$$$$$ The Cost Equation Clarified $$$$$

November 28, 2006

The question that came up almost immediately when I first started looking into SIPs was: Why do they cost so much?


The answer I kept getting was that you have to compare apples to apples. That wasn’t good enough for me so I would press the issue but couldn’t get very far. Frustratingly they didn’t want to come out and talk directly about money . They (I’m using  “they” to protect my sources) would say you can’t compare SIPs to stud framed walls.Today Al Cobb was able to explain the cost equation to me in terms that are simple to understand.


If you want to build a structure that has very low insulation demands, say an outhouse in Arizona, it is much cheaper to build it with stud framing. If you build it with SIPs it will be more insulation than you can use.



If, on the other hand, your energy efficiency standard is very high, say a heated privy at the North Pole, you may never be able to achieve a level of acceptable comfort with studs stuffed with all the batt insulation you can find. However, if you build it with SIPs, the inherent insulated value would keep your toes and tush so toasty you could read the entire New York Times in comfort.

North Pole

North Pole Put simply, SIPs are the most cost effective way to achieve a premium insulated structure. I had promised notes on Best Practices and Learning from Our Mistakes but today those subjects were covered in a business overview. I’m going to hold off for now. Al Cobb promised me that he will go over some juicy worst case scenarios before the class is finished.

Some pictures of class.

lifthouse plantractor

Me after a day in class.  soldier

Note on this blog: I’ve embedded links to the site but they are not as visible as I would like. If you look carefully the words in blue are hot links.



  1. I have a question concerning the statement: “SIPs are the most cost effective way to achieve a premium insulated structure.”

    I would agree that building with SIPS are a great way to achieve an energy efficient house without air leakage. I have been trying to cost out a couple different building techniques, and I am leaning towards a more traditional stick framed house with blown in cellulose insulation such as “NuWool.” You may want to check out some of the information put out by Doug Rye http://www.dougrye.com/

    I would appreciate any comments you have on this subject.


  2. Do you have any knowlege or experience with the fiber cement sided sips? They seem to offer some advantages over osb – no rot,insect problems,more fire resistant,no need for interior sheetrock. Also,how are sips for a second floor application? I have read that they insulate sound and also can cause a drumming effect to the lower floor,which is correct?
    Great Blog! Lots of good info

  3. Steve,
    There are some companies out there that do fiber cement. The cost is going to be higher but like you mentioned there isn’t time and material spent on a second layer of cladding. The big disadvantage that I have heard is that something like Hardi is brittle and when used as the skin material the panels have to be handled very carefully. Also the exterior look may be a little bland. The contact that I have for fiber cement skin SIPs is from SIPA. Try contacting Better Building Products at 704-636-5131. It’s a place to start anyway.


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