How Icynene Works

Icynene Basics

Freshly-applied Icynene looks a lot like whipped cream, but we don't suggest tasting it.
Freshly-applied Icynene looks a lot like whipped cream, but we don't suggest tasting it.
John Foxx/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Icynene is a foam insulation that is sprayed or poured into building cavities, attaching to the structure and reducing air movement between indoors and outdoors. It's produced by one company named Icynene Inc. in Mississauga, Ontario [source: Icynene Inc.]. Installers apply a thin layer of liquid that almost immediately has the appearance of whipped cream; this quickly cures and becomes a solid yet flexible spongy substance [source: Southeast Foam Insulators Inc.]. In fact, on its material safety sheets, the company compares the cured texture to angel food cake [source: Icynene Inc.]. Water is the foaming agent: It interacts with the Icynene components, resulting in carbon dioxide gas that generates the foam.

Icynene is an open-cell foam, meaning air is trapped within the material as the bubbles created during the foaming process break open. The air remains in place as the foam cures rapidly. Open-cell foam is less dense than traditional closed-cell foams; the bubbles produced during closed-cell foaming remain intact.

Icynene Inc. manufactures four products:

  • Icynene LD-C-50, its original product, is sprayed or poured. Like many foams insulations, it's petroleum-based.
  • Icynene LD-R-50, its newest spray, replaces some of the petroleum product with castor oil. (Yes, that castor oil.) This is the company's most environmentally-conscious product, because the castor plant grows quickly and does not require watering or pesticides. This product is sold only in the United States.
  • Icynene MD-R-200, another spray, is also a greener version: one of its two components contains 12.6 percent recycled plastic.
  • Gold Seal 400 is a delivery system; the foam can be dispensed easily into small, oddly-shaped or out-of-the-way areas.

Choices, choices. And, of course, if you're selecting insulation, there are alternatives to Icynene. The upfront costs of Icynene seem rather high compared to traditional insulation such as fiberglass (according to the Charleston Post and Courier, 50 to 60 percent more) and a bit more costly than other blown-in foams [source: Natural Home]. However, it also has advantages (which we'll discuss later) that make it a viable option for many contractors and homeowners.

Now that we know what Icynene is, it's time to discover how well the product insulates.