Which to Choose: Open-Cell Versus Closed Cell Foam Insulation

Open-Cell versus Closed Cell Foam Insulation

Open-cell and closed-cell are two types of insulation which offer benefits for both new construction and renovation projects. Here, we will compare open cell foam insulation versus closed cell foam insulation to help you make a wise, informed choice regarding which to use for your specific application. 

Benefits of Spray Foam Insulation 

Spray foam insulation is not only energy-saving, its application is relatively easy, even in challenging areas. And it can offer cost savings.

It can be utilized in both residential and commercial buildings, in agricultural facilities, in wood or steel framed structures. It can even be used to insulate storage tanks.

The versatility of spray foam insulation is much appreciated by both home and business owners and construction professionals. Spray foam insulation is a great idea to look into if you see signs your home is not well insulated.

Spray foam insulation is efficient. It doesn’t sag or settle over time like fiberglass insulation can if not correctly installed. Spray foam insulation adds structure and sturdiness to buildings. Spray foam insulation’s ability to expand into every crack and crevice prevents entry by rodents and insects. It lasts longer than alternatives, so uses up less materials, resulting in a reduced carbon footprint.

What is Open-Cell Foam Insulation?

Spray foam insulation comes in two types. Open-cell spray foam insulation has a unique texture composed of tiny, interconnected bubbles.

Features and Use of Open-Cell Foam Insulation

In addition to insulation properties (an R value of R-3.5 to R-4) which efficiently seals out hot summer air and frigid winter winds, open-cell spray foam insulation:

  • Expands to seal cracks and small openings. This feature protects your home from allergens like dust, mold and other harmful small particles.
  • The reduced cost of heating and cooling your home and the additional protection from allergens is worth the reasonable price of open-cell spray foam insulation, which is less expensive than closed cell.
  • Open-cell insulation is also better at blocking noise. 
  • Open-cell becomes sponge-like, permits moisture to pass. Why could that be an advantage? If humidity is high, or the roof leaks, moisture must have a means of escape, to avoid mold growth and damage to materials.

This type of insulation is optimal for attics.

What is Closed-Cell Spray Foam Insulation?

Closed-cell spray foam insulation fills cracks and open spots immediately following application. Nothing gets past it, including moisture. When cured, closed-cell spray foam insulation forms a solid, smooth, surface that doesn’t allow anything to pass through it. 

Features and Use of Closed-Cell Spray Foam Insulation

Image of subfloor with closed cell spray foam insulation 3

Closed-cell offers:

  • A solid barrier against wind, water, insects, rodents, and allergens, making it superior for some applications.
  • But it is more costly than open-cell and the benefits mentioned above must also be considered.

One example of an optimal application of closed-cell is for the foundations of raised cottages, like those often found in Louisiana. Often, crawl spaces become filled with moisture, which permeates beautiful hardwood floors, making them subject to rot and damage from mold and insects – like termites. 

The airtight seal created by closed-cell spray foam insulation doesn’t allow any air at all to pass through. At up to R-6 per inch insulation value, closed-cell offers the very highest R-value insulation material available. 

Crawl spaces and outdoor environments are considered the best sites for utilization of closed-cell insulation’s impermeable air and moisture barrier.

Open-Cell or Closed-Cell: Making the Decision

Neither open-cell or closed-cell foam insulation is superior to the other, overall. The decision of which to choose depends upon the intended use. Here is a summary of features for comparison:

Closed-Cell Spray Foam Insulation

  • Has a greater R-value
  • Is more rigid
  • Offers a more solid vapor, moisture and water barrier
  • Is great for crawl spaces 

Open-Cell Spray Foam Insulation

  • Expands more extensively –  to fill nooks and crannies
  • Offers a higher level of soundproofing
  • Lets water pass, allowing leaks to be located – preventing damage
  • Is more affordable
  • Is optimal for walls and attics in many areas

There are exceptions to these general rules. Each project and each area presents varying factors which must be considered. Consultation with a professional installer familiar with your area can help you determine the optimal application of spray foam insulation for your particular building project or renovation.  

Open-Cell / Closed-Cell / or a Combination?

open-cell vs closed-cell

The good news is you don’t have to use exclusively open or closed-cell spray foam insulation for an entire residence or commercial building. Not only each project, but each area within a structure may require a different choice. Following are a few more thoughts.

Both open-cell and closed-cell spray foam insulation are great products offering a wealth of benefits. But they are made up of chemicals and must be handled with care during application.

It’s best to hire a professional to ensure safe and proper installation. Sunlight Contractors serves New Orleans and the entire region of southeastern Louisiana. We can assist you in determining the best ways to utilize closed-cell or open-cell spray foam insulation for your construction or renovation project.

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