Expanded Polystyrene, often referred to as EPS, is a rigid, closed cell, foam plastic. Cellofoam EPS has a low thermal conductivity, high compressive strength, is extremely light weight, inert, stable, has no food value, and does not promote mold growth, making it ideal for a variety of construction and packaging applications. EPS is processed from its resin form (a small bead resembling sugar) containing a small amount of pentane gas which is safely released during the expansion process. Using steam, the EPS resin expands dramatically resulting in molded final products that are approximately 98% air by volume. Cellofoam EPS is a great insulator and it can be produced with a variety of densities providing a wide range of compressive strength and R-values.
No. Cellofoam EPS does not, and never has used chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) or hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFC's), which are harmful to the ozone layer.
No. Because it is approximately 98% to 99% air by volume, Cellofoam EPS is a great insulator and the air trapped within the closed cell structure is stable. R-values and compressive strength are remarkably stable over time.
One problem with competing products like polyisocyanurate or XPS, is that they employ blowing agents other than air; these gases tend to dissipate over time and cause R-value to drop substantially compared to EPS.
No. EPS properties are not adversely affected by freeze-thaw cycles.
In fact, EPS withstands in situ freeze-thaw cycling without loss of structural integrity or other physical properties and independent tests using ASTM C1512-07, Standard Test Method for Characterizing the Effect of Exposure to Environmental Cycling on Thermal Performance of Insulation Products, have confirmed the freeze-thaw and moisture resistance properties of EPS insulation. Test results confirmed no loss in R-value or change in compressive strength for EPS (see research here).
Further, Dynatech Research and Development Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts examined and tested core specimens of EPS recovered from existing freezer walls, some as old as 16 years, proving that EPS is able to withstand the abuse of temperature cycling.
Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) are hollow EPS forms that are erected at the construction site, and then filled with a thickness five or six inches of reinforced concrete. Unlike traditional concrete forms that are removed after the concrete cures, ICFs are left in place.
ICFs provide all the benefits that have made concrete the material of choice for home building worldwide: solid, lasting construction that resists the ravages of fire, wind, and time. But ICFs provide two built-in layers of foam insulation. This gives an ICF building some sizable advantages over traditional building methods: greater energy efficiency, and more peace & quiet. Cellofoam North America produces ICFs for several builders.
EPS Geofoam is expanded polystyrene foam blocks that are used to replace construction fill. Cellofoam EPS Geofoam is used in geotechnical applications such as lightweight fill for construction on soft ground, for slope stabilization, and retaining wall or abutment backfill; as well as for roadway and runway sub-grade insulation and foundation insulation. Cellofoam’s geofoam blocks have been used in construction projects throughout the eastern United States.
No. Past studies have shown EPS constitutes less than 1% of total landfill by either weight or volume. However, we are working to reduce even that amount through recycling. Some of Cellofoam’s EPS building products, when allowed by code, use as much as 30% recycled EPS content, depending upon design requirements. In fact, nearly all of our scrap EPS today is either ground up for reuse internally or densified and sold for other applications.
Further, unlike many other discarded materials and products, EPS waste is inert and non-toxic. In fact, EPS aerates the soil, encouraging plant growth on reclaimed sites. Many people don’t realize EPS is often an ingredient of potting soil to help aerate your houseplants. EPS does not degrade and will not leach any substances into ground-water, nor will it form explosive methane gas.
Yes. Our website has a button at the bottom of the page labeled “Find an EPS Recycling Station” that provides a link to EPS recycling centers.
Indeed, all plastics can be reclaimed for reuse. For years the polystyrene industry has recycled scrap materials from its production process (pre-consumer). The same basic technology is used to reprocess post-consumer waste. As noted above, Cellofoam now recycles nearly all of our scrap EPS today.
Since the 1950s, EPS has been recognized as a mainstream insulation material, however over the past decade, new applications have rapidly developed. Now, EPS is a powerful design element and an ideal choice for green building design, offering tangible environmental advantages that can maximize energy efficiency, providing improved indoor environmental quality and enhancing durability.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System™ is the internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. Most Cellofoam EPS building products can contribute toward one or more credits in various LEED® categories.
EPS is recyclable. The 2013 EPS Recycling Rate Report shows the EPS industry achieved a recycling rate of 34% – we maintain one of the highest recycling rates among all the plastics family – and we are working diligently to improve that rate.
It is important to look at the entire energy balance when examining EPS. EPS is about 98% air by volume and the economics of shipping means it is generally produced locally, reducing carbon emissions compared to many other building products. EPS geofoam applications in particular have shown significant carbon footprint savings relative to using standard earth fill.
Polystyrene is not biodegradable, which while making EPS litter a serious problem in oceans, is also an upside for construction. Scandinavia has been using EPS geofoam for decades and laboratory testing of samples taken from below-grade geofoam from a 1972 Norwegian construction project showed no breakdown in EPS physical or performance properties. This means that EPS products are very long lasting and thus their carbon footprint can be amortized over very long periods of time.
