Insulfoam Launches a New Website!

We are excited to launch a new and updated website at  As part of the new website, our blog has been  integrated, please update your bookmarks so that you don’t miss out on our Insulfoam articles!  We will no longer be publishing articles at this location.  You can find our new blog at



Energy Efficiency of Your Home: It Starts With Insulation

There are so many products out there today to help increase energy efficiency of your home.  However, insulation remains one of the most critical components and fastest ways to reach this goal, and save on heating and cooling costs.  Not to mention making an impact on how much we use (and waste) valuable energy resources.  A home should be properly insulated from the roof all the way to its foundation.

R-Tech_product photoInsulfoam’s R-Tech lightweight rigid insulation panel products are ideal for insulation for the total building envelope (see illustration below).  It is also ideal for homeowners looking for a DIY insulation method.  Gone are the days of fiberglass splinters, heavy insulation products that are hard to cut, and blown in pieces that take a lot of material for adequate coverage.  Adding insulation to the basement, walls, attic, garage or other areas of your home can be do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, with substantial benefits.  Homeowners can quickly and economically increase a home’s insulating power with these large lightweight panels that can be cut simply and easily to fit virtually and space.

Available at home improvement stores nation-wide (Lowe’s and Home Depot), R-Tech comes in various thicknesses, panel sizes and fanfold options (picture unfolding 100 squares insulation in under 5 minutes!) without lose insulation all over, or pesky and painful fiberglass slivers to avoid.  See our tips and details below on insulating walls, basement, attic and garage doors.

R-Tech_whole house


What prep do I need to do for my walls and basement before installing lightweight R-Tech insulation panels?

Before insulating, seal any air leaks and make other necessary repairs.  If you are insulating in an area that is located in a conditioned part of the house, also remember to insulate and air seal your basement, wall or attic access.

Next plan and make sure you’re covering all the right areas.  Insulate and air seal any knee walls – vertical walls with attic space directly behind them – in your home as well.  In addition, if you’re building a new home or remodeling, make sure any area that provides additional storage space or a platform for a heating and/or cooling unit or hot water tank has enough room around them for adequate insulation.  Finally, if you live in a hot or warm climate, consider installing a radiant barrier in your attic to reduce summer heat gain.

R-Tech panels easily fold over the top of panel joists without the need to fill in gaps and low spots.

What is the best choice for insulating exterior walls?

Consider using insulating wall sheathing rather than wood sheathing products.  These products include foam insulation laminated to a facer or another sheathing product, providing an R-Value of R-2 to R-3.5.  With products like R-Tech you can choose thicker foam boards which yields even higher R-Values.

Foam sheathing advantages:

  • Provides a continuous layer of insulation, which reduces thermal bridging through wood studs (energy escaping through the wood studs), saving energy and improving comfort.
  • Is easier to cut and install than heavier or blown in products.
  • Protects against condensation on the inside wall by keeping the interior of the wall warmer.
  • Usually costs less than plywood or oriented strand board (OSB).

Basement Insulation Done Right

A properly insulated basement can save you money on heating and provide a dry, comfortable living space.  In most cases, a basement with insulation installed on its exterior walls should be considered a conditioned space.  Even in a house with an unconditioned basement, the basement is more connected to other living spaces than to the outside, which makes basement wall insulation preferable to ceiling insulation.  In fact, up to 25% heat loss occurs through the basements of a home.

In new construction, adding insulation on the exterior of the basement walls will:

  • Minimize thermal bridging and reduce heat loos through the foundation.
  • Protect the damp-proof coating from damage during backfilling.
  • Provide some protection against moisture intrusion.
  • Make the foundation part of the thermal mass of the conditioned space, thereby reducing interior temperature swings.
  • Reduce the potential for condensation on surfaces in the basement.
  • Conserve room area, relative to installing insulation on the interior.

In an existing home, adding insulation to the exterior of the basement walls is impractical.  Interior basement wall insulation has the following advantages:

  • It is much less expensive to install than exterior insulation for existing buildings.
  • Almost any insulation type can be used, some easier and safer to install than others.
  • It eliminates the threat of insect infestation.

What else should I consider when installing interior basement wall insulation?

  • Many insulation types require a fire-rate covering because they release toxic gases when ignited.  Be sure you’re choosing one that complies.
  • Interior insulation reduces usable interior space by a few inches.  The thinner the product the better.
  • It doesn’t protect the damp-proof coating like exterior insulation does, so choosing inflation with a protective facer is a good choice.
  • If perimeter drainage is poor, the insulation may become saturated by moisture weeping through foundation walls, be sure to choice an insulation that doesn’t retain moisture.

How much insulation should I add?

Insulation levels are specified by R-Value.  R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist air )hot or cold air) flow.  The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation.  R-Tech offers a huge range of sizes and thicknesses to meet the insulation needs your project requires.  All with fast and easy insulation.  To determine appropriate R-Values for basement walls in your area, use these R-Value recommendations.


How do I know if I need more insulation in my attic?

No matter war kind of insulation you currently have in your attic, one quick way to determine if you need more is to look across the span of your attic.  If your insulation is just level with or below you floor joists (i.e., you can easily see your joists), you should add more.  If you cannot see any of the floor joists because the insulation is well above them, you probably have enough and adding more may not be cost-effective.  It is important that the insulation be evenly distributed with no low spots; something there is enough insulation in the middle of the attic and very little along the eaves.  If your attic insulation covers your joists and is distributed evenly, you probably have enough.

R-Tech panels easily fold over the top of panel joists without the need to fill in gaps and low spots.

How Much Should I Add?

Insulation levels are specified by R-Value.  R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat flow.  The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation.  The recommended level for most attics is to insulate to R-38.  A layer of R-Tech is a fantastic way to beef up attic insulation with fast and easy installation.  Lay directly over trusses, planks, or subfloor and these large panels can fold out (fanfold) or be joined together with very few gaps for heat/cooling to escape through.

Note the EPA recommends air sealing the attic before adding attic insulation.


