May 10, 2023

What Homebuyers Should Know About Structural Insulated Panels

Here’s what you, as a homebuyer, should know about SIPs and their benefits from a construction standpoint.

Structural insulated panels (SIPs) being used in a construction project.

Building construction methods continue to evolve, and as newer homes are built, it’s common to see new construction innovations implemented more frequently. One construction method gaining traction currently is structural insulated panels (SIPs) as a building material. But why are these panels becoming so popular? Here’s what you, as a homebuyer, should know about SIPs and their benefits from a construction standpoint.

What Are Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)?

Traditional construction methods typically consist of building walls, floors, roofs, and other structural elements. A wall, for example, was first framed using studs before being lined with insulation and then covered in plaster, drywall, or paneling. 

However, SIPs don’t rely on this one-step-at-a-time construction method; instead, a SIP is a prefabricated panel that consists of an insulating foam core that has been sandwiched between two structural-facing wooden boards.

This panel is installed all at once without having to frame it, fill it with insulation, and finish it separately. Instead, the panel can be finished in drywall or paneling on the inside while covered with exterior siding on the outside, speeding up construction significantly. 

Beyond Speed - Why SIPs are Advantageous

SIPs are an excellent method for reducing the amount of time it takes to complete a residential structure, which is why it has become such a popular choice for smaller homes and even some light commercial buildings. Reducing the time spent on constructing a property means that owners or tenants can move in much more quickly, and that’s always a good thing - especially when you’ve got buyers waiting on new construction to be finished! Yet there’s more that makes using a SIP even more of an advantage. Here are some core reasons why SIPs are worth considering.

●      Energy Efficiency: One of the biggest costs that a homeowner has to contend with after mortgage payments is utility bills. Heating and cooling a home is resource-intensive, which is why SIPs are so beneficial; thanks to their high thermal resistance, these types of prefabricated panels offer high levels of insulation that help keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, reducing your energy costs by a major amount.

●      Affordability: Structural building systems come with a cost - anyone watching the price of lumber go up over the last few years can attest to that. Because of the materials that SIPs are made from, they’re highly efficient when it comes to the amount of raw materials that go into their construction. They also take less energy to manufacture, further reducing their cost to make. Finally, because they’re fabricated in controlled environments, they’re often more efficient to make than using traditional framing materials on-site. All of this adds up to some significant savings in the form of lowered construction costs.

●      Durability: Because of the way a SIP is constructed, they’re incredibly strong - in fact, they have durability levels that are comparable to steel I-beam construction. This is due to the way the inner layer of thick foam is sandwiched between two layers of oriented strand board (OSB). They’re naturally durable and able to shrug off the long-term effects of weather when properly protected with a vapor barrier and exterior siding, providing a far higher long-term value than traditional framing and construction methods.

Are SIPs A Good Fit For You?

While SIPs have some great advantages, they may not always be ideal for every construction project. These panels are indeed great for long-term value, but they are slightly more expensive than traditional framing when used in larger construction projects. This means that the cost to build with SIPs in a smaller home will be more affordable than in that of a larger home. 

This is why SIPs are often used in the construction of small-scale or even tiny homes because they’re so efficient when used in this way. That being said if you’re looking for a larger, more traditionally-sized home that will be easy to maintain and that will offer you excellent long-term value, SIPs are an excellent choice as far as construction materials if you don’t mind the slightly higher initial price.

The Final Word on What Homebuyers Should Know About SIPs

As the inventory of available houses on the market is constantly in flux, it’s only a matter of time before we see more new construction builds using newer and more advanced building methods and materials. SIPs are an example of this phenomenon; while SIPs might have been relatively rare just a few years ago and were perhaps only prevalent in tiny home construction, today there are an increasing number of builders using them in new construction because of the many long-term benefits they provide. 

This is why it’s so important to understand what SIPs are and what they represent to homebuyers. Buying any property that makes use of SIPs in its walls, floors, or roofs offers dozens of benefits in making homes better energy-efficient, more durable, and capable of delivering better long-term value than those that were made using more traditional construction methods. While standard timber framing is unlikely to disappear overnight, as a homebuyer/owner, it’s good to know how new construction materials and techniques like SIPs can be beneficial in any build.

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