Spray foam insulation (SPF) installation frequently results in odor complaints by the tenants of the home or building where the installation occurred. When the installation is performed properly with mixing the proper ratios of Side A (isocyanate) and Side B (polyol), any odor associated with the installation can generally linger from several days to several weeks. When misapplication occurs due to improper ratio and/or mixing of Sides A and B, the odors may persist for an indefinite time period and the appearance and efficacy of the spray foam may be compromised. In these cases, air testing using thermal desorption tubes or canisters is frequently the only testing performed to determine the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in the home or business. It is generally assumed that the source of the odor is the SPF, but since only air testing is being performed, other sources of VOCs cannot be ruled out. SPF installation is frequently part of a new build so off-gassing of other materials of construction might also be the source of the odor thereby making it difficult to assess if remediation of the SPF is warranted or not. In addition, the very process of installing spray foam insulation results in the tightening of a structure and a pre-existing or unrelated odor can be concentrated, thereby leading to a new odor totally unrelated to SPF. In this study, a different approach has been taken to understanding the source of the odors. Air testing is performed in the areas where spray foam insulation installation has occurred, but in addition, off-gas testing of foams and substrates, such as wood where the SPF has been applied, have also been tested. Comparison of the VOC results from both air and bulk foam can help to determine whether the SPF is the source of the odor. A list of potential VOCs from many different spray foams and Side A and Side B components has been compiled to assist with this determination. Several case studies will be presented to illustrate how these combined methods have assisted in tracking down odor complaints from spray foam insulation installations and how these results have assisted in determining the proper path of remediation.
Presented by: Stephen Froelicher