful for darker spaces—I love this rechargeable LED Craftsman one (also on sale!).

Step 4: Unbox your Froth-Pak kit, ensuring the temperature gauge is between 75-85 degrees. The room and surfaces to be sprayed don’t have to be that warm, just the interior contents of the tanks. Shake both tanks for 30-60 seconds. You can shake them individually or use the carrying handle to hold them above the ground and rock them back and forth.

Step 5: Open the top valves on both tanks COMPLETELY. It’s very important that both valves are entirely open to ensure a proper mix. You should see the chemicals move through the hoses as the valves are opened—one is clear and one is brown-ish.

Step 6: Using the packet provided, apply some petroleum jelly to the inside face of the dispenser. This is primarily if you plan to use the Froth-Pak over multiple sessions and need to keep the dispenser free of dried foam between uses.

Step 7: Insert the nozzle into the dispenser gun. The Froth-Pak comes with two nozzle shapes—a blue “fan” nozzle and a clear “cone” nozzle. For a situation like mine, the fan nozzle proved the most helpful in terms of creating an even spray across a large surface. Dow gives you lots of spare nozzles that you may or may not use—but after you’ve started with one, it has to be changed any time there’s more than 30 seconds between sprays because the product cures so quickly and any blockage could screw up the ratio of the two parts. When the nozzle is fully inserted, you should hear a click and the yellow nozzle ejector will be clamped down.

Step 8: Pointing the dispenser into a container like a trash can (I used the box it all came in), purge the lines for 5-10 seconds. Foam should dispense pretty quickly.

Step 9: Practice! TAKE THIS PART SERIOUSLY. It definitely takes some getting used to. Using whatever you have available (I had a scrap piece of sheetrock), practice applying the foam as you will on your surface. You want to stay perpendicular to the surface, at an even distance (6″-24″ away), moving at an even pace in a side to side stroke. ALSO. VERY IMPORTANT. The foam only cures properly (and safely) if the layer of expanded foam is 2 inches or less. It will expand 3-4 times its thickness, so you want an even 1/4″-1/2″ coverage while you spray.  Inconsistencies in your pace, distance, or angle will result in an uneven application—and it’s harder than it looks, I promise. Especially with all that gear on and the pace you kind of need to keep up.

Step 10: Check your practice area. About 1 minute after spraying, it should have fully expanded and dried to the touch. It’s fully cured in 5 minutes—which is kind of bonkers.

Step 11: Start spraying! At this point you’ll probably want to change your nozzle. Using all the knowledge in your brains and safety equipment on your body, get to work. Perpendicular to your surface. Even distance. Even pace. Side to side. 1/4″-1/2″ thickness. Don’t panic. Because the foam cures so quickly, you can apply additional layers within minutes to build up to your final thickness—it’s better to do several thin applications than a too-thick application . To ensure you don’t run out of nozzles, you want to work fairly quickly. Avoid applying foam over foam that was just sprayed and is in the process of curing, and avoid build-up of foam beyond the depth of the wall, as this will need to be removed later on. Each Froth-Pak 210 took me about 20-30 minutes to mix, get set up, and use. By the way, the foam will stick to a lot of things including rigid foam boards—which you can see were already installed on parts of the back wall, and I just sprayed right over them since there was plenty of space in the cavity. Those foam boards should be R-10 on their own.

Step 12: The tanks will become increasingly lightweight as the contents are dispensed, which makes them more likely to tip over as you move. I’d highly recommend having a helper for this job (also in full protective equipment) who can help ensure the tanks stay upright, move them while you work around the room, and help identify areas that need more applied. As the tanks are nearing empty, you will notice the pressure change (kind of a quick sputtering) and the foam may look slightly different (darker, more viscous). STOP IMMEDIATELY. This foam is the wrong ratio and will not expand/cure properly—don’t think you can squeeze just a little more out, because those tanks are DONE. RETIRED. NO MORE FOAM 4 U. The tanks should feel empty, although there might be a little more liquid in there you can hear. That’s OK. It’s still done. I promise.

Step 13: Do not. Think that. You can just. Throw these things away. I said it all dramatic like that so you read past the word “done” (see item 12.). The manual explains a whole easy-peasy but super duper important disposal protocol, which is in place so you don’t inadvertently cause an explosion. I have nothing new to add to that so just please make sure you read it and do it, ok?