Lowes_garage door kitThe largest uninsulated space in most homes is the garage door.  Insulfoam’s Garage Door Insulation Kit provides an easy solution for increasing the energy efficiency of your home and reducing interior noise.  The kit is environmentally friendly and features a foam core that is 100% recyclable.  Insulfoam’s Garage Door Insulation Kit is available at your local Lowe’s and Home Depot home improvement stores.

  • Saves energy by reducing heating and cooling costs
  • Reduces interior noise
  • Clean, professional finished product
  • Energy-efficient upgrades may be eligible for federal tax credits
  • Simple, easy installation in less than one hour.

View this DIY installation video to see how easy it is to cut and install

PROJECT PROFILE: Florida Pool Deck Uses Geofoam to Reduce Weight

Florida Pool Deck  |  Tallahassee, FL  |  View Project Profile (pdf)

Known primarily for its use as a soil stabilizer in transportation projects, EPS geofoam is being viewed by engineers and contractors as the material of choice for a multitude of other commercial and residential applications.

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Florida pool deck, geofoam installation

Contractors use geofoam to simplify construction of swimming pools in residential, commercial and institutional uses, including hotels, schools and community centers.  Project teams can order the blocks pre-but to precise dimensions or can easily cut them to size and shape on site.  This simplifies the concrete forming process, and greatly reduces weight for construction of rooftop pools or sites with poor load-bearing soils.  Once crews form the pool basin and decks with geofoam, they can apply shotcrete directly to the foam.

In this Florida project, geofoam was used to lighten up the load over the upper elevations building given the pool is on the 2nd floor of this five-store building.  Pool decks are installed on both the East and West buildings on the campus.

Given its low weight, EPS geofoam is well suited as a structural void fill in concrete forming operations.  Crews can easily fabricate virtually any shape or sloe, and the material eliminates separate concrete pours for vertical wall sections and topping slabs.  Applications include bridge column formwork, stadium seating in auditoriums and sports arenas, stairways, podiums, loading docks, and rooftop pool decks.  EPS geofoam can be manufactured into custom-cut blocks in various shapes and sizes to enable contractors to quickly build up these and similar features.

Florida pool deck, geofoam installation

Florida pool deck, geofoam installation

Florida pool deck, geofoam installation

Florida pool deck, geofoam installation

Florida pool deck, geofoam installation

Florida pool deck, geofoam installation

Florida pool deck, geofoam installation

Florida pool deck, geofoam installation




Effective Drainage for Flat Roofs

Directing water to or from specific areas of the roof can be achieved easily with Tapered EPS cricket and saddle systems.  EPS can be used with numerous other insulation systems or integrated into a total Tapered InsulFoam package and will help eliminate ponding water in either new or re-roofing applications.

A common tapered insulation solution for buildings with parapet walls and interior drains consists of compound mitered panels with overlay crickets.  In the field of the roof, the tapered system will divert the water away from the parapets, while the crickets and mitered panels will direct water into the valleys and towards the drains.


This six-story apartment complex near Arizona State University consists of 60 mil PVC Carlisle Syntec over 1/4″ Dens Deck Roof Board, 1″ ISO and Insulfoam EPS crickets at the walls and saddles at interior drains over a structural wood deck.

Roofing Contractor:  Petersen Dean Roofing & Solar

IMG_0632   IMG_0641

IMG_0635   IMG_0634

IMG_0645   IMG_0646

Questions on this project or application?

Travis Montgomery, Insulfoam Territory Manager

Travis Montgomery, Insulfoam Territory Manager

Contact Travis Montgomery, CSI, Insulfoam Territory Manager


Connect with Travis on LinkedIn | Follow Insulfoam on LinkedIn


Save Energy. Save Money. With Insulated Siding.

“If you were hit by the “polar vortex” that brought subzero temperatures to more than half of the continental U.S., it was a good reminder that the best way to stay warm was to dress in layers.

The same is true for houses.  Today’s homeowners looking for ways to improve their home’s energy performance are increasingly choosing insulated siding – vinyl siding with rigid foam insulation that is laminated or permanently attached to the panel.  Think of it as adding as extra layer to ward off the cold.”  – Read full article in the Times Herald:  Insulated siding can keep your heat inside where it belongs.

Look to our profile cut insulation as the ‘extra layer’…  which can fit the profile of any siding, or for manufactures to use and laminate to the siding directly in the manufacturing process.

All houses start with a solid foundation.  Similarly, a quality vinyl siding installation should start with an equally solid foundation.  You can trust InsulFoam Profiles to be that foundation.  This extraordinary product insulates your home and protects the investment you have made in vinyl siding.  InsulFoam Profiles are made of expanded polystyrene, computer-cut to the exact configuration of the vinyl siding.  Install EPS behind your vinyl siding and benefit from superior strength, durability and protection for your home.

profile imageA Superior Siding Underlayment

As the pictures demonstrate, the added durability, toughness and support that InsulFoam Profiles add to your vinyl siding is real.  InsulFoam Profiles are cut to fit the contours of vinyl siding.  InsulFoam Profiles provide 300% more impact resistance over flat underlayments and are available with bevel and dutch lap contours.

InsulFoam Profiles are borate-treated for insect resistance.  Borate treatment is inert, non-toxic and not harmful to the environment.


brochure photosInsulFoam Profiles

  • Save energy, save money
  • Add superior strength and beauty to vinyl siding
  • 20-year in-service warranty

EPS Code Compliance

  • ASTM C578
  • ICC-ES ESR 1788
  • Meets HUD specifications
  • IL Laboratories Classified


brochure chart



View our contacts throughout North America, contact our technical center with a technical product question at 952.447.5213,  call our general inquiry number at 800.248.5995

XPS Insulation Tests Confirm Diminished R-Value When Exposed

Originally posted on

EPS Industry Alliance release new comparative test results

The EPS Industry Alliance (EPS-IA) recently completed a series of tests on extruded polystyrene (XPS) to examine the effects of moisture absorption and R-value in different field applications. Two new technical resources look at the behavior of rigid foam insulation exposed to water, specifically related to the materials drying potential and R-value retention.

