Are SIPs for real?

November 20, 2006

John Ross Fine Homebuilding Assitant Editor John Ross

I’m on a gonzo journalism assignment for Fine Homebuilding Magazine (or as gonzo as we get in the annals of serious how-to). In this blog I’ll bring you the chronicle of my investigation into what some are saying is the next generation of residential structures.



  1. I’ll be reading, John. I recently attended an intro to SIPS class at JLCLive! Seattle and I came away impressed.

    I don’t know if SIPS are “the” answer, but I think they have a lot of potential. I am fairly certain I’ll be using them on the roof of my next building for myself.

    Anyways, keep posting. We’re reading.

  2. Yes, keep the posts afloat.
    Most interesting.
    Hope you include how the SIPS panels are made.

  3. But where are you located with a 5 hour advance on the message timeclock?

  4. I’m looking into what materials are used. Some of the stuff is pretty wild.

    I don’t know about the time lock. I’m in Newtown, CT with the rest of FH.

  5. I am interested to see how your course turns out
    What is it like to work with SIPS?
    Are they hard to handle at the job site? Messy cutting?
    Is a large crane a must? Probably!
    I was first exposed to SIPS while attending building courses at the “Shelter Institute” in Maine
    They are used for wall/roof sheathing on their timber frame homes
    On the course, I also met a contractor from Vermont whom had used them instead of stud framing which raised my interest
    However, I am Canadian and live in Eastern Ontario
    Here,there seems to be a lack of knowledge using SIPS
    or maybe fear from not using stud framing
    All levels of gov’t here are making it harder to do anything without a certificate or engineering degree/sign-off
    I feel that in Ontario, SIPS would be boldly going where no builder has gone before
    Anyway, hope your course goes well
    Regards, Mark

  6. I’m a television producer with the Home & Garden TV network, HGTV. Next week I’m shooting at some Zero Energy test Homes. These buildings make extensive use of SIP panels. In my video story I hope to communicate to builders the how and why they might consider utilizing SIPs and other energy savings technologies in their buildings. I’d be interested in hearing what you’ve learned from the classes. You will no doubt ask some of the same questions that builders my have about SIPs.

  7. Stephan, the course is great! I’ve been building with SIPs for many years and have been learning each day. I’ll look forward to seeing your video.

  8. Al’s school is a real asset to the SIPs industry. It’s important for us maufacturers to make sure the panels are erected following the correct procedures and using the correct materials. Panelized construction in one way or another is the future because of high labor costs and lack of manual laborers. SIPs fit the “green building” criteria because of their energy efficiency and their being environmentally friendly.

  9. Attended the one week course for builders and homeowners, loved the course and concept…but the cost$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    REAL numbers are REAL hard to come by (and, yeah I’ve heard all the “apples to oranges” rationalizations).

  10. Bravo to SIP School. Although I have been building with SIPs since 1980, I am still amazed by how many builders think that this is a new and unproven building concept. As a member of SIPA, I am pleased to see that Al’s school is getting the recognition it deserves. The value of having trained installers has never been greater. No matter how good a product can be provided, the long lasting performance depends totally on the quality of the install. The building industry in general has long been in a state of complacency and resistant to change. Too many continuing ed classes address building problems with band aid type cures rather than finding ways to eliminate the problems in the first place. With the general public becoming more concious of building “green”, the demand for SIPs and trained installers has never been greater. The SIP industry is strong and growing even while other segments of the building industry is in a down cylcle. Education of the public on how SIPs can decrease the energy demand which in turn reduces pollution as well as SIPs ability to make better use of renewable natural resources and send less waste to the landfills is the greatest challenge we have today.

  11. Great Blog…

    I am looking into building a SIP lake home with timber frame. I can’t wait to read your next post.

  12. The concerned builder must be aware of building systems that are faster and Sips are not only faster but stronger and less expensive, yes less $$! You can’t build to this level of quaility with other systems for less. If you don’t buy into the apples to apples comparisons then why are there Mercedes and also Hyundais if all things are equal. If a building doesn’t “need” this level if energy efficiency or the owners don’t value it then Sip’s aren’t for them.
    The people that do decide the value is there. They need an opportunity to learn the skills necessary
    to design and install. The SIP’s school is perfect place for this training which has been a void in the industry.
    I hope those of you at the class enjoy and make sure Al shows y’all how to fix screwups in the field!! They do happen some times.

  13. Doug,

    I kept asking the same question. This is the answer; you can expect to pay $7 to $10 per square foot of structural insulated panel.

    The real answer is: PAY NO ATTENTION TO THOSE NUMBERS.

    There are so many variables of panel width, materials, labor costs, crane costs, site conditions, geographic location, design, etc. The list goes on and on.

    The only real way to get a comparison is to carefully cost your specific project using a variety of building methods. This is a lot of work but in the end the money you save towards your ultimate goal may be well worth the extra upfront planning.

    Visit the link to Al Cobb’s cost calculator as a place to start.

    John Ross

  14. I am planning to us SIP’s on a house addition roof and exterior walls. About 2800 s.f. of roof and 1000 s.f. of wall. I would like to see the Al Cobb cost calculator. What is the like?

  15. I will be building my first SIP starting this month. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. I read the comment from Stephen Boatin, if you would like to come and film I wouldn’t mind. I’ve seen all the pics and they are always on flat ground. This project is on a hill and 3 levels, so looking forward to having some fun. Those videos would be great, can’t wait to see them.

