FOAM 101: Introduction to field-applied polyurethane foam systems

Henri C. Fennell, CSI/CDT

Course Description/Abstract

This introductory program commences with an overview of common building insulation systems, comparing their physical properties, performance, and how they are installed. Particular attention is then given to polyurethane foams, exploring their development, chemistry, cellular structure, and the differences between open-cell and closed-cell formulations. This is followed by an in-depth look at the physical properties of polyurethane foam and how these properties relate to building science issues and performance. Characteristics discussed include in-place density, air and vapor permeability, R-value, dimensional stability, and bond strength. The environmental advantages of the improved blowing agents are elaborated on as well.

The program then provides an overview of polyurethane foam systems currently in use for building construction and where each material is appropriate, including the pros and cons of open-cell and closed-cell polyurethanes in specific building applications. Installation methods for polyurethane foams are presented. Health, safety and welfare issues are dealt with as the installed uses of polyurethane foams in thermal envelopes are demonstrated.

Case studies are used to demonstrate various delivery systems and installation methods. The PowerPoint presentation is supplemented with related handouts and an exhibition of foam products and quality assurance and compliance testing equipment. This session is appropriate for both technical and non-technical audiences. (This is a one-hour or 90-minute course that qualifies for Health, Safety, and Welfare credit.)

Supplemental Programs:

• Foam 201 – Foam applications, quality assurance, and safety

• Foam 301 – Preventing foam problems

Learning Objectives:

Participants will be able to select the correct polyurethane foam product and installation method for their specific projects.

Participants will be able to identify the building science issues related to the use of foam plastic.

Participants will be able to differentiate between open and closed-cell foam products.

Participants will be able to calculate the per-R-value cost of foam materials.

Participants will be able to relate their projects to similar real-world case studies demonstrating installation methods and foam uses.