SPF: A Growing Concern

Features - Termite Control

PMPs report increased liability concerns in homes with spray foam insulation.

April 8, 2020

Courtesy of Tim Kendericks

Most PMPs (46 percent) said the liability risks associated with termite work neither increased nor decreased compared to five years ago, found the PCT 2020 State of the Termite Control Market Survey, which was sponsored by BASF.

Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation, however, was a growing worry. More than half (52 percent) of PMPs surveyed said its widespread use increased the industry’s liability exposure.

SPF is used in the crawlspaces, attics and walls of new and existing homes, mainly in the Southeast, to improve energy efficiency. When it covers walls, floors, sills and floor joists, PMPs can find it difficult (if not impossible) to visually inspect for termite activity.

“When you start eliminating a visual inspection and a probing inspection, it’s a lot of liability,” said Steven Durieu, Senate Termite Control, Gaithersburg, Md.

“We can’t protect what we can’t inspect,” added Angela Madero, Madero Pest Control, Pueblo, Colo.

SPF was encountered on occasion by 39 percent and frequently by 15 percent of PMPs performing termite control, found the PCT survey.

Matt Breda, Breda Pest Management, Loganville, Ga., finds SPF “pretty often. We see it more and more in crawlspaces than we ever did before.”

When confronted with spray foam, PMPs took action. Ten percent more notified customers immediately of SPF’s impact on termite control services (56 percent in 2019 vs. 46 percent in 2018), found the survey.

If customers’ properties have spray foam, Bubba Grace, Grace Pest Solutions, Franklin, Ky., explained the termite control challenges to them. Fifty-three percent of PMPs likewise took steps to educate clients on this topic. “If they want me to do it, I’ll do the best I can, but you can’t guarantee anything because you can’t see (what’s behind the foam),” he said.

Likewise, many PMPs said they refused to offer WDI/WDO inspection reports on properties with SPF. Virginia Beach, Va.-based Universal Pest & Termite, which sells insulation services as an add-on but does not install SPF, was paid to pull spray foam out of six homes. The companies said the homeowners had to do it. “No one would issue them a report with it being there,” explained George Pilkington.

Breda walked away from spray-foamed crawlspaces that did not have adequate termite inspection gaps, even though he uses a moisture meter, infrared camera and Termatrac motion detection device during termite inspections.

Durieu said customers with spray foam should be required to maintain a termite monitoring program around the home to help identify termite threats. “They should almost be sold together, or recommended,” he said.

PMPs like John King, On The Fly Pest Solutions, Apopka, Fla., say they expect SPF to become a bigger issue. “The next maybe five years I’ll see a lot more, I think,” he said.

According to the survey, 27 percent of PMPs did not offer termite control services due in part to liability and insurance concerns and expenses.