Proper Spray Foam Insulation Importance
Recently I was contacted by a homeowner that was concerned about a foul musty odor coming from his second floor area. When questioned, he informed me that he had recently had spray foam insulation installed in his attic and that he couldn’t get a call back from the foam applicator as to what the problem was and more importantly was there a safety issue. This homeowner got my number from the internet and asked if I could help him. I immediately asked him if he had an “unvented attic system or vented system” and he informed me “unvented”. I then asked if he had gas appliances in his attic and he again said yes. I set a time to meet with him that day to review the attic and determine the problem.
This is what I found:
The company that did the installation completely sealed the attic without any testing of the ductwork for leaks,which was determined to be approx 18%, flue tests for the gas appliances and the absolute most important item, “combustion and fresh air piping”. The problem he was experiencing was caused from the fact that attics do not have air returns like the inside of the conditioned part of the main house. So what happens is that the leaks that occur in the attic from the air conditioner are magnified due to the fact that the air is on average 38-45 degrees and damp. Without the ability to re-circulate and dry itself through a normal process, the attic becomes moist and stale causing the odor. There are many problems with this situation, however the main one is the pressure build-up in the attic that was happening and the carbon monoxide that could have possibly been siphoned into the main house. The quick fix was to open the roof line attic fan that had been foamed closed and to open approximately 10% of the eave ports of the roof system to provide the proper ventilation. It is my recommendation that if you decide to go with an “unvented” attic system, use a licensed and insured professional and invest in an attic carbon monoxide monitor. They are relatively inexpensive, somewhere around $40 for a good, but then again, what is a life worth. By the way, the homeowner did eventually reach the foam installer and had requested a certificate of insurance, but never received it. It is highly likely that the foam installer was uninsured. A serious risk, just to save a few dollars and go with the lowest price. Do your research on the company.
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