Spray Foam Mortgage Concerns – UPDATE

Of late, there has been much discussion about the difficulties some are experiencing when looking to finance a property with spray foam installed. This topic isn’t something we shy away from at Green Horizon Energy Solutions Ltd. We want to ensure you can make an informed decision and will arm you with all the up-to-date information we can.

Why the bad Rep?

Spray foam insulation is one of the most effective insulating materials available. It’s used worldwide with great success, which begs the question ‘why the bad rep’ here in the UK? The issue doesn’t lie with the product at all – in fact it meets all the UK and European regulations to be accredited with BBA, IAB, ETA and KIWA certifications. The problems have arisen from installations in unsuitable properties – in many cases using a different type of foam to what would be suitable. There are two types of spray foam, open cell and closed cell. Both of which have their uses but are only effective and safe to use when installed correctly and within a suitable property. The issue with mortgages came about on the domestic market from the incorrect application with the wrong type of foam. Usually closed cell foam sprayed direct to roof tiles. Closed cell foam is a dense material, very similar to ridged PIR insulation boards that you can buy in most builder’s merchants. Its more suited to commercial and agricultural buildings. Applied to materials such as metal and masonry. It’s a superb insulator, but restricts the breathability of materials, sometimes trapping moisture.

Incorrect installation

In the past closed cell foam was sold as roof repair system, which should never have happened. Spray foam should never be used to remedy issues such as rotting timbers, nail fatigue or slipped tiles. In these instances roof repair should be carried out be a reputable roofing company in a conventional manor. When closed cell foam was sold as a roof repair system, it was in the main sold for use on very old roofs that predate any roofing felt and therefore was applied directly to the underside of the tiles. Applying direct to tiles can have an array of issues, including masking future leaks, trapping moisture in already decaying timbers and bonding all the tiles together making any repair virtually impossible without replacing the whole roof structure. This sort of unsuitable installation led to surveyors reporting negatively to lenders as they could not knowledgeably report on the condition of a roof structure behind the spray foam. This coupled with a lack of knowledge on types of foam, led to a negative view of any type of foam where the roof could not be visually reported on. Open cell foam is a breathable form of insulation. Unlike closed cell, it is a soft material that is far less dense. It does not carry any structural strength and can be far easier to remove should the need arise. It should also only be applied to the underside of roofing felt and only in a roof space that is of good sound condition without any leaks and with a moisture content of below 19%. Open cell foam allows moisture vapour diffusion, letting moisture migrate from the structure without trapping it.

Confused about foam types?

At a glance and without knowledge of spray foam types, it can be hard to differentiate between the two types. This led surveyors to categorize both spray foam types together. Therefore even a suitable roof application that was not causing issues, was negatively reported on. Some people had been told the only way they could obtain finance on the property was by having the foam removed. In most cases even the customers thought this was absurd, as they had noticed significant reductions in energy costs and better comfort within their homes after installation, with no issues of moisture present within the roof structure.

Negative impact of misinformation

From all of this, the negative press began. Social media was a big part of this. There were comments from untrained and misinformed individuals which spread like wildfire. Whilst all the bad press was circulating, people seemed to have overlooked the facts. The product is used all over the world without concern. It’s not a new product by a long shot. HBS foam was developed in Canada in 1986 and was designed for timber framed houses that need to breathe. As mentioned earlier the products have gone through numerous independent testing procedures in the UK and Europe achieving BBA, IAB, ETA and Kiwa certification. These all deem it suitable for usage not only in the retro fit market, but also for new build construction. As with all new builds any works must pass through building control and be signed off as suitable prior to installation. All of these issues have led to a vast array of lenders withdrawing funding for properties with spray foam until more clarity and a better understanding could be reached. At the end of the day, lenders can only use the information they receive from surveyors and if a surveyor can’t give an honest report on the roof condition they will report negatively. Another blow to the industry is currently there are no equity release companies that will offer finance on a property with any type of spray foam applied.

Light at the end of the tunnel…

In the past few months, significant steps have been taken to address the issues. Various manufacturers of spray foam insulation joined a working group with surveying associations such as the PCA, RPSA and RICS, alongside various mortgage lenders. Together they have drafted a spray foam “Protocol”. The idea behind this is to assist surveyors when assessing properties with spray foam applied. It guides surveyors on what to look for and how to better assess what is suitable vs what’s not. Manufacturers of spray foam products now run authorised contractor schemes. Anyone wishing to purchase and install spray foam insulation must undergo manufacture training. Also required is to undergo testing to ascertain they have the required level of understanding of the product and the install requirements. Installers must know how to work to the guidelines set out in the product’s independent accreditation certificates such as the BBA and Kiwa certification. Manufactures have now updated their requirements on contractors for reporting these properties. All roof applications must now have a detailed installation report both pre and post install. This will help surveyors when assessing a property with spray foam. They will now have before photos of the roof showing the condition prior to install. Also required are moisture content readings of the timbers, felt type and condition, a U value calculation and a condensation risk analysis report. At Green Horizon Energy we adhere to all the advised protocol procedures. Our team are trained and we issue all the proposed paperwork to assist with documenting a correctly installed job.

Nationwide are leading the way

Nationwide are one of the first lenders to publicly publish their acceptance of spray foam. They support its use as long as the criteria on roof reporting is covered and all relevant paperwork to show it was a suitable application with the correct approved product is supplied. We hope moving forward, more lenders will embrace spray foam insulation. As protocol gets implemented and surveyors gain a better understanding of what is suitable vs what’s not there should be fewer barriers to its use. Another positive for spray foam is we have not heard of any problems when installed under floor. Several of our clients have checked with their mortgage providers and have been told it was not an issue. Luckily the newbuild market doesn’t fall under the same category as retro fits. The foam is installed at the point of construction, this must be signed off by building control prior to installation, removing barriers experienced elsewhere. We are aware of some clients finding it difficult to obtain a new build warranty when spray foam is installed. However, there are warranty companies that are willing to proceed with a warranty subject to the building gaining sign off by building control.

To be continued…

It’s a frustrating time for the industry and clients alike. One that is being worked on continually and one that we believe will be resolved. Unfortunately, it won’t happen overnight but we will continue to monitor the situation closely and always provide our clients with the most up to date information.

What documents may I need in future?

Helpful documents to retain may include:

Original invoice

Installation certificate

Manufacturer name

Manufacturer warranty

Product certification
(BBA or Kiwa)

Please note, even if none of these documents are present it does not mean that your installation is faulty, or that you will be unable to sell or refinance.


This information is designed to provide information to relevant consumers. Information or opinions contained on this note do not constitute advice or recommendation in respect of any individual insulation installation, mortgages, remortgages or other financial instruments.

Should you seek to rely in a way whatsoever upon any content contained on this information note, you do so at your own risk.

Before you make any decision or take any action that might affect you or your personal finances or business, you should always consult a suitably qualified professional adviser(s) to obtain appropriate technical, financial, legal, and other advice.

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