This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
Some homeowners with spray foam insulation have encountered issues remortgaging and selling their properties.
What is spray foam insulation?
Spray foam is a liquid foam that expands to fit the area available and sets to form an insulating layer. It is typically used to insulate roofs, lofts and attics. There are two main types of spray foam:
- Open cell: remains soft after setting. It is not as prone to condensation as closed cell spray foam. However, it does not provide the same level of insulation because it is not as dense.
- Closed cell: is rigid once set. It contains pocket of gas that slow down the movement of heat. This makes it a better insulator than open cell spray foam. However, it is also a vapour barrier that does not release air.
Spray foam products are awarded certification by organisations (PDF). The certification documents describe, among other things, how to use these products to comply with building regulations.
Spray foam insultation was one of the measures covered by the Government’s Green Homes Grant scheme. The scheme, which closed in March 2022, was created to improve the energy efficiency of homes. It covered up to two-thirds of the cost of home improvements.
Potential problems with spray foam insulation
Spray foam insulation has been used without incident in many homes for over thirty years, though there have been reported problems including:
- Reducing ventilation within a roof space;
- Causing condensation and stopping moisture from escaping; and
- Placing roof timbers at risk of decay.
Spray foam insulation can also be difficult or costly to remove once installed. The estimated cost of removing spray foam insulation from the roof of a three-bedroom detached house is around £3,200 (or £40 per square metre).
Condensation may affect the structure of a home and therefore its value, making it harder to sell a property or get a mortgage for it.
According to an article by the consumer organisation Which?, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has warned that a surveyor may “reduce the value of the property” if they encounter spray foam insulation during an inspection. The RICS said this may “even render a property un-mortgageable in the eyes of a lender”.
What is the industry doing about the issue?
In December 2021, the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) and Property Care Association (PCA) estimated that there were around 250,000 homes with spray foam insulation (PDF). They produced guidance which said, without extensive technical information, that surveyors should recommend the removal of spray foam insulation.
In October 2022, the RPSA withdrew this guidance, “pending a full review”. It said it would work with the Insulation Manufacturers Association (IMA) and others to standardise installation procedures and develop inspection protocols (PDF).
The RPSA said it would release updated guidance on spray foam insulation in spring 2023 (PDF). This guidance would help surveyors assess spray foam risks, distinguish between good and bad installations and provide clarity to homeowners.
How has the UK Government responded?
In June 2022, the Government said it had no plans to intervene where property values or access to mortgage finance had been affected as a result of spray foam insulation installed using Green Homes Grant vouchers, stating that:
- The availability and terms of mortgages are issues for lenders; and
- It is the responsibility of the installer and homeowner to decide whether to proceed with using spray foam insulation.
In March 2022, the Government also said consumers who believe they have been misled may be able to seek redress under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (see below). All traders have to adhere to these regulations.
What can affected homeowners do?
Look for another mortgage lender
One equity release specialist told inews in January 2022 that some mortgage lenders may accept a house with spray foam insulation.
However, they would need a valuer’s approval and certain criteria about the type of spray foam would need to be met. Most lenders will rely on a survey to identify the insulation used and make mortgage decisions based on that survey.
Affected homeowners are advised to keep any paperwork and guarantees from their installation. This may help a surveyor assess the work done.
Qualified professionals may be able to advise homeowners about removing the insulation.
Checkatrade advises homeowners against removing insulation themselves because it could “damage tiles, electrics and other materials”. Some spray foam is “toxic to touch and breathe in”.
Checkatrade provides estimates of the costs of removing spray foam insulation.
Raise a complaint
Affected homeowners may wish to review the terms on which they were sold the insulation and raise any issues with their installer or accredited oversight body in the first instance.
If a consumer believe they were misled or their installer omitted important information in such a way that was likely to deceive them, they may wish seek redress under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
They may wish to seek professional or legal advice on their situation. They may find the following information helpful:
- Which? explains misleading actions and omissions under the Consumer Protection Regulations.
- Citizens Advice also provides advice to customers who encounter a problem with traders.
The Commons Library briefing, Legal help: where to go and how to pay, provides advice on sources of legal information.
The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.