The Best Glue For polystyrene / stryofoam boards - Model Railway Engineer

The Best Glue For polystyrene / stryofoam boards

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Just a quick post on the best glue to use for Polystyrene expanded foam and Styrofoam used for making hills and inclines.

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 modelling. 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 always do it outdoors).

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

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 superglues type adhesives which will dissolve the foam boards.

So, What Is the Best Glue For Polystyrene Foam

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 itself – 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.



Tips For Glueing Polystyrene Foam Board

  • Apply the glue to both surfaces being glued.
  • Rub the foam board being glued side to side to get rid of air bubbles and ensure an even coating
  • Use heavy objects or clamps to achieve a strong, enduring, bond. The pot the glue comes in, filled with glue or water, makes a great weight if you don’t have clamps. If you do use clamps, place a piece of wood between the clamp and Polystyrene foam board so as not to damage or compress the foam.
  • If gluing two Polystyrene foam boards together, place a sheet of newspaper between them – think sandwich. This will provide a much stronger join.
  • Insert pins and/or wire at angles through the boards to hold them in place while gluing.
  • There are other makes and varieties of this glue, all of which work just as well but I like the viscosity of this one the most.

Where next?

You can get Polystryene  foam boards in high street DIY shops. The glue discussed above is available 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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