Spray foam insulation: exploring the real costs and implications for homeowners

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Gateley Legal NI

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Spray foam insulation has been a popular choice when it comes to insulating homes for the last three decades due to its ability to provide insulation and warmth to homes via a quick and simple installation process.

It enables homeowners to increase the energy efficiency of their home which, in the midst of a cost of living crisis, is extremely appealing to those wishing to keep their energy bills down. It is no wonder then, that 250,000 homes across the UK have installed spray foam insulation, with the Government backing the use of it in their Green Homes Grant scheme which closed for applications as recently as March 2021. So, it would seem contradictory, and extremely confusing for homeowners that two years on, mortgage lenders are considering spray foam insulation a ‘red flag’.

The reasoning behind this is that alongside the benefits, there are many known downsides to spray foam insulation. For example, it can make it difficult to identify issues with your roof, it is flammable and most notably for lenders, moisture can get trapped behind the foam, which may cause rot if installation is not carried out correctly. Unfortunately, a full assessment is costly and time consuming, as the foam will likely have to be removed in order to carry out a full inspection and as such, if a surveyor spots spray foam insulation, a lender may decline in order to avoid inconvenience, even where no damage may have been caused.

Some lenders have even stated that where spray foam insulation has been fitted in the wall voids, they will reject the mortgage application. However, where spray foam insulation is installed in the rafters, frame and under the floors, sufficient documentary evidence of correct installation will need to be provided or an invasive inspection undertaken by a building surveyor or structural engineer. Most lenders will decide on a case-by-case basis, however, some have announced a complete ban on lending on properties with spray foam insulation.

If you find yourself to be one of the 250,000 homeowners who have already installed spray foam insulation, all hope is not lost. It may be the case that the spray foam insulation in your house has not caused any underlying damage. If it has been installed correctly, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) now offers a service where a surveyor will check your paperwork and the structure of your roof and provide you with approval for a fee of around £700. Alternatively, while it is costly, you can have spray foam insulation removed completely.

If you are considering installing spray foam insulation in your home, you should be wary of the issues this may bring, particularly when it comes to selling or re-mortgaging the property. The RICS released a comprehensive guide on spray foam insulation for homeowners in March 2023. Before installing spray foam insulation, you should have a surveyor inspect your roof to consider if it is suitable and if so, you should ensure it is installed by a reputable company and that you are provided with the correct paperwork. The RICS has described the installation of spray foam insulation as a “fundamental alteration to a home which needs careful consideration and planning”, and it should be treated accordingly to avoid adding your property to the staggering 250,000 potentially ‘unsellable’ homes.

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