When evaluating XPS material samples extracted from roofing and below grade applications, in these long-term installations, XPS did not maintain its initial R-value.

Buildings have been and always will be exposed to moisture. It is not a good thing or a bad thing; it is merely another component of the building design process. When materials are exposed to moisture, the ability to dry is key to maintaining thermal resistance.

This issue is addressed in Drying Potential of Polystyrene Insulations Under Extreme Environmental Cycling Conditions , which evaluates the free-thaw cycling effects on rigid foam plastics as prescribed by ASTM C1512. The test results indicate XPS exceeds the recommended water absorption threshold dictated by ASTM C578 by a factor of 2.4, and, test data rendered by Intertek Testing Services show that in-situ water absorption from XPS samples taken from four different locations is widely variable from 5 – 60% by volume.

Standardized laboratory testing, while not intended to replicate in-situ, real-world conditions, substantiate expanded polystyrene (EPS) performance claims to deliver consistent R-value in building environments that may be exposed to moisture. XPS producers claim its lower moisture absorption rate is a benefit; however, this is based on flawed logic. XPS R-values begin to deteriorate at only 0.03 percent, meaning its tolerance for water absorption is extremely low.

This phenomenon is demonstrated in the test results published in XPS Insulation Extracted After Field Exposure Confirms High Water Absorption Diminished R-value . On the other hand, EPS demonstrates excellent drying abilities and has a much higher tolerance for moisture exposure while still delivering the same R-value throughout the life of the building.

Expanded polystyrene exhibits superior moisture-related performance properties over XPS. It has higher vapor permeability, meaning it helps promote drying in a wall system. As shown in the EPS-IA technical bulletins, EPS is inherently more capable of tolerating moisture absorption than XPS.

Even at 3.0 – 4.0% moisture absorption, expanded polystyrene insulation delivers consistent R-value of 3.1 – 4.3 per inch.

When evaluating rigid foam insulation performance properties, non-standardized testing, modified test methods or testing not intended for the materials being evaluated should be viewed with skepticism. EPS-IAs new information comparing EPS and XPS moisture absorption and R-value retention is based on testing conducted by a third-party, certified testing laboratory and relies on industry recognized standards ASTM C1512. ASTM C518 and others.

EPS-IA is confident these new documents will be a valuable resource for architects, contractors and consumers that are seeking the best possible insulation for their construction projects. For more information on expanded polystyrene and the results of EPS-IAs new test results please contact Betsy Steiner, EPS-IA Executive Director, at or 800-607-3772.

Simple ways to make sure your garage isn’t costing you money on utility bills

Originally published on SFGate Website via Brandpoint Newspaper

wood garage door

Wooden Car Garage

As ever-increasing home energy bills continue to plague Americans, homeowners are look for cost-effect ways to reduce their heating and cooling costs.  If your house has not been properly insulated, you may be paying more than you should to heat or cool it.

Nearly all modern homes have insulation throughout the living spaces, but garages commonly get overlooked.  Because the garage is the last barrier between your home and the outdoors, it’s important to ensure the insulation is adequate.  You can do a few simple things to make sure your garage is insulated properly.

First, it’s important to ensure that the door leading from your home to the garage is sealed properly.  If air leaks through the cracks around the door, it’s nearly as problematic as leaving the door wide open.  Weather-stripping kits are available to insulate the edges of your door.  Some are made to just go along the bottom of the door, and some fit around the edges to prevent any air leaks.

Other areas to consider when checking your garage’s energy efficiency are the ceiling and the garage door threshold.  If there is a room above your garage, it may be beneficial to bolster the insulation in the garage’s ceiling to help keep the living space above it comfortable.  For the threshold, installing a rubber seal-strip on the floor where the garage door closes helps prevent air leaks, and keeps out insects and rodents.

That said, one of the most important areas to examine is the garage door itself.  While installing a pre-insulated garage door can cost up to a thousand dollars or more, and requires a skilled contractor, there is a simple and inexpensive DIY solution to insulate your garage – garage door insulation kits.

Home owners can easily insulate their existing garage doors with these kits, which are readily available in leading home improvement stores or online.  These affordable and easy-to-use kits are made to fit standard garage door sizes and can be cut to fit non-standard sizes.  With pre-packaged insulation, do -it-yourselfers can insulate their garage door in less than an hour, at a cost of less than $100.  Kits use energy-efficient expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation panels – a rigid white foam that trims easily, is durable, offers excellent long-term insulation, and gives your garage a professionally finished look.

“Whether in the garage door, or any other part of the home, EPS is a durable high-performance insulation,” says Insulfoam insulation expert, Ram Mayilvahanan.  “It has minimal long-term moisture absorption, and dries quickly, so works well anywhere from the foundation to the roof.”

Homeowners do not need technical skills to install garage door insulation.  Simply cut the insulation panels to size with a knife and straightedge, and flex the panels into place between the garage door’s horizontal rails.  The panels remain firmly in place without the use of messy glues or awkward tape.  A simple how-to-video show the step-by-step process.

During fall and winter, the insulation helps keep heat inside the garage so that the furnace does not work as hard and use as much energy.  In the summer, the insulation helps keep the sun’s heat at bay so the garage can stay cool.  Insulating your garage also helps reduce interior noise and can earn federal tax credits as an energy-efficient upgrade (check your local energy guides for more information).

ASK THE EXPERT: What differentiates one rigid foam insulation from another?

Originally posted in American School & Hospital Facility e-Newsletter, July 2014 “Ask the Expert”

Q: What differentiates one rigid foam insulation from another? Building design and construction professionals can select from several rigid foam insulations, all of which perform well in helping buildings retain or keep out heat.  Yet, there are important factors to consider when evaluating some of the primary rigid foam products, like expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS) and polyisocyanurate (polyiso). Beyond product chemistry and manufacturing methods, two of the key differences among these materials are:

  • Insulating performance per unit of measure, and
  • Long-term thermal resistance (LTTR).

