Spontaneous Combustion and Flash Fire regarding Spray Foam Insulation

Spontaneous Combustion and Flash Fire regarding Spray Foam Insulation / OSHA funded paper / page 39


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This is good information.  Smart Energy Today uses this type of insulation very rarely.  It's expensive and usually doesn't make the most sense unless in certain applications such as going through a whole in a wall or other hard to reach places.  www.smartenergytoday.net.

On the MSDS for this foam product, is there a listing for 'Auto-ignition temperature' ?

The auto-ignition temperature of the coating I work with is 'That of water'.  It is a Class A Type 1 fire retardant, flame spread Zero.  BUT, we would be remiss in our obligation to the end user if we did not point out that the fire retardant aspect does not kick in until the material has been applied and has cured for at least 72 hours.  Up to that point, it WILL burn.


We have a few petroleum products in the formula as binder chemicals.  They dissipate out in the first 72 hours.  During that time, the microscopic ceramic platelets are pulled to the outside edge and form a flexible ceramic tile.  That is what gives it the flame spread rating.. 


I have never worked with or applied the foam product here in this post.  The fire rating is surely given to the material in a fully cured state.  What happens in the materials curing process / time might have a huge safety risk compared to the cured state of the material.  Is any such advisement / warning given by a manufacturer of the foam?


Just something else that should be asked.   It's characteristics during curing is a BIG question.


Great points. In my opinion, guidance for installers is very vague even after 60 years of use. Our government didn't take much notice until 2009 and now they are scrambling to write standards for this industry which is why the posted link is circa 2010.

Industry is having enough trouble getting these fine men/women properly trained in due part because of the astronomical growth this industry has been experiencing. Money first... deal with problems as they arise, if at all.

Men/women who are qualified to dissect the chemistry and fire issues of this product are not necessarily going to be the ones who get into those confined spaces to install these products for $10 - $30 hr. (Avg) This is why fire and off-ratio incidents occur. How many actually understand an MSDS. Another issue is industry training is as little as 3 days unless the installer elects to voluntarily attend extended outside training programs offered by third party instructors for a fee.

As defined by insurance carriers, when a fire erupts due to over application (spontaneous combustion) they are NOT ACCIDENTS. So who pay's when this happens?

To get back to your points.. These products must have either intumescent paints applied over them or some fire shield which is outlined by the uniform building code. The incorporated flame retardant in the matrix does not make these products fire proof by any means. A few study's have shown in some cases flame retardants enhance fire once it gets going and then you have the leaching effects of these retardants over time.

Here's an example of what fire can do to these products....  http://www.rescue9photography.com/Fires-2014/Middlebury-structure-f...

Another topic of concern is when these products are installed around plastic water pipes. There's engineering issues associated here to.

"When two-component foams are improperly mixed and there is an excess of either component present on the piping, compatibility problems may arise from the unreacted excess."


See.. Polyurethane (Spray-On) Foams


and then the health side of the issue as shown here...

Toxic Chemicals in Building Materials - An Overview for Health Care Organizations



here is something else that might be pertinent.

In my hundreds of conversations with our late distributor in Texas, we did discuss our coating applied to spray foam insulation.  He had around 25 years experience with our product at that time.  He said he had tried that 3 times over the years and the same thing happened each time.  He said it was newly installed foam, within 2 days.  He sprayed our coating on it and in each case, it slid right off in a few minutes.  He said he has refused any further opportunities to repeat those expensive mistakes.  He strongly recommended against it and I took that advice to heart.


He also checked with insulation contractors and at least one manufacture.  They told him that it was because the foam was 'Off-gassing'.  He did not elaborate beyond that as the subject obviously irritated him.


Here is something I can tell you about our coating.  There arte 3 things our coating WILL NOT BOND TO;

1.  WATER - the surface must be avsolutely dry.

2.   Oil / petroleum based products.

3.  Silicone.


If the foam was doing this 'Off-gassing' when our guy attempted the applications, one of those three things surely had to be present for our coating to fail to bond.


1.  Water?  Possibly but I suspect not likely..

2.  Oil / petroleum based material?  Very possiuble.

3.   Silicone?  Certainly not.


If indeed it off gasses a flammable petroleum based gas, (one that leaves an oily film on the outside surface?) , it would surely be a fire hazard.  Any spark could ignite it.  On the MSDS, does it list any flammable liquids / materials as part of the composition?  What is the auto ignition temperature of that individual component?


Could the foam have penetrated into a loosely covered / uncovered electrical junction box that sparked the fire?


When talking fire safety, you must bring up EVERY possible question.


As an example that you have now from the NIST report.  Off-Gassing and fire safety of construction materials has been identified as major contributors to upward flame spread in fires. 


Flame spread of standard paint applied to gypsum wallboard;  2 coats or less - no increaser in flame spread.

HOWEVER, 3 to 7 coats in every instance produced the 'Blistering' phenomenon.  They expanded their testing and discovered that the heat from the fire pulls moisture present in the wallboard through the 1st coat of paint .  During that process the water vapor is changed to a flammable gas.  The gas is trappoed between layers form ing those blisters and is released when the paint reaches its break point and cracks open releasing the gas.  UPWARD FLAME SPRED IS INCREASED BY 300-500 %.


I have seen this happen while camping and throwing a piece of painted wood on the campfire. 