SO. IT HAS COME TO PASS. The whole insulation process took about 4-5 hours start to finish (including the masking and prep, but the tanks had to heat up for longer beforehand), and I think the coverage was basically as advertised so I didn’t need additional tanks. I found the technique of getting an even coating fairly challenging (you can see areas that look good and areas that look…not so good)—I do feel like I improved throughout the process, but since my first coat wasn’t especially smooth I didn’t give myself the best foundation. Like with painting, small lumps become bigger and bigger lumps with each new coat.

I was a bit nervous about fumes, but I left the windows open for about 12 hours after finishing up and I really don’t notice a smell when I go in there! Like…at all? Maybe something faint that could also be my imagination? I can tell you the difference is like night and day, heat-wise. It hasn’t been there long enough to know how it affects my bills/consumption (and those two casement windows are still drafty as hell—another thing on the ole to-do), but the kitchen below feels warmer and suddenly this room is OK to be in! It’s 30 degrees out! The street noise is also much quieter, and the whole room is immediately so much BRIGHTER—which doesn’t really matter because it’ll all be covered, but it makes it so much easier to work in especially in the evening hours which is when I’m the most likely to tackle stuff.

SO MUCH EASIER, IN FACT, that now I’m like…am I finishing this room now? To be totally honest I’ve forced myself to kind of stay away from it for a long time now just because there are so many more pressing things (I SEE YOU, KITCHEN. I JUST CAN’T AFFORD YOU. I’M WORKING ON IT.)…but now that it’s to this point, and I feel like I know what I want to do, it’s pretty much just a bunch of carpentry I could chip away at? Little by little? With supplies I mostly already have? And then? I could? Have guests? Like a person? Who owns a rather large house? And lives? Alone?

Dare to dream.


41 Comments

  1. Why do I have the Ghostbusters theme in my head now? I loved this post–I doubt I would have the patience to read and follow all the instructions, but I LOVE how bright the room is now! You go, mister!

  2. I know I’ve said this before – but Daniel, never stop writing! I’m so glad you’ll have a warmer house this winter, and it’s an absolute joy to be able to follow along (also, thanks for explaining closed cell vs open cell – I’d never understood the difference)

  3. Wow. Great job, enjoy the warmth.

  4. Thanks for READING the directions and all that protective gear. As your mom, that makes me SO proud. Also, finished job looks great and like it will definitely be worth the hard work you put into it.

  5. I can imagine how horrible it is without insulation. But if anyone is inspired by this method, do not do it. The product used to expand this is isocynate. Even though there is no residue in the final product you are promoting production of a chemical that is very dangerous to all water-living animals. There are also health-hazards with many flame-retardant chemicals used in polyurethane. Messes with the reproductive system and so on. Not to mention the increased risk of wood-rot when applying a plastic bag to the inside of an old house, a leak in the roof can go undetected too long. I hate to be so negative, I really do, and especially here, but at some point we need to start take responsibility for all the products we use in our homes. If anyone is inspired by this method I think it is important to know that there are eco-friendly alternatives that do not mean you build in a bio-hazard into your own home.

    • Thank you for adding this perspective, Louise! You make many valid points that I did consider before undertaking this project, so I’d just like to speak to a couple of them if I may, mainly because I think and read about this stuff a lot and inquiry often leads to more questions than answers for me. You mention eco-friendly alternatives—could you go into greater detail on that? I’m aware of some insulation products made of recycled materials (like denim), but to my knowledge those tend to be loose blown-in solutions, which isn’t really an option for this kind of application.

      Working in this field, I’m often struck by the amount of waste any kind of construction or renovation work entails—a big reason why I’m so adamant about saving lumber rather than pitching it and buying new (it’s certainly not easier!), since it’s realistically one of the VERY few things that can be reused. The environmental cost of building and renovating is large no matter how you cut it—that doesn’t mean there aren’t better or worse ways, but I don’t know of a truly “green” building method other than…not building at all. The environmental cost of being human and alive is large—so you’re absolutely right that we need to take responsibility for the products we use in our homes. To that end, I make various efforts: from reusing as many materials as possible, to trying to avoid trendy “disposable” kinds of renovations that’ll just get ripped out in a decade or two, to making various energy-efficiency upgrades, to literally shrinking the size of my house by removing unnecessary square footage that would otherwise need to be heated and maintained. But at the end of the day, I think it’s worth keeping in mind that eco-friendlier does not mean eco-friendly. None of this work is eco-friendly. None. No matter what. (I’d love to be corrected here, by the way) So it’s really a question of alternatives—in this case, leave the room uninsulated or use a different product, right? Uninsulated seems like a poor option to me for obvious reasons, including the environmental impact of the increased amount of natural gas I’d have to use to heat my house. Fiberglass, as far as I know, basically never degrades. And while the increased risk of wood-rot is a real and documented thing with either improperly applied or improperly maintained spray foam, I think it’s also fair to say that a leaky roof is a roof issue, not an insulation issue—any leaky roof will eventually cause wood rot, which is why you replace your roof before it starts leaking. Taking fiberglass bat as an alternative, I can’t tell you how much fiberglass I’ve pulled out of walls that had either sunk down into the wall cavity (rendering it useless), gotten wet and compacted and grown mold (useless AND hazardous), or become a cozy home for a family of rodents who have chewed into framing and electrical lines (useless, hazardous, and damaging to structure/systems).