Insulating performance per unit of measure A common way to compare various insulations is R-value per inch. While such a figure demonstrates a material’s physical ability to impede heat transfer, it is of limited use when specifying insulation since performance vs. cost is the real driver in many architectural product decisions. To use a cliché, “what’s the bang for the buck?” If one looks at the R-value obtained per dollar spent, EPS rates highest. This property becomes more important once designers realize that insulation suffers from the ‘law of diminishing returns’ – additional insulation, beyond a design optimum, results in a very small net increases in energy savings.

Long-term thermal resistance (LTTR) Specifiers often focus on an insulation’s published R-value, yet might not realize that this figure is the initial value at time of manufacture. Many insulations are subject to R-value degradation over the product’s time in service. This is crucial as a drop in performance over time means higher heating and cooling costs over the life of the building. EPS is one of the few rigid foam insulations with a stable thermal resistance throughout its life. In other words, the published R-value of EPS does not decrease over time, compared to other rigid insulations that typically lose up to 20% or more of their insulating capacity during time in service. The reason some rigid foams have declining R values is they use blowing agents that enhance the initial R-value, but diffuse over time and are replaced with air. A simple way to check for this is to review product warranties, which will confirm a stable or declining R-Value over time. EPS manufacturers warrant a stable R-value.

Other factors The degree to which an insulation absorbs water impacts its thermal performance. Compared to some other insulations, rigid foams as a class resist moisture well. However, one misconception is that EPS readily absorbs moisture. However, when one considers that the material is commonly used in food packaging, it’s clear that moisture absorption is actually quite low. This has been demonstrated in real-world and laboratory tests comparing moisture absorption rates. For example, side-by-side testing of EPS and XPS as below grade insulation on a building foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota, showed that EPS outperformed XPS. When the two insulations were removed after being buried under soil for 15 years, the EPS had 4.8% moisture content by volume compared to 18.9% for the XPS. After 30 days of drying time, the EPS moisture level dropped to 0.7%, while the XPS continued to hold 15.7% moisture. These days, design professionals are focusing more on the ‘life-cycle’ effect of moisture on insulation, namely the ability of an insulation to not only resist moisture, but also to readily release any moisture it absorbs. Over dry/moist cycles that grade-application insulations are commonly subjected to, EPS has shown to be the most optimum performing, through its ability to retain the least amount of moisture among rigid insulations. This helps EPS provide a higher R-value over moist-dry cycles that characterize below-grade applications.

Product make-up and applications EPS, XPS and polyiso can all be used throughout the building envelope – roofs, walls and below-grade – in buildings of all sizes and types. The three insulations are recognized as follows:

  • EPS is typically white and comes in blocks and panels of various sizes and can be faced or unfazed.  Facers enhance physical properties like R-value, fire and moisture protection
  • XPS products are commonly offered as pastel or primary colored foams, depending on the brand.  The product is most commonly available as board stock of fixed size and thickness.
  • Polyiso insulation panels are comprised of foam sandwiched between two facers.

Cost-saving insulation approaches As with other commercial and institutional buildings, in healthcare and educational facilities project teams can minimize rigid foam insulation material and labor costs through careful product specification. Following are two simple ways to help keep insulation costs down.

Better targeting of compressive strength

Insulation manufacturers sometimes market high compressive strength to distinguish their products. As a result, rigid foam insulation is often over-engineered in under-slab and roof applications. Readily available EPS options run up to 60 psi in compressive strength, and are strong enough for almost all building envelop applications. A testimony to EPS’s compressive strength is its use in applications in roadways and structural earthworks as geofoam, which are specified under ASTM D6817 with tighter tolerances than traditional below-grade insulation applications. The cost of using a higher strength insulation than the application requires, can be substantial. For example, specifying a 100 psi XPS product in a below-grade application when a 40 psi EPS product would suffice, can almost double the material cost.

Simplified installation with tapered roof blocks

Building professionals often create positive slopes on flat roof deck assemblies using insulation. Because they are only available in relatively thin sheets, most rigid foam insulations require stacking several layers to build up the desired slope, costing a lot of labor time and material. EPS, on the other hand, is available in individual tapered panels up to 40 inches thick. Some manufacturers have the ability to pre-cut EPS blocks into any slope 1/16 inch or greater and in virtually any custom shape to accommodate roof crickets, saddles, valleys, and ridges, along with all types of drainage systems and layouts. Since fewer separate pieces are needed, building up a slope with tapered EPS blocks requires less on-site material handling and cutting and thus installs much faster. Using tapered EPS can reduce roof insulation costs up to 30% compared to other rigid foam products.

Composite insulation

EPS and polyiso are commonly used in many roofing assemblies, and now manufacturers are producing composite panels that combine these two materials. The EPS provides a lightweight, insulating and resilient foam insulation, while the polyiso serves as an insulating cover board for enhanced durability. Some composite products, such as the InsulFoam® HD Composite panel, carry a UL Class A fire rating for both combustible and non-combustible decks, and are compatible with a range of roofing membranes – including EPDM, TPO, PVC, CSPE, and low-sloped, built-up and modified bitumen membrane systems. As many low-rise healthcare facilities and some schools have wood roof decks, such rated products provide an easy-to-install insulation for fire-rated assemblies.


Ram Mayilvahanan

Ram Mayilvahanan

Contact Ram Mayilvahanan, Insulfoam’s Product-Marketing Manager

A Park with Soil?

Originally published in Site Prep Magazine, September 2014 (digital edition) (pdf)

Lightweight geofoam enables earthworks for new park located atop Chicago parking garage.

Throughout the summer, Chicago residents and visitors saw what looked like acres of piled snow at a construction site bordering Lake Michigan, despite the city’s typical sweltering June and July temperatures..

The “snow” was actually large, white blocks of expanded polystyrene (EPS) geofoam that contractors were installing to form berms and landscaped contours for the new Maggie Daley Park.

Site Prep Challenges

The Chicago Park District decided to develop a 28-acre site adjacent to the city’s renowned Millennium and Grant parks as a “world-class public landscape at a keystone location” to meet the “evolving open space needs of downtown Chicago.”  The Maggie Daley Park, scheduled for final planting in spring 2015, occupies the former Daley Bicentennial Plaza.  The site was a rail yard and surface parking lot for cars until the early 1950s, at which time the city moved the parking spaces underground.

