Q. What is the Difference Between Open & Closed-Cell Foam?
A. Open-cell foam is the most common form of spray foam insulation and can range in density from 0.5lb per cubic ft to 1.2lb per cubic ft, with R-values ranging from R-3.6/inch to R-4.5/inch. The two leading brands of 0.5lb open-cell foam are Sealection500 and Icynene. 0.5lb foam is the least expensive of the various spray foam options. When applied, 0.5lb foam instantly expands more than 100x to fill in every nook and cranny. All open-cell foams excel at absorbing sound, creating a quiet and comfortable home. Many people equate the ‘feeling’ of open-cell foam to the quiet and warmth of a snow-capped roof in the wintertime. Open-cell foam is generally applied to the above ground walls, underside of the roof in an unvented attic, and wherever sound attenuation is desired. In the event of a roof leak, water will pass through open-cell foam with gravity, thereby allowing the roof leak to be detectible. Higher density open-cell foams, 0.8lb to 1.2lb, are often used when increased R-value is desired in shallow cavities, or when it is preferred that the cavity is left shy. Closed-cell foam, often referred to as rigid-foam, has a density that can range from 1.7lb per cubic ft to 2.2lb per cubic ft and an R-value varying from R-5/inch to R-7/inch. These foams have a lower vapor permeability than open-cell foams and in most cases qualify as a class II vapor retarder. Closed-cell foam is used wherever there is significant moisture or vapor drive; for instance, below grade foundation walls (basement walls), indoor swimming pools, wine cellars, freezers, etc. Closed-cell foam is also used when trying to maximize R-value in shallow cavities. Further, closed-cell foam can dramatically add to structural integrity due to its high density and compression strength. Closed-cell foam comes in two forms, water blown and 245fa blown. The water blown variety traps air inside the closed cells in order to create insulation value. The 245fa blown foam uses a Lightweight gas developed by Honeywell to fill the closed cells, creating a higher R-value.