      Anyway. As much as this blog is about documenting what I did and why I did it, I’m here to learn, too. I genuinely want to make good decisions for my house, my clients’ homes, and help others at least be informed of their options when making materials decisions and whatnot—but we also shouldn’t be kidding ourselves that there’s a way to do any of this without creating an impact of some magnitude.

      • Knowing how you preserve all old wood, I was very surprised you chose this method mainly because of wood rot risk. As alternative – I would have looked at fibreboards (pure woodfibre without additives, slightly soft material) + cellulose or paper pulp insulation (blown in between roof and fibreboard, compressed). However I have no clue how available that is in your area.

      • Dense-pack cellulose (not to be confused with loose cellulose) could have been a good option here – it’s environmentally friendly and potentially less hazardous for your wood framing if water does get back there. It sounds like you were concerned about how to blow it into open bays, but when the installers come, they staple a webbing material across your stud bays and then blow the cellulose into the cavity they have created until it is about as firm as a firm mattress. It doesn’t matter that the bays are all different sizes, they just poke a hole into the webbing on each one and fill it up. It’s all just recycled newspaper with some borax in it for pest and fire retarding – it’s actually much more fire retardant than your spray foam (here’s a fun building science video of burning up lots of different types of insulation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NC79e0oztM.). In addition to being recycled newsprint, cellulose doesn’t use any funky blowing agents like foams do.

        Cellulose is very hygroscopic, so if small amounts of water get into your walls, it will allow the moisture to dry back out – closed cell spray foam is even more of a vapor barrier than open cell foam, so if moisture gets in there, your framing will rot. Since you’ve done this, be extra extra careful about installing your water-resistive barrier correctly and flashing your windows properly. As far as R-Value, because you had to leave that gap in your stud bays for the closed cell foam and the dense pack cellulose completely fills the bays, you end up with a similar R-value. Dense-pack cellulose is also really cheap – you probably could have had someone come do your room for you for about what you paid for the DIY foam materials (speaking from VT, which is not too far from you!).

        A good application of closed-cell foam would be your basement – somewhere that there is lots of potential for moisture but where moisture won’t be trapped around wood. Another environmentally friendly insulation option is rock wool – made from slag byproduct from metal manufacture. It comes in both batts and boards, isn’t bothered by moisture, and is very fire resistant and more pleasant to work with than fiberglass batts. It isn’t as good a fit for this situation because of your uneven stud bays, but another option for others to consider. For further reading, I recommend Green Building Advisor – their forum is also full of experts who love to talk about this stuff!

  6. Good job Daniel, and like your mother, I am SO glad you didn’t skip over steps, read the directions etc BEFORE you did the project as SO many DIYers I think tend to do this, then wonder why the product failed or what have you and never blame themselves for rushing, botching the job by NOT reading/planning things through.

    I need to do stuff like that too as one, my kitchen is one of the coldest rooms in my little house, I think there is insulation in there, but the vent for the stupid gas fired wall furnace is partly blocked by my island and the contents on the shelves below it, but WHATEVER. I have a prep center for cooking next to my stove and that’s more important, right? :-)

    Anyway, I bet you will feel a bit warmer, not just in your kitchen, but when in your den on a cold, frigid and snowy evening relaxing etc too.

    Right now, it’s 31F outside at 6:15AM here in Puget Sound and we’re only to reach 41F by end of day and it’s been brilliantly sunny too this week, but we’re to get into the mid to upper 40’s, starting tomorrow so not too bad, but dayum, a cold kitchen in the mornings so a hot shower gets me all warmed back up.

