SIPs Q&A

  1. What are SIPs?
  2. Why should I choose SIPs over stick-framing methods?
  3. What is the cost to build with SIPs compared to traditional stick framed lumber?
  4. Do sips meet local and national building code requiremtents?
  5. What style of houses can be built with SIPs?
  6. What is the insulation advantage to building with SIPs?
  7. How strong are SIPs?
  8. How are SIPs more environmentally friendly than other building methods?
  9. Are SIPs insect resistant?
  10. How do Plumbing and Electrical integrate with SIPs?
  11. Why is a SIP's project completed faster?
  12. Why are more people building with SIPs now than ever before?
  13. What is the R-Values and U-Values of SIPs?
  14. How do tax credits, energy efficient mortgages and environmental points work by using SIPs?
  15. What kind of loans are availiable on enery efficient buildings?

1. What are SIPs?

Structural Insulated Panels (or SIPs) are a high-performance engineered wood product with a super-insulating core of rigid expanded polystyrene (EPS), structurally laminated and pressure cured between two sheets of oriented strand board (OSB). When using SIPs for a building's roof, walls and/or floors, the result is a highly efficient structural building system that is extremely strong, predictable, energy efficient and cost effective.

2. Why should I choose SIPs over stick built methods?

Quality - Have you ever looked down a stud wall and noticed how it bends, bulges, twists and cups due to the increasingly poor quality of lumber? This does not happen with a SIPs wall. Our walls are straight, plumb and square. The continuous wood surface also offers a sound nail-base for all exterior and interior finishes.

Comfort - Without hesitation, your SIPs home will be one of the most comfortable, quiet and clean structures you will ever own. Unlike a stick-frame home, in which thermal performance is an afterthought, insulation is an integral part of a SIPs Home. Air and moisture infiltration is greatly reduced because the exterior envelope is tighter.

Peace of Mind - People who consider building their dream home do so because they want it to be uniquely theirs and to be perfect for a lifetime. Too often, frightened by the horror stories that their friends have told them, they choose to buy a "spec" house instead.
In a SIP's home the framer "installs" the panel sections rather than "builds" them. This saves time and ensures that the walls are straight and plum.

SIPs can positively impact many stages of the building process and help you stay on schedule.  A few examples:

  • The insulation is already incorporated into our panels. 
  • The electrical chases are factory installed in the foam, eliminating the time and labor expense associated with onsite drilling.
  • The walls are flat and plum so the drywall, door and window installers complete their work faster along with a better final finish.
  • The interior finishes, including cabinetry, flooring, moldings, counter tops, etc. will be installed easier due to the continuous attachment surface provided by the OSB. No more searching for studs or shimming bowed walls.
  • The engineered advantage of building with SIPs is that they are made with "factory precision."Perfect panels mean perfect walls allowing a building to be very tight. This reduces the size of your heating and air conditioning unit (HVAC) by up to 40%, giving you immediate savings. And, homeowners will enjoy up to 60% lower energy bills annually.

For more information, view our Stick vs. Conditional Construction Page.

3. What is the cost?

Building with SIPs generally costs about the same as building with wood frame construction, when you factor in the labor savings resulting from shorter construction time and less job-site waste.

Other savings are realized because less expensive heating and cooling systems are required with SIP construction.

The cost to build a SIPs house depends entirely on its design. Generally the installed cost of SIPs is comparable to stick framed construction. But when you look at the benefits of labor savings, and less waste, SIPs offer short-term construction savings as well as long-term benefits for the homeowner in energy savings.

The following is an independent study demonstrating these energy savings:  Mark Whitaker, an independent energy consultant in Mesquite, Texas, compares SIPs vs. stick frame building envelopes and projects the utility cost one can expect to pay based on the type of HVAC system, local utility rates and heating and cooling days. Here is an analysis comparing the operating costs of a 1,522-square-foot Dallas home using two different construction envelopes.

SIP Energy Efficient Home
Conventionally Constructed Home
Home Owners Pocketed Savings
Estimated Operating Costs @ 4% Annual Cost Increase  5 years 
10years 
15 years 
20 years 
$2,464
$5,463
$9,111
$13,549
$5,647
$11,552
$17,742
$24,246
$3,183
$6,089
$8,631
$10,697

4. Do sips meet local and national building code requiremtents?

Yes. Structural Insulated Panels have been tested extensively by nationally recognized organizations such as the International Code Council Evaluation Service. SIPs comply with the fire and structural regulations of the International Building and Residential Codes.

5. What style of houses can be built with SIPs?

Virtually all styles of houses can be built using structural insulated panels. SIP structures are built in all kinds of environments.  Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii. Any environment, hot, cold or wet is ideal for our SIPs. View our project gallery to view the homes and building that have been built using SIPs.

6. What is the insulation advantage to building with SIPs?

R-Value is a measure of a material's resistance to heat flow. The higher the number the better the material is at insulating. According to the Dept. of? Energy, thermal breaks such as corners, windows, doors, and stud walls dramatically reduce the stated R-Value of virtually every product on the market except SIPs. As an example, a 2x6-stud wall with R-19 fiberglass batts has an R-Value of 13.7. A six-inch SIP wall has an R-Value of 21.7. Simply put, a 6" SIP wall out performs a 6" stud wall by 58%.

