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What is a Foam Panel?

By C.L. Rease
Updated May 17, 2024
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Foam panel boards consist of compressed closed cell foam that provides insulation for various parts of vehicles and structures. Each type of foam panel is designed to provide a specific insulating or building function while providing adequate protection against elements that would cause the closed cell foam contained inside the panel to break down. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, chemicals and moisture will affect the longevity of installed panel. Selecting the correct foam panel for a specific application ensures the panel provides the needed amount of insulation while remaining stable in the installed environment.

Unsupported, foil-faced foam panels install on various parts of a structure with an adhesive and are capable of withstanding direct contact with UV light. The metal foil facing on the material reflects UV light shining on the insulated panel, keeping it from contacting the foam panel. Constant inspection of the metal facing is required to ensure no UV light penetrated the protective barrier. When damage is encountered, a metal foil tape is laid over the damaged area to provide a reflective repair that continues to protect the installed insulation. Another type of foam panel uses a similar process to protect the insulation but has the ability to withstand harsher environments and does not damage easily.

Structural insulated panels (SIP) sandwich a foam panel between two pieces of thin sheet metal and are often interlocking panels that act as both a structural component and insulator. The type of sheet metal used in the construction of an SIP panel will vary depending on the environment and use of the finished structure. Stainless steel and aluminum are common sheet metals used to provide exterior support for an SIP panel designed for installation in areas prone to high moisture or excessive temperature changes. Painted mild steel sandwiches SIP panels are used for standalone structures—walk-in coolers—that require additional strength.

Each type of foam or structural insulated panels requires routing cleaning, inspection and maintenance to ensure the panels provide the required insulating value for the application. Damaged and broken down sections of foam panel allow heat transfer between the spaces separated by the panel. A simple visual inspection of the exposed panel surface will show early signs of damage and potential problems. Repairing any nicks, tears or loose sections of foam panel with foil tape or epoxy putties before the panel deteriorates keeps the foam intact and stable.

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