The "snow" on Chicago's famed waterfront in the heat of summer is actually EPS geofoam, being used to construct Maggie Daley Park atop a parking garage that cannot hold heavy soil.

The “snow” on Chicago’s famed waterfront in the heat of summer is actually EPS geofoam, being used to construct Maggie Daley Park atop a parking garage that cannot hold heavy soil.

Therin lies one of the key site preparation challenges for Maggie Daley Park, which will be located on top of the 3,700-car East Monroe Street

Being built at the foot of Chicago, Maggie Daley Park is being constructed using EPS geofoam that will allow the parking garage below to remain in place.

Being built at the foot of Chicago, Maggie Daley Park is being constructed using EPS geofoam that will allow the parking garage below to remain in place.

Parking Garage.  The park’s landscape architects, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of Brooklyn, N.Y., envisioned extensive earthworks, which they described as “curvilinear, topographically dramatic and relentlessly heterogeneous.”  Contractors typically would use soil to form such landscape contours, but that was not feasible for this project because the upper slabs of the sprawling, decades-old parking garage were not designed to accommodate that much weight.

Instead, crews with Chicago-based Walsh Construction used EPS geofoam as an ultra-lightweight yet durable fill to form the park’s hills and valleys.  Geofoam is approximately 100 times lighter than soil (0.7-2.85 lbs./cu.ft. for geofoam compared to 110-120 lbs./cu.ft. for soil), so it enabled the Maggie Daley Park designers to create a visually interesting landscape and still keep the garage in place.  Walsh installed 65,000 cu. yes. of geofoam, along with some geofoam that had been previously installed in Daley Bicentennial Plaza.

“It allows you the freedom to be creative,” landscape architect Peter Schaudt, whose company Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects has used goefoam in other Chicago projects, commented in a recent Chicago Sun-Times article.

What Makes Geofoam Special?

Despite its low weight, EPS geofoam is strong enough to support heavy loads, such as those imposed by jet aircraft and locomotives, as demonstrated by its successful use as a sub grade for runways, taxiways and rail beds.  Following are the material’s key physical characteristics.

Weight:  In addition to weighing far less than soil, EPS geofoam is much lighter than other lightweight fills, as per the chart below.

site prep_maggie daley3Compressive Resistance:  EPS geofoam is engineered for high strength with compressive resistance values of 317-2,678 lbs./sq.ft. at a 1-percent strain.  The material’s Westergaard modulus of sub grade reaction “k” values indicate that EPS geofoam has better bearing capacity than most foundation soils.  As long as combined dead/live loads do not exceed 1-percent strain, the material will not creep or experience plastic yield.

Buoyancy:  Although this is not an issue in most applications because EPS geofoam is buoyant, it is important to consider uplift forces in applications where the material will be partially or fully submerged.  Buoyancy can be minimized by installing geofoam above the water table and ensuring suitable drainage.  Additionally, the surcharge from overlying soils or pavements is frequently sufficient to offset uplift forces.  Where high water exposure cannot be avoided, supplemental restraints like restraining straps might be required.  The fact that the material’s buoyancy can be readily addressed is seen in its successful use in several levees in the U.S.

Damaging Elements:  EPS geofoam does not decompose, nor is it affected by freeze-thaw cycles or road salts, and is considered  permanent in civil engineering applications.  Petroleum products and other chemicals can damage EPS, so geofoam designs should include a compatible geomembrane or a continuous load distribution slab to protect the material from fuel spills or exposure to hydrocarbons in contaminated soils in applications where these conditions might exist.  EPS is combustible, so it is important to check with the particular manufacturer if the geofoam includes a flame retardant.  Flammability is typically only a concern if open flames are present during installation, as geofoam is usually isolated by membranes, soils or pavement in the finished application.

Working With Geofoam

EPS geofoam greatly simplifies site prep, because it does not require the surcharging, preloading or staging often necessary with other fills.  The material is also easy for crews to place by hand or with small mechanical equipment.  A reputable geofoam manufacturer will provide contractors with detailed information on working with the material, and producers like Insulfoam will provide on-site consultations.

…geofoam is lightweight, durable, easy to use and more consistent that other fills…

Geofoam installation does not require much training.  Among the installation factors to keep in mind:

  • Sizing:  Standard-size blocks are 4 ft. by 8 ft., at various thicknesses.  A well-equipped manufacturer can produce custom sizes and shapes to meet any project need, or crews can easily trim geofoam on the job site using a hot wire cutter (which some manufacturers will supply) or with handsaws or chainsaws.
  • Block Placement:  Typical geofoam designs call for installing the blocks on a level course of sand, pea gravel or any locally available permeable leveling course material.  Similar  to how brick walls are configured, geofoam blocks usually are staggered so their joints are offset and not located in the same vertical plane.  Depending on the engineering requirements, the blocks can be interconnected with either barbed plates or polyurethane adhesive.
  • Wind Protection:  Geofoam is lightweight, so it is important contractors weigh or tie down stockpiles on windy job sites.

A Wide Range of Applications

Crews with Walsh Construction use EPS geofoam as an ultra-lightweight yet durable fill to form the hills and valleys that will comprise Maggie Daley Park on Chicago's waterfront.

Crews with Walsh Construction use EPS geofoam as an ultra-lightweight yet durable fill to form the hills and valleys that will comprise Maggie Daley Park on Chicago’s waterfront.

