Tips for Removing Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation in a new house.

You may find yourself literally “stuck” with trying to remove spray foam insulation from walls. Many suggested tips are quite crude, and you may end up ruining your wall by the time you're done. You might even remove chunks of the wall when trying to dig it out! Follow the tips below to effectively get rid of foam insulation without doing damage.

TIP: Find out what kind of spray foam you have in your home and whether you need to use any precautions (wearing a respirator mask, safety glasses and so forth) before you start working. Some kinds of spray foam are toxic to touch or breathe in, especially if you have a history of respiratory issues or skin conditions.

1. Allow for Natural Removal

Check whether the foam insulation has cured or dried. A non-cured material will usually wear off in time, depending upon your wall surface. You could choose to leave it as it is and allow it to naturally remove itself.

2. Scrape With Rough Brushes

If the foam has cured, scrape it off with a stiff-bristled brush or any other rough brush. Use hot water to wash any residue left behind to ensure complete removal.

3. Use a Saw for Tough Spots

First, dig out enough of the cured foam to be sure there are no electrical lines or pipes beneath it. If you're free and clear, use a reciprocating saw to cut sideways and remove the foam. Never cut at a 90-degree angle, as this will ruin your wall completely.

4. Pry it out With Older Tools

You could try using an old claw hammer and an old flat pry bar—old so the edges will be a bit blunt and damage to your wall will be kept to a minimum.

5. Clean With Acetone Instead of Water

You could try using acetone (nail polish remover) to removed uncured wall foam. Test it on a hidden area first to ensure that damage don’t result. Avoid using soap and water, since moisture actually makes the foam cure.

6. Never Use Heat

Never use heat to remove foam insulation. This material contains many toxins, and application of heat causes them to be released into the air.

7. Try Special Tools When Regular Ones Don't Work

There are various tools available to remove wall foam insulation. Besides foam saws, there are special knives with handles that are made to carefully remove it. It's imperative that you read the user manual carefully before using these tools.

8. Apply Thinners

Lacquer thinner is very effective in removing cured wall foam insulation. It can be purchased from paint stores.

9. Use a Knife to Minimize Chemical Damage

You could also use good old-fashioned elbow grease rather than chemicals that would cause the wall paint to peel off. Apply grease to the foam and then scrape it off with a knife. Again, make sure not to use the knife at a 90-degree angle.

10. Call for Professional Help if you Aren't Confident

If this is your first time removing spray foam insulation, it may not necessarily work out smoothly, so be prepared to call for help. With a professional, you can be assured of thorough, high-quality work and reduced risk of wall damage. You don't want to remove the insulation yourself only to have to hire someone to fix the damage you caused.