Overall the SIPs install has been going very well considering no one involved has ever seen or handled a SIP before in their life. The crew is probably on pace to beat traditional framing by a few days and we will have the benefit of having the insulation complete at the end of our process. The next time around should go much faster. We have had minor issues throughout the process, but nothing major that will compromise the buildings in any way.
One thing that would’ve been helpful was to get more detailed instructions from the manufacturer and even a short video. Seeing simple tips on the connection details and important steps that differ from traditional framing would have been invaluable. As I was thinking about this last night, I realized that we overlooked one of the most valuable learning resources of our time. YouTube. There are not a lot of videos on SIPs construction methods and most that exist are just as much sales videos as they are instructional. Below are two of the better ones I found. If you are considering SIPs for a future project, I would encourage you to watch them both.
Good overview and instructional construction video from Premier SIPs
R-Control Structurally Insulated Panel Instructional
Lessons we have learned about SIPs construction so far
- Taking extra care to make sure your foundation is square, level and built to the correct dimensions is invaluable. We had a number of minor errors in the foundation dimensions and plans that have caused a few hours of modifying panels by hand in the field
- Err on the side of too much construction adhesive to create a tight house. Sealing all joints during SIPs construction is critical. This is something that is not needed in typical stick framing. Next time we will have a dedicated worker to applying construction adhesive all day to ensure no unions are missed.
- If you have to make up extra space on a wall, never do it in a corner. Our foundation was a bit long and required us to lengthen some walls. The corner is the worst place to make up the extra space as you lose the most heat out of corners as it is and a big benefit to SIPs is improving the insulation value and tightness in each corner. Always make up extra space on a straight section of wall where you can take care to insulate properly and reduce thermal bridging.
- Have the majority of panels made to 4′ widths. The 8′ wide panels are easier for the manufacturer to make, but a lot heavier and more difficult to handle and install. Four foot panels would be significantly easier. An alternative is to get creative by attaching custom handles to the SIPs or hoisting with a forklift from above while two people guide into place. Trying to slide an 8′ x 10′ SIP into place with two or three people is not easy or fun…
- Have an instructional meeting with the entire crew on the important connection details of SIPs prior to starting construction.
- Ensure that everyone understands both the panel layout and construction plans in regards to all panel placement prior to starting construction
We are learning these lessons the hard way. You don’t have to. Watch these videos and heed our lessons learned.
Additional SIPs Resources:
- SIPs.org – Best site on SIPs around complete with facts and connection details.
- Foard Panel’s Guide to Enclosing Your Timber Frame House (pdf)- While this talks a lot about timber frames, it is a great resource on SIP construction from some of the most knowledgeable guys in the field.
- Builder’s Guide to Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) – How did I not buy this book already? Dang it!
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