Because geofoam is lightweight, durable, easy to use and more consistent than other fills, it is being used by building professionals as a fill alternative in numerous large civil projects, as well as in residential and commercial buildings.  Among example installations:

  • I-80 / I-65 Interchange, Gary, Ind,:  To reduce excavation volumes of high-organic content soils at the south end of Lake Michigan, Walsh Construction instead used EPS geofoam for the road sub grade.  “There’s no comparison to using traditional fill,” says Walsh Construction site supervisor Gary Walsh.  “There are no lifts needed; we just unloaded the blocks and it installed fast.”
  • Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle, Wash.:  The Seattle waterfront has notoriously soft soils, since much of the downtown area was built on fills created by re-grading the city in its early days.  As part of embankment construction for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, project engineers had to ensure that new ramps would not induce settlements on the underlying soft soils, which could impact the stability of adjacent elevated structures.  EPS geofoam provided the necessary load support at a low weight and eliminated the need to surcharge the soil.
  • CRH-UBH Freeway Interchange, Valsayn, Trinidad:  As discussed in an earlier Site Prep article (“Standing on Solid Ground,” March, 2014), contractors used geofoam as a lightweight embankment fill on top of the pile cap for an existing flyover ramp pier, to avoid any modifications of the pier’s seismic behavior in the earthquake prone region.

Beyond such road applications, geofoam is an ideal lightweight void fill on vegetated roofs, which is a similar application to the landscape contouring of Maggie Daley Park on top of the East Monroe Street Parking Garage in the heart of Chicago.

Insulfoam on Home Talk USA with Michael King

home talk usaInsulfoam’s Regional Sales Director, Rick Canaday, joined  Home Talk USA with Michael King to discuss insulation in your home, insulation properties, moisture concerns, energy leaks in and out of the home and more.

Hear it at:
(time stamps 8:53 – 16:35 and 23:19 – 29.50)

The Dirt on Below-Grade Insulation

Originally posted online at Construction Superintendent

Understanding rigid foam insulation for foundation and under-slab applications

Contractors are increasingly called upon to install rigid foam insulation under concrete slabs and on building foundations.

Contractors are increasingly called upon to install rigid foam insulation under concrete slabs and on building foundations.

Up to one-quarter of a building’s energy loss is due to lack of insulation in below-grade areas, including the foundation and under slabs. Now that high-performance building envelopes are common above ground, the relative amount of total heat lost below grade will grow if these spaces are not addressed.

As a result, superintendents increasingly will encounter below-grade and under-slab insulation on all building types. To help increase understanding of how two common rigid-foam insulations perform in these settings, this article evaluates moisture absorption and thermal performance. It also discusses installation procedures for below-grade and under-slab insulation.

Rigid foam insulation
Two common rigid foam insulations specified for below-grade applications are expanded polystyrene (EPS) and extruded polystyrene (XPS).


An easy way to recognize EPS on the jobsite is that it is commonly white. This insulation is made of expanded polystyrene beads fused into sheet stock and blocks of various densities, compressive strengths and sizes. Historically used as a stable roof insulation, EPS has gained wide acceptance in wall, below-grade and under-slab applications due to its low-moisture absorption, strength and stable, long-term thermal performance. EPS insulation blocks can be custom-cut into a variety of shapes and sizes to meet wide ranging job specifications.

Building professionals have used EPS successfully in below-grade applications for decades. As of 2013, the International Code Council explicitly permits EPS throughout frost protected shallow foundations, under slabs and any other below-grade application.

To make XPS, manufacturers combine and melt polystyrene with blowing agents and additives, then force the liquid mixture through an extrusion die in a continuous feed, where it is shaped, cooled and trimmed to size. The product is most commonly available as boardstock of fixed size and thickness. Manufacturers often tint XPS a primary color for brand recognition.

EPS insulation absorbs significantly less moisture than does XPS insulation according to studies of real-world installations.

EPS insulation absorbs significantly less moisture than does XPS insulation according to studies of real-world installations.

Moisture absorption and thermal performance
There is much confusion in the marketplace regarding whether EPS or XPS insulation resists moisture better. This is a key point, as wet insulation has lower thermal performance. While manufacturers of both insulation types tout that their products have lower moisture absorption, in-situ tests indicate that EPS performs better in this regard.

For example, in 2008, Stork Twin City Testing – an accredited independent testing laboratory – examined sheets of EPS and XPS removed from a side-by-side installation after 15 years in service on a below-grade foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota. The XPS was significantly wetter on extraction, with 18.9 percent moisture content by volume compared to 4.8 percent for the EPS. After 30 days of drying, the XPS still had elevated moisture of 15.7 percent, while the EPS had dried to 0.7 percent.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory also reports high moisture absorption levels for XPS. In a 2012 study, the lab reported “all samples of XPS insulation gained much more moisture during the 15 years of contact with soil moisture.” The resulting loss of energy savings performance was 10 percent for a full basement (“deep basement”) and 44 percent for a slab-on-grade installation.

By comparison, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory found EPS buried in wetted soil for 1,000 days absorbed only 1.7 percent moisture by volume, which is substantially lower than the XPS rates noted above.

Installing rigid foam insulation below grade
On building foundations, the insulation (whether EPS or XPS) is installed over the damp/waterproofing, after that layer has adequately cured. Crews can use mechanical fasteners or polystyrene-compatible adhesive to attach the insulation. Applying a bead of polystyrene-compatible caulk or mastic to the top of the insulation board minimizes water infiltration behind it.

For under-slab applications, the rigid foam insulation typically should be installed over a gravel base, with a poly vapor diffusion retarder between the gravel and insulation. Additional insulation is applied along the edges of the slab, because that is a primary surface for heat loss. To avoid damage to the insulation, it is necessary to ensure removal of any jagged surfaces or irregularities in the substrate before installing the rigid foam panels.

In either case, it is important to confirm all details with the insulation manufacturer and local building department, and to ensure appropriate construction techniques to drain water away from the building.

In addition to its lower moisture absorption and better long-term thermal performance, EPS has the highest R-value per dollar among rigid insulations. As such, it provides a cost-effective way to insulate building foundations, and under slabs.

Ram Mayilvahanan is the product marketing manager for Insulfoam, which offers below-grade insulation under the Insulfoam and R-Tech brand names. For more information, visit


Ram Mayilvahanan

Ram Mayilvahanan

Contact Ram Mayilvahanan, Insulfoam’s Product-Marketing Manager

Connect with Ram on LinkedIn  |  Follow Insulfoam on LinkedIn



Project Profile: A Missouri Hospital Builds Stronger with EPS

A Montana

A Missouri hospital rebuilds stronger after a tornado largely destroyed most of the health care facility.

