Spray Foam Insulation Chicago Rescues National Treasure

Of the many world-class facilities for which Chicago is renown, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is in a class by itself in the world of high-energy particle physics.  That is why when the roof of the facility’s Meson Detector Building began to leak again, it is no surprise that the solution to the problem was also a high-tech.  Spray foam insulation Chicago was the solution that had eluded other contractors over the course of the previous 40 years.

The roof consisted of concave metal panels which befitted the architectural design of the facility.  Its unique look contributed to the constant leaking because of ever-present puddles that formed and allowed water to seep through metal seams.  The roof and the structure became a local joke and an example of government inefficiency.  The Department of Energy, this last go-round, was looking for a more permanent solution that did not require secondary roof structures inside the building – the stop-gap solution that had been employed for four decades. 

Several idiosyncrasies of the roof made the installation of foam insulation on this roof particularly difficult.  The metal structure itself was slippery even when it wasn’t wet.  The sloping, curved shape of the roof sections was also a problem in that secure and stable footing for work crews was not consistent.  Imagine foam crews repelling down the half-pipe roof sections across the entire length of the building to reach each section and you will have an idea of the difficulty of the application process for this project.

What was not a problem is adherence.  Spray foam adheres to most any surface – even metal panels that had been exposed to weather extremes for more than forty years.  The extreme insulative properties that are unique to spray foam (spray polyurethane foam or SPF) filled in all the gaps that were causing the leaks when the metal roof components expanded and contracted.  Foam also eliminated the condensation which formed every winter on the inside of the roof which posed walking hazards for technicians and research scientists working below. 

The entire roof space amounted to just over 40,000 square feet.  To preserve the architectural look of the facility, foam was specifically formulated for this project to match the existing metal colors of terra cotta and blue so that, from a distance, there would be no visible signs that the building roof had a foam coating.

Your residential or commercial spray foam project might not have the size or logistical difficulties of the Fermi Lab project, but it is good to know that if spray foam could solve a forty-year old leakage problem in this Chicago icon, then your project will be well served by using spray foam.  Whether you have need of roof insulation, basement insulation, crawl space insulation or are looking to soundproof a movie room in your home, know that spray foam is the high-tech solution that will solve your problem once and for all.  Give us a call today to see how spray foam can help make your space more comfortable, energy efficient and save you money every month on utility bills.

FAQs About Foam Insulation

If you are looking into spray foam for your house or business structure, there are some things that you should know about the product and the process.

  1. What actually is spray foam?  Spray foam is a polymer/polyurethane product.  Major U.S. manufacturers such as Dow Chemical and DuPont are major suppliers of the foam material.
  2. How is the expanding foam applied?  Our technicians apply the foam material via a spray gun.  The foam is sprayed between joists, onto exterior walls, and onto the interior of foundations and as it is applied, expands into cracks and crevices as well as grows to many times its original thickness as it cures.
  3. What kind of energy savings can be realized?  Due to the insulating and thermal barrier that spray foam affords, your heat and air conditioning systems will not need to work as hard, or as long, to reach and maintain a constant temperature.  Its air barrier properties keep drafts from entering and conditioned air from escaping your building or home.
  4. How do open cell and closed cell materials differ? Open cell foam is called that because the bubbles that make up the product have breaks in them.  Closed cell foam has bubbles which are unbroken or closed.  Because of this structure, closed cell foam is a denser product with a higher R-value per inch and also provides and moisture barrier.
  5. Is spray foam better for new or existing structures? Spray foam is appropriate and recommended for new or existing homes or new or existing commercial buildings. 
  6. What if I need to add electrical or duct work?  Spray foam can be applied around existing systems and if new systems need to be installed, they can be installed inside the thermal envelope.  For access, your electrician can always cut away spray foam that might be in the way of access to piping.
  7. What is involved in getting an estimate? Our estimator will travel to your building and measure the spaces that need to be insulated.  He or she can also make recommendations as to the right type of foam for your spaces and give you an on-the-spot recommendation.

Cost of Spray Foam Insulation

There are several components in the calculation of the cost of spray foam insulation for your home or business.

The first is the cost of the material itself. Open cell foam and closed cell foam have different costs per square foot with closed cell foam costing more. In order to calculate how much foam is required for your project, our contractor needs to measure the spaces that need insulating and using those measurements, determine how many square feet you need and how thick each square foot should be. Also included in a contractor’s calculation is the desired R-value needed for the space which determines the thickness of the material to be applied.

New construction is somewhat easier to work with in terms of insulation as all spaces are accessible to our application technicians. The cost of labor is another component in the calculation of spray foam insulation costs. Open cell spray foam typically is installed in places that are easy for our crews to reach such as attics. The cost for labor is thus a bit less expensive to apply open cell spray foam.

Closed cell foam is usually applied in places that are harder to reach and take longer to apply thoroughly and effectively. Places like under stairs, or basements, or crawl spaces take longer to apply and the costs of labor for these areas is typically a bit higher.

We always recommend that you have us look at your space to give you an accurate quote. Charts that show square footage and prices cannot take into account site-specific challenges that may require more time. Similarly, if your space is easy to reach, you may get a better quote if we know for sure that the space is easily accessible by our crews.

Whether you insulate some or all of your building or home with spray foam, you will enjoy energy savings for decades over your other insulation options.

Spray Foam Types: Open Cell and Closed Cell

There are two types of spray foam insulation: Open cell and closed cell. The individual characteristics of each type and use of each is outlined below:

Open cell Spray Foam:

  • Foam cells are not entirely closed
  • Light in weight
  • Yields an effective air barrier
  • Lesser expensive of the two types
  • Open cell foam has a higher R value
  • No vapor barrier

Closed Cell Spray Foam:

  • Completely closed foam cells
  • Higher in density than Open Cell
  • Yields an air and moisture barrier
  • More expensive of the two
  • R Value is lower

The nature of the makeup of each type of foam makes each type more suitable for certain environments than the other type.  For example, because closed cell spray foam can also serve as a moisture barrier it is perfect for wet areas such as basements and other under-grade locations.

Lightweight open cell foam insulation is suitable for attics or unvented crawl spaces.  It keeps flexible and soft over its lifetime. It provides insulating value many times per inch thickness what batt insulation or blown in insulation can provide. 

Closed cell foam cures into a hard, durable substance.  It provides rigidity and structural strength to walls and floors 

As open cell spray foam is applied, it expands to 4 times its original thickness and does a much better job of insulating than batt insulation can ever do.  Other advantages of spray foam are that it doesn’t lose its loft, it doesn’t sag over time, or compress like fiberglass or blown in insulation can.

Closed cell spray foam also has the inherent benefit of providing a vapor barrier and deters mold and mildew growth which are concerns in areas such as basements and crawl spaces.

Spray foam is made from eco-friendly polymers that are safe for use in homes and are hypo-allergenic substances that will last longer than any other forms of insulation.