    Anywhoo, keep it up and you’ll get there, one project at a time! BTW, you seem to be going at this methodically by tackling the important issues, such as insulation first so you can at least do the next step (sheetrock), even if you don’t get the room completed for a few more years, but getting the place insulated is kinda important because it adds to the comfort factor of your abode and that’s the most important aspect of home ownership.

  7. It looks like a gingerbread house. I like that.

    I have been following your adventures for some time now. I too have been doing an extended remodel, by myself and with help from others. Everything you write has been parallel and true to what I’ve been experiencing, only you sit down and make it warm and fun and funny. Your stories are cathartic for me, so I thank you. Thank you!

    • Thank you for saying so, Suzi Q! Sending strength and patience your way—it’s not easy, this thing we’re both doing! I’m here any time ya need to unload. :) :)

  8. Yay! I admit, I paid someone to do it but our attic spaces (we have two distinct, one over the main house and another over the garage) have lots of angles so there was never any consideration I would do it! Our electric bill halved in the first month. Best thing we’ve done since moving in was to prioritize things like this (and replacing doors that also save money and energy!).

    I think you will be even more pleased as time goes on.

  9. I am impressed! But reading your description makes me SO happy that I paid the professionals to do this work! It will be exciting to see the finished room.

  10. Your posts make my day! I’ve learned so much. Keep up the good work, and writing!

  11. Awesome job!! Can’t wait to see how you transform this room!

  12. Great post and a testament to your infectious energy and humour that a non-home-owning non-diyer like me excitedly reads your insulation post over my morning Cheerios and then goes back to read the casement window post and then the kitchen plan post and then … I just fricking love you ❤️

  13. Ahhhh, thank you for this post! I’ve been wondering whether closed cell spray foam was something I could DIY for a while, since I’m also working on areas piecemeal as the budget allows. All of my old fiberglass batting has either fallen down between the studs, is moldy, or both. Gross.

    The application technique sounds a lot like using a paint sprayer, which was a serious learning curve for me. One of my contractor neighbors (aren’t those the best neighbors?) came over and showed me what I was doing wrong, which was moving my wrist when I sprayed. It definitely helped to focus on moving my arm at the shoulder & elbow and keeping my wrist locked so the spray gun would stay parallel to the surface I was spraying.

    One question I have that I haven’t seen addressed anywhere– what happens if you need to move or add electrical after this stuff is installed? I mean, ideally, you’d get it all done before that, but is there any way to run wires without opening up the wall?

    Anyway, yay for insulation and not feeling like you’re camping in your own house! I’m so happy you’ve been able to push forward on so many projects lately!

    • That sounds like a good tip! It’s similar but very different too—with the spray foam you don’t want to start and stop a lot like with a paint sprayer, and you have to fully engage the trigger for every spray. So there’s a speed factor and then with the gear you’re rather physically uncomfortable (my clothes were soaked through with sweat when I took that thing off—and I’m not someone who sweats a lot!), which adds a challenging element I can’t totally explain.

      That’s a great question. First—yes ideally it’s done beforehand and doesn’t need to be changed. Partially that’s because electrical boxes are a common source of drafts, so being able to insulate around them while you’re insulating the walls is nice. If additions or changes need to be made…I’d say it depends. Since closed-cell foam is typically recessed a bit into the stud cavity, it’s possible a line could be snaked between the wall and the insulation without removing the wall. It’s also possible it couldn’t be, in which case yes you’d have to take out the wall and as much insulation as necessary to do what you need to do. To be honest that’s my biggest point of concern with it—the permanence—but at the same time I hope once this room is renovated it won’t be significantly changed for another century, and I feel better about having “permanent” foam behind my walls than a product like fiberglass for EXACTLY the reasons you describe with your existing batting.

  14. Who da man? You da man!

  15. I never thought I would be so happy and fulfilled reading about a stranger’s insulation. This was such a fun post. Stay warm!

  16. Couldn’t have been a better timed post! I’ve been researching and trying to figure out if this is a viable option for me. Thank you especially for the… MATH and absolutely great information. Once again, your writing style is just so great to read.

  17. Hi Daniel. I’m so excited about the potential for this room. It will make a great bedroom, you might want to move into it! We have had insulation added to our 25 year old home and it has significantly increased the winter comfort. Good luck with all the projects, I love your posts.

    • I know!! I’m calling it a guest bedroom but I’m gonna AT LEAST have to try it out! Knowing myself I’ll probably toggle between the two just because, haha.

  18. Damn, boy! I consider myself ambitious when it comes to DIY, but you just took it to a whole ‘nother level. Well done, sir.

