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Brian, Architect
Category: Home Improvement
Satisfied Customers: 3123
Experience:  Licensed Architect- 17 years, L.E.E.D. AP
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What are the pros/cons of using SIPs (insulspan) for building

Resolved Question:

What are the pros/cons of using SIPs (insulspan) for building a house.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Home Improvement
Expert:  Brian replied 6 years ago.

Brian :

Hello and welcome to Just Answer.

There are no real pros/ cons for SIPs panels. It is just a standard material that is used for post and beam construction. The framing is exposed and often spaced far apart so the SIPs panel is the perfect way to put a "skin" around this type of construction. The panels have good insulation values, the plywood is attached to the outside for nailing siding or roofing to. The inside face of the panel can come finished with tongue and groove wood or drywall.

If you need further help or clarification on this answer, please do not hesitate to reply to this post.

Customer: What about cost with traditional stick framing vs SIPs when looking to build a 3000 sq ft house? Is there any benefits to SIPs vs traditional building?
Brian :

There is not much difference in cost, stick framing and post and beam are two totally different methods of constructing, but they basically still use all of the same materials, except for the framing of course. It is basically a matter of taste of what kind of house you want. Post and beam can be very elegant with the exposed timber framing, but running plumbing, electrical, and heating/ cooling can be a little more tricky. You can't simply run the utilities anywhere in the framing such as with stick framing, so careful coordination needs to figured into the project.

Customer: I'm not looking at doing post and beam construction, but looking at doing either traditional wood stick framing or build with the SIPs. You indicate that there is no cost difference, what about time frame differences and any other pros vs cons?
Customer: Do you know anyone who has built a house with Insulspan. How was the outcome?
Brian :

Stick framing does not need SIPs. SIPs are used on post and beam or timber you are confusing me a little. Timber framed houses will cost a little more but are appraised at a higher value. Time frame will be longer on timber frame due to custom design of framing components and coordination of utilities running through the SIPs panels. I have seen plenty of homes constructed from SIP's, and again they are always post and beam or timber framed. They come out great.

Customer: I think we are talking about different things. If you view or utube it you will see what I'm asking about.
Brian :

Oh sorry....I just noticed you asked about Insulspan. These are a type of SIPs panel that are used in combination with stick framing. There are still some coordination issues with running utilities in the panels, but nothing to complex. Since the floor is stick framed, much of the utilities are placed there. The panels are a little faster to install and can be pre-made at the factory, so construction time can be reduced. They have great insulation/ acoustical properties and are strong as well. I think they have a good product and their site is pretty accurate, as far as the benefits.

Customer: Yes, that's the product I was talking about. So going back to my original question, what are pros/cons on using that system as opposed to regular stick framing for building a 3000 sq ft house? Time would be faster, what about cost compared to each other? Any other benefits?
Expert:  Brian replied 6 years ago.

Advantages of SIP's vs. stick framing are:

  • Increased energy efficiency because of greater insulation values= savings on heating and cooling (claims of 25%). In addition to walls, if floors and/ or roofs are constructed with SIP's, the savings increase exponentially.
  • Less air infiltration (more foam and less wood). The air-tight construction of SIPs virtually eliminates the possibility of mold in the exterior, nail pops, twisting of studs, and warping.
  • Less sound transfer between outdoors and indoors.
  • Reduced possibilities of structural damage and deterioration over time because of the "sandwich" construction provides more strength.
  • The lifespan of SIPs is 50 years or more with no cost input.
  • SIPs eliminates the need to find studs prior to the installation of siding or drywall.

Initial cost of SIPs will be more expensive than the materials used for stick framing, but the costs can be recovered later with less construction waste, increased site productivity, reduced labor costs, and heating/ cooling savings. In the end, the overall cost is virtually the same with SIP's and stick framing.

Dis-advantages of SIP's vs. stick framing are:

  • SIPs can become susceptible to rodents and insects. There have actually been cases where rodents have tunneled through SIP walls and it is suggested that applying insecticides to panels, maintaining indoor humidity levels below 50%, and treating the surrounding ground with insecticides before and after construction to help reduce the risk of an insect or rodent invasion. Boric acid-treated panels can also be purchased, which can help repel insects.
  • SIPs will present challenges during installing plumbing lines and electrical wiring, and may require special equipment.
  • Performance during fire is also a common concern for buildings constructed with SIPs. However, covering SIPs with a material such as gypsum can help significantly reduce this risk, because the gypsum cover can help delay the spread of fire and lengthen the escape time. Applying concrete siding over SIPs can also help to reduce the risk of fire for homes in wooded areas.
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