Polystyrene foam is one of the most common materials in the world today. We encounter it on a daily basis, whether or not we’re even aware of that fact. Polystyrene, or EPS, is used everywhere, from coffee cups, to massive blocks that are used as geological landfiller in large construction projects. But one of its most useful applications is one that is around us almost constantly; foam insulation offers versatility, practicality, and affordability.
Expanded polystyrene is made in massive bulk forms that can be formulated to various density levels. For the purpose of insulation, these blocks are sawn into sheets of varying thickness and given a rating called R-Value, a measure of thermal resistance. These sheets help keep conditioned air in the home from escaping, while also working to resist outside temperatures. The thicker the sheet of EPS, the more it can insulate, and the greater the R-Value, the better it performs as well. Extruded polystyrene, a member of the polystyrene family, uses gasses in its formulation that EPS does not. Only using normal air in EPS means the foam doesn’t lose insulation ability over time, which the loss of gas causes in XPS.
Besides its uses as insulation, EPS performs well in many other jobs. It is often sculpted into detailed forms with computer-controlled machinery, making it a cost-effective home décor material for foam columns, balustrades and molding. EPS is extremely buoyant and resists water well, lending itself to use as self-built boat interiors to boost buoyancy. Its firmness also helps it to be put into use as pet stairs for animals who need help getting in and out of vehicles or up onto the couch.