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Foam vs Cellulose Insulation: Which One Keeps You Warm at Night?


338305When it comes time to insulate, frequently the choice comes down to some sort of foam insulation (like Icynene) or dense pack cellulose, between the two they each have their advantages and disadvantages. 

The plus of foam is that it is a great air sealer it keeps out all air infiltration.  Cellulose is a moderate air sealer, so you have to air seal (caulk or weatherize) your walls/attic/basement before you put in the cellulose. 

Foam: one step process.

Cellulose: more than one step.

The advantage of cellulose is that it generally a lot cheaper than foam. Also, certain rebate programs only pay for cellulose.  

Another point: cellulose is the “greener”, more environmentally friendly process. Cellulose is made from recycled newspaper treated with Boric Acid; foam is a petroleum based product that takes 10X the amount of energy to create than cellulose.

It practical terms, this means that if the surface you are insulating has a lot of penetrations in it (like a roof which has shingle nails, stack pipes, vent pipes) you are better off foaming as trying to fill all cracks and holes would be tedious and expensive.  If, however, you have tight construction, go with the cellulose and save some money.

For more information on the subject, go to our insulation pages or watch our Whiteboard Video on the subject: 

Harold Simansky 



Another HUGE issue with foam is the global warming potential of the materials. It's extremely toxic to produce and releases more GHGs then energy it will save. Cellulose doesn't have this issue.  
Posted @ Tuesday, April 10, 2012 11:39 AM by Chris Williams
Foam is easier to say...but it looks like Cellulose could be the better option I guess! Thanks 360Chestnut.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 10, 2012 12:40 PM by Sean
Great info! Thanks for posting. This will be very helpful in my insulation process!! 
Posted @ Tuesday, April 10, 2012 12:47 PM by Lauren
Where do the companies get the recycled Newspaper to make into Cellulose? From the Newpaper companies? The Recycling Companies? From the trash? Somebody please cure my curiosity!
Posted @ Tuesday, April 10, 2012 2:53 PM by Katherine
The principle feedstock of cellulose insulation is recovered newsprint. Cellulose insulation manufacturers obtain their paper feedstock from their own MRFs, from community recycling programs, directly from newspaper printing plants, and on the spot market. Most manufacturers use several of these sources, but at least one relies almost exclusively on material obtained directly from large newspaper printing plants in the northeast, where a lot of large newspapers are published.
Posted @ Wednesday, April 11, 2012 12:20 PM by Dan Lea
Thanks, Dan! Good to know some tangible facts about recycling. Curiosity cured.
Posted @ Wednesday, April 11, 2012 7:39 PM by Katherine
With all the talk of indoor air pollution and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), that is another point in foam's favor. After the initial curing period of 24 to 48 hours, foam insulation no longer off-gas and does not produce any VOCs.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 17, 2012 12:10 PM by Harold Simansky
We are building a new home and have been looking into the foam but there are several sites about the harm of off-gasing. 
Is it truely cured withing 24 to 48 hrs??? 
Any help is appreciated.
Posted @ Thursday, August 02, 2012 4:08 PM by Cindy
Yes, foam truly is cured within 24-48 hours. When it comes to VOC I am far more concerned about things like paints, adhesives and toxic substances, like old point, kept in the home.
Posted @ Friday, August 03, 2012 11:26 AM by Harold Simansky
Great information of Concrete Foam has been shared by this post by giving the advantages of foam insulation and expandable consideration for this uses.foam insulation is generally used in conjunction with fiberglass or polystyrene home insulation. It must be applied by a professional for large-scale jobs.
Posted @ Friday, March 22, 2013 12:41 AM by Concrete Foam
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