What is better: Styrofoam or polystyrene foam?

Making the best selection of materials is essential for effective home insulation. Two well-liked alternatives that are frequently mentioned are Styrofoam and polystyrene foam. Which one is actually better, though they both keep your house warm and energy-efficient? Let’s examine each’s features and advantages and disadvantages to assist you in making a wise choice.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly referred to as Styrofoam, has long been the preferred material for insulation. Known for its strong, lightweight construction, Styrofoam is prized for its superior thermal insulation capabilities. It is frequently utilized in many different contexts, such as construction and packaging. Though it is widely used, questions have been raised about its long-term efficacy and potential effects on the environment.

Conversely, extruded polystyrene (XPS), also known as polystyrene foam, provides a distinct set of benefits. Because XPS is denser and more moisture-resistant than Styrofoam, it is a good choice for damp locations like crawl spaces and basements. Because of its closed-cell structure, which offers improved thermal insulation, the home is more comfortable and energy-efficient.

Both polystyrene foam and Styrofoam have advantages and disadvantages, and the decision between the two is influenced by a number of variables, including financial constraints, environmental considerations, and particular insulation needs. Making an informed choice that fits your needs and priorities requires an understanding of the differences between these materials.

Features and differences in production

There are two methods used in the production of polystyrene foam and Styrofoam. what establishes their initial distinction from one another. Additionally, every material has a variety of properties that are acquired during the process, depending on the method of production.

Granules of polystyrene are processed with water vapor to create foam plastic. As a result of this processing, the material’s particles become more volumetric and start to cling to one another, creating a single porous canvas.

Extrusion technology produces polystyrene foam. In other words, the granules are heated to a certain temperature, which causes them to melt and take on a nearly uniform structure. The resulting mass is then heated with hot steam, producing polystyrene foam with uniformly arranged micropores.

The following traits or qualities can be called features or qualities that will aid in selecting one material over another:

  • Water absorption. For example, this indicator is higher than that of polystyrene foam and equals 4.
  • Thermal conductivity. Styrofoam has a better thermal conductivity, that is, it is also more economical, because using it as insulation, its thickness can be adjusted, and it may not be so large.
  • Strength limit. Indicates how strong and durable the material is. This indicator is higher for polystyrene foam.
  • Compression limit. This indicator is also higher for polystyrene foam.
  • Density. Following the logic and the above described methods of production of materials. Density will be higher again with the same polystyrene foam.
  • Operating temperatures. This is one of the few indicators in which the materials are similar. They can operate from -50 degrees Celsius to +75 degrees Celsius.
  • Service life. Styrofoam is more durable. This is due to its high strength and compression-resistance limits.

These are not the only attributes that influence the selection of content.

Pros and cons

It is now worthwhile to think about the benefits of each material in comparison to the others. After all, each of them was created and is in demand by customers for what reason?


The following can be used to describe foam plastic’s primary advantages:

  • Using it as a wall insulator both inside and outside the building.
  • Comparatively low price, that"s why it is in demand among consumers.
  • The material is quite moisture resistant.
  • It has a small weight.
  • Easy to use and install. In addition, it is easy to cut it using a knife or other cutting object.
  • A good insulator for foundations.
  • Styrofoam can be cut at various angles, as well as cut any shapes from it.
  • The material lends itself to painting and plastering.

The following can be linked to the material’s drawbacks:

  • The thickness of the material used should not exceed 3 cm.
  • For better fixing of the material on the wall it is necessary to perforate it, for example, with a needle roller.
  • It is necessary to take care of fire protection coating for the material.
  • When installing foam sheets, it is necessary to completely lubricate it with glue.
  • When leveling the sheet it is necessary to use moisture-proof putty.

It is evident that the material has advantages as well as disadvantages. Thus, in order to avoid misunderstandings, it is imperative to consider the advantages and disadvantages before making a purchase.


Its primary benefits are:

  • Poorly transmits heat, that is, it remains inside the room.
  • Does not transmit moisture, which means that even if the material is exposed to rain for several hours, it will remain dry.
  • Despite its artificial origin, it allows the house or any other structure to breathe.
  • Not susceptible to rot.
  • Not affected by fungus.
  • Durable. Can last for about 50 years.
  • The material is good to use as a sound insulator. Because it has a homogeneous structure that muffles and absorbs sounds.

Among this material’s drawbacks are:

  • Price. This material is not the cheapest. That"s why many consumers buy foam plastic.
  • This material is destroyed under the influence of some solvents.
  • Styrofoam is susceptible to destruction by rodents. It is easy enough for them to build passages and lodges in the material.
  • Also, like Styrofoam polystyrene is a combustible material. Therefore, it is necessary to take care of safety. Cover it with a special solution.

