Question

Does insulation containing formaldehyde continue to offgas into the home after the walls are sheetrocked and painted?

Asked by Angela
San Carlos, CA

My contractor just put in a new wall with insulation that is Greenguard certified (CertainTeed brand). But I think it contains some formaldehyde even though it is certified. The wall has since been sheetrocked and will soon be painted. I am trying to minimize VOCs inside our home. Can the formaldehyde from the insulation permeate the sheetrock and paint and get into our indoor air?

Answer

The formaldehyde you find in your CertainTeed brand is PF, which is all but eliminated during manufacturing and is even deemed safe to install without protective equipment.

In building products, you’ll find two types of formaldehyde, urea (UF) and phenol (PF). Urea-formaldehyde causes the greatest health concern.

  • Many products advertised as formaldehyde-free are actually NAUF, No Added Urea Formaldehyde (meaning that they can contain naturally occurring UF along with PF). 
  • There are insulation products that contain neither UF nor PF, such as EcoBatt by Knauf fiberglass insulation.
  • Check Green Home Guide's "Buyer's Guide to Green Insulation" for a good overview of most insulation materials including cotton, cellulose, sheep wool, etc.

To provide greater peace of mind, you can choose AFM Safecoat to paint your walls, which will seal the sheetrock (and it is zero VOC).

Know that adhesives either used on site or in your building materials are another important source of urea-formaldehyde in your remodeling project:

  • cabinetry,
  • plywood,
  • MDF,
  • flooring (eg bamboo flooring, hardwood flooring, carpeting, etc).

The State of California is continuing to improve formaldehyde emissions through the California Air Resources Board's Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM); you can review these to guide you in your choices and choose products that exceed the current regulations.

Tagged In: home air quality, insulation

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.