Working with Structured Insulated Panels

Association of Construction and Development
January 15, 2013 — 1,606 views  

SIPs or structured insulated panels are high-quality panels used in walls, floors, and roofs for commercial and residential buildings. These panels are produced by putting together a core of strong plastic insulation foam between structural layers of OSB (oriented strand board).

However, other materials can also be utilized, like plywood which is pressure-treated for low-grade foundation walls, aluminum, steel, cement board like hardibacker, and exotic materials such as stainless steel, magnesium oxide, and plastic that is fiber-reinforced. SIPs sometimes use fiber cement or sheets of plywood for panels and wheat straw for the core.

These are produced in factory-controlled conditions and are customizable for each house. The end result is a building material that is extremely energy-efficient, strong, and cost-effective. Constructing with SIPs saves you money, time, and labor.


In most cases, building with structured insulated panels is almost equal to that of a conventional framing. Dimensional lumber is accepted by SIPs which are fastened using nails, staples, or screws. Perfect sealing is required when you are assembling SIPs. Sealing of joints must be done with a specially made SIP foam sealant or sealing gum and sometimes, an SIP self-adhesive tape. Consideration must also be required of how the panels are placed and staged on the work-site.

Below are some of the things that need to be considered and taken care of:

Air movement: The joints must be perfectly sealed to avoid air ex-filtration or infiltration.

Voids: These must be filled using appropriate panel adhesives/sealants to avoid moisture intrusion and air movement entering the building envelope.

Underlayment and cladding: The exterior cladding must have a primary and secondary resistive weather system, for example a drainage plane.

Handling and storage: SIPs must not be placed on the ground and must be protected from getting exposed to the elements. Manpower is sufficient to handle small panels, but bigger panels require a forklift or a crane.

Interior comfort: SIP homes are usually airtight, so they allow you to control the indoor environment. By having a proper ventilation system, you can get fresh air when and wherever you need it.

SIP design and fabrication

Once the documents for construction are in the hands of a SIP manufacturer or a design professional, they are made to convert to SIP drawings that give out the dimensions for individual panels. The engineer, builder, the owner of the building, and parties involved review the drawings. The moment the drawings are finalized, the SIPs are fabricated and sent to the work-site for installation.

Homes with SIP are built faster than the conventional framed buildings. A well-trained and skilled SIP fixing crew can bring down the framing time by almost 55% when compared to traditional wood framing. Panels are made as big as 8 by 24 feet, so entire section of the roof and the wall can be raised quickly, thereby reducing time. SIPs are ready to be fixed once they are at the work-site, cutting down the time required to perform the individual work-site operations of insulating and framing. In the panel's core, electrical chases are provided, so drilling through the studs for wiring is not required.

Association of Construction and Development