DIY: A ‘brick’ wall made of foam

Diana McNary
The Detroit News
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This story has been updated to clarify the need to use fire-barrier paint to cover the Styrofoam.

The buzz around downtown Detroit these days, with so many historic buildings being renovated and turned into trendy offices, restaurants and living spaces, has me feeling loft envy. I lived in two charming lofts downtown before buying a house in East English Village several years ago, and while I love my home, I miss the urban aesthetic, with its open spaces, wood and exposed brick.

My 1929 Tudor bungalow doesn’t lend itself to that look — at least not the main floor. But upstairs is a different story. A 650-square-foot open finished attic with a 15-foot ceiling peak, it’s practically begging for a loft feel.

After installing wood-look laminate flooring and a Mission-style wood railing around the stairs to match timbers in the ceiling, I tore out the drywall around the chimney and discovered a nice slab of pale tan brick. But it wasn’t enough. I set out to match it with another “brick” wall, but lacking masonry skills and much of a budget, I decided to try something different.

This faux brick wall is made of Styrofoam. (Note: This material is flammable when exposed; be sure to use fire-barrier paint and cover the Styrofoam thoroughly.)

It ended up taking about 30 hours total for about 80 square feet. While it was labor-intensive, the upside of cutting, painting and placing more than 400 “bricks” was being able to include an arched “window” that I filled with a vertical garden (which is also fake, because I can’t keep any plants alive in this room for some reason).

Want to try your own? Here’s how it came together.


■1/4-inch or 1/2-inch Styrofoam sheets (available at craft stores, but a much cheaper alternative I found was 8-foot-by-4-foot slabs of 1/2-inch insulation, removing the foil coating)

■UGL or other fire-barrier paint such as FX PaintGuard. I used a combination of white and tan to create a stone look.

■Stone texture paint in a mortar color, or spackling compound

■Styrofoam glue (I found Hold the Foam brand worked best)


Using a level and yardstick, measure and create a grid on the wall as a guide. A string and pencil attached to a thumbtack can be used to create an arch shape.

Using stone texture paint or spackling compound, paint the “mortar” onto the grid.

Cut out and paint the “bricks,” including the sides; they’ll be visible.

Carefully glue the bricks in place, securing them with small nails if necessary.

Remove the nails after the glue is dry and fill any visible holes with spackling compound, then paint.

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