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Foam & Coating Association

What Is Spray Foam

Spray polyurethane foam, commonly referred to as SPF, is a spray-applied insulating foam plastic that is installed as a liquid and then expands many times its original size. It offers excellent insulating properties, improving energy efficiency in commercial and residential buildings, and is also used in many specialty applications.

What is spray foam?

Spray Polyurethane Foam is a cellular thermoset plastic. A thermoset plastic is a polymer that irreversibly cures to its finished state through a catalytic reaction.

Unlike thermoplastic foam, a thermoset foam cannot be melted (it burns without liquefying).

Spray foam is a combustible product.

Two types describe most of the SPF market

Spray Foam used for residential or commercial insulation is categorized into two types, “open-cell” or “closed-cell”.

Open Cell Foam


  • Open-Cell insulation foam is a liquid which is spray-applied. The liquid turns to foam within two to three seconds and expands in volume about 100 times.
  • Typical density is 6 to 11 kilograms per meter cubed (0.4 to 0.7 pounds per cubic foot).
  • Considered “Light Density Foam”.
  • R-value of 3.4 to 4.0 per inch.
  • Because it is spray applied it provides a perfect air seal for the building envelope.
  • Open-Cell foam is an air barrier but is not a vapour barrier.
  • This foam has a soft, almost spongy feel to it because of its open cell structure.
  • Used for interior applications.
  • Provides excellent noise reduction.
  • With Open-Cell foam the tiny cells of the foam are not completely closed. They are broken and air fills all of the “open” space inside the material.

Closed Cell Foam


  • The higher density Closed-Cell spray foam insulation is a spray-applied liquid just like the Open-Cell foam, except that medium density 2 lb. only expands about 30 times its volume.
  • Insulation foams typical density is 27 to 40 kilograms per meter cubed (1.7 to 2.5 pounds per cubic foot). Considered “Medium Density Foam”.
  • Roofing foams typical density is 40 to 48 kilograms per meter cubed (2.5 to 3.0 pounds per cubic foot) or higher. Considered “High Density Foam”.
  • Used for both interior and exterior applications.
  • Qualifies as a vapor barrier at a thickness over 50mm (2 inches).
  • Due to its higher density, this type of foam feels stiffer and actually adds structural value to the building.
  • Closed-cell foam differs in that all of its tiny foam cells are closed and packed together. They are filled with a gas that helps the foam rise and expand and become a greater insulator.
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