As I mentioned in a previous article, foam is one of my favorite building materials for set and props because of its light weight , low cost, and versatility. However, using the wrong adhesives can end in disaster if you are unaware that some glues dissolve foam. Choosing foam adhesives can be a daunting task if you’ve never done so.
I still remember the first time that I tried to put foam together: You can imagine my horror as I watched my foam dissolve before my very eyes after applying glue. I quickly realized that not all glues were created equally. There are many adhesives that will work and just as many, if not more, that won’t. Here’s a list to help make your foam adhesive selection easier, although I would still recommend always testing a swatch before using any foam adhesive to make sure that it won’t end up destroying your foam.
1. Construction Adhesives (specified for foam)
One of my personal favorites for foamboard is foam construction adhesives such as Loctite PL 300 Foamboard VOC Latex Construction Adhesive, Loctite Power Grab All Purpose Construction Adhesive, or Liquid Nails LN604 Projects & Foamboard Adhesive. Construction adhesives will melt with 2 lb. foam though, so stick with foamboard when using it. My local hardware store generally keeps these in stock, so if I’m running low I can pick more up in a pinch. You’ll need a standard caulk gun for dispensing these. The Loctite Power Grab can be purchased with a pressurized applicator equipped with a trigger for easy dispensing. It is easy soap and water clean up and dries slightly faster than Liquid Nails. Also, the pressurized container is much less likely to dry out.
- Use Drywall Screws and Washers to hold the foamboard in place until dry for scenic pieces. What I don’t like about Liquid Nails is that it is not easy clean up. You definitely don’t want to get it on your clothes.
Also known as Green Glue, 3M 30NF Green Fastbond Contact Adhesive is another trusted brand. It is a water based contact adhesive that has a low VOCs (volatile organic compounds). It comes in a variety of sizes from quart to 55 gallon drums. Although costly, it adheres well to a variety of materials, won’t eat away at the foam, and a little goes a long way. To use, apply it to both surfaces and let it dry completely; then stick them together (bonds on contact). Also, use it as a primer for ETHA Foam to keep paint from flaking off of it.
Original Gorilla Glue (comes in brown or clear) is readily available at most stores. It can be brushed or rolled onto both surfaces. Wait about 15 minutes for it to dry and then stick the surfaces together. The downside is that it is very difficult to clean up and once it dries, it is nearly impossible to clean. You won’t want to get it on your hands as it will stick for several days. It will also ruin your clothing if you get it on them.
4. GREAT STUFF
GREAT STUFF Insulating Foam Sealant will adhere to pretty much anything, but if not clamped, it will push apart your foam because it expands as it dries. It’s also somewhat costly for adhesion purposes for how much you get in a can, is harder to control than other options, and is a nightmare to clean up. However, it is readily available at most hardware stores. If you choose this option, be sure to prepare your work surface with plastic or newspaper, but if you happen to get any on the floor or counter, let it dry completely, and it will usually pop right off.
5. Glidden Gripper
While not an adhesive, Glidden Gripper is a primer that works well to bond foamboard and white bead foam when weighted down and left to dry. In fact, it creates one of the strongest bonds I’ve encountered.
Wilsonart H2O is a water based, low VOC, nonflammable contact cement designed as an alternative for locations where flammable solvents are prohibited or regulated by local air quality regulations. Spray, roller or brush applied, this low odor and high solids contact adhesive is designed to have a superior bonding strength, high/economical coverage rate, and heat resistance.
Double Sided Adhesive Tape by Odowalker is incredibly strong and will stick to pretty much anything! Weight it overnight for best results. This tape is great for all sorts of projects (not just foam related), so I recommend having it on hand.
8. Spray Adhesives
3M 78 Polystyrene Foam Insulation Spray Adhesive comes in an aerosol can and is fast drying. It is designed specifically for insulation foam and is meant not to eat it away. 3M Foam Fast 74 Spray Adhesive Clear and 3M 90-24 Hi-Strength 90 Spray Adhesive also come in an aerosol can and bond foam and fabric onto a variety of materials (paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, wood and much more). When using spray adhesives, work in a well ventilated space or outside.
Elmer’s E7330 Carpenter’s Wood Glue Max will pretty much adhere anything. To use, spread it evenly and join togethe, clamp, and allow it to dry. It is nontoxic and easy to clean up while wet is with a wet cloth. Once dry, you will have to sand or scrape to get it off.
Titebond 5006 II Premium Wood Glue is another wood glue that works well. Roll it onto both surfaces and weight overnight. Wood glues are an inexpensive solution. You can buy it by them gallon; they’re nontoxic and easy soap and water cleanup.
10. Sculpt or Coat
Scult or Coat from BMI or Rosebrand has many applications for foam, including as an adhesive and as a protective coating. While I would not recommend purchasing it strictly for adhesive purposes due to cost effectiveness, if you have some on hand, it is great for smaller projects.
11. Hot Glue
Also for small foam projects, if you paint the foam first with latex paint, you can use hot glue. This works well for small props but will not hold up for large prop or set pieces, as the weight will pull it apart.
While this is by no means a conclusive list of foam adhesives, it provides a variety of options to help find what is affordable, accessible, and works best for you. I love experimenting with new products, but it’s nice to have specifics that you know that you can trust. Whichever product you choose, I would love for you to share your projects and successes in the comments below. Until next time, happy crafting!