THe Resource Center Laird Plastics

Everything You Need to Know for Your Next Project

PVC foam board, also known as PVC foam sheet, refers to a lightweight and versatile plastic material composed of two rigid sheets enclosing an inner foam core made primarily of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin combined with foaming agents.

The basic composition of PVC foam boards includes:

  • PVC resin powder - Forms the main component, making up over 70% of the foam board by weight. PVC resin imparts rigidity, weather resistance, and fire retardant properties.
  • Activated light calcium carbonate - Added between 10-20% by weight. This mineral filler enhances the foam density and improves dimensional stability.
  • Foaming aids - Around 2-5% by weight. The foaming aids aid in the expansion of the resin into a uniform closed-cell foam structure. Common foaming aids include azodicarbonamide and zinc compounds.
  • Additional additives - Minute quantities of heat stabilizers, lubricants, and pigments may be included to optimize performance.

The resultant foam board sandwich features a lightweight low-density PVC polymer foam at the core securely bonded between two high-density PVC sheets. The combination of properties makes PVC foam boards ideal for signage, decoration, insulation, and construction applications.

Types of PVC Foam Board

PVC foam boards come in several different types, each with their own unique properties and applications. The main variants include:

PVC Free Foam Board

As the name suggests, PVC free foam board is made without polyvinyl chloride. Instead, it utilizes polypropylene or a blend of polypropylene and polyethylene. PVC free boards are ideal for projects where chemical leaching is a concern. They provide similar strength and durability as traditional PVC materials.

PVC Celuka Foam Board

Celuka foam boards have a closed-cell structure created through an extrusion process. This results in a lightweight board with enhanced thermal insulation properties. PVC Celuka boards are exceptionally smooth and consistent. They work well for signage, model building, and crafts.

PVC Co-Extrusion Foam Board

Co-extrusion foam boards consist of a closed-cell PVC foam core bonded between two layers of plastic coating. The coating improves surface finish while the foam center provides strength. These boards offer weather and moisture resistance. Common uses include exterior signage and marine/boat building.

PVC Laminated Foam Board

Laminated PVC foam boards have a layer of plastic film or paper laminate adhered to one or both sides. The lamination creates a more durable surface and allows for printing. PVC laminated boards see heavy use for visual communications and retail displays.

The range of PVC foam board types allows for selection of the optimal variant based on the demands of the application. Understanding the unique properties and ideal uses of each type is important when choosing a foam board.

Common Quality Issues and Solutions

Like any building material, PVC foam board is susceptible to certain quality issues that can affect its appearance and performance. Being aware of these potential problems and what causes them can help in selecting high-quality foam boards and avoiding defects.


One of the most common complaints with PVC foam boards is discoloration and yellowing over time. This is often the result of exposure to UV radiation from sunlight, which causes the breakdown of chemical additives that help stabilize the foam. Storing boards away from direct sunlight and using UV protective films can minimize discoloration.

Choosing foam boards with higher density and laminated skins is another way to prevent yellowing. The laminate shields the foam from UV rays while higher density foam contains less air pockets to discolor.

Large Foam Cells

Larger air bubbles or foam cells within the core are another imperfection. They form when the foaming process is not carefully controlled. Large cells lead to visible surface defects and pits. They also reduce the foam's structural integrity.

Reputable manufacturers use advanced processes to create foam with consistently tiny cells. Checking the cell structure and surface quality before purchase is advised.

Unsmooth Surfaces

Though foam boards have naturally smooth surfaces from extrusion, improper handling and storage can damage that finish. Scrapes, scratches and dents on the surface detract from appearance and durability.

Avoiding dragging foam boards while handling and storing them flat rather than on edges reduces surface damage. Protective films also maintain smoothness during transport and installation.


PVC foam boards can warp or bend over time when stored incorrectly or exposed to moisture. Laying boards horizontally rather than vertically prevents sagging and warping under their own weight. Keeping them dry and storing with a straight stiff backing minimizes moisture warping.

Using high density PVC foam with symmetrical lamination on both sides also improves resistance to warping and deformation over the long term.

Applications of PVC Foam Board

PVC foam boards have countless applications across various industries thanks to their versatile properties. Here are some of the most common uses:


  • Excellent material for construction panels and partitions due to strength, lightweight nature, and insulation.
  • Widely used for exterior insulation finishing systems (EIFS) on walls.
  • Suitable as a core material for doors, partitions, and structural projects.
  • Can be easily shaped into moldings, cornices, and trim pieces.
  • Ideal substrate for tile backer boards in wet areas.


