Open Cell vs. Closed Cell Spray Foam: How to Choose Your Home’s Insulation

When you live in a state like Minnesota where you’ll experience all four distinct seasons in a year, you need high-quality insulation in your home. For one thing, it is a necessity to survive the extreme temperatures as the seasons change. For another, it helps save on heating and cooling costs by 15 percent and cut down your total electric consumption by 11 percent.

These savings and other benefits, however, depend on whether your choice of insulation is able to seal your home’s entire building envelope. The market offers several options, but we will make a case for residential spray foam insulation for your Minnesota home.

What Is Spray Foam Insulation?

Spray foam insulation is one of today’s most innovative insulating materials. It is a chemical liquid that expands and solidifies once it is sprayed onto walls and crevices using a high-pressure sprayer. Fiberglass or batt insulation is the traditional choice, but spray foam is gaining popularity for its higher R-value, impressive soundproofing, fire retardant quality, minimum air leakage, and structural integrity.

home insulation

There are two types of spray foam insulation. We’ll discuss their benefits and their uses in this article.

Open Cell vs. Closed Cell Spray Foam

The main difference between open cell and closed cell foam is their physical structure.

As the name suggests, open-cell spray foam insulation has “open” microscopic cells (like bubbles), which make the insulating foam soft, flexible, and lighter compared to the closed-cell variety. Its structure also makes it permeable, which means it can retain water and allow it to pass through. Once sprayed, open-cell spray foam will expand by up to 100 times its liquid form and get into every nook and cranny of your wall.

Closed-cell spray foam, on the other hand, is densely packed and rigid. The “closed” cells harden after being sprayed in place and the insulation virtually turns into hard plastic once fully cured. This explains the prevailing theory that closed cell spray foam can contribute to a building’s structural strength. It is also impermeable and more resistant to water and moisture. Once sprayed, closed-cell will expand 17 times its liquid form.

Which Type of Spray Foam is Used for What?

Many of our clients ask what the difference is between the two. Neither is superior over the other; each one has strengths that make it more suitable for specific applications.

Let’s start compare the key characteristics of open cell and closed cell spray foam:

 Open Cell Foam InsulationClosed Cell Foam Insulation
PermeabilityYes; can retain waterNo; does not allow water to pass through (vapor barrier)
FlexibilityYesNo
Expansion after spraying100 times its liquid form17 times its liquid form
Air leaksMay have minimal leaksNo leaks (unless incorrectly installed)
R-valueAround 3 to 3.5 per inchAround 6 or higher per inch
SoundproofingCan reduce more sound wavesLess effective at reducing sound waves.

Applications of Open Cell and Closed Cell Spray Insulation.

Taking into account the qualities of both types of spray insulation, here are some of the best applications for these open cell and closed cell spray foam:

  • Open Cell – Interior walls, between floors, and interior spaces that need soundproofing
  • Closed Cell – Attics, along rooflines, roof decks, basements and crawlspaces into which you don’t want moisture to seep

Our technicians at Lange Spray Foam are ready to help. We’ve insulated homes and businesses all over Minnesota and therefore know the best applications of these materials.

Talk to us if you need more information and help deciding which insulation to use in specific parts of your house. Contact Lange Spray Foam today.

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