Structural Insulated Panels

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What's the Scoop on SIP Homes?


Unnecessary and Unfounded Resistance

SIP homes are probably the most underrated and misunderstood type of residential construction in my geographical location in the country. Southeastern Pennsylvania is an area where it is hard to break a new concept into construction. Whenever we have introduced the product to our contractors or even individual homeowners we have first-hand met the same resistance: “We have never done one like that, so we will keep on doing things the way we have always done them.” 


In a lot of people’s minds, residential construction has not evolved much, so when we mention SIP homes it is something they are not comfortable using. (However, those who have broken the mold tell a very different story.)

“When I first heard about Structural Insulated Panels from Larry’s Home Designs, it did not take me long to decide this was the way to go for my new home. The construction phase was extremely quick. Part of the crew was putting windows and doors in the walls while the rest of the crew was doing roofing…only partway through the 3rd day! I am very pleased with the efficiency of the 4” panels. My only thought on those extremely cold northern NY winter nights is the 6” panels might have been even more efficient. I would recommend these panels to anyone.” – M.W., Northern NY

A Time-Proven Construction Concept

Most people have the misconception that structural insulated panels (SIP) are something totally new. This could not be further from the truth. I was curious about their origin so a little digging was in order. Originally I was under the impression they had been invented in the 1950s. I was wrong. The actual concept was born in 1935. The engineers at Forest products laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin began toying with the idea that the plywood sheeting on the outside of a stud wall and the hardboard on the inside could be capable of carrying some weight.


Famous Supporters of SIPs

Frank Lloyd Wright, the world-famous architect, actually used SIP construction in some of his designs in the 1930s and 1940s. It was only when Alden B. Dow, the son of the founder of the Dow Chemical Corp. and a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, actually took the step and created the first foam core SIP panel in 1952. Then in the 1960s the first rigid foam core SIP hit production and is still basically the same SIP that we know today.


And fortunately for you, so is the home designer dedicated to bringing you the finest home design products and services possible, yours truly! If you haven’t already done so on this website, you’ll thank yourself for taking the time to watch this video where I blindside my clients with questions about their SIP home…

Improved Insulation Values

While the assembled style or look is still the same, today’s SIP home has benefited in a huge way from advancements in adhesives that hold the foam and OSB sheeting together. The other highly beneficial advancement in SIP technology is better and denser foam types. There is a polyurethane foam with such a density that a 3” foam core coupled with a 7/16” OSB or flakeboard on each side produces an R-value of 24!


Wondering how the structural factors compare with regular stick or frame building? Studies show that the walls are 2-3 times stronger than size-equivalent wooden 2x stud wall construction. Real life cases have verified that in experiencing earthquakes these homes have suffered much less damage than those built with standard materials.


Know the Core Issues that Affect You

There are various types of foam that are used in the core of sip panels. The three basic types are EPS, XPS and polyurethane. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. I will admit I am biased. I like the polyurethane foam the best for SIP homes. It has the highest R-value per inch than any of the other foams and it requires an extremely high temperature before it burns.


Other Issues At Stake

The one major benefit to using certain SIP panels is some companies precut all the window and door openings in the panels in their factory. This saves a lot of time of cutting and scraping out foam and adding window and door frames on the job site. There are still companies out there that sell straight panels if you wish to cut the openings yourself. I do not recommend it. It is labor intensive and it will likely cost you more in the long run compared to buying a little more expensive panel that has everything precut.

Click here, if you want a personal answer to any question you have.

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