Also known as polyphenylene, polystyrene is a polymer resulting from repeating molecules known as styrene.
It’s widely used across all industries and comes in various forms ranging from foam, composites, rigid or solid, film, and co-polymerized polystyrene.
Engineers have found an excellent use for polystyrene in buildings—these help with many things, including serving as thermal insulators.
Used in the form of blocks, this highly durable, lightweight material is relatively cheap. Polystyrene panels are used primarily on rooftops due to their high moisture resistance.
As a buildup to the main topic of discussion, it’s necessary to look at polystyrene uses.
As expected, this material serves a wide range of uses that include a reduction of concrete consumption by 30% and is highly recyclable.
Polystyrene reduces the production of waste in buildings plus can be used as a high-quality heat and sound insulator, and reduces dead weight in buildings.
Polystyrene’s resistance to moisture makes it ideal for preventing bacterial growth in buildings.
Fungal and mold growth are also arrested or prevented by using this material.
Overall, polystyrene offers stability which helps maintain a building’s integrity. It has been essential to identify these uses to gain a fair understanding of the next stage of our discussion.
Polystyrene Buyer Concerns
When it comes to polystyrene use, how it’s deployed matters.
The biggest concern for most people comes from its use in the food industry. Polystyrene foam cups have been found to have carcinogenic properties.
This is a finding by the National Research Council that affirmed styrene used in food packing and foam coffee cups is linked to cancer.
The National Toxicology Program conducted this study. Apart from its downside in the food industry, polystyrene is highly applicable for various uses.
Polystyrene and Polypropylene: Knowing the Difference
A lot of times, people mistake polystyrene for polypropylene and vice versa.
You need to understand the differences between the two to avoid similar mistakes. While both of these are polymers, they tend to differ in durability.
Here, polystyrene is less durable compared to polypropylene.
This means polypropylene will withstand or tolerate more damage forms than polystyrene. Like styrene is polystyrene, so is propylene to polypropylene.
In terms of usage for the production of food containers, household items, automotive components, etc., polypropylene sees the most use.
Before proceeding with the purchase, it’s essential to understand that compressive strength should be a significant consideration. This is especially true for situations where this foam insulation is to be used to bear weight.
Materials with higher compressive strengths tend to do well with load bearing.
The goal is for polystyrene material to be load resistant enough, thus handling all kinds of external pressures like vibrations, weight, and footfall.
So, are these materials (polystyrene) graded according to their load-carrying capacity? They are.
When buying polystyrene, you’ll find such boards graded with numbers. These represent their compressive strengths.
Apart from these numbers, there are different polystyrene types, each suitable for specific work. Let’s discuss a little more about these types.
i. Polystyrene Types
As a buyer trying to figure out polystyrene varieties, two types easily stand out; extruded polystyrene insulation and expanded polystyrene insulation.
Primarily, what you plan on using the materials for will determine the type you choose.
As expected, there are specific differences between these two, as shown below. Go through the details provided for better understanding.
Extruded Polystyrene Insulation
Also called XPS, extruded polystyrene insulation has been rightly named according to how it was manufactured.
The manufacturing process follows an extrusion process. The result is a closed-cell structure of extruded polystyrene that helps prevent moisture penetration.
The resulting impact of such protection is a more durable structure shielded from damage. You’ll find extruded polystyrene insulation is used in both residential and commercial properties.
With that said, what exact use are you buying this type of insulation material for?
While it’s primarily advisable to seek expert recommendation before purchasing such insulation, extruded polystyrene insulation can be used for car parks, basements, under industrial cold-flooring, and inverted roofs.
Even when placed under significant pressure, extruded polystyrene insulation hardly loses its thermal properties. While that is true, finding the exact or appropriate thickness for your needs is crucial.
You might need some expert opinion or guidance when buying such.
Expanded Polystyrene Insulation
The other type of polystyrene material you need to know as a buyer is expanded polystyrene insulation.
Also called EPS, this tends to be the most cost-effective type. There are clear reasons for being cost-effective, including being thermally less effective and having less density.
So, will this polystyrene type still do the job? Is it worth buying? It depends on what you need. By being less costly, it means it’s more affordable.
However, the downsides are apparent; because it’s not a closed-cell insulation board, EPS will gradually show signs of defects despite its closed-cell structure.
Such defects are seen in the penetration of water or moisture. However, thermal insulation tends to be maintained for the longest. Plus, you prevent fungi, bacteria, and mold from spreading.
When is it best to use EPS?
If you’re tight on a budget, buy this polystyrene type and use it for external wall insulation systems and floor insulation.
Overall, it’s best to seek and follow expert opinions before purchasing. This saves you from making a decision that can hurt you financially.
Where to Buy Polystyrene
This insulation material is never in short supply as there are many sellers to buy from.
Some reputable sellers include Polystyrene Products, The Foam Company, Hobbycraft, Lowes, and Foam Factory. These are just a few places you’ll find polystyrene products for all types of uses.
As a prospective polystyrene buyer reading this, you should know better how to go about your purchase. The information provided here has pointed out the basics.
Again, it will serve your best interest to seek expert opinion before proceeding with the purchase.