Polystyrene sheets are thin layers of material made from polystyrene foam. These sheets are often referred to as Styrofoam® sheets after a popular brand name product made from this material. This foam consists of hydrocarbon molecules derived from petroleum, which are infused with air and molded into sheets roughly the size and shape of plywood or drywall. In addition to providing excellent insulating properties, these sheets also offer a degree of structural strength, making them an effective option for a wide range of applications.
Buyers can choose from two basic varieties of polystyrene sheets, which differ in how they are manufactured. Extruded polystyrene sheets (XPS) are made of polystyrene beads that are melted and forced through a metal die or mold. These sheets feature a dense, closed-cell construction, and are stiffer and stronger than other polystyrene sheets. Expanded polystyrene sheets (EPS) are made from polystyrene beads that are infused with air and pressed together in molds or forms. EPS features a slightly less dense construction than XPS, making it less effective for structural applications.
One of the most common uses for polystyrene sheets is as a form of building insulation. These panels can be installed in wall cavities or under roofing or siding to help improve thermal resistance between exterior and interior surfaces. They are also used in specialized building materials, including structurally insulated panels (SIPs), and insulated concrete forms (ICFs). Polystyrene sheets are also used to protect goods and packages during shipping, and to line coolers or freezers. These sheets can also be used to make signs, or in arts and crafts projects.
While polystyrene sheets provide many advantages to users, one of the major benefits associated with this material is its excellent insulating properties. These sheets offer a much higher level of thermal resistance than traditional fiberglass or cellulose insulation products, which helps to improve energy efficiency and keep heating and cooling costs in check. Despite their structural strength and durability, these panels are also easy to cut, shape, or form using only basic tools and equipment.
Polystyrene sheets are also associated with a number of potential limitations or drawbacks. These sheets cost more than alternate insulation materials, which could impact construction budgets for homes and commercial buildings. Foam insulation sheets must also be covered by drywall or some other fire-resistant medium when they are used in a residential setting. This is due to the relatively high flammability of these petroleum-based sheets.