top of page

The History of Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation

Otto Bayer invents polyurethane foam
The very first spray foam proportioner
One of the first spray foam roof applications in the 1960s
Closed cell foam in an unvented attic roof deck application
Graco spray foam and coating proportioner


Spray Foam Insulation traces it's roots back to the invention of polyurethanes:


Polyurethanes can be found in liquid coatings and paints, tough elastomers such as roller blade wheels, rigid insulation, soft flexible foam, elastic fiber or as an integral skin. No matter how polyurethane is transformed, the underlying chemistry is the result of one man’s genius, Prof. Dr. Otto Bayer (1902-1982). Prof. Dr. Otto Bayer is recognized as the “father” of the polyurethanes industry for his invention of the basic diisocyanate polyaddition process.


The origin of polyurethane dates back to the beginning of World War II, when it was first developed as a replacement for rubber. The versatility of this new organic polymer and its ability to substitute for scarce materials spurred numerous applications. During World War II, polyurethane coatings were used for the impregnation of paper and the manufacture of mustard gas resistant garments, high-gloss airplane finishes and chemical and corrosion-resistant coatings to protect metal, wood and masonry.


By the end of the war, polyurethane coatings were being manufactured and used on an industrial scale and could be custom formulated for specific applications. By the mid-50’s, polyurethanes could be found in coatings and adhesives, elastomers and rigid foams. It was not until the late-50’s that comfortable cushioning flexible foams were commercially available. With the development of a low-cost polyether polyol, flexible foams opened the door to the upholstery and automotive applications we know today.


Formulations, additives and processing techniques continue to be developed, such as reinforced and structural moldings for exterior automotive parts and one-component systems. Today, polyurethanes can be found in virtually everything we touch—desks, chairs, cars, clothes, footwear, appliances, beds as well as the insulation in our walls and roof and moldings on our homes.

Source: American Chemistry Council 


Spray Polyurethane Foam began being used as a spray applied insulation and roofing membrane on a larger scale in the 1970s after the first dedicated spray machine was developed by Gusmer in the 1960s.  There have also been many changes in formulations over the years, particularly in the U.S., with the involvement of governmental agencies such as the EPA regulating the types of raw materials that can be used. The industry has experienced tremendous growth since the 1990s with the information age allowing product awareness to reach the masses. The growth can also be contributed to the fact that energy costs have been on the rise and conservation is on the mind of the majority of home and building owners.


Spray Foam is an amazing product with many uses but also comes with many risks if not installed or processed properly. With installations in homes and commercial buildings on the rise, so have been the cases of bad installations that lead to odors, moisture problems, fire safety issues, and general construction woes. As with any technically demanding construction product, it is essential that all application guidelines are followed and properly trained and equipped installers be used. The development of better, "smarter", equipment over the past 20 years has definitely helped to reduce the possibility of improperly processed material. 


Spray Foam's history is vast, but it's future looks to be even more abounding...



bottom of page