Hobby Tools

How To Work With Styrofoam And Polystyrene

Written by Bill Murphy

Styrofoam is an excellent insulating material, widely used in construction. A dense structure allows the passage of moisture vapor but keeps the heat inside the room. It is optimally suited for the insulation of the house. In addition to excellent insulating qualities, foam is well machinable and malleable. Affordable cost and low weight are additional advantages of the material, allow the use of foam to create complex decorative ornaments.

Foam can be cut, glued, or bent, but to work with such material must be carefully, as well as choose special tools.

What Is Styrofoam, Polystyrene Foam?

What Is Styrofoam, Polystyrene FoamThe structure of the material consists of granules, which are glued together under the press or under the influence of high temperatures. The scope of application of the material is not limited to the insulation of the house, as Styrofoam is easy to handle and very practical. Styrofoam is used to make decorative elements for interior decoration that can be glued to any surface. For example, ceiling plinths and moldings are made from just such a material. The result is a beautiful element of the interior, which does not require special care and is not afraid of moisture.

Insulation material is available in the form of plates and profile skirting, ready-made elements can be cut to size, glued to shape, and bend at any angle. For mechanical processing, special tools are used, since the structure of the foam consists of individual granules. In this article, I will talk about all the subtleties of working with such material and give some useful tips.

Cutting Styrofoam

Styrofoam is available in a variety of plate sizes, but when working you often need to cut the material, for which special techniques and tools are used. When cutting, it is necessary to keep the edge flat, and given the granular structure of foam, it is quite difficult. There are two main ways to process foam: mechanical and thermal. Both require special equipment and skill on the part of the craftsman.

Mechanical cutting

Cutting StyrofoamThis technique involves the use of tools with a sharp cutting edge, and the cutting is done by the mechanical impact on the foam. This method is used at home or when small fragments are to be worked on. As a blade, you can use a saw, a bolster, a jigsaw, or a knife. The choice of one or the other option depends on the size of the board and personal preferences.

When working with the tool, it is necessary to observe safety rules. If you are going to cut boards no thicker than 8 centimeters, you can use a stationery knife. It is convenient to work with such a device, and its blade is thin and sharp enough to obtain an even cut. When working with a grinder, it is better to use the slow rotation mode of the disc, otherwise, you can ruin the entire sheet. There are special tools for cutting foam, but it is worth buying them only if there is a large amount of work to be done.

Thermal cutting

Such a technique is used only in industrial production, but the resulting cut will be perfectly flat. In addition, with the help of a thermal cutter, you can give the boards the desired shape, and this method is often used for decorative cutting foam. A thermal cutter is a tool consisting of a transformer that is energized. When turned on, the current is applied to two arcs on which a wire is strung, it is this element that is the cutting blade. The heated wire acts as a knife, but due to the high temperature, the edge of the foam melts, and an even cut is produced.

Bending Foam Parts

Profile of foam plastic is often used as a decorative molding or skirting board for decorating rooms. However, it is quite difficult to work with it because of the increased fragility of the material. Styrofoam easily breaks, badly bent, and trimming can be done only with special materials. If when working with straight and flat surfaces, there are no problems, but it is quite difficult to decorate semicircular elements or radiused protrusions.

Gluing Foam

Gluing FoamInsulation material can be used to insulate the house or as decorative elements to decorate the interior. Since the foam is soft and easy to break, an adhesive bond is used for fixing, and the longevity of the insulation and decorative pattern depends on the correctness of the work performed.

Foam is based on a synthetic compound, which breaks down when in contact with organic solvents. This creates some difficulties in the choice of improvised materials, so you can work with Styrofoam only if you have certain skills. The next problem to face when working with such material is the preparation of the surface. The Best Glue For Styrofoam is applied to the wall surface, which must be clean and even.

Thus, the following types of adhesive compositions are used for gluing foam:

  • polyurethane adhesive with high mechanical strength;
  • assembly foam;
  • polymeric glue;
  • thermal glue on the basis of a polymeric composition;
  • cement-polymer glue;
  • bitumen mortar.

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