The benefits of polystyrene foam are evident, and in certain situations, they surpass those of foam plastic. However, the material’s high cost is its primary drawback, and occasionally its deciding factor.

There are a few things to consider when deciding between polystyrene and Styrofoam for insulation and heating in your home. Because of its stiff structure and low weight, Styrofoam is an excellent insulator and moisture-resistant material that can be used in a variety of climates. Conversely, polystyrene foam, thanks to its expanded form, offers superior thermal insulation and is easily moldable to fit a variety of spaces. Both materials have benefits and drawbacks, including expenses and effects on the environment. In the end, the optimal decision is determined by your unique requirements, financial constraints, and ecological factors.

Scope of application of materials

Styrofoam is utilized in the subsequent domains:

  • Construction. The material is used as an insulator of walls outside and inside, as well as for insulation of ceilings. Another option of use can be called soundproofing in the apartment. In some cases it is also used to insulate balconies and loggias. In places where there are no strong loads on pipes and other engineering networks, Styrofoam is used as an insulator. However, it should be borne in mind that for each individual type of insulation or soundproofing, different types of foam plastic are envisaged. Usually they are labeled so that the consumer can make an independent choice.
  • Shipbuilding. Surprisingly, but here foam plastic literally saves lives in emergency situations. And all because it is used to make lightweight boats, swimming laps and belts.
  • It is used as a dielectric.
  • This material is used to make furniture.
  • Styrofoam is used as packaging for dishes, electrical appliances or other types of equipment.
  • It is often used as a material from which to make blanks for complete products.

Construction is the major application for polystyrene foam. It serves as insulation for ceilings, floors, roofs, apartment walls, and building facades. Foam plastic is also utilized for insulating buildings that won’t be subjected to a lot of mechanical forces. This kind of insulation works particularly well in humid rooms. Additionally, expanded polystyrene is also in charge of insulating foundations and other building components.

Comparative characteristic

Based on the aforementioned attributes, let’s compare the two materials. The best insulator is Styrofoam because of its lower thermal conductivity, which reduces the likelihood that heat will be transferred to and retained in the space.

In addition, the durability of the first material is much higher than foam. Yes, and the ability to repel water, too. However, the materials have one essentially the same property – they are both combustible. It is worth considering another factor that characterizes the materials – shrinkage. The higher it is, the worse the material is as an insulator. So, the foam plastic has this indicator is quite high, it easily crumples and succumbs to mechanical impact. It is especially vulnerable to direct sunlight. But polystyrene foam is much better able to cope with mechanical influences and ultraviolet rays. It is connected with the way of its production and material processing.

Criteria Styrofoam Polystyrene Foam
Insulation Efficiency Provides good insulation due to its closed-cell structure, retaining heat well. Also offers effective insulation with its closed-cell structure, keeping heat in.
Cost Usually cheaper upfront, making it a budget-friendly option. Slightly more expensive than Styrofoam but still relatively affordable.
Water Resistance Highly resistant to water, making it suitable for areas prone to moisture. Resistant to water but may absorb moisture over time, requiring additional protection in wet environments.
Strength Less durable compared to polystyrene foam, prone to damage from impacts. Offers better strength and durability, making it more resistant to damage.

Selecting between Styrofoam and polystyrene foam for insulation in your home can be difficult. There are benefits and drawbacks to both materials, and the optimal option will rely on a number of variables including climate, budget, and personal preferences.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly referred to as Styrofoam, is a cheap and lightweight material. It is a well-liked option for both residential and commercial buildings since it offers superior thermal insulation and is moisture-resistant. Styrofoam is also versatile and easy to install; it can be used for foundation insulation as well as wall insulation.

Conversely, polystyrene foam boards have certain distinctions from Styrofoam but still provide many of the same advantages. In colder climates, extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam boards perform better because they are denser and have a higher R-value. Compared to Styrofoam, they are also more resilient to moisture and more durable, which makes them appropriate for below-grade applications.

When choosing between polystyrene and Styrofoam, it’s important to take your unique needs and circumstances into account. Styrofoam might be a better option if you need insulation for above-grade applications but have a limited budget. However, polystyrene foam boards, especially XPS, might offer superior long-term performance if you live in a colder climate or need insulation for below-grade applications.

In conclusion, polystyrene foam and Styrofoam are both efficient insulation materials, but they have different benefits and drawbacks. In the end, the choice should be made in light of variables like financial constraints, local climate, and insulation specifications. Regardless of the option you select, your home’s maximum energy efficiency and comfort depend on proper installation and maintenance.

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Sergey Ivanov

I like to help people create comfort and comfort in their homes. I share my experience and knowledge in articles so that you can make the right choice of a heating and insulation system for your home.

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