  • Lightweight alternative to wood in RV sidewalls, allowing for better gas mileage.
  • Bonded composites used to build truck bodies and motorhome exteriors.
  • High-strength boards used for flooring, walls, ceilings and cabinets in RVs and trailers.


  • Widely used as a substrate for printed signs, dimensional letters, logos, and displays.
  • Versatility allows sign makers to get creative with cutting, carving, routing and 3D effects.
  • Durability and weather resistance make it ideal for both indoor and outdoor signage.


  • Provides a durable, moisture-resistant surface for furniture, cabinetry, and countertops.
  • Easily machined to create decorative moldings, edging, raised panels, and table legs.
  • Bonded with laminate/veneer for an affordable furniture surface.


  • Suitable for substrates in laser cutting, die cutting, print mounting, and other decorative uses.
  • Commonly used for exhibits, displays, seasonal decor, theater sets, and art projects.
  • Can be painted, stenciled, carved, or laminated for diverse decorative finishes.
  • Lightweight boards facilitate handling and installation.

The lightweight yet sturdy nature of PVC foam boards makes them suitable for nearly any interior or exterior application where strength, durability and design flexibility are required. Their water resistance provides an added level of protection in high-moisture environments.

Advantages Over Other Materials

PVC foam board offers numerous performance advantages compared to traditional materials used for decoration, construction, signage, and furniture.

Water Resistance

PVC foam board is highly waterproof and moisture resistant. The water absorption rate of PVC foam boards is only 0.08%, making it ideal for outdoor use and humid environments. PVC does not corrode or degrade when exposed to water. This gives PVC foam boards superior longevity compared to wood and metal which can warp, swell, rot, or rust when wet.

Corrosion Resistance

PVC foam boards do not corrode due to their plastic composition. They maintain their strength and appearance even in saline environments near oceans. Metals, on the other hand, are prone to corrosion, oxidation, and material fatigue.

Fire Resistance

PVC foam boards are inherently fire-retardant and self-extinguishing. They achieve Class B1 fire ratings, with low smoke density and toxicity. In a fire, PVC chars but does not readily ignite. This makes it safer than combustible materials like wood, paper, and cotton.

High Strength

The closed-cell structure of PVC foam board gives it high compressive strength. PVC foam boards have excellent strength-to-weight ratios, with high rigidity despite low density. They can withstand over 10 times more weight than wood panels of the same thickness. The high strength of PVC makes it suitable for load-bearing applications.

In summary, PVC foam boards outperform traditional materials in waterproofing, corrosion resistance, fire safety, and structural strength. Their durability and performance justify the use of PVC foam boards across industries.


What is PVC foam board made of?

PVC foam board is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin powder combined with calcium carbonate and other foaming agents. The foaming agents create air pockets in the material, giving PVC foam boards their characteristic lightweight, smooth, and rigid structure.

Is PVC foam board waterproof?

Yes, PVC foam board is waterproof. The PVC polymer itself is watertight, preventing moisture absorption or penetration. This makes PVC foam great for both indoor and outdoor applications where water exposure is a concern.

How fire resistant is PVC foam board?

PVC foam board meets strict fire safety standards and is considered self-extinguishing. It achieves Class A or Class 1 fire ratings, meaning it does not significantly contribute to flame spread or smoke development in the event of a fire. The material chars rather than burns when exposed to flames.

What are the disadvantages of using PVC foam board?

Some potential disadvantages include:

  • Initial cost may be higher than some rigid foam boards.
  • Not recommended for prolonged UV or sunlight exposure as it can cause discoloration.
  • Difficult to recycle compared to some plastic or paper-based boards.
  • Contains PVC resin which some may consider ecologically unfriendly.
  • Prone to denting if subjected to point impacts or compression.

How strong and durable is PVC foam board?

PVC foam board offers high strength and durability properties. With a density of around 5 to 18 pounds per cubic foot, it can withstand harsh weather conditions as well as wear and tear from regular handling and use. Properly cared for, PVC foam boards can last over 10 years even in demanding exterior applications.

How thick does PVC foam board come in?

PVC foam board thickness ranges from 1/8 inch to one inch or more. Common sizes are 1/4 inch, 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, and 1 inch. The thickness required depends on the application and desired rigidity, weight, and durability.

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