Structural Insulated Panels:
Is SIPs building right for you?

Perhaps you have recently heard of structural insulated panels, or SIPs, as a new fad in residential construction.

Actually, the concept of SIPs has been around for decades. When structural board was added to the foam insulation, this type of construction gained its current name of structural insulated panels.

What are SIPs?

sips construction, structural insulated panels

SIPs could be described as a foam sandwich, of sorts. This foam, which provides a high R-value of insulation to the building, is sandwiched by a structural board on either side. A common board used often in SIPs construction is OSB (Oriented Strand Board). You might think of this as a giant OSB Oreo.

Structural Insulated Panels may also have a cementinous backing instead of OSB, or numerous variations. Some companies claim that with their particular backing, drywall is no longer necessary on the inside of the structure. After the SIPs are installed, you are ready for painting!

Because of the numerous variations available, as well as cost differences, please research and compare carefully if you consider this building option.

What are the Benefits of
Structural Insulated Panels?

You will find no shortage of websites and people who have much to say about the benefits (potential or current) of building with SIPs.

Among them are the following:

* SIPs provide a tighter building envelope
(which cuts down on energy costs, drafts, and allergens)

* The walls have a high insulating R-value

* The panels are lightweight

* A building can be erected up to 3x more quickly than wood framing

* Many panels are mold and mildew resistant

* Building crews can be minimized (some panels claim to be framing, sheathing insulation, and interior wall all in one)

* Panels can be pre-cut for wiring, windows, and doors at the factory

* SIPs can be used in a hybrid house - it can be used with other methods of building

* HVAC systems may be downsized

* Ductwork may be minimized

Potential Drawbacks to SIPs

Although SIPs is often touted as being easy to install, there must be correct procedures followed in order for the home to be stable and energy efficient. If you decide to erect a SIPs home as a do-it-yourself project, or hire ordinary crews, be certain to check the manufacturer's warranty to see if it extends to other installers.

Other potential drawbacks include:

* May be inviting to termites unless pre-treated

* Larger panels are more efficient, but cost more to transport and are more difficult to erect

* Costs may be higher than traditional wood framing.

* May not have a superior fire rating (certain brands claim more protection)

* More research may be needed for the use of SIPs in roof applications - particularly concerning the fire performance ratings.

SIPs Summary

Structural Insulated Panels are an interesting alternative to stick-built homes. They may be considered "green" because there is little job site waste, they are durable, and they create an energy efficient home.

If combined with other energy efficient measures, a SIPs home may also qualify for an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM). In some cases, the monthly mortgage payment may be a bit higher with this method, but you might expect to see reduced monthly

energy costs that more than offset the increase.

If you are considering this type of structure, be sure to check out all aspects of warranties, claims, and costs.
Websites often tout testimonials, and these make for interesting reading.

For a balanced perspective, I enjoy hanging around forum threads where people are "in the know" about various
housing systems. There always seem to be a lively debate going, as well as helpful suggestions.

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