Finally, the extreme lightweight nature of EPS makes it a critical element of a wide variety of green construction. EPS replaces heavy concrete in many theaters and stadium seating cinemas, for example, saving carbon emissions in both the fabrication of the concrete as well as in the transport of the heavy concrete to the job site. Likewise, EPS and XPS are used in the rooftops of many modern high-rise buildings as lightweight fill to enable installation of green areas such as rooftop gardens and swimming pools.
Like nearly all organic building materials, EPS foam is combustible and because of this nearly all of Cellofoam’s EPS products contain a fire retardant. When installed correctly, expanded polystyrene products do not present an undue fire hazard. It is recommended that expanded polystyrene should be protected by a thermal barrier in many building construction applications as referenced in the International Code Council (ICC) and Canadian Materials Construction Centre (CMCC) building codes.
When burning, expanded polystyrene behaves like other hydrocarbons such as wood, paper, etc. Ignited EPS will produce a dense smoke that will result in carbon monoxide, monostyrene, hydrogen bromide and other aromatic compounds. It is important to note that these gaseous compounds are emitted at variable rates depending on the temperature of the fire and are far less toxic than many ‘natural’ building materials, including wood.
Because of these characteristics, EPS foam used for construction requires a covering as a fire barrier. One half-inch thick (1.27 cm) gypsum wallboard is one of the most common fire barriers. Some building codes, however, do not require an additional fire barrier for certain metal-faced, laminated foam products. Check with your local building code/fire officials and insurers for specific information on what is permitted in your area.
Poly Shield® is Cellofoam’s proprietary and proven (for more than 50 years!) EPS insulation with a tough, heat-laminated, polypropylene facer attached to it to give it more strength and durability. A metallic-reflective facer may be optionally chosen to provide additional R-value when used with dead air space. Whether installed over wood sheathing or direct-to-stud (provided loads are accommodated through other means), Poly Shield is the ideal solution for underlayment behind siding.
When properly installed, Poly Shield doesn’t deteriorate with age, is resistant to mildew, rot, fungus, and bacteria, and doesn’t require maintenance. The tough facers resist abuse during construction and storage/warehousing.
Our Poly Shield IW (Interior Wall) is ideal for interior wall insulation applications, and it comes in ½, ¾, and 1 inch standard thicknesses. Standard density is 1.0 lb/cft although other densities up to 3.0 lb/cft and thicknesses up to 4 inches are also available. A one inch thick Poly Shield IW with the metallic-reflective facer turned towards a dead air space of ¾ to 3½ inches provides an effective R-value of 7.0 at 40 deg F, or 7.2 at 25 deg F, providing a very low cost R-value compared to many other insulation options.
It should be noted that Poly Shield IW is not a thermal (fire) barrier, even with its metallic-reflective facer. Building codes require foam insulation like Poly Shield, when installed in the interior of a building, to be separated from occupied space by a thermal (fire) barrier. There are a lot of options for thermal barriers such as 1/2-inch gypsum wallboard or specific minimum thicknesses of wood paneling, plywood, masonry or concrete, etc.
By the way, in order for a reflective surface to provide any Reflective R-Value it must face an airspace. In any assembly, the Reflective R-Value of a reflective surface is small (in the case of Poly Shield, 0.75 Reflective R-Value when installed facing an airspace). If your assembly has an airspace, turn the reflective side of Poly Shield towards the airspace. Note, however, this may not be possible as sometimes building inspectors require the printed side be exposed during their inspection.
Poly Shield Fan-Fold is Poly Shield insulation board that has been manufactured in a 4 ft x 50 ft expanse with vertical cuts in 25 inch increments allowing the panels to fold together and the entire bundle to lie flat. This provides a convenient means to easily transport insulation board for siding and roofing applications. Poly Shield Fan-Fold comes in standard thicknesses of 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 inch and standard densities of 1.0 and 1.25 lb/cft.
Yes. Poly Shield® continuous insulation is approved for WRB (Water Resistant Barrier) rated assemblies when installed and taped properly, eliminating the cost, installation time, and need for house-wrap. Poly Shield® continuous insulation complies with the model building codes when properly installed as identified in Cellofoam’s UL Evaluation Report ER7260 (available to download on this website.) This requires careful taping and sealing to achieve a true continuous (without open seam) barrier but can result in impressive cost savings. In one study, use of Cellofoam’s Poly Shield as a Continuous Insulation Water Resistant Barrier reduced installation labor by about 60% compared to insulation covered with standard house-wrap.
Our material suppliers use a bromated polymeric (“Polymeric FR”, CAS Number 78169-20-7) flame retardant that is incorporated in the modified bead material that we use to produce our expanded polystyrene. A number of years ago, the industry stopped using HBCDs due to environmental concerns and replaced it with Polymeric FR which has much better characteristics. Polymeric FR constitutes a maximum of about 1.0% by weight of our modified bead used to create our EPS.
As noted in our UL (United Laboratories) Evaluation Report ER7260-01, Cellofoam’s molded, closed-cell expanded polystyrene products under this listing have a flame spread index not exceeding 25 and a smoke developed index not exceeding 450 for thicknesses up to 5 inches, when tested in accordance with UL723 (ASTM E84) as required by IBC Section 2603.3 or IRC Section 316.3, as applicable.
