What is Styrofoam?

Invented by Dow more than 50 years ago and identified worldwide by the distinctive blue colour, Dow Styrofoam building products are widely recognised brand in insulation today. In the early 1900s, the Dow Chemical Company invented a process for extruding polystyrene to achieve closed cell foam that resists moisture. Recognising its superior insulating properties, buoyancy and unsinkability, it was originally adopted in 1942 by the Coast Guard for use in a six-man life raft. That was the start of many other wartime applications by the Coast Guard and Navy.

Today, the Dow Styrofoam brand includes a variety of building materials (including insulated sheathing and acoustic insulation). But there isn’t a coffee cup in the world made from Styrofoam. These common disposable items are typically white in colour and are made of expanded polystyrene beads or popcorn board. They do not provide the insulating value, compressive strength or moisture resistance properties of Styrofoam products. In order to protect the Dow trademarked name ‘Styrofoam’, such other materials should be referred to by the generic term ‘foam’.

Styrofoam has been manufactured by Dow for more than 50 years. The process of extruding foamed polystyrene results in a material with uniformly small, sealed cells, a smooth 'skin' and an unrivalled set of properties which make it the choice of specifiers in a wide range of demanding insulation applications:

  • Low thermal conductivity - minimising the board thickness needed to achieve a specific U-value, thus allowing the designer greater flexibility.
  • High compressive strength - in load-bearing applications, the closed cell structure gives the foam great rigidity and makes it highly resistant to compression.
  • Very low water absorption – Styrofoam has natural resistance to rain, snow, frost and water vapour which makes it an exceptionally stable material, retaining its initial insulation performance and physical integrity in exposed conditions over the very long term. It was this unusual property that made possible the inverted warm roof concept, pioneered by Dow.
  • Workability - Styrofoam is easily worked with normal hand or power tools.
  • Hygiene Styrofoam boards have low susceptibility to rot, mould or fungal growth. They are clean, odourless and free from irritating dust.

Styrofoam is available in a number of different grades designed to meet the performance requirements of specific applications.

Why Specify Styrofoam? Performance Strength Durability

With the unique closed cell structure, contoured slots and grooves for ease of installation, the specialised facings for extra durability, added R-value and moisture resistance, all guarantee the superior performance of Dow Styrofoam insulation products:

Closed cell foam structure
Foam with no holes or voids that water can penetrate. It resists moisture and will maintain its R-value over time. This results in high compressive strength and unparalleled resistance to water penetration. This is the only kind of foam that carries the Styrofoam brand name.

A measurement of resistance to heat flow. The greater the R-value, the greater the thermal efficiency and a small increase makes a big difference. Bulk cavity insulation only insulates between the studs, leaving those studs un-insulated. Styrofoam insulation covers the entire wall, providing a continuous layer of thermal protection and increasing the overall R-value and energy moisture resistance. Some insulation products absorb and hold water which reduces insulation performance and can lead to mould growth.

Dow Styrofoam extruded polystyrene insulation resists water absorption and does not provide a nutrient source for moulds. So, Dow Styrofoam insulation provides long-term insulating performance while reducing the potential for mould growth within the insulation.

Strength and durability
Styrofoam insulation is rigid, so it is durable and maintains its integrity during installation and for years after. Yet, it is easy to cut and work with.

Dynamic Composite Technologies  offers a wide range of products and integrated systems - all designed to help manage the energy and moisture issues that can compromise your insulations’ performance.