Polyisocyanurate, also called polyiso, a thermosetting type of plastic, is a closed-cell foam that contains a low-conductivity gas (usually hydrochlorofluorocarbons or HCFC) in its cells. The high thermal resistance of the gas gives polyisocyanurate insulation materials an R-value typically around R-7 to R-8 per inch.


extruded polyisocyanurate board


Polyisocyanurate insulation is available as a liquid, sprayed foam, and rigid foam board. It can also be made into laminated insulation panels with a variety of facings. Foamed-in-place applications of polyisocyanurate insulation are usually cheaper than installing foam boards. They also usually perform better since the liquid foam molds itself to all of the surfaces.


Over time, the R-value of polyisocyanurate insulation can drop as some of the low-conductivity gas escapes and air replaces it. This phenomenon is known as thermal drift. Experimental data indicates that most thermal drift occurs within the first two years after the insulation material is manufactured. The R-value then slowly decreases. For example, if the insulation has an initial R-value of R-9 per inch, it will probably eventually drop to R-7 per inch. The R-value then remains unchanged unless the foam is damaged.


Foil and plastic facings on rigid, polyisocyanurate foam panels can help stabilize the R-value. Testing suggests that the stabilized R-value of rigid foam with metal foil facings remains unchanged after 10 years. Reflective foil, if installed correctly, can also act as a radiant barrier, which adds another R-2 to the overall thermal resistance. Panels with foil facings have stabilized R-values of R-7.1 to R-8.7 per inch.