What is UFFI and do I need to worry about it?
UFFI (pronounced “you-fee”) is a type of insulation that needs explaining because it has been controversial.
UFFI stands for Urea-Formaldehyde Foam Insulation. It was a common retrofit insulation in the 1970s that was typically used when installing conventional insulation was not practical, like behind the walls of existing homes. The insulation was injected into wall cavities, often through holes drilled into the wall.
Created as a mixture of urea-formaldehyde resin, an acidic foaming agent, and a propellant, such as air, when the mixture is injected into the wall, urea and formaldehyde unite and “cure” into an insulating foam plastic. Some formaldehyde gas is released during the on-site mixing and curing and this by-product of the curing of the foam became a controversial issue over the perceived health issues associated with it.
As the result, the insulation was banned by the Canadian government in 1980, but not before at least 100,000 homes in Canada were insulated with UFFI as a way to help combat the energy crisis in the 1970s. The insulation remains a commonly used building product in Europe.
While it has been studied extensively and there is no evidence of any health issues, it is still perceived as hazardous by the general public. (This perception was not helped by a class action lawsuit in 2015 in which 771 property owners from the Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph area were awarded $13 million after their homes were injected with UFFI between 2007 and 2009.)
But, in reality, there’s no need to worry. Formaldehyde off-gassing from the foam only lasts for a few days after installation and since it hasn’t been used in decades, it isn’t an issue. You’re more likely to find formaldehyde off-gassing from a host of other common household products, including new carpeting, furniture, fireplaces, paper products, you name it.
The only time it’s an issue is if a potential buyer hesitates when finding out a home has UFFI. And if you know your home has UFFI, you have a duty to disclose it. (You also need to be careful about the degree to which you sign off on the UFFI warranty, but that’s something your agent can discuss with you.)
And if your home has UFFI and that makes you uncomfortable, you can certainly talk to a professional about having it removed.
For more information on UFFI, check this website.