Building SIPS Panel Homes

The Beginners Guide

SIPS panels are a new innovative and cost-effective way of building and new house.

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Once you start to think about building your own home, you will find that you end up extremely busy. Even before you start the whole construction process, you are going to need to put aside plenty of time to plan and organize the whole project accordingly.

It is really essential that you take the time to create a plan so that you can fully understand what you will be doing at every step of the build.

One thing that you will need to take some time carefully considering is what kind of home you are going to build. Would you rather have a traditional timber-framed property, a brutalist home made out of concrete, or something a little more different? 

Well, we have one great suggestion for you - why not think about creating your new home with SIPs panels?

A SIPS panel for a house wall being lowered into positionA SIPS panel for a house wall being lowered into positionA SIPS panel for a house wall being lowered into positionA SIPS panel for a house wall being lowered into position

SIPS panels offer a much more efficient way of building houses

What Are SIPs Panels?

Around 8% of self-build projects in the country now involve the use of SIPs panels

Around 8% of self-build projects in the country now involve the use of SIPs panels, and this number is quickly increasing. Why are these panels so popular to build with? Well, Let’s take a look.

SIPs stands for ‘structural insulated panels’. They are made out of two pieces of insulation that are expertly fixed together on each side to two OSB strand board skins. These can then be cut to size, depending on how big or small you might need them. 

It doesn’t matter what type of walls you will be building in your property, whether load-bearing or external, these modern SIPs panels can be used to construct them all. Lots of self-builders also use the panels to create the roof of the property as well.

If you do decide to build with SIPs, then you need to understand that there are different types. Choosing the right one to go with will be a key part of your self-build planning. There are a few different aspects that you will need to take into consideration when you are choosing the exact kind of panels to use in your home. 

If you are trying to build a certain style of the house, such as an environmentally friendly one, then you will no doubt have to consider the specific features and aspects of each type of SIPs panel that will be most beneficial to you in achieving your goal.

So, before you do decide on the type of SIPs panel to use in your property, be sure to read the following section. It outlines the major types of differences between the kinds of SIPs panels.

The Differences Between SIPs Panels

The EPS panels have the greatest range of depth, and you will be able to choose between 95mm to 195mm

Insulation Core

Even though SIPs are mainly made out of the insulation, you will find that each different make uses a different type of insulation core. There are two main types that you will need to decide between. One of which is made from expanded polystyrene, which is also known as EPS. This will produce a very solid and rigid panel. 

Alternatively, you may prefer to go with a panel that has been injected with a urethane core. These are completely fibre free and also quite rigid. Which one you go with will largely depend on your budget for SIPs panels and how well you need the thermal performance to be. If you are on a tight budget, then you might be restricted by only being able to go with the cheapest option, for instance.

Panel Depth

You will also need to decide just how deep you require your panels to be. If you aren’t entirely sure, then it is worth consulting your architect about this. Basically, the depth of the panel will be dependant on the type of insulation core you choose to go with. The EPS panels have the greatest range of depth, and you will be able to choose between 95mm to 195mm. 

If you need to, they can even go a bit deeper. However, as the panels with the injected urethane core are known for their improved thermal performance, these are usually thinner. More often than not, their depth will be around 172mm. If you are trying to create an eco-friendly and sustainable home, then it is always advisable to go for the deeper panels. They will provide much better insulation and can greatly reduce the U values of the property.

Intermediate Floor Construction

Don’t forget to consider the intermediate floor construction for your panels. There are two options to choose from: the timber I-joist and the posi joist. The timber I-joist has flanges on the top and bottom made out of timber while the vertical web is made from OSB. 

When it comes to the posi joist, it is exactly the same as the other kind just with a metal vertical web as opposed to a wooden one. Both of these can be between 200mm and 400mm in depth. Thanks to the structural floor deck on top, both options will provide you with completely noise-free floors in your new property that can be up to 5m in width.

The Panel Joining Method

Want to know how SIPs panels fit together? Well, there are two main ways and, again, the one you want to go with should be something that you carefully consider in your building plan. The most common method is to surround all of the panels with a timber structural method. This will add a lot of extra strength and stability to the finished structure. 

The stud used is often male to female, which makes it easy to simply slot the panels together. However, not all manufacturers use this method. Some use small SIPs panels to create a unique jointing system. This is beneficial for a variety of ways, not least that it will reduce the overall U value from the wall and prevents any air leaks from the connection points.

So, now you should have a good idea of the various kinds of SIPs panels and how they can each work for you in your new build