Structural Insulated Panels are an advanced method of construction offering an energy-efficient, lightweight, self-supporting solution over traditional structures.
As the Tiny and Modular home movement keeps growing, many people choose to buy prefabricated homes, rentals, and investment properties made with SIP panels. These highly customizable panels can be used in floors, walls, roofs, foundations, and basements. SIP panels can dramatically lower the costs of construction, utilities, and maintenance.
What is SIP paneling, and how does it reduce costs over time? We will answer those questions and everything else you need to know about SIP panels.
The Simple Definition of SIP Paneling
SIP stands for Structural Insulated Panel. The pre-manufactured panels comprise an insulated foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, usually an oriented strand board (OSB). The result is a building material that is extremely strong, energy-efficient, and cost-effective.
The combination of structural support and insulation in one panel makes this material so attractive to alternative home builders.
What are the Advantages of using SIP Panels?
Here are just a few reasons why SIP paneling is a popular choice:
- Lower utility bills. SIP panels are known for their airtightness and superior insulation, with some estimates claiming 50% more energy efficiency than traditional wood framing.
- Cost Effective Electrical Installation. The pre-installed wire chases in SIP panels eliminates the need to drill studs for electrical wiring.
- Self-Sufficiency. Most construction using SIP paneling will require no additional support or framing.
- Durability. SIP built basements and foundations aren’t prone to the same cracking and shifting as traditional concrete foundations. Not having to cure concrete also means faster construction.
- Indoor Air Quality. The airtightness of a SIP structure allows for precise control over indoor air.
- VOC Free. SIP panels produce no VOCs or other harmful chemicals that can affect occupant health.
- Pests. As SIP panels are primarily made from insulated foam, they aren’t prone to pest infestations such as termites.
What are the Disadvantages of using SIP Panels?
Factors include the number of panels used, individual panel density, labor, installation, and delivery. These are some possible disadvantages of SIP panels:
- Ensuring Proper Ventilation. The airtight advantage of SIPs can eliminate drafts and reduce utility bills. This also means you’ll need to have adequate ventilation to avoid condensation build up. Turn Key Fabrication solves this problem in different ways, depending upon if the structure will be going to a hot or cold climate. Common solutions include use of cross ventilation, de-humidifiers, and heat transfer.
- Moisture. SIPs built structures are prone to moisture damage. However, this is easily defeated by using a waterproof coating and ensuring proper ventilation.
- Finding an Experienced Builder. SIP panels aren’t as commonly used as traditional wood, therefore selecting the best builder can take more effort. To eliminate this issue, we at Turn Key Fabrication, we build everything in-house, so that we can deliver completely assembled, ready to use, prefab houses and rooms.
How much do SIP Panels Cost?
This question has no easy answer because each project is so unique. In 2022, the average cost per panel is between $9-11 per square foot.
How long do SIP Panels Last?
As with all structures, SIP-constructed homes are only as good as the conditions they are subjected to and the care they receive. SIP panels that are properly attached and maintained can easily last 50-60 years or more. This means that they hold up compared to conventional framing.
For that reason, it’s essential to ask your builder the right questions and make sure you have a good understanding of the cost of ownership for prefabs.
How are SIP Panels Repaired when Damaged?
Repairing injured panels on time is a crucial part of regular maintenance. Structural damage to SIP panels must be accessed, and a solution to the problem must be found to avoid mold, mildew, and degradation of the structure. That can be done by either modifying the site of the panels or total replacement of the panels, depending on the damage.
Do SIP Panels need Framing?
The unique design of the panel produces a solid building material that needs no additional frame or skeleton for support. This means that SIP panels are structurally self-sufficient.
Are SIP Panels Water Resistant?
While the panels themselves are not waterproof, most builders will cover their SIP with a finishing material. Turn Key Fabrication uses high-quality materials such as laminated wood panels and cabinet-grade plywood, so you never have to worry about adding the right finishing material.
Are SIP Panels Fire Resistant?
Like most materials, SIPs are a manageable fire risk when their construction meets the fire precautions listed in the building code.
We make all of our prefabricated homes with their intended climate in mind. When building structures that live in high fire risk areas, we adjust our building process to prepare for that, such as using SIPs made with a solid core of expanded polystyrene (EPS). Among other advantages, EPS will not maintain a flame on its own, making the fire easier to control.
Are SIP Panels Sound Resistant?
The excellent resistance of a SIP wall depends on several factors such as the density of the panels, construction techniques used, the type and thickness of the exterior finishes applied, and the size of the insulating foam core interior.
SIPs are especially effective at blocking high-frequency noise (high pitched whistles, glass breaking, screaming, etc.)
Are SIP Panels Load-Bearing?
SIP paneled walls can bear impressive vertical and horizontal loads. The load-bearing area of a SIP panel is roughly equivalent to building with 2 x 10 framing.
Looking to the Future of SIP Paneling
We trust that this article has helped answer the most common questions regarding understanding SIP panels. Check out our FAQ for answers to the questions we often ask. Please reach out to us at Turn Key Fabrication for more specific inquiries.