Code Officials

Spray Foam Terminology

Spray foam insulation is a versatile building product that is used in residential and commercial construction as well as new construction and renovation projects. You may be familiar with spray foam as wall insulation, but spray foam can be used in many parts of homes and buildings.

Installing and inspecting spray foam applications requires familiarity with common terminology. Key terms for spray foam applications include:

  • Thermal Barrier: A material applied over spray polyurethane foam (and other foam plastics) designed to slow the temperature rise of the foam during a fire situation and delay its involvement in the fire. With few exceptions, building codes require that SPF be separated from interior spaces with a thermal barrier. Building codes require that thermal barriers for use with polyurethane foam: (1) limit the average temperature rise of the unexposed foam surface to no more than 139°C (250°F) after 15 minutes of fire exposure complying with ASTM E 119 or UL 263 standard time-temperature curve; and (2) will remain in place for 15 minutes based on a small room corner test.
  • Ignition Barrier: A building code permitted protective covering applied over foam plastic insulations, including SPF, in attics and crawlspaces to increase the time it takes for the foam plastic to become involved in a fire. Ignition barriers do not provide as much fire protection as THERMAL BARRIERS (see also). The building code restricts the use of ignition barriers to attics and crawlspaces of limited access (check the local building code for exact requirements).
  • Occupied Space: A room or enclosed space designed for human occupancy in which individuals congregate for amusement, educational or similar purposes or in which occupants are engaged at labor, and which is equipped with means of egress and light and ventilation facilities meeting the requirements of this code (IBC).
  • Coatings:
    • Acrylic Coating: A coating system based on an acrylic resin. Generally, a “water based” coating system that cures by coalescence and air-drying.
    • Polyurethane Coating: A one or two part coating that contains isocyanate monomer and a hydroxyl containing resin, which react during cure to form a polyurethane elastomer.
    • Silicone Coating: A liquid-applied, solvent dispersed, elastomeric protective coating whose principal polymer in the dispersion contains more than 95 % silicone resin. Some high solids silicone coatings may have little or no solvent content.

A full glossary of terminology used in spray foam applications can be found here.

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