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I recently did a program in Mobile mainly on the topic of foam insulation and the effects it has on termites and treatments. In a normal house, you have some 75% of the structure that is covered up and inaccessible for a termite inspection (real estate and/or annual renewal.) The if the homeowner has spray foam insulation added to the crawl space and/or attic, you could in effect make a structure almost 100% inaccessible. This will give the pest control operator the almost impossible task of finding tunnels and signs of termites in a home.

If you have been around for a while. You will remember the EIFS/Dryvit crisis we had back around 2000 to 2003, where moisture wicking up into the walls and also hiding any signs of termites. We are having claims on the foam insulation right now where a technician just can’t find anything when everything is completely covered up.

My understanding is that foam insulation in the crawl space should have a 6” gap on the foundation wall below the seal plate. That gap will allow you to see tunnels coming up from the ground. I have seen photos of houses where this is not being done. The insulation guys are just covering everything from the ground up and they cover AC/heating ducts as well. This is basically making the complete crawl space inaccessible. Termites can just tunnel up in the foam and you will never know it. And if you think that foam treated with a termiticide is a cure-all, think again. We have photos of tunnels going right through the treated foam with no effect. We also have photos of Formosan building their cartons right in the foam insulation.

Another thing we are finding is that the foam insulation will also hold moisture and that is usually going o be in contact with the subfloor and if in the attic, it has contact with your roofing materials. The combination of wood and moisture is perfect for termites, the perfect storm”. The possibilities of problems could be endless, as to proper treatments, proper inspections, moisture problems, mold problems and the list could go on and on.

I have a very bad feeling about the foam insulation and it could become as bad as the EIFS/Dryvit cries (which was very bad) or it could become even worse. My thoughts are to avoid these houses as to treating and putting them under a contract (even “pretreatment only”). I would not even think about doing a real estate inspection (clearance letter) on one of the houses. We will be learning more about the effects of the foam insulation as time goes on and the claims come in. I ask you to look at all the risk factors involved in this and just be smart enough to walk away when the risk is too high. It is just not worth it.

Johnny Baker,

Baker Insurance Services

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