Buyer beware when it comes to XPS

Buyer beware when it comes to XPS

On Saturday when I made my weekly pilgrimage to the big box store hardware store I was horrified to see that they were selling an extruded polystyrene (“XPS”) insulation product that was recommended to be used under home flooring or in the ceiling space.

I have not done any tests on the product but based on studies I have read and seen, in the event of a established fire, XPS aids in the rapid spread of fire and lets off an enormous amount of dangerous black smoke.

This may be a cheap option but before any reader uses it, I would strongly suggest you do your own research on any additional risk you may be bringing into your home.

Townhouses nearly ready for sale

Today, I drove past a soon to be completed block of townhouses, all rendered and painted up to look like rendered massive construction. ‘Massive’ being a long standing insurance term meaning non combustible material such as concrete, brick and the like, with ‘inferior’ being timber and other combustible material.

The same townhouses with the photo taken during construction showing the blocks are made from XPS

The reality is that with this set of townhouses the material over which the render has been applied is again XPS, this time XPS blocks. The blocks are no doubt meant to be filled completely with concrete to give them structural strength.

This photo shows a building where the builder cheated and did not core fill the XPS blocks as required by the engineers. The photo clearly shows the suseptibility of the blockwork to impact from the side

In a Linkedin Article I shared, it shows a major flaw in the product when the XPS blocks are not core filled correctly.

I am not suggesting for one minute that the townhouses mentioned above have this defect. The reality is I do not know. I saw the XPS blocks being put up but never witnessed, let alone supervised, the core filling.

My concerns with this form of construction are:

  1. The townhouse is right beside a busy lane way and will be susceptible to impact damage. Our own building is scraped or hit regularly by trucks but being solid brick, it holds up well.
  2. How well will the material hold up during a hail storm? The XPS will have nowhere near the structural strength of a building which has been built with concrete blocks.
  3. The way the building will respond in the event of a fire.
  4. There is, to my knowledge no Australian standard for waterproofing corners, particularly internal corners and I fear we will have leaky buildings.

My advice for anyone purchasing a town house, home unit or house is to determine with a high degree of certainty what the building is constructed of.

I would hate anyone to get caught with a home or investment property that has an unacceptable level of risk greatly diminishing the value of the property or creating a need to incur additional costs to rectify risks that were not fully understood.

To learn more about the risk you can go to the short course section of LMI RiskCoach and Steve Manning will be posting a special report on the LMI YouTube channel shortly. I will advise when it is up.

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