15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

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sharke
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15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby sharke » Sun Dec 10, 2017 6:50 pm

I would like build a large wall-like structure, about 15' tall and 12' wide. It will be a sculpture of sorts, and serve as a facade in front of the entrance to a geodesic dome.

Here's a video of project which is serving as inspiration:


My current idea is to carve the sculpture using 6 separate 4' x 8' styrofoam blocks, and link them together on the playa. I am looking for general advice and for thoughts on 2 specific issues:

1) What's a good way to attach the foam blocks to each other on the playa? One idea I had was to drive long thin metal skewers (e.g. bbq skewers) through one piece of foam into its neighbor, at a diagonal angle.

2) What's a good way to keep the wall from blowing over? I plan to cut large holes and slots to allow wind to pass through, but of course I would like to have additional support as well.

One idea I have is based on a general technique that I've had success with in the past out there - embedding a thick piece of rebar into the playa and then slotting a pvc or emt pole over it. If I could figure out a way to "drill" a long cylindrical hole from the bottom of the foam blocks to their tops, then I could stack them over these poles. 10' poles would be tall enough to go through the lower level blocks and extend into the upper level blocks.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or advice!

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BBadger
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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby BBadger » Mon Dec 11, 2017 1:35 am

You should probably not construct anything out of styrofoam for use on the playa. That material is too liable to break apart and become MOOP unless you're planning on coating it with something.

If you need something like foam, you might want to look into something like expanded polyethylene or something like that, which keeps together much easier.

To keep the wall upright, I'd use the same techniques that real bricks use, and reinforce the wall with rebar running through holes in the bricks/stones and then maybe taping the back or something so they stay together.

You should also consider just making the components of the structure out of wood for strength and structure. Foam is best when used for stage sets and stuff that needs to be moved into place quickly and with few people, or for structures that you want to have break apart, like someone jumping through a wall.
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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby FlyingMonkey » Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:14 am

Build it & they will come.
--They will climb
--They will break
--Wind will blow
--You will have an uncontrollable moop problem

Consider a different building material that can withstand asshats who feel compelled to break shit, not to mention the winds that can come from anywhere.

The wall in the video didn't look like it would handle much abuse at all. Maybe if it was foam with a hard shell (fiberglass) you could do it. But you would still need a kickass LNT plan.

I don't want to be one to tell you it's a bad idea & not to even try but you need to consider the abuse it will receive from Burners & the environment. We had one hell of a dust devil go through our camp last year & it twisted a carport like it was made out of pipe cleaners. It happens. Even my heavy carport that was securely re-bared down too some damage. (should have used Lags)
Last edited by FlyingMonkey on Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby ygmir » Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:21 am

both answers already given cover what I was going to say.
Remember, gust can top 60 mph. holes and slots sound great, but the sail you're making there will catch a lot of wind. I'd say you'll need/want diagonal pracing, tension and compression if it's only on one side.
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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby FlyingMonkey » Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:45 am

ygmir wrote:both answers already given cover what I was going to say.
Remember, gust can top 60 mph. holes and slots sound great, but the sail you're making there will catch a lot of wind. I'd say you'll need/want diagonal pracing, tension and compression if it's only on one side.


+++ Diagonal bracing
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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby Ratty » Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:12 am

Styrofoam comes in many forms. We are all acquainted with the one that breaks into millions of tiny balls. (That's great if you want to fill a bean bag chair.) There are other kinds. Such as the ones used as pontoons. I would do some research and ask some real experts. You may be on to something. Let us know what you come up with.
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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby FlyingMonkey » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:26 am

Ratty wrote:Styrofoam comes in many forms. We are all acquainted with the one that breaks into millions of tiny balls. (That's great if you want to fill a bean bag chair.) There are other kinds. Such as the ones used as pontoons. I would do some research and ask some real experts. You may be on to something. Let us know what you come up with.


I'm no expert, but I am real. And as far as I know "Styrofoam" in any form has the potential to be a MOOP disaster.

For god's sake, can you imagine a 15' wall of Styrofoam getting hit by a Playa down-burst? I can & it's a horrible image. How would you even clean that up?

I was basing my answer on the video, nothing more, & Yes there are other foams to work with but for a project that size they could get real pricey. I have never seen a polystyrene (in any form) that would stand up to people climbing on it or a 70 MPH wind. Polystyrene is so light because it has a lot of airspace. That alone makes it susceptible to damage if it's not encapsulated in a resin or fiberglass (or something else).

Usually "flotation foam" is a 2 part liquid polyurethane (not the same as Styrofoam) which can be very strong but is not as light as Styrofoam & can get expensive.

Like I said before I'm not discouraging the project (I think it's a cool idea) but the builder needs to be smart about the building materials. The foam wall as depicted in the video would not hold up to climbers or a strong wind (2 things it will encounter on Playa).

Also, if you have never worked with foam or specifically heated cutters be sure to shape it in a well ventilated area & wear an appropriate mask. Those fumes are no joke.

Sharke, I am interested to see what you come up with. Keep posting once you start your build. I like the idea, just not the material. Another thing you may consider is to not make the wall out of solid blocks and only apply the facade to a base material. Those solid blocks are huge cost a lot. I don't know how far you travel but every square cubic inch is precious to me when packing.




