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Fire / Thermal Barriers
Spray Foam Finally Gets a Price Competitive Edge Against Fiberglass Insulation and Batting

Valid or not, more and more inspectors are requiring a thermal barrier in places that have historically only required an ignition barrier.

When insulated wall, attic and crawl space assemblies are constructed as a "total system," complete with thermal barrier, spray foam insulation wins out almost every time.

November 7, 2008 - Clinton, NJ - We in the sprayfoam insulation industry have battled, since the beginning, with upfront cost challenges of foam insulation versus fiberglass batting products.

We all have become experts at expounding on payback periods, the improvements in sound, air, mold, moisture, and structural rigidity that foam insulation provides. We’ve also become proficient at explaining inherent air conditioning, furnace, ducting and lumber cost reductions spray foam insulation allows. We have our payback calculators honed to a tee to help builders and owners see the true ‘systems saving’. Yet, we still loose the battle of the budget in many cases, especially when codes have forced foams to have ignition barrier coatings when fiberglass has no requirement.

I, like most of you, have played the fiberglass versus foam bidding wars. Our superior product has always been a tough sell when the customer just looks at the up front costs.

Here’s the ignition barrier example we live with all the time...

To play with gross numbers, I quote my foam at $1.00/ board ft installed. The inspector requires that an ignition barrier must be in place with the foam, something the fiberglass installer has been exempt from. I tack on about $.55/ft2 for ignition barrier coatings and another $.40/ft2 for the prep labor and clean up. So, for 3” of closed cell foam with an IBC approved ignition barrier over foam coating, I’m at $4.10-$.4.15/ft2 range. The fiberglass gets installed at maybe $.95/ft2, needs air channels and a moisture barrier added to the price for a total of around $1.35/ft2. Fiberglass batting system wins as the up front ‘low cost’ solution, even though it’s an inferior solution.

But, we are seeing more and more inspectors require thermal barrier in places that have historically been ignition barrier. No one wants to be on the bad side of an inspector, so challenging an interpretation is not in the cards, in most cases. You might think this is more bad news for the Sprayfoam industry, but it is not. We, at Spray It, are actually benefiting from the thermal barrier requirement, now that there are IBC compliant coating solutions for thermal foam wall assemblies.

We have been using Fireshell® F10E from TPR2 Corp. (www.tpr2.com) with excellent results in acceptance from the code officials. The product complies with IBC 2603.9 by having passed NFPA 286 and IBC 803.2 on foamed wall assemblies. TPR2 has an excellent support group, very knowledgeable and willing to even speak with inspectors when needed. The company has a multitude of coating technologies, including weatherproof ignition barrier coatings; 2 hr rated wall coatings and even fire extinguishing coatings. Furthermore, being weekend car racing fans, we like the pedigree of TPR2 being so heavily involved in saving lives of professional race drivers in both NASCAR® and NHRA®. Who else could claim their product is fire tested every weekend?

Now that the coatings allow IBC compliant, thermal foamed wall assemblies to be available, the foam sprayer can bid an insulation & thermal barrier system that is cheaper than the fiberglass & gypsum alternative.

Here’s how the F10E Fireshell® product helps us out versus the price of the fiberglass/sheetrock alternative...
Again with with gross numbers, I quote my foam at $1.00/ board ft installed. The inspector requires that a thermal barrier must be in place with the foam and fiberglass. I tack on about $.77/ft2 (in drums) for the TPR2 F10E coatings and another $.40/ft2 for the prep labor and clean up. In most cases, we can spray the coating up to 5,000 ft2/day. How much ft2/day can a sheet rocker do?

So, for 3” of closed cell foam with an IBC approved thermal barrier foamed wall assembly, I’m at $4.10-$.4.15/ft2 range. Like before, the fiberglass gets installed at maybe $.95/ft2, needs air channels added to the price for a total of around $1.25/ft2. But now, the sheet rock installer has to come in behind the fiberglass guy. He requires some level of carpentry in most cases, hates doing attics and crawl spaces because of the cuts and small pieces and significant more time required, and charges accordingly.

We’ve seen quotes as high as $3.00/ft2, before the added carpentry. And, he takes 3-4 times longer than our coating solution, which is water based, LEED point eligible, and sprayed on with standard equipment. So, worst case, we are parity priced and have the more efficient solution. But even better, we are doing both the foam and coating, so we can tweak our numbers more easily than the fiberglass or sheetrock guy, since they are two separate independent entities. We now win most head to head battles in this arena.

We find this equation to be an excellent tool for us, and, moving forward, expect a great competitive advantage for the spray foam insulation industry. Now it’s possible to be the less expensive up front solution, as well as the long term less expensive solution. No more having to rationalize payback periods!

We hope that articles like ours capture the excitement of many other sprayfoam installers, and we all move forward to capture a much larger part of the insulation business from other, less efficient methods.

Grant Miller is the owner of Spray It Foam Insulation (www.sprayitfoam.com) out of Clinton, NJ (908-638-5500). He is an avid proponent of the benefits of spray foam insulation. Besides standard sprayfoam installation services, Spray It specializes in up front design assistance to help architects ‘design in’ cost savings on materials such as framing and casing, which can actually pay for the foam insulation cost difference. Overall system costs actually save customers money.


Grant Miller
Spray It Foam Insulation
Clinton, NJ - 908-638-5500

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