Polystyrene foam is one of the world’s most utilized materials. We interact with it daily, often without realizing it. From coffee cups and food trays, to coolers, toys and packaging materials, polystyrene is everywhere in many forms. But perhaps its most useful application is as a rigid foam sheet insulation product, as it offers versatility, practicality and affordability.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is manufactured in large blocks that can be formulated to various foam densities. Blocks are cut into sheets of varying thickness for use in insulation projects and assessed with a rating called R-Value, a measure of thermal resistance. These insulation sheets can help keep treated air in a home from escaping, as well as resisting the transmission of outside temperatures. The thicker a polystyrene sheet is, the better it will insulate, and denser varieties perform better than less dense materials. A different version of polystyrene, extruded polystyrene, uses gasses in its creation that dissipate over time and reduce insulation ability. Expanded polystyrene uses normal air and doesn’t lose performance over its life.
Besides its practical and efficient use as insulation, EPS is used in many other applications. It can be sculpted into detailed forms making it valuable as a home décor product for columns, balustrades and molding and is very buoyant and water resistant, even able to be used in a self-built boat interior to boost buoyancy.