The Best Glue For Polystyrene / Stryofoam - Model Railway Engineer

The Best Glue For Polystyrene / Stryofoam

2 comments 2 Intermediate 2 Comments

Just a quick post on the what is best glue for Styrofoam and Polystyrene expanded foam, both hugely popular making landscape, hills and inclines.

Styrofoam and Polystyrene are one of my favorite building materials for landscapes, especially on small layouts or those in a spare room where I might not want or be able to build more elaborate hills, cliffs and inclines from other heavier more permanent materials. With a bit a shaping (see Where Next below for a suitable tool) and a top coat of plaster cloth very credible landscapes can be quickly knocked up.

Before going further, it’s probably worth just clarifying the material I’m referring to here.

Is it Polystyrene, Styrofoam or Expanded Polystyrene Foam?

Although often used interchangeably these terms shouldn’t be confused.

The material I’m gluing here is expanded Polystyrene expanded foam. It’s available in sheet and block format and most often used for packaging but is great for landscape modeling. Typically white in colour, the expanded foam variant is made of small beads giving a light-weight, soft corky, texture. It’s easy — although messy — to work with and can be cut with a knife or hot blade (the fumes are from heating foam board are highly poisonous and this should only be done in well ventilated areas — I do it in my shed with the extractor fan running).

If you’re interested, it’s made by expanding Polystyrene beads under heat and bonding them together.

Styrofoam meanwhile is blue in colour and most often used in building construction – for pipe insulation etc – and while it’s is often mistakenly used as a generic name for expanded Polystyrene foam it’s actually the brand name for the product from Dow Chemical Company.

Polystyrene – in its non-expanded form – has completely different properties to the expanded foam variety. It’s a hard plastic, usually in sheet form, and used as the construction material for many of the model kit buildings on layouts. I won’t discuss the glue for this in this post.

What Not To Use For Gluing Styrofoam and Polystyrene

Just before getting to the best glue to use, it’s worth nothing that there are two glue types you definitely don’t want to be using with Polystyrene foam boards.

These are the hot-glue varieties in glue-guns, the heat will melt the foam, and the super glues type adhesives which will dissolve the foam boards.

So, What Is the Best Glue

glueHaving experimented with different glues over the years, I’ve found this vinyl acetate glue to be the best substance for fixing Polystyrene foam board and Styrofoam to baseboards and together — for building up layers on hills etc.

It’s easy to apply, work with (spillages can just be wiped away), it’s cheap  and forms a strong bond when set.

Another reason I like this glue in particular is that it’s still easy to cut through for later detailing and shaping, even once dry. While other glues hold the foam together (no more nails and epoxy substances in particular) they can produce a hard barrier that’s difficult to cut into.



Where next?

  • You can get Polystryene  foam boards in high street DIY shops.
  • For gluing styrofoam and Polystryene  use the above glue which is available for next day delivery (at the time of writing) via Amazon here.
  • For cutting and shaping Styrofoam and Polystyrene, I use Nordstrand’s cutter hot wire knife again from Amazon here.


Links to products in this article may take you to Amazon under their affiliate scheme. This means that while the price to you does not change I get a small commission on any products bought at Amazon which contributes towards the running of this website. Neither Amazon or any supplier provided products in return for this review.

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  1. Liam Tobin - June 12, 2017

    Silicone sealant for bathrooms or kitchens, sticks like the proverbial to a blanket. Just a smear will do. Completely inert, will not melt anything. I’ve been using it for years to stick all sorts.

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