Mercy Hospital  |  Joplin, MO.  |  View Project Profile (pdf)

After a force five tornado destroyed St. John’s Regional Medical Center on May 22, 2011, the Joplin, MO. hospital rebuilt with a new stronger facility designed to stand up to devastating wind forces.  After the destruction, architects and engineers analyzed how the nine-story structure reacted to the storm.  Today, a new facility stands stronger with a big tornado in mind….Mercy Hospital.

One of the largest changes to the hospital was the roof in an effort to harden the hospital’s building envelope.  More than any other part of a building, its roof system components must complement each other.  Insulation is a crucial component, because it contributes to a roof system’s thermal performance and overall durability while providing a substrate for the roof membrane.  Tapered Insulfoam was used to help the new hospital roof combat strength, water absorption, stability, stable R-Value and excellent performance.

By using Insulfoam 15″ InsulRoof Taper EPS as part of the roof system on the new hospital, the resulting structure is 30% STRONGER than the requirements for the old hospital.


In the old facility, the design team learned that the metal with insulation on top was removed by the tornado and exposed the inside of the building.  The roof is all concrete decks with a double roof system and a waterproof membrane.  The result, if the hospital loses the roof system, there will still be a watertight and concrete-sealed building.



Mercy Hospital, Insulfoam EPS installation

Pre-cut tapered EPS blocks were used to increase roof slope for additional drainage, while offering a long term, stable R-Value, excellent dimensional stability, compressive strength and water resistant properties that meet or exceed the requirements of ASTM C578.  The thick blocks can be factory-cut into single-layer tapered pieces that eliminate the labor of stacking multiple insulation panels.  Tapered EPS can be adapted to accommodate any roof drainage system and roof configuration.

Labor Savings:  There are no complicated filler panel systems.  Tapered InsulFoam can be installed in a single layer for thicknesses up to 40″, making it significantly more cost effective than comparable rigid-insulation tapered systems.  The ultra lightweight nature of Insulfoam EPS further allowed for fast installation.

Promoted Positive Drainage:  Tapered InsulFoam is the ideal insulation for both new construction and re-roofing projects in which positive slope is desired or ponded water is a concern.

Hospital rebuilding

Mercy Hospital, Insulfoam EPS installation

Environmentally Friendly:  100% recyclable if ever removed or replaced.

Stable R-Value:  EPS’s thermal properties will remain stable over its entire service life.  There is no thermal drift, so the product is also eligible for an Insulfoam 20-year thermal performance warranty.

Proven Performance:  The same fundamental EPS chemistry has been in use since the mid-1950’s so the actual performance of the product is well known.

Water Resistance:  Tapered Insulfoam does not readily absorb moisture from the environment.

Code Approvals:  Tapered Insulfoam is recognized by the ICC-ES, and has numerous Underwriters Laboratory and Factory Mutual approvals.



A Guide to Below-Grade Insulation and Moisture

Originally posted online at in Buildings Buzz!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWet insulation is ineffective insulation – rigid foams that retain high volumes of moisture lose about half of their insulating R-value. Because insulation installed on below-grade building foundations and under concrete slabs is often exposed to moist soil, it is crucial to choose an insulation that has minimal long-term moisture retention and the ability to dry quickly.

For facility professionals that are evaluating insulation for building retrofits or for new construction, paying attention to moisture performance helps ensure effective long-term thermal resistance. Because the insulation will be hidden from view, any problems with degraded materials will not be obvious, although the effect on higher energy bills will be very real.

One challenge in selecting insulation is cutting through the competing claims of insulation manufacturers. Producers of extruded polystyrene (XPS) and expanded polystyrene (EPS) – common below grade insulations – both claim that their products are superior at resisting moisture. In their own ways, each one is right, but it depends on whether one is looking at abstract, standardized tests or performance in actual installed conditions.

Claims that XPS insulation absorbs less moisture than EPS are based on ASTM 272Standard Test Method for Water Absorption of Core Materials for Sandwich Constructions. This test calls for fully submerging an insulation sample in water for 24 hours, then weighing it for moisture absorption immediately upon removal from the water.

How does this test represent reality? The truth is it doesn’t reflect real-world conditions for two reasons:

1) Unless your building is in a lake or river or subjected to severe flooding, the insulation will not be fully submerged.

2) It doesn’t account for how much an insulation dries out or does not dry out between periods of moisture exposure.

Entire marketing campaigns have been built around this test, but when it comes to what really happens on your building, it’s necessary to look at actual exposure during in-situ tests. Studies of insulation exposure to moisture in actual field conditions show that EPS outperforms XPS by a wide margin, largely because EPS dries much faster than XPS.

For example, the independent lab Stork Twin City Testing evaluated the moisture content of EPS and XPS buried side-by-side for 15 years on a building foundation in St. Paul, MN. At the time the insulations were removed, the EPS was four times drier than the XPS – the EPS had only 4.8% moisture by volume compared to 18.9% moisture content for the XPS. After 30 days of drying time, the EPS had dried to only 0.7% moisture by volume, while the XPS still contained 15.7% moisture.

The high moisture absorption of XPS is further seen in a 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Researchers found that XPS insulation installed below grade for 15 years had absorbed 67% or more moisture. The resulting loss of energy savings performance for the XPS was 10% for a full basement (“deep basement”) and 44% for a slab-on-grade installation.

Insulation manufacturers are well aware of how their products will perform over the years. Evidence of this is seen in the limitations stated in warranties they offer. This is why XPS manufacturers typically warrant only 90% of the insulating R-value of their products during time in service, whereas most EPS manufacturers warrant 100% of the R-value. Some XPS manufacturers will also void warranties in case of ponding or water immersion, which runs contrary to their highlighting of 24-hour, full-immersion testing.

There are many claims in the market about whether EPS or XPS offers the best moisture resistance. When evaluating such statements, it is important to consider the basis upon which the statements are made. Does the testing involve guys in lab coats dunking insulation into a fish tank for one day, or does it replicate how insulation performs on actual buildings over many years? If facility managers are making the investment in insulation, this is an important distinction to pay attention to, otherwise the product might not perform as desired.