7. How strong are SIPs?

SIPs are extremely strong. Studies have shown that SIPs are at minimum 20% stronger than dimensional lumber.

Strength in building materials and systems is judged by the materials' ability to withstand the forces of nature. Data to determine strength properties is gathered by destructive testing, and specific tests are utilized to evaluate a SIPs' performance in high winds, earthquakes and snow load conditions The testing program on structural panel systems is the most extensive in the industry. SIPs are exceptionally strong in racking diaphragm shear capacities, which are the primary structural properties that engineers are concerned with when designing for seismic and hurricane events. Not only do test results show SIPs are stronger, but natural disasters have proven it time and again.

For more information, view our Features and Benefits Page.

8. How are SIPs more environmentally friendly than other building methods?

SIPs are better for the world around us. SIPs panels are so energy efficient, that homeowners regularly save up to 60% on utility bills.  SIPs help reduce the demand for fossil fuel consumption (such as gas, oil and coal) and also reduce the release of greenhouse gas emissions (like carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere during the years you heat and cool your home, resulting in a cleaner environment.

SIPs also promote green building benefits, as they are 100% recyclable and they significantly reduce jobsite waste (by up to 60% reduction) in comparison to conventional stick-framing construction methods.

SIPs are better for your personal environment. Studies linking respiratory disease, allergies and other diseases to indoor air quality have spawned an array of non/less toxic products and improved indoor ventilation. Our panels are very airtight giving you precise control over the indoor air quality of your home, which helps to keep out allergens, humidity, dust, etc.

SIPSs materials are made from materials best for the environment. The Expanded polystyrene (EPS) core used in structural insulated panels is manufactured using a low-environmental impact process of steam expansion that uses pentane and contains no CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) or HCFCs (Hydrochlorofluorocarbons) or formaldehyde. EPS is an inert material, so there are no issues with dust or off-gassing.

The oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing used in SIPs is made from harvesting fast growing new-growth trees, making the resources renewable and sustainable, as no old-growth timber is used.

For more information, view our Green Pages.

9. Are SIPs insect-resistant?

Ants, termites and other insects are common throughout the United States and can affect both stick frame and SIPs buildings. Our expanded polystyrene beads are coated with an insect-resistant product before the molding process. SIPs are also sprayed with a natural, non-toxic insect-resistant mineral through our quality control procedures to help combat these types of insects. SIPs are no more susceptible to infestation than stick frame. Good construction practices should be used in the design and construction of SIP buildings to avoid insect infestation.

10. How do Plumbing and Electrical integrate with SIPs?

While there are some specific techniques that your subcontractors will need to become familiar with, building with SIPs will not create a significant roadblock in your construction. Traditionally, very little plumbing is included in exterior walls regardless of the building style used, and with SIPs most plumbing is located in the interior walls.

Electrical chases are manufactured into our panels at 16" and 45" above the floor and every 4 feet on center vertically in the walls. Special chases can also be installed into our panels to accommodate low voltage wiring. Wiring is simply pulled through the chases after the panels have been installed.

For more information, view our Plumbing & Electrical Page.

11. Why is a SIPs project completed faster?

The panelized portion of a structure goes up much faster than standard stick frame construction, and our panels will be stronger, straighter and greener than stick frame methods.

SIPs can arrive on the jobsite precut per your approved shop drawings. Your project manager will help coordinate your project.  Your SIPs are manufactured in large panels according to your plans. When IBC fabricates your custom panels to size, we cut out windows, doors and gable ends, as well offers factory installed lumber. Reducing the need for time intensive (and costly) window and door framing.

To further ensure speedy installation, all the SIPs arrive to the jobsite pre-numbered to coordinate with shop drawings.

The simple fact that SIPs are pre-insulated also saves the insulation step in the construction process.

12. Why are more people building with SIPs now than ever before?

Stronger houses. Straighter, more predictable roofs, walls and floors. Greener structures. 

Consumers are demanding better quality building products, healthier indoor environments and they also have a higher level of environmental responsibility than in previous decades. Builders and architects are designing to meet these needs. And SIPs fit the need perfectly.

Builders are finding once they start with SIPs they have a hard time going back to stick frame construction. SIPs save builders time and money with faster installation, while creating a stronger, more efficient home.

Across the country, SIPs are a part of luxury homes, industrial warehouses, tract developments, multifamily units, churches, wineries, health care facilities and retail shops. If someone can dream it up, SIPs can help build it.

13. What is the R-Values and U-Values of SIPs?

R-values of SIP panels: 4" = 15.0 – 16.0, 6" = 23.0 – 24.0, 8" = 30.0 – 31.0, 10" = 38.0 – 39.0, 12" = 46.0 – 47.0.
U-values of SIP panels: 4" = .062, 6" = .040, 8" = .031, 10" = .025, 12" = .020.