At temperatures greater the 185 degrees F, our EPS products fabricated with the flame retardant begin to shrink and they will not ignite unless exposed to an open flame. If the open flame source is taken away, the product extinguishes. Cellofoam’s quality control program includes routine testing of this self-extinguishing ability of our modified EPS foam (in addition to flexural and density testing).
EPS does not provide nu trition for mold growth as some competing building materials do and hence does not promote mold growth. EPS insulation is a closed cell foam that offers a high degree of dimensional stability under moisture exposure. Because of its closed cell structure, it delivers excellent resistance to moisture absorption by submersion in water and most moisture gains are either surface or interstitial and have little effect on thermal performance.
EPS rigid foam insulation has been tested in accordance with ASTM C1338 Standard Test Method for Determining Fungi Resistance of Insulation Materials and Facings, which is used to evaluate the ability of new insulation materials to support five types of fungal growth. Third-party testing demonstrated that under laboratory controlled conditions favorable for the growth of mold that EPS scored no traces of growth over a 28-day incubation period, and emphasized EPS does not provide nutrition for mold growth as some competing building materials do.
That said, it is very important to use EPS products properly and follow design and building codes. Avoidance of continuous exposure of building envelope components to liquid water is a fundamental design objective. Proper management of moisture vapor depends on the knowledge of how moisture properties relate to the design and how they interact in actual assemblies. Selecting materials and finishes that allow air and moisture to move freely through the wall system can be an effective strategy for controlling condensation and mold.
EPS is non-hygroscopic and does not readily absorb moisture from the atmosphere. Its closed-cell structure reduces the absorption and/or migration of moisture into the insulation material. Although EPS provides a high level of moisture resistance and breathability, recommended design practices for walls and foundations should be followed in the selection of vapor and moisture barriers for severe exposures.
The cellular structure of molded polystyrene is essentially impermeable to water and provides zero capillary. However, EPS may absorb moisture if it is completely immersed due to its fine interstitial channels within the bead-like structure.
A study by the Energy Materials Testing Laboratories (EMTL) (from "Development of Experimental Data on Expanded Polystyrene Roofing Insulation Under Simulated Winter Exposure Conditions," R.P. Type and C.F. Baker, The Energy Materials Testing Laboratory, 1984) has shown that EPS insulation installed in well-constructed roofs does not absorb appreciable moisture, well under conditions characteristic of prolonged, cold, damp winters. The same amount of moisture absorbed (an average of 0.2% by weight) has little or no effect on its compressive or flexural strength and the EPS insulation retains between 95% and 97% of its thermal efficiency.
Yes. The widespread use of EPS insulation products has been proven over the past 30 years in both commercial and residential buildings, in a variety of applications. Extensive industry testing has confirmed that even small quantities of moisture absorption have a minimal effect on the thermal performance of EPS insulation. For example, the Energy Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Service found that seven-year-old samples of EPS used in exterior foundation insulation showed moisture levels of only 0.13%. It also concluded that the EPS insulation retained between 95 and 97 percent of its thermal efficiency and that there was no effect on its thermal efficiency and that there was no effect on its compressive or flexural strength properties. Moisture typically allows for an increase in heat transfer or conductivity. Proper design, construction techniques and choice of insulation reduce the opportunity for moisture to either leak or be driven into the insulation cavity where the thermal performance of the system may be affected.
No, although EPS has a low water vapor transmission rate, EPS is not a vapor barrier. Rather it "breathes", and therefore does not require costly venting as do other insulation materials, which would otherwise trap moisture within walls and roof assemblies.
Since density, thickness and the dimensions of EPS can be easily customized to meeting individual building specifications, EPS insulation provides specifiers with increased flexibility in the design of the following applications:
Installing garage door insulation can help reduce energy bills, heating or cooling, depending where you live or time of year. It may also reduce street noise and brighten up the garage. For many years Cellofoam has sold custom fit EPS foam insulation to all of the major garage door manufacturers for their insulated doors. About seven years ago, we created a Universal Garage Door Insulation Kit for do-it-yourself home owners for insulating home garage doors. We have sold over a million of these DIY kits, through retail outlets like The Home Depot®, direct to homeowners.
Our kits are designed to fit a standard, one-car garage door and consist of eight EPS panels with dimensions of 20" width by 54" length and 1.25" depth. Each panel weighs approximately 21.7 oz and thus the total weight of the eight panels is about 10.75 to 11.0 pounds. If you have a wider than standard garage door, you will need multiple kits to insulate it. For example, a typical two-car garage door will have 16 panels and thus require two full kits to insulate.
Our experience with the OEM market provided the data that less than 10% of all garage door panels are greater than 20" in width. With this in mind, we wanted to market a product that required as little "on site" trimming as possible and serve the largest market possible.
We’re dedicated to manufacturing products that meet the highest standards of quality and performance. Need to know if Cellofoam’s products are right for your next project? Reach out to our team.