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Areas of Expertise

Michael Fox, PhD.

CONTACT US:
800-645-3369

E-mail: service@chemaxx.com

SEARCH

CHEMAXX HOME

Areas of Expertise

Michael Fox, PhD.

CONTACT US:
800-645-3369

E-mail: service@chemaxx.com

Cellulose Insulation and Corrosion

A 8,250 square foot luxury home was under construction in California on a 40-acre hill top. The insulation contractor used a sprayed cellulose insulation for the walls and ceilings. Cellulose insulation is made from recycled newspapers and therefore chemicals are added for fire retardancy. One of the chemicals used, ammonium sulfate, is highly corrosive whenever moisture is present.

Within just a few months a copper water pipe began leaking. The sheet rock had already been installed throughout the house. Upon initial investigation the copper pipe had apparently been heavily corroded from the outside in, and it was believed that all metal components in the walls had been seriously affected by corrosion. When all of the sheet rock had been removed, the house was indeed heavily corroded.

Every metal component was affected including copper water pipes, carbon steel propane pipes, nails, and electrical wiring.

There was also a mold problem because the damp cellulose insulation supported rapid mold growth (within 7 days).

Wood degradation was also an issue (handled by an independent wood expert).Chemaxx's role was to document the extent of corrosion and also to determine the long-term corrosive effects of the fire retardant chemicals, even after most of the cellulose insulation had been removed.

Visible corrosion on pipes.
Visible corrosion on pipes.

SEM photo of pin hole leak in copper tubing.
SEM photo of pin hole leak in copper tubing.

SEM photo of wood interior showing recrystalized chemicals.
SEM photo of wood interior showing recrystallized chemicals.

Using SEM/EDAX, Chemaxx conclusively showed that the fire retardant chemicals had penetrated the wood structure of the house, making it essentially unrepairable (due to long-term corrosion and long-term wood degradation). The SEM photos showed particles of recrystallized chemicals inside the wood.

The investigation spanned a four-year period.

Dr. Fox is a nationally recognized metallurgy expert, corrosion expert and failure analysis expert who has published numerous peer-reviewed, scientific papers in these fields. He worked for years as a bench scientist and a research manager in the fields of corrosion, metallurgy and failure analysis of materials in nuclear reactors.