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Can Spray Foam Insulation be Painted?

Sprayfoam is one of many different insulations in the market. This article discusses painting over spray foam insulation and ways to properly do it.

A person spraying spray foam for insulation.

The simple answer is yes, though there are many more factors that need to be addressed before you begin cracking open a paint can.

When we think of the word insulation, we either think of a natural material like: the goose down found in your winter coat, or a synthetic option like: the fiberglass/ spray foam found in your home. Whichever the material, insulation’s main purpose is to reduce heat loss and gain to ensure a consistent temperature is sustained.

When speaking specifically on home insulation, it is vital to choose insulation that regulates temperature in an energy-efficient manner.

Spray foam is one of many different insulations currently available on the market. Its emergence roots back to the late 1930s when German industrial chemist Otto Bayer discovered Polyurethane. A few years later, World War II broke out, constraining the development of polyurethane.

With its physical similarities to rubber, a material both rare and expensive at the time; government authorities utilized this cheaper alternative, making it widely inaccessible to the commercial market.

The government enforced it to be solely used as a protective coating on airplanes during the war. In 1952 polyisocyanates became commercially available in the United States, being useds in dozens of applications including the new production of polyurethane foam in 1953. With this new introduction came the invention of the Blendometer.

A new house with spray foam insulation.

Walter Baughman invented the Blendometer to blend material components to produce a plastic expanding foam for home insulation. This machine was partially manual, involving the tilting of trays of chemicals to mix into foam before applying to the desired space.

It would take two decades and Fred Gusmer’s inventions of the first spray machine technology to have spray foam widely introduced in homes.

Today, closed cell spray foam has been identified as a structural requirement for homes in hurricane and earthquake zones to ensure the structural soundness of a building. No matter where a home is built, utilizing spray foam makes it a smart decision for any homeowner.

Spray Foam vs Fiberglass Insulation?

A room with pink fiberglass insulation.

With a better understanding of spray foams’ developmental history, is it truly the better home insulator? Spray foam tends to have a higher R-value than fiberglass, making it a better insulator. This type of insulation is also much higher in cost than fiberglass insulation.

When introducing water into both materials, fiberglass retains moisture: being susceptible to mold and other issues, whereas insulation foam is watertight.

A person with protective jacket spraying sprayfoam.

Spray foam insulation is seemingly easy to apply, but a job that must be left up to a professional. Once set, it is extremely labour intensive to remove due to its air-tight seal to the surrounding structure.

This seal is beneficial to ensure there are no draft gaps as could be found when installing fiberglass insulation batts. Installing insulation batts is time consuming, so choosing to spray over cutting and fitting each batt will save you a large amount of time.

Can You Spray Foam Over Fiberglass Insulation?

Spray foam over fiberglass insulation.

You may be thinking, the more insulation in my walls- the better, correct? Perhaps your home already has fiberglass insulation and with your research you now would like to introduce spray foam into your walls. Unfortunately the answer is: choose one or the other.

Due to their very different abilities to soak in or resist moisture, having both will allow moisture to be locked in, only creating a bigger issue down the road. The best choice would be to fully remove the fiberglass insulation and replace it with spray foam, leaving you with an air-tight seal and a better R-Value.

Is Spray Foam the New Stucco?

A white wall with cement-based plaster.

Trends come and go, but spray foam is quickly becoming the new… stucco? Stucco is a cement-based plaster made out of an aggregate (cement), a binder (lime & sand) and water. This plaster is applied in multiple layers using a steel trowel to shape a desired pattern and texture. Stucco installed into any North American home can last as long as fifty to eighty years before it needs replacing.

Stucco has been a part of history for the last 9,000 years. In Ancient Greece, stucco was used on both the interior and exterior walls of temples as early as 1400 BCE. Since then, designers in the Renaissance used the malleable material to execute ornate architectural features that could be painted over with fresco paintings.

A building with large dome painting.

In the United States, in the warmer climate regions, stucco’s use on bungalow interior and exterior walls became extremely popular in the 1920s. Taking inspiration from Mediterranean villas, North America expanded this material’s application in the 1950s by texturing walls and ceilings with new styles coined: “popcorn” and “cottage cheese”.

To colour the plaster, pigment can be either added upon mixing or applied on the surface once it has dried. Many homeowners have replaced their stucco interiors with the classic simple, smooth drywall as owners soon became aware that the stucco’s textured surface is prone to collecting dirt or dust over time, while also being difficult to clean.

A gray wall with abstract design.

Similar to stucco’s popular “popcorn” texture, spray foam insulation interior walls have been appearing as a popular “design trend to look out for”. Mimicking Grecian white limestone walls, spray foam when painted can be pretty convincing. One example of these famous spray foam interiors has an exterior unlike any other: a potato.

Yes, you read that correctly, the Big Idaho Potato Hotel to be exact. This twenty-eight foot long, 6 ton traveling potato was created for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Idaho Potato Commission and traveled all over North America. In 2019 it was donated to an Idaho local who turned it into an air-bnb destination.

Using 9 inches of spray foam insulation, she transformed the hollow insides of a once brown and dusty spud, into an elegant sought after haven. Spray foam is able to absorb light in a warm and natural way, so it is a unique addition to any space.

What Paint is Best To Cover Spray Foam Insulation?

A person holding a spray paint wearing mask.

Depending on the size of insulation you would like to cover, depends on the paint chosen. If you are spraying the inside of a garage or barn, you might choose to leave the insulation exposed without an interior wall. To cover the spray foam insulation in a layer of paint to protect from discolouration from UV light, you are best to rent a paint sprayer.

A paint spraying machine is able to spray large surfaces so you wont be going through copious amounts of spray paint. Water-based acrylic and latex paint is the best, as oil-based and solvent- based paints contain chemicals that can damage foam. By adding a coat over exposed interior spray foam insulation, it will protect the surface for over twenty years before it will need to be redone.

A person using a black spray paint.

The best paint to use to cover small foam surfaces is spray paint. It is possible to use other surface paints, but using tools like a brush or roller can cause dents while trying to fit the tool into the many dips and bumps on the foam’s surface. Not only will spray paint save your wrist from painting on the uneven terrain, but it will also be a lot more time efficient.

Spray painting in enclosed areas is not safe, nor will it dry as fast. It is recommended if using the spray paint technique to do so in a well ventilated space, leaving the ventilation open until it properly dries.

It is suggested to wait 24 hours after the surface is initially sprayed with foam before painting. Not only does this allow odors that are in the space to aerate out, but to let the dust that is airborne during the spraying procedure to settle, helping the paint adhere to the surface a lot more easily.

Spray Foam – The New Decor Trend?

A spray foam with random design.

Much like the 1950’s stucco trend, textured surfaces are coming back in style, but this unique craze is making its mark- on and off the wall. With its yellow-beige tone and bubbly popcorn surface, spray foam in its dry state is definitely unique. Creating an otherworldly surface by completely engulfing a surface with foam; this trend has a love it or leave look written all over it.

This is definitely not a “play- it safe” trend. This use of spray foam insulation began with Copenhagen designer Anna Thoma who began spraying furniture with foam in the spring of 2020. Since then designers and DIYers have taken to the can and tried it themselves creating unique pieces at a low budget that even Otto Bayer could not have imagined.

Spray foam has come a long way in use, from a utilitarian material used to insulate one’s home, to being used to envelop furniture, transforming it completely. If painted with the proper material, any wall, foamy mirror, or popcorn stool, will not only stand out, but last for many years to come.