Hundreds of thousands of homeowners who had spray foam installed in their lofts could find their properties are worthless unless they spend thousands of pounds having it removed.
A financial adviser said he started noticing the issue two years ago when clients came to him saying they had been told the couldn’t sell or remortgage their property following a surveyor’s valuation.
Andy Wilson, an equity release specialist, said clients found the problem was foam insulation installed in their roof.
He said: “One client who came to me was devastated because the surveyor had shown them a form where they [the surveyor] had put the value of the property at £0. They were told it was because they had had foam insulation installed in their roof.”
Spray foam insulation has been used for around 30 years, but has become more popular in the last decade.
It was included in the Government’s Green Homes Grant which was given to homeowners in England to help pay for certain energy-efficient home improvements.
Although it closed to new applications on 31 March, the grant allowed homeowners to claim the cost back of at least two thirds of the cost of some energy-saving renovations. The maximum amount available was £10,000.
The Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) said there may be as many as 250,000 homes with spray foam insulation in the loft. It said the guidance being offered to their members was to adopt a “highly cautious approach, recommending removal of the spray foam in almost every case”.
Mr Wilson said the foam insulation used in lofts was not to be confused with cavity wall insulation.
The type of foam insulation used in lofts is made from polyurethane foam (SPF). He said: “It is also known as spray foam, or spray polyurethane foam (SPF), this is an alternative to traditional building insulation such as fibreglass, wool or mineral fibre rolls. It can be used to insulate your roof, loft, walls and floor – but it is the roof installation that particularly causes problems for UK mortgage lenders.”
The foam is applied in a liquid form using powered sprayers, which then expands and turns to a solid coating.
There are two types of spray foam insulation, open cell spray foam insulation and closed cell spray foam.
The issue is with the closed cell spray foam, said Mr Wilson. “Because it seals the roof space with this material, air circulation can be restricted to the roof and timbers. This can lead to condensation, which in turn can eventually lead to the rotting of the wooden roof supports.”
“The closed cell foam version also sets very hard. This can put stresses onto the supporting roof timbers too, causing distortion of the roof itself.”
This means that lenders are reluctant to lend on a property with the insulation.
Mr Wilson said: “The foam comes with a guarantee but the guarantee does not extend any damage it might cause.
“The fact is also that the foam may not have caused damage but the only solution to be sure is to have the foam material removed.”
Removing the insulation is likely to cost more than installation. Mr Wilson said: “The sprayed material penetrates all of the crevices and gaps behind timbers, making them difficult to access and remove. Even having done this, not all lenders will then be happy to accept the property for a mortgage. This is because the damage may already have been done.
“Some modern forms of the foam may arguably not cause any damage – but it makes little difference to the mortgage situation until lenders and surveyors start to accept any presented evidence that it is indeed safe to use. Until it can be proven the advice is going to be to remove it.”
Mr Wilson said a client of his paid almost £4,000 to have the foam professionally applied under the roof of her three-bedroomed detached home in Lincolnshire.
“There are a number of mortgage lenders who may accept it – but all require a referral to them before proceeding, and will usually need valuer’s approval and be able to meet certain criteria about the type and material used. In our experience, closed-cell formulation is the main issue. This can be a problem if you have to pay for a valuer to visit only to find they reject the property.”
Alan Milstein, chairman of the RPSA, said it had carried out an extensive review of spray foam and said because it is impossible to recommend anything other than immediate removal of the spray foam. He added: “And in our experience, this type of information is rarely, if ever, available.”
Mr Milstein said “despite wanting to identify those circumstances where surveyors could give a roof a clean bill of health where spray foam is present, our research concluded that the majority of spray foam installations have been carried out with insufficient preparation to reduce the risk of structural roof timbers being severely weakened by rot and other defects.”
He said: “Installers often prey on vulnerable homeowners, and point to certification and “quality” badges to convince people that spray foam will benefit their property. Sadly, the exact opposite is the case. Owners may find their property difficult, or impossible to sell, may find that lenders will not offer mortgages or equity release funds and risk having to spend 1£000’s replacing their entire roof covering.”
Christopher Hough, 67 of Blaby, Leicestershire had spray foam installed in his house in 2018.
He said: “We decided to have the foam installed to save money on our bills. And because also it’s better for the environment.
“So last year we decided to have our house valued. We thought it was worth around £250,000. When the valuer had finished looking around our home he asked to look on the roof. He admitted there were no problems with our house, apart from the foam insulation.
“Of course we immediately booked to have it removed, at a cost of £4,000. It cost £2,000 to install so that’s £6,000 we paid.
“There were three to four men here scrapping it out over a couple of days. And they took out 87 bin bags full of the stuff.”
“We wrote to our MP because we feel people should be made aware of this, with household bills going up a lot more people will be looking at this.
“The product we had installed in 2018 came with a 25-year guarantee and BBA approval. “It is still being installed on the government green grant scheme, yet there are barely any financial institutions that will touch it.”
Credit: Source link