What Is Geofoam? The Complete Guide to EPS Geofoam

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Geofoam, a revolutionary material in construction and civil engineering, has been making waves for its exceptional properties and versatility. If you’ve ever wondered what Geofoam is and how it can be applied, this comprehensive guide can tell you everything about geofoam.

What Is Geofoam?

Geofoam, short for “geosynthetic foam,” is a lightweight material used extensively in construction projects.

Geofoam is the light-weight building block, manufactured of expanded polystyrene or extruded polystyrene.

What Is EPS Geofoam Made From?

EPS Geofoam, or Expanded Polystyrene Geofoam, is a lightweight, rigid foam material used in various construction and civil engineering applications.

The primary component of EPS Geofoam is expanded polystyrene, a type of plastic foam derived from styrene monomers. Here’s a breakdown of the key components and manufacturing process:

  1. Expanded Polystyrene (EPS): EPS is a thermoplastic material derived from the polymerization of styrene. The manufacturing process involves the expansion of polystyrene beads through the application of heat and steam. This results in a lightweight and closed-cell foam structure.
  2. Pentane Gas: During the expansion process, the blowing agent used is often pentane, a hydrocarbon gas. This gas expands within the polystyrene beads, causing them to fuse together and create the characteristic foam structure. Pentane is chosen for its low environmental impact and compatibility with the EPS production process.
  3. Molding Process: The expanded polystyrene beads are then molded into large blocks or sheets of EPS Geofoam. The molding process ensures uniform density and the desired shape for specific applications.
  4. Physical Properties: EPS Geofoam is known for its exceptional lightness, typically having a density ranging from 11 to 15 kilograms per cubic meter (0.7 to 0.9 pounds per cubic foot). Despite its low weight, it exhibits high compressive strength, making it suitable for load-bearing applications in construction.
  5. Inert and Stable: EPS Geofoam is inert and stable, resistant to water, moisture, and most chemicals. This property makes it durable and suitable for use in various environmental conditions.
  6. Applications: EPS Geofoam is commonly used in construction projects for applications such as lightweight fill, slope stabilization, void fill, and insulation. Its low weight makes it an ideal choice for reducing loads on structures and improving overall construction efficiency.
  7. Environmental Considerations: While EPS is recyclable, it’s important to note that some recycling facilities may not accept EPS Geofoam due to its large size and low density. However, efforts are ongoing to explore environmentally friendly disposal options, such as recycling and reusing EPS materials in different applications.

EPS Geofoam is a versatile and lightweight material made primarily from expanded polystyrene, designed to address specific engineering and construction challenges where the combination of low weight and high strength is advantageous.

Advantages of Geofoam

Geofoam, specifically Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Geofoam, offers several advantages in various construction and civil engineering applications due to its unique characteristics. Here are some key advantages of using Geofoam:

Lightweight: Geofoam is extremely lightweight, making it significantly easier to handle and transport compared to traditional fill materials such as soil or gravel. Its low weight reduces the overall load on underlying soils and structures.

High Compressive Strength: Despite its lightweight nature, Geofoam exhibits high compressive strength. This allows it to effectively support heavy loads without undergoing significant deformation, making it suitable for load-bearing applications in construction.

Reduced Earth Pressure: The lightweight nature of Geofoam minimizes the lateral earth pressure exerted on retaining walls and other structures. This can lead to cost savings and design flexibility in projects where reducing lateral loads is crucial.

Ease of Installation: Geofoam is easy to cut, shape, and install, making it a time-efficient solution for construction projects. Its lightweight properties also contribute to faster installation compared to traditional fill materials.

Thermal Insulation: Geofoam has inherent thermal insulation properties, providing an additional benefit in applications where temperature control is important. It can be used to insulate foundations, roads, and other structures, contributing to energy efficiency.

Inert and Durable: EPS Geofoam is inert and resistant to water, moisture, and most chemicals. This makes it a durable material that maintains its structural integrity over time, even in challenging environmental conditions.

