Warmth in the walls (Townhouse #11)

I had my first adventures with foam insulation!


The walls downstairs were built of regular old drywall right against the original stone walls. No vapor barrier, no insulation, not even using all metal studs. Can anybody guess what damp, clammy stone walls and untreated wood and cardboard leads to?

Mold. Yum.

Luckily, it was done recently enough that nothing had started yet. But give it a year or two and it’d be a fungus lunch buffet. So that’s not ok. Can you picture a situation where we develop black mold and a tenant sues us for health problems? Or we need to suspend their lease for a few months while we rip out all the drywall everywhere and redo the entire basement?

NOT OK. Stink. Health. Damp. Cold. Boo.

Two solutions. 1: rip out all the drywall and studs. Replace with metal studs, vapor barrier, insulation, and get all new drywall installed. Probably the best way to go but also $$$. Option 2: open up the existing drywall enough to fill the cavities with expanding foam insulation that not only will fill all the gaps and stone crannies, but when it dries will act as a 4″ thick plastic vapor impermeable barrier? SCORE. Can you guess which one I chose?

I did a bunch of research and found a company, FoamItGreen, that not only offers the right, special slow-rise product but is the only spray insulation company to offer free shipping. Plus super clear instructions and great customer service. And no, I’m not affiliated with them.

The first step was to cut holes in every single stud cavity, every vertical 3 feet. Which turned out to be A LOT. On 3 walls. Bah.


They sent me two propane-looking tanks and a long, bifurcated cable with a gun on the end. Plus, they include allllll the extras you could possibly want: glasses, a full Tyvek suit (which I’m TOTALLY keeping), cocktail-length heavy duty rubber gloves, shoe covers, goggles, and probably some more things I’m forgetting. I just had to squish some clear tubing onto the end of the gun to be able to poke it in, and then squeeze, and fill ‘er up. Layer by layer.



So, the different colors are because I was doing it wrong. I was still adjusting the input from either tank but I did eventually get it right. (PS: their customer service returns calls, like, immediately. Kudos, FoamItGreen.) That mint color is what it’s supposed to be – an even mixture of the blue and yellow liquids, of which I guess one is foaming and one is hardening.


In the end, much messier than I had thought it would be. I’d drip on the floor and then step on the drip and then on the plastic and then the plastic would stick to my shoe and smear on other plastic and back on my leg and then there was sticky-as-caramel foam EVERYWHERE. It helped to have a big ole off-cut of drywall to set the gun on whenever I needed to trim the end off the tubing or had a drip or whatever.

Oh, and the drywall nail pops from where I accidentally overfilled and the foam expanded enough to pop the drywall off the studs scared the poop out of me. As did the realization that this stuff gets hot as it cures, which I only found out after I had coated the gas lines in it, like, six inches deep.

I left early that day.


I did not explode.

The foam was a lot more difficult to scrape off the drywall than I had imagined. Starting the second row, I first taped up plastic all along under the line of the holes, and lined the edges of all the holes with painter’s tape.

Overall, though, it was a really satisfying project. And you can REALLY tell the difference in the rooms down there – they feel like a normal room instead of a dank basement. They’re about as warm as the upstairs and don’t smell… well…. basementy any more, making it a much more inviting space.


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