Ram Mayilvahanan

Ram Mayilvahanan

Contact Ram Mayilvahanan, Insulfoam’s Product-Marketing Manager

Connect with Ram on LinkedIn  |  Follow Insulfoam on LinkedIn


Geofoam for Utility Protection and Utility Insulation


Corroded Alyeska Pipeline

For years the problem of corrosion has been on the minds of the engineers who manage the Alyeska Pipeline, a pipeline that transports oil from the fields on the North Slope of Alaska.  One of the several mountain passes that connects the oil-producing areas of the North Slope with interior Alaska and the south is Atigun Pass…some of the most beautiful country on the planet; however, the harshest as well.  Atigun Pass is located at an elevation of 4,739 feet above sea level and is the highest pass in Alaska that is maintained though out the year.  The weather is harsh and highly unpredictable providing many challenges such as freeze thaw cycles and high concentration of seasonal moisture.

The problem was in the original design.  Rigid flat stock was originally used to insulate below grade transitions of the Trans-Alaska Pipe Line.  Over the years the extreme arctic conditions exposed the problem.  Freeze thaw cycles and high moisture destroyed the XPS application.

EPS Goefoam was the perfect solution for this problem for both utility protection and utility insulation simultaneously.  Custom cut geofoam pipe jackets were the answer with low moisture absorption, light weight for ease of installation, stable thermal protection and locally produced.  Geofoam solves a decade long problem for decades to come and extending the life of the Trans-Alaksa Pipe Line one transition point at a time.


Custom cut geofoam pipe jackets


Custom cut geofoam pipe jackets









New Below Grade Data Released:  EPS vs. XPS Insulation:  The EPS Industry Alliance (EPS IA) has released NEW moisture absorption data regarding XPS, moisture absorption and the effects on R-Value through the latest Technical Bulletin, EPS Below Grade Series 105:   XPS Insulation Extracted After Field Exposure Confirms High Water Absorption & Diminished R-Value, March 2014 (pdf)


Bernard Droege, Insulfoam Territory Manager

Bernard Droege, Insulfoam Territory Manager


Contact Bernard Droege, Insulfoam Territory Manager

Connect with Bernard on LinkedIn


PRODUCT FEATURE: R-Tech Insulated Tilt-Up Wall

A Truly Green, High-Performance & Economical Wall Insulation.

Insulfoam Tilt Up Wall

R-Tech insulated Tilt Up (IT)

R-Tech for Insulated Tilt-up (IT) applications is a high-performance, rigid insulation consisting of a superior closed-cell, lightweight and resilient expanded polystyrene (EPS) with advanced polymeric laminate facers.  R-Tech IT is available with factory laminated MR (metallic-reflective) facer on one exterior side, and a white protective facer on the other exterior side.

The R-Tech facers act as the slip sheet to minimize bonding between the foam, Facia Wythe and Structural Wythe wall.  The  core of R-Tech is the same high-quality as our InsulFoam brand insulations and meets or exceeds the requirements of ASTM C578, Standard Specification for Rigid, Cellular Polystyrene Thermal Insulation.  R-Tech has excellent dimensional stability, compressive strength and water-resistant properties.


R-Tech insulated Tilt-up (IT) is designed for both commercial and residential tilt-up wall applications.


R-Tech IT is available in 4′ x 8′ sheets with thicknesses ranging from 0.5″ to 4.5″.  R-Tech IT can also incorporate the InsulSnap feature which allows the end user to cleanly break the 4′ x 8′ sheets into a desired width.  Custom sizes are available upon request (lengths up to 16′).

Key Product Comparisons

Key Product Comparisons


  • User Friendly.  R-Tech IT can be ordered with the InsulSnap feature which scores the product longitudinally at any pre-ordered interval (commonly 16″ or 24″ o.c.) to accommodate different locations for the tiles.  The InsulSnap feature minimizes labor by enabling the installer to cleanly break the product at the desired width while also minimizing product breakage and waste.
  • Jobsite Durability.  With a polymeric facer on either side of the R-Tech IT, it is an extremely flexible and durable insulation.
  • Water-Resistant.  R-Tech IT facers provide a surface that is virtually impervious to moisture.
  • Stable R-Value.  R-Tech has no thermal drift.  Designers are well served knowing the R-Tech IT thermal properties will remain stable over its entire service life.  R-Tech is eligible for an Insulfoam 20-Year Thermal Performance Warranty – a warranty that’s not prorated or limited to a percentage of the published R-Value.
  • Cost-Effective.  R-Tech is typically less expensive than other cavity wall insulations.
  • Environmentally Friendly.  R-Tech may contain up to 15% recycled material and the foam core is 100% recyclable.
R-Value Comparison

R-Value Comparisons

Product Feature Summary

Product Feature Summary









Tilt Up WallCost-Effective

  • More R-Value per dollar than any other rigid insulation product
  • R-Value doesn’t degrade over time
  • Most cost-effective insulation – typically 25-40% less than other rigid insulations
  • Easy to install – reduces install labor costs by more than 50%
  • Code recognized insulation (ICC-ES, UL) at an economical price
  • Complimentary 20-year thermal performance warranty available

Engineered for Versatility

  • Available in 0.5″ – 4.5″ product thicknesses
  • The right product for any job.  Available in multiple densities, compressive strengths and panels sizes
  • Meet or exceed ASTM C578 requirements.


  • Lightweight panels -easy to install
  • Highly durable, yet resilient
  • Simple to cut in the field with a saw or hot wire kit
  • Custom, job-specific sizes with no additional lead time

Environmentally Sustainable

  • 100% recyclable, may contain up to 20% recycled content
  • High long-term thermal performance (stable R-Value) conserves energy and operational costs
  • Contributes toward LEED energy efficiency points
  • Does not support old or mildew growth for improved indoor air quality (IAQ)
  • Naturally water resistant – does not readily absorb moisture from the environment
  • Regional manufacturing throughout North America reduces transportation costs to job sites, and environmental impact.