Reduced Settlement: Geofoam’s low compressibility minimizes settlement, which is particularly advantageous in situations where differential settlement could lead to structural issues. This can be crucial in applications like highway construction.

Customizable Shapes: Geofoam can be easily molded into custom shapes and sizes to fit specific project requirements. This flexibility allows engineers and builders to create tailored solutions for a wide range of applications.

Environmentally Friendly Options: Some Geofoam products are manufactured with environmentally friendly blowing agents, and efforts are ongoing to explore recycling options for EPS materials. This can contribute to sustainability goals in construction projects.

Versatility in Applications: Geofoam finds applications in various construction projects, including embankment and slope stabilization, lightweight fill for road construction, foundation support, and void fill behind retaining walls.

Lightweight Nature

Geofoam’s primary advantage lies in its lightweight composition, making it significantly lighter than traditional fill materials. This characteristic reduces overall structural load and transportation costs.

High Compressive Strength

Despite its lightweight nature, Geofoam boasts impressive compressive strength, providing excellent support for various construction applications.

Insulating Properties

The closed-cell structure of EPS Geofoam also grants it insulating properties, enhancing its effectiveness in applications requiring thermal resistance.

Geofoam Applications

Geofoam, specifically Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Geofoam, has a wide range of applications in the field of civil engineering and construction due to its lightweight and versatile nature. Here’s an explanation of its use in various applications:

Retaining Wall Backfill:

Geofoam is used as lightweight backfill material behind retaining walls. Its low weight reduces lateral earth pressure on the wall, minimizing the structural load and potential wall deformation.

Lightweight Road Construction:

Geofoam is used as fill material in road construction. Its lightweight nature reduces the overall load on the subgrade, decreasing settlement and providing a cost-effective alternative to traditional, heavier fill materials.

Bridge Abutment Fill:

Geofoam serves as a lightweight fill material around bridge abutments. It reduces the load on the bridge foundation, lessening settlement and potential structural issues. The lightweight nature simplifies construction and transportation.

Plaza Deck Construction:

Geofoam is used in the construction of plaza decks and elevated surfaces. Its lightweight properties contribute to a reduced structural load, making it suitable for projects where weight is a critical consideration.

Stadium Seating Support:

Geofoam is employed to create lightweight support for stadium seating. Its low weight facilitates the construction of elevated seating areas without adding excessive load to the underlying structure.

Foundation Fill:

Geofoam serves as fill material for building foundations. It minimizes settlement and provides uniform support for the structure, particularly in areas with challenging soil conditions.

Utility Protection:

Geofoam is used to protect underground utilities. Its lightweight and easy-to-handle nature make it a practical solution for creating protective barriers around utilities without causing excessive stress on the pipes or cables.

Slope Stabilization:

Geofoam is employed to stabilize slopes and prevent erosion. Its lightweight characteristic reduces the load on the slope, making it an effective solution for stabilizing embankments and preventing soil movement.

Building Fill:

Geofoam is used as fill material in building construction. It minimizes settlement, provides uniform support, and aids in creating level surfaces, particularly in areas with soft or compressible soils.

These applications highlight the versatility of Geofoam in addressing various engineering challenges, offering advantages such as reduced structural loads, ease of installation, and improved performance in specific construction scenarios. Engineers and builders often consider Geofoam as a valuable solution to optimize construction processes and enhance the longevity of structures.

Geofoam vs. Traditional Fill Materials

Comparative Analysis

When compared to traditional fill materials like soil or gravel, Geofoam stands out due to its lightweight nature, reducing the load on underlying structures.

Cost-Effectiveness and Efficiency

Despite its initial cost, Geofoam often proves more cost-effective in the long run, considering reduced transportation costs and labor associated with its installation.

Environmental Impact

Geofoam boasts eco-friendly aspects, as EPS is a recyclable material. Its use reduces the demand for traditional fill materials, contributing to sustainability in construction.


In conclusion, Geofoam stands as a game-changer in the construction industry, offering a lightweight, sturdy, and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional fill materials.

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