The Differences Between Spray Foam And Cellulose Insulation In Metal Buildings

The Differences Between Spray Foam And Cellulose Insulation In Metal Buildings

Spray foam and cellulose insulation are two popular options for insulating metal buildings. Each type of insulation has its own advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the right insulation for your metal building depends on your specific needs and preferences. In this post, we'll explore the differences between spray foam vs. cellulose insulation in metal buildings.


Spray foam insulation is made of two chemical components that are mixed together and sprayed onto the surfaces to be insulated. The mixture expands and hardens to create a solid layer of insulation. Cellulose insulation, on the other hand, is made of recycled paper products, such as newspapers and cardboard, that are treated with chemicals to make them fire-resistant and pest-resistant.


Typically, spray foam insulation is applied to the surfaces that need to be insulated by spraying. When the foam is sprayed onto surfaces, it expands and hardens to form a thick layer of insulation that adheres to the surface. Cellulose insulation, on the other hand, is blown into the spaces to be insulated using a special machine. The cellulose fibers settle and create a layer of insulation that conforms to the shape of the space being insulated.

Moisture Resistance

The excellent moisture resistance of spray foam insulation is well known. A strong, airtight seal made by the foam helps stop moisture from entering the structure.  Meanwhile, cellulose insulation is more susceptible to moisture damage. While cellulose insulation can be treated with chemicals to improve its moisture resistance, it is still more prone to moisture damage than spray foam insulation.

Air Sealing

One of the key benefits of spray foam insulation is its ability to create an airtight seal. The foam expands and fills all the gaps and cracks, creating a complete seal that helps to prevent air leakage. Cellulose insulation, on the other hand, is not as effective at air sealing. While it can fill some gaps and cracks, it is not as effective at creating an airtight seal as spray foam insulation.


R-value is a measure of an insulation material's ability to resist heat transfer. The higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation will be at keeping the heat in or out of a building. Spray foam insulation typically has a higher R-value than cellulose insulation, making it more effective at insulating a building. This means that less insulation is needed to achieve the same level of insulation with spray foam as with cellulose insulation.

Sound Insulation

The superior sound-insulating qualities of spray foam insulation are well known. Foam can aid in reducing noise transmission, making it a good option for structures situated in noisy areas. Cellulose insulation, on the other hand, is not as effective at sound insulation even though it can help reduce noise transmission to some extent.


The cost of spray foam insulation is typically higher than that of cellulose insulation. Spray foam insulation requires specialized equipment and training, which can drive up the installation cost. Meanwhile, cellulose insulation is relatively easy to install and requires less specialized equipment, which makes it a more cost-effective option.


Another factor to consider when choosing between spray foam and cellulose insulation for a metal building is maintenance. Spray foam insulation requires little to no maintenance once it is installed. The foam is durable and long-lasting, and it does not need to be replaced or replenished over time. In contrast, cellulose insulation can settle over time, which can reduce its effectiveness. It may need to be replenished or replaced periodically to maintain its R-value and insulating properties.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of insulation materials is also an important consideration for many building owners. The use of petroleum-based materials in the manufacture of spray foam insulation can have a detrimental effect on the environment. Spray foam production and disposal can release dangerous chemicals and increase greenhouse gas emissions. However, many spray foam manufacturers now offer environmentally friendly options, such as low VOC formulations and soy-based insulation products.

Cellulose insulation is typically made from recycled materials, such as newspaper and cardboard. It is a more environmentally friendly option compared to spray foam insulation. However, it can also contain chemicals and additives, such as borates, to make it fire-resistant and insect-resistant.

Choosing between spray foam and cellulose insulation for a metal building involves considering several factors, including performance, installation, maintenance, environmental impact, and cost. Both types of insulation have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice ultimately depends on the specific needs and priorities of the building owner. It is advisable to consult with a professional insulation contractor to determine the best insulation option for a metal building.