The polystyrene building panel has emerged as a viable alternative to tile and stone installations when it comes to indoor shower and bathroom environments.
While polystyrene building panels are most commonly associated with the external cladding attached to outside walls, the resilience and strength which permits their installation upon exterior also makes them an ideal candidate for use in moist, indoor environments such as showers and bathrooms.
A number of the building materials which are traditionally used for indoor bathrooms are actually ill-suited to moist environments and often require extensive waterproofing prior to installation.
While wood and stone are often employed in bathrooms as either structural or external elements, these materials are highly susceptible to change following prolonged exposure to moisture should waterproofing measures fall short.
Wood can warp once moisture sets in, and can expand or contract in response to temperature changes, both of which can affect its structural integrity. Stone can become discoloured following lengthy contact with moisture, which can significantly diminish the aesthetic appeal of popular staples for the bathroom such as marble.
In addition to its ability to compromise structural integrity or aesthetic appearance, moisture can also cause some building materials, such as drywall and gypsum board, to become highly susceptible to infestation of mould and bacteria.
The polystyrene building panels which emerged little more than a decade ago and which are commonly used as exterior cladding are a thoroughly modern form of construction material. They are made from a high-density polystyrene which is low in weight yet highly resilient, and possesses sufficient strength to perform backing or structural support roles for indoor installations such as walls and benches.
The panels typically range from 4.5 millimetres to five centimetres in thickness, and are rendered waterproof by covering both sides of the material with the appropriate type of facer. The products also possess significant thermal and acoustic insulating properties because of the high-density polystyrene that they contain at their core.
The strength of the panels and their ability to weather exposure to moisture as well as temperature fluctuations without ill effect makes them ideal for use in moist indoor environments as an alternative to conventional bathroom materials such as tiles.
The resilience of building panels is matched by their longevity, with experts contending that they enjoy a minimum life cycle of a half-century and can be used for just as long as tile or stone.
Another feature favouring the use of the building panels in a bathroom setting is their low level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which is key factor when it comes to the maintenance of indoor air quality.
They can also be handled and manipulated with ease, as the polystyrene material can be cut into almost any shape using the appropriate tools. This makes them ideal for installation in bathroom environments, which can possess highly variable layouts and finicky configurations of space.
Ease of handling and shaping can also speed up the installation process, which in turns lead to major savings when it comes to time and labour costs.
Builders around the world are already discovering the advantages of polystyrene building panels when it comes to shower and bathroom settings.
A luxury resort in the Grand Cayman Islands used building panels to cover the tub surrounds of the oval-shaped bathtubs in their suites. A computer numerical control (CNC) device was used to cut and shape the building panels prior to delivery, with each tub surround taking less than a day for a two-person team to install.
The strength of building panels facilitated the construction of the novel bathrooms at a corporate office in Reno, Nevada, whose design involved the installation of lengthy communal sinks serving multiple faucets.
The single-drain sinks themselves were made using polystyrene building panels, whose low weight and resilience enabled the structures to be suspended from steel fittings on the walls as though cantilevered.