  19. I think that your superior attention to details just saved your life! This stuff sounds serious. Now you need a small room thermometer to get temp readings 3 times day. That is what my DH would do. Also, you can rent this room on AirB&B(only to people that you like, of course). Anyway, great work as usual.

  20. Daniel, this is going to be a wonderful room when it’s done! Can’t wait to see what you do with it, now that it’s all snuggly and warm.

  21. I know a big problem with putting insulation in old houses is that condensation can build up in the walls. Is this not a problem with the closed cell foam? Or just not a problem with your house/climate?

  22. What a difference you have made Daniel, I don’t live anywhere as cold as you do ( Kaiapoi New Zealand) but we get our share of cold for us winter days. Our House got busted in the big Canterbury earthquake in 2010 an we lived and a slightly broken very cold drafty house till last Dec when we finally got a new replacement rebuilt house. You know this tip I am sure but I can recommend bubble wrap over your drafty windows while you work up there till you get to fixing them, that worked great for me as a stop gap. Reduced the condensation and the drafts a lot. Yay for a warm house and less expensive heating bills = more money to save up for the kitchen. Love your work. Hang out for the posts

  23. You are CRAZY, dude. That’s why I love your posts. I would never brave the chemicals, hazmat suit, etc., but I so enjoy reading about you doing this.

    I’m knee-deep in a renovation right now and it’s so GD expensive. I budgeted twice what I thought I’d need, and I’m over. I jumpstarted it with IKEA boxes and custom solid wood doors from Scherr’s (which are gorgeous as promised), yet still I’m over. It’s my own champagne tastes and PBR pocketbook as usual. I had to have the paneled appliances, the marble slab backsplash, the brass canister lighting.

    Think twice before you embark… it’s all so GD expensive. (Can’t wait until you do, though!)

  24. I enjoy your writing so much that I just read an entire post about spray insulation, something I personally will never do (but will probably ask my husband to)…ha!

  25. The danger of tipping tanks: generally considered to be in the same genus as tipping paint cans. The solution for both is to put said tanks or cans in a box with sides that are at at least as tall as about 1/2 or 2/3 the height of tank(s)/can(s).

  26. Only you can make a post on spray foam insulation interesting and amusing! Adding insulation to my attic crawlspace is on the long list of things I need to do to my house. I need to have some kind of loose material blown in to augment whatever was put up there 35 years ago (prob fiberglass batting) . My problem is heat, since I live in AZ and gets a bazillion degrees in the summer. Enjoy your now warmer home!

  27. Oh Daniel, How I can relate! We did spray (or rather attempted) in cellulose in the Domus and it was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. I think that was the day that nearly broke us. Thankfully, we survived but never did get that house properly insulated. We never could have attempted the DIY Spray in… Thankfully, we moved to Hawaii where we don’t need to insulate from the cold! You are quite formidable! And impressive! AND funny as hell too! As always, big mahalos to you for your wit!

  28. We did this exact project in our previous house, a 1920s Victorian, that had no insulation when we bought it. We hired a professional insulation company who blew cellulose insulation into the walls but used the Lowe’s spray foam for the attic ceiling, also pitched just like yours. We’ve since converted the 3rd floor into 2 bedrooms and a bath, and it is by far the best place to sleep in the house- so quiet and snug. You’ll be super glad you did this. We calculated that we saved a few thousand dollars by doing this ourselves. I can attest to the statements that any user definitely wants to be wearing protective gear and be careful where you spray. Our electrician/plumber worked with us on placing the can lights, outlets, pipes, and other elements so it would all last for a long time. Thanks for sharing this DIY!

  29. The January 2019 issue of Fine Homebuilding has an excellent descriptive article on Closed Cell Foam and the pro’s and con’s of using it. Well worth reading if considering whether to do this insulation in your own home. Link to article (free to access online) after the summary.
    “Contributing editor Michael Maines takes a detailed look at closed-cell spray foam, which is growing in popularity as an insulation material. Maines identifies its advantages—a high R-value per inch, a capacity for air-sealing and for blocking water-vapor movement, and its enhancement of the framing-to-sheathing connection. He then discusses its disadvantages—including high cost, messiness and potential health risks, and the fact that it can’t be used in many transitional areas where air leakage is high. But Maines focuses primarily on closed-cell foam as a contributor to global warming because of the blowing agent that is used in most closed-cell foams, which is over a thousand times worse than carbon dioxide.”
    http://www.finehomebuilding.com/2018/11/07/h280-is-using-closed-cell-foam-worth-the-trade-offs

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