Open-Cell vs. Closed-Cell Spray Foam

What’s Best for Your Home?

Spray foam is an excellent and versatile insulator because it expands as it’s applied, easily filling cracks and gaps where other insulators fall short. There are two types of spray foam insulation known as “open-cell” and “closed-cell” spray foam.

Before deciding which is right for your home or commercial property, it’s important to understand their differences and optimal applications. In this blog, the experts at Installed Building Products of West Palm explain the distinction between the two as well as their benefits and common uses.

Composition of Open- vs. Closed-Cell Foam

Technician applying spray foam insulation in an unfinished wall while wearing a hazmat suit.

The words “open-cell” and “closed-cell” refer to the composition of the two different spray foams. “Cells,” in this case, refer to the air pockets that are formed when the foam is sprayed and expands.

Open-cell foam is lightweight, softer and more flexible. This makes it easier to install than closed-cell foam. Closed-cell foam is more rigid, dense and stable. Because it’s denser than open-cell foam, closed-cell foam does not absorb water.

Both spray foams can be used for different applications throughout the same home. For example, you might use open-cell foam around wires since it’s more flexible but choose closed-cell foam around windows.

R-Values of Open- & Closed-Cell Foam

It’s always important to understand the R-value of the insulation you’re installing, which is its measurement of heat resistance. The higher an insulation’s R-value is, the better that insulation is at limiting the flow of heat.

Although R-values will vary slightly depending on the manufacturer, typically open-cell foam has an R-value between 3.5 and 4 per inch, while closed-cell foam has an R-value ranging from 5.5 to 7 per inch.

This means closed-cell foam will be more effective at limiting the flow of heat than open-cell, especially in extreme climates.

Expansion Rates of Open- & Closed-Cell Spray Foam

Another factor to consider is the expansion rate of both types of foam. Open-cell will expand up to 120 times its size while closed-cell will expand up to 33 times its size.

This means open-cell foam will expand into nooks and crannies like those in crawl spaces better than closed-cell foam, making it a good choice for homes.

Permeability of Open- & Closed-Cell Foam

Closed-cell foam is less permeable than open-cell foam and is generally considered a flood-resistant insulation, making it ideal for use in homes located in areas prone to flooding.

Although open-cell foam is more permeable than closed, it’s still much less so than other insulation types such as fiberglass.

Which Foam Is Better for Soundproofing?

Because open-cell foam has a much lighter density than closed-cell foam, so it’s thicker and softer. This makes open-cell foam much more effective at reducing sound waves than dense closed-cell foam.

Cost Differences of Open- & Closed-Cell Foam

Generally, closed-cell foam costs more than open-cell foam because you need more of it to cover the same area. And because you need more product, it will also cost more in labor than open-cell foam.

Should You Use Open- or Closed-Cell Foam in Your Home?

Overall, it’s generally recommended that homes be insulated with open-cell spray foam apart from specific applications that might require closed-cell foam.

However, it’s always best to have a professional like those at IBP of West Palm assess your home to determine which type of insulation is right for you. We offer a variety of insulation services and products throughout West Palm Beach, including spray foam insulation.

Schedule services with IBP of West Palm. Call (561) 223-1030(561) 223-1030 to learn more.

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