  16. Jim,
    Go to http://www.panelwrights.com

  17. It is Dec 1 – My congrats go out to everyone finishing the SIP School today and also to Al and his crew. Thanks also to John for setting up this blog site – hopefully it will continue after this session of SIP School is over. The commitment that all of you are making should be commended. Both the SIP industry and all of you as individuals will be better because of your investment of time and talents. Education is the best way to overcome misunderstanding and complacency within the building industry. Now take advantage of what you have learned and make a difference…and also some money.

  18. John, wish I had found your site some time ago as I’m at the end of my SIP project in the UK.

    The wiring is done slightly different here. People often use double layers of plasterboard. The first layer is cut around the surface tacked wiring (some pictures on my site sip-house.blogspot.com) and the second layer goes on top to cover the wiring. If you arrange most of the wiring on the outer walls, you get the extra benefit of more insulation. Wiring regs specify where wires can run, so although they are shallow, you know where they are lightly to be, and you get around the problem of running wires in insulation. Electrician have no problems with this concept either, in fact it’s easier than a normal build.

    I’m totally convince by SIPs now I have almost finished the project.


  19. John,
    The god’s smiled and I stumbled onto something here. It’ll be hard to go back to stick framing again tomorrow. I’ve been SIP surfing for 3 days now (I begged my wife to allow dial-up into the house so I could research the SIP industry), and just now backed into the sipschool website. What luck, what joy. Up till now I’ve been trying to make contact with current SIP installers and I wonder if this school would be what I’m looking for. Six years now framing with 2×6 and poorly installed fiberglass to follow. Tape the Tyvek to stop air but don’t bother caulking it to the foundation… Anyway, great to read your posts.

    Ben Miller

  20. I am also in Canada. Built an 1860 sf raised bungalow on a wood foundation here in Ontario in 1998; use 4′ x 8′ SIPs: never again, for both wf & short SIPs. Ideally, I would want custom SIPs running corner to corner. As our building code specifies, two 2x6s every 4′ kills the R-value, although the insulated basement slab helped offset some of that loss. It was a joy to drywall with full sheets, as we erected the outside walls & roof, serviced the walls & ceiling, drywalled same, then built the partition walls with steel stud. Also used engineered floor joists to give us a clear-span basement about 30′ x 60′. I designed the house so no services, except wall plugs, were situated in the exterior walls. Did find out the amazing sticking power of foam insulation used as glue, as 2 misaligned studs, glued & nailed together for 30 seconds, had to be pried apart: 10% of one stud stayed stuck to the other stud.
    Have construction pics I can post if I ever get them scanned. edward_skakie A T bigfoot.com

  21. As I read the post in this blog and information posted about the Sip School, I see the benefit of the school mainly as a resourse for installers.

    I’m sure that the course that is offered is very helpful to someone that has no knowledge of the sip industry. We wish them great business.

    I’m the CEO of Sip Supply, Sip Supply in conjunction with AEC Daily and the Construction Specification Institute as well as other industry leaders has developed A Accredited Continuing Education Course on Structural Insulated Panels.

    We invite anyone interested in learning more about our course to visit our web site and request the course once we launch it. It is a free Course!

    We believe that this course is a great asset to the industry, we hope you enjoy it and learn about our sip system
    Polyurethane Sips, Safer, Stronger,Greener and Cleaner when and where it counts.

  22. Darrell,
    When will you launch it?

  23. Hello John
    We’re about 90% complete at this point, could you send me a direct e-mail so we can let you know when it’s up??

  24. John, have you looked into metal-clad SIPs, such as Structall (EPS) or SIP Supply (PUR)? I’m a home-owner trying to research these, and wondering if you know anything about them or the companies that sell them.

  25. Hi There!

    Following up on the latest post from Darrell, I’m including the link for the long awaited CE course on SIPs entitled “The Features, Benefits and Applications of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)”

    The continuing education course serves the architectural, engineering and construction segments. The course, 105 pages long, shows examples how SIPs are used in building projects, includes the many features and benefits of building with SIPs, includes product comparisons and offers a highly informative case study.

    This is a free course that provides AIA and state credit and qualifies for HSW and can be found here:


    For non industry professionals, we will be offering the course for download at http://www.polyurethanepanels.com

    Thanks and any feedback you can provide would be appreciated!

  26. The plan for my next house.
    19×80′ second floor
    19×60′ first floor
    19×20′ attached garage under second floor
    3.5′ wide hall along the left side from fron living room to rear.
    3.5′ wide hall along the left side from stairs to master bedroom.
    1 BR on first floor + 2 BR on second floor.
    How does SIP fit this setup?
    exterior walls? interior walls?
    second floor over rooms? second floor over garage? roof?

  27. This design is steller! You obviously know how to keep
    a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost.
    ..HaHa!) Wonderful job. I really loved what you had to say,
    and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

  28. Many SIPs used in the southeast US and Caribbean are galvanized steel SIPs http://www.permathermsips.com where the interior side is furred creating an easy wire chase

  29. Remarkable! Its actually remarkable piece of writing, I have got much clear idea on the topic of from this
    piece of writing.

  30. Not sure if this the right place for a question but here goes. I am looking at a SIP’s project on my desk. I have done quite a bit of research on SIP construction (most of which is bias in favor of SIP as the articles are written by SIP providers) This project calls for pine D-log siding to be attached to all exterior walls. My concern is the attachment of the siding to the SIP panels. Normally we would nail the siding with 12d galv nails into 16″ on center studs through osb sheathing. The siding is made from 2×8 lumber and is susceptible to twisting (as lumber does) I am not convinced that nailing the siding to OSB backed by foam is going to hold. Have you encountered this question before? Any thoughts? Also not clear on window and door installs. Again, is there and backing for the proper anchoring of door hinges, shims etc. Surely they are not just attached to the osb?!

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