Foam Insulation Wall Panels

An increasing number of houses are being built with foam board, also known as rigid foam, core panels these days.

They attract many people because of their high insulation value and the ease and speed in construction.

Foam board wall panels can be used in homes, or in garages. In my last home, we used them to insulate our detached garage.

Rigid foam or foam board wall insulation can be used to insulate almost any part of your home, from the roof down all the way down to the foundation.

They provide good thermal resistance and often add structural strength to your home.

Foam board wall insulation reduces heat conduction through structural elements, such as wood and steel studs.

Foam board insulation panels are slabs of foam insulation sandwiched between two facings, or "skins." These skins include metal, drywall, and/or structural wood composition sheathing, such as plywood, waferboard, or oriented strand board (OSB).

The greatest advantage of these panels is that they provide ample insulation for a home’s outer structure, and often provide homeowners with a higher R-value per inch compared to other more traditional styles of insulation.
When constructed and installed properly, they also are more airtight than stud framing. This inhibits energy loss in the winter and summer, making the home very energy-efficient and saving on your utility bills.

The two basic types of foam-core panels are structural and non-structural. When used in house construction, structural insulated panels may make up the primary structural support. These panels are remarkably strong: a wall with two, half-inch thick OSB skins is nearly three times stronger than a conventional 2´4 inch stud wall.

Although non-structural foam-core panels are not designed to provide primary structural support, they may be used to enclose curtain-wall structures like timber frames. Sometimes drywall is the only interior sheathing option for these wall panels.

Foam core panels are a key component of "panelized housing," where specific fabrication occurs in a factory. The builder needs only to assemble the pieces on the site. It takes as little as one to three days to fully erect and weatherproof the shell of a foam-core, panelized house.

Openings in the panels, such as for doors and windows, may be precut at the factory or cut with standard tools by the builder at the construction site.

Foam core wall insulation panels use a rigid-insulation core made of one of three plastics:

  • Expanded polystyrene (EPS)
  • Polyurethane
  • Polyisocyanurate, a polyurethane derivative

Manufacturers are examining ways of using cementitious or fibrous core insulating materials in place of the plastic insulations.

Foam-core panel walls are superior to conventional walls in a number of ways. Foam-core panels combine a high level of insulation with speed and ease of construction.

Unlike certain types of insulation, which lose some of their insulation value when exposed to moisture, normal home moisture levels do not significantly affect the R-value of foam-core panels.

The solid foam core virtually eliminates air convection within the walls and thermal bridges through wood studs and insulation voids. The panels also reduce air infiltration that, with proper installation, makes a tightly sealed house.

Installing rigid foam wall panels is fairly easy, as long as there is no drywall hung over the area you need to insulate. Installing the foam wall insulation boards is as easy as screwing it over the existing wood studs, or in-between them, and then finishing the wall with drywall and paint.

And unlike typical insulation, there is no need for protective gloves. In our garage, we simply screwed the foam wall insulation boards over the studs in the walls and ceilings, cutting out access points for the electrical boxes and outlets and tracking system for the garage door opener. In a 20X20 garage, we did the project within a day.

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