 NIST also did the same testing to concrete block walls.  No blisterting occured and no  increase in flame spread.


The paper facing of gypsum wallboard is NOT a material with ZERO flame spread rating.  The concrete brick is a ZERO flame spread rated material.  They also included in that report that the flame spread characteristics of THE SUBSTRATE is highly indicitive of the the flame spread characterics of the material applied to it.


They are applying ths foam to wood?


Again, lots of questions have to be asked and investigated.




This thread has certainly turned into what sounds like  a thread from a fire safety website than an energy conservation website. 

Over the years, many studies have been conducted on the flammability of construction materials, wall coverings and wall systems.  These studies being conducted by organizations such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, The National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences,  National Bureau of Standards and the National Fire Protection Association.

These findings almost always end with a statement on the lines of  "If there is any question or doubt in the flammability of any particular material, application method or specific assemby (Particularly a wall assembly) , you should construct a small scale version of the exact assembly in question and put it to the test to determine if it will perform to the standards indicated by the fire test giving it it's fire rating"..

The different associations surely said that as a LIABILITY SHIFT


We decided that we would have nothing to do with applying our coating over foam because everyone  (testing labs, manufacturer, distributors, etc) along the way had a similar liabilty shift to whomevber the contractor is that applied the material.


If you are the applicator or the one that hires the applicator, you wll be on the list of names in that court case.


Profit vs liability.  Saying you didnt know, when it comes to liabilty, doesnt cut it.


Thank you for laying out those facts. Fire safety is just as important of an issue as energy ever will be. We are working in people's homes to help them save money on their energy bill's each month. Fire Safety is priority number one. At least we thought it was. These are families we all work for and we should provide SAFE products 100% of the time as we would expect in our own homes. If we can not install energy conservation products safely 100% of the time, why are we allowing these products into our homes? Thank you again for pointing out the goals of manufacturer liability shifts.

Considering there are no indoor residential air quality standards established in this country, how can companies promote their products as SAFE for our homes and business?


This is what Energy Conservation afforded an EXPERT in the field..0.01% of the time cost him his $5M home!

First he tested the material;


then they installed the material;


Background on the A-side (MDI) of spray polyurethane foam insulation

Aniline is a primary feedstock used to manufacture methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), a versatile chemical used to produce rigid polyurethane foams for insulation in the construction industry, as well as coatings, adhesives, sealants, elastomers and binders.

ACC health warning on MDI
Health warning MDI
Although not regulated by OSHA, and ACGIH has no published exposure limits for the polymer, the ingredients that react to create the polymer are hazardous. In particular, the isocyanates (TDI, MDI and HDI) are well-known skin and respiratory sensitizers and irritants. TDI is considered to be a carcinogen by NIOSH. Workers who are engaged in production of polyurethane polymers and who have potential exposures to the liquid resin and isocyanate ingredients need to use the engineering controls, personal protective equipment and good hygiene practices specified by manufacturers and by Safety Data Sheets.
California's new proposal on spray foam....
-FIRE and Chinese Espionage... an attempt to steal trade secrets to create a safer product-

2010 sparks ignited flammable foam insulation inferno that killed at least 58 people and injured scores more.

Amazing we have the answer in the U.S. for a fireproof insulation and we do not use it 100% of the time!
Reacting to public anger over the death toll, municipal governments began requiring fireproof insulation in new construction. Cellular-glass insulation is an ideal solution, particularly for Chinese developers who need to build up, not out, in space-constrained towns and cities.
If the Chinese government (a Communist Country) reacted to a small public outcry to find safe insulation, what is wrong with our society today for allowing corporations to manufacture these hazardous materials and install them into our homes and places of business? Oh! It's SAFE! Ask anyone who installs these products how SAFE it is! They swear by it because, that's how they earn their living. MONEY trumps SAFE products in the U.S.
Brazil Night Club Fire compared o the Station Night Club Fire....
Plastic's are not going away anytime soon, but we owe it to our children, grandchildren and their children a safe place to live. Are we building the future's modern contamination site from petrochemicals? "GREEN BUILDING" was suppose to remove our dependance from petrochemicals and instead took introduced petrochemicals into all of our building materials. Let's try to build responsibly and remove petrochemical use from our building materials.
How many mattresses can you fit into the walls of your home?

Here is the NIST report I referred to


Hal here is something you may be interested in dating back to 2009. We both know where the codes sided.


Hi Richard.

I read the first report and some of the second.  Glad it's not all about the money, or anything like that.  LOL  Yup, alot of what they are saying sure sounds familiar  :)


If I understand correctly, he is saying if we use foam to totally stop any air flow into the attic, any fire will have no air to grow?  Is that what I understand here?  If a fire starts in the attic, and the attic is totally sealed of, mayne the fire will suffocate.


The problem I see with that is that 98% (if I recall correctly) of all residential fires start in the living space, not the attic.  By the time the fire burns through the ceiling and into the attic, now there is all kinds of air coming into the attic.  Smoke too.


Whats the first thing the firemen have to do to get the smoke out?   THEY HAVE TO VENT THE ROOF!  So, pardon the puin but, I think his statements might have a few holes in them.


I'll leave it to the fire Marshalls to deal with it

You bet they have holes in them and this is what is marketed today! Coincidence?


As for the fire marshal's...they don't have the leverage you may think they have over the chemical industry.


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