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Here's a company that I have purchased from before. You may find cheaper prices but this site also has good information about the products.

http://www.fibreglast.com/category/Foam

Never bought from this site but it looks like 1 stop foam shopping.

http://www.usafoam.com/closedcellfoam/polystyrene.html
---Full 4'x8'x4' blocks are expensive
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sharke
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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby sharke » Tue Dec 12, 2017 8:21 pm

Ha, I knew I could count on you guys to point out some of the challenges in this plan! Thanks for the words of caution and suggestions.

Good points about considering alternate types of foam. I have been researching both expanding and extruded foam. Foam appeals to me for this project because it is light weight and it can be sculpted easily (my "wall" will actually be a sculpture, instead of sculpted rocks).

I definitely agree that coating / sealing the foam will be essential in order to toughen up the surface and make it less moopy. I've started researching options there as well.

I get it that people will want to climb it and that it's possible that someone might damage it (or themselves) in doing so, but I'm not sure that I'm ready to concede that everything we take to the playa must therefore be climbable. This piece will also be in our camp, so, while we won't be able to constantly monitor it, that may make it slightly less prone to abuse than standalone installations.

However, your warnings have actually made me want to be prepared to take down the structure after our big camp party and/or when a major dust storm hits. Maybe these precautions, along with "do not climb" signs (ha!) will reduce (but obviously not eliminate) the chances of damage from burners and dust storms?

Still, making it strong (or porous) enough to hold up to the wind is my primary concern right now, and I'm taking your reminders about the power of the wind out there very seriously. I agree that diagonal bracing will be essential.

Actually, a related question that I've been considering is whether it would be a good idea to try to add support for the wall by attaching it to the geodesic dome which will sit behind it. I'm not sure if that would make the wall more stable or just risk making the dome less so.
Last edited by sharke on Tue Dec 12, 2017 8:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby sharke » Tue Dec 12, 2017 8:24 pm

FlyingMonkey wrote:Sharke, I am interested to see what you come up with. Keep posting once you start your build. I like the idea, just not the material. Another thing you may consider is to not make the wall out of solid blocks and only apply the facade to a base material. Those solid blocks are huge cost a lot. I don't know how far you travel but every square cubic inch is precious to me when packing.

Oh yeah, I'm all about keeping the packing footprint as small (and light) as possible. Can you elaborate on what you mean by "not make the wall out of solid blocks and only apply the facade to a base material?"
Here's a company that I have purchased from before. You may find cheaper prices but this site also has good information about the products.

Thanks for the links!

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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby FlyingMonkey » Wed Dec 13, 2017 6:25 am

sharke wrote:
FlyingMonkey wrote:Sharke, I am interested to see what you come up with. Keep posting once you start your build. I like the idea, just not the material. Another thing you may consider is to not make the wall out of solid blocks and only apply the facade to a base material. Those solid blocks are huge cost a lot. I don't know how far you travel but every square cubic inch is precious to me when packing.

Oh yeah, I'm all about keeping the packing footprint as small (and light) as possible. Can you elaborate on what you mean by "not make the wall out of solid blocks and only apply the facade to a base material?"
Here's a company that I have purchased from before. You may find cheaper prices but this site also has good information about the products.

Thanks for the links!


From your OP it sounded like you were going to make it out of solid 4'x8'x4' blocks. Those are huge & expensive. I just don't see any advantage to having a solid core. I merely suggest that you have a strong internal support & have the center be hollow, and apply the "rock wall" like a brick veneer to the base. If the illusion of a wall is only intended for the front as you enter your camp all the better. Then the back/camp facing side can be as bare or otherwise decorated as needed. (Great place for a bar/DJ/Camp Swag/bike parking)

Part of your challenge is making it capable of surviving a strong wind. You may never face a Playa down burst but you have to build it to withstand one. That's a lot of surface area & someone really smart will probably do the math & tell you how many pounds/square inch for every 5 mph of wind. If you make it really strong then maybe it's just a matter of good anchoring. Otherwise you may have to figure out a way for it to partially separate & lay flat in a huge gust. Either way if it's not strong enough to take the wind head-on you need to make it so it can deflect or move with the wind to reduce the force.

I think it's a cool idea and these are just my thoughts on the matter. I'm no expert & others will chime in I'm sure.
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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby Popeye » Wed Dec 13, 2017 3:10 pm

I agree with the posters who aid that styrofoam and urethane would not be strong enough to withstand the wind. How about sandwiching a fence inside the wall? Chicken wire might not be strong enough but concrete reinforcing wire or going all the way to chain link would work. Concrete reinforming ties horizontially through the wall could hold it together.
You would still have the climbing problem.
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torrey.smith
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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby torrey.smith » Wed Dec 13, 2017 7:40 pm

Styrafoam is ultra, ultra, ultra moopey.
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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby torrey.smith » Wed Dec 13, 2017 7:41 pm

That said, I can help you ground anchor your project.
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sharke
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Re: 15' wall made of polystyrene / styrofoam?

Postby sharke » Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:05 am

torrey.smith wrote:That said, I can help you ground anchor your project.

Torrey, thank you very much for this offer. I could really benefit from your expertise.


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