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Icynene versus Urethane foam insulation


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By Jim in Maple Grove, MN on 12/4/2006


Hi all.  We're in the midst of getting bids on our homebuilding project and are debating the use of sprayed icynene versus sprayed urethane foam insulation. 

I've got two bids for icynene, and one for urethane.  The guy who gave me the bid for urethane says urethane is way better because it is non-pourous whereas icynene is slightly pourous.

Has anyone compared the two?  Pros?  Cons? 


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By Mat in Rome, NY on 12/4/2006


I'm not an expert, but I may be able to give you a relatively quick answer.

Both seal the wall cavity from air infiltration.  Icynene stays soft and doesn't have the R-value of polyurethane.  The poly insulation gets very hard.  I've heard it's much easier to run new electrical (after the fact) through an Icynene wall vs. a poly wall.  Some people I have spoken with use the poly for the ceiling because of the high R-factor (and little need to run electrical up there) and Icynene for the walls, but others have used poly for the entire house. 

I am building an ICF house, and for those portions that cannot be ICF, I'll be using poly.


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By Ralph in Nashua, NH on 3/12/2007


I'm not an expert either, however, my wife and I have just gone through this same dilemma ourselves. My mom actually works for the largest insulation company in the Northeast, which is local to us. Her co. claims the same...that it is more dense with few air pockets (voids).

We got quotes for the Icynene product and it came back close to what we could get the polyurethane foam for (after the family discount). While there may be some truth to the selling point of the Icynene product staying flexible, there has been no scientific proof, or testing, that shows that it is a better product than polyurethane. It also claims not to give off hazardous chemical fumes as it decomposes. Do your homework on the product you are thinking of going with as not all poly foams use the hazardous blowing agents in them anymore.

For us, since there was no real proof that the poly foam insulation was inferior to the Icynene, and the fact that the R-value was much better in the poly, we would have chosen to go with poly. We have since chosen to build a SIPs home but we asked the builder to compare SIPs to 2x6 panelized as an apples to apples comparison right down to the same insulation quality. In the end, SIPs made more sense for us, but the poly foam (we believe) is a good product.


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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 3/12/2007


You can't honestly view 5 1/2" SIP to 2x6 framing as an apple-to-apple comparison other than they are the same thickness. And both separate your interior from the exterior world.

The SIP is stronger, better insulated, faster to install and eliminates at least one if not two trades. And then if you discount the fact that the panels are straight and won't bow, twist or shrink. They hold artwork better because of the continuous sheathing on the inside surface of your wall..

But I guess other than those minor differences they are about the same cost.

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By Ralph in Nashua, NH on 3/13/2007


Okay, let me correct myself...the comparison was to compare the two methods knowing that certain things were done to the 2x6 panelized method to ensure that both methods were equal in regards to air infiltration rates. I agree that the two are completely different systems but no one (at least in the this area) had taken the time to compare the two, side-by-side, with regards to energy efficiency. To do this, the builder had to make sure that the infiltration rates were equal.

If anyone is interested, I have attached the spreadsheet (with some minor changes to protect the innocent) for your info. As you'll see, there is fairly significant cost difference between the three manufacturers that were considered for their particular package. However, once you start to look more closely at the other items needed to complete the project (finished shell only), the numbers start to draw closer together as, in some cases, there is more offered as a package from the panelized manuf as opposed to the SIPS package.  Plus, in order to make the infiltration rates equal, 2" rigid foam board is used on the exterior of the panelized system, followed by 2" of spray foam in the cavities. Without the 2" rigid foam on the outside, you can't effectively get the same infiltration rate due to the thermal bridging from the 2x6 frame members.

Either way, I'm sure my artwork would look just as good if we went with a panelized wall, but I'd have to look for the studs.


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