Open Cell Vs. Closed Cell Foam

What’s the difference between open-cell and closed-cell insulation?
If you are beginning to research types of spray foam insulation, you may have run across two different types: open-cell polyurethane spray foam and closed-cell polyurethane foam. To better determine which product is best for your commercial project, here is some basic information regarding these types of insulation.

Differences Between Open Cell and Closed Cell Foam Insulation

1. Cell Types
Spray insulation is referred to as closed or open due to the difference between the small cells (bubbles) that make up the foam. Open-cell spray foam includes cells that are left open, which makes the foam softer and more flexible. Closed-cell foam utilizes cells that are fully encapsulated and pressed together to form an air barrier and vapor barrier that resists water; neither moisture nor air can get into the foam. This type of insulation product is stiffer and more durable as it settles into the nooks and crannies of your space.
2. Density
Open-cell foam is not as dense as closed-cell rigid foam. Most open-cell foam has a density of about 0.5 pounds per cubic foot, whereas closed-cell foam could have up to 1.75 pounds per cubic foot.
3. Expansion Capability
From an application point of view, this is a key distinction in open-cell insulation versus closed-cell insulation. When applied, closed-cell insulation will expand to about 1 inch of thickness. This means that there could be multiple applications possible to get higher R-values per inch (see No. 4 below). Open cell is developed to expand to 3 inches of thickness, and only one application is possible in standard structures.
4. R-Value
R-value measures how well the foams insulate or how resistant they are to heat flow. Closed-cell foam has a higher R-value than open-cell foam. Closed-cell foam is better at keeping heat in or out of your commercial building structure.

No Blowing Agents

One more quick note about open-cell foam: There are no blowing agents, such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) or HCFC’s (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) in our light density products. Installation creates some off-gassing and requires ventilation. The foam cures (i.e., sets) within seconds — after which it produces no more off-gassing.

Which insulation is right for you?

Which insulation is right for you? The answer to the question of open and closed cell foam depends on several factors, including where your commercial structure is located; what your roof deck and crawl spaces look like; how important energy-efficiency, air seals, and heat loss are to you and your business; what type of weather conditions there are in your area; and, finally, what goals or specific needs you have for insulating.

Finding the right insulation solution is important, so if you’re not sure, contact Spray-On Foam & Coatings today with your questions. Our experienced team has been helping customers of all kinds with spray foam insulation for almost 50 years! We love to talk about building science, vapor permeability, and the various benefits of open-cell insulation and/or the rigid structure of closed-cell spray foam insulation.

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