From your friends at Stonebriar Home Inspections!
As we are all too aware, hurricane season is in full swing, and thousands of homeowners across the southern U.S. and Puerto Rico have been hit by mammoth hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Nearly every year, the cost of damages that occur as a result of hurricanes or intense tropical storms making landfall in the U.S. numbers in the billions. Heavy rain, storm surges, and coastal flooding can all contribute to the destruction of homes and other buildings.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), flooding accounts for more than $3.5 billion in insurance claims annually. Flood waters due to storm surge, under performing drainage or broken levees can induce physical deterioration of the building structure, perpetuate mold growth, contain contaminants, corrosive dissolved salts and/or raw sewage, saturate insulation and wallboard, carpets and furniture as well as contribute toward respiratory problems, allergies, infection and irritation of the eyes and skin.
In the aftermath of a hurricane, concentrated efforts are made to clean up and get families back to living in their homes. Repair work to replace damaged wood and drywall can help the home look like new, but what about the building materials behind the walls? Traditional insulation materials like fiberglass and cellulose are able to insulate the typical family home from the heat and cold that seasonal weather brings. However, it is not the primary function of traditional insulation to protect against flooding. So, if and when this occurs, insulation offers virtually no impediment to rising floodwaters entering the home. Traditional insulation often becomes laden with moisture and is usually unable to dry out quick enough to withstand damage. If not completely removed during the clean-up process following a hurricane or flood, excess moisture leads to the potential for mold growth.
FEMA has identified a number of flood-resistant building materials that are ideal for use in the reconstruction or repair of a home or building that has been impacted by a hurricane and flooding. Building materials that FEMA has identified include corrosion-resistant coated steel, pressure-treated wood, epoxy formed-in-place flooring as well as closed-cell spray foam insulation. These products fall into Class 4 or Class 5 of FEMA’s flood damage-resistance classification system. For FEMA to consider a building material to be flood-resistant, it must be able to withstand direct contact with floodwater for an extended period (72 hours) of time.
Spray foam insulation has long been known by those within the construction industry for its ability to help limit moisture-laden air from passing into buildings where it is installed, but a hurricane pounding at the windows is a completely different story.
It’s important to note that FEMA specifically identifies closed-cell spray foam insulation as a flood-resistant material. There are many things that make closed-cell spray foam insulation different from other types of spray foam. Unlike the spongy, flexible texture of open-cell spray foam, closed-cell spray foam insulation quickly becomes rigid. This rigidity can be a key element in homes situated in a hurricane-prone area. This is due to the insulation’s ability to add structural integrity to roofs, which can help reduce the risk of roof blow off.
Closed-cell spray foam insulation, like that available from Icynene, applied in areas such as the basement or crawlspace can help reduce the risk of significant damage that hurricanes and the resulting floodwaters can potentially cause. This is due to closed-cell spray foam insulation’s ability to reject bulk water ingress.
Beyond the ability to help reduce the risk of floodwaters causing damage, as a long-term solution, spray foam insulation can also help play an important role in maintaining a comfortable temperature year round while helping to control monthly heating and cooling expenses. Thanks to spray foam insulation’s air-sealing qualities, homeowners can reduce the size of their heating and cooling equipment since less effort is required to heat or cool the home.
With the increase in the intensity of hurricanes over the past 30 years, having a home insulated with closed-cell spray foam insulation can be an effective way to ensure your home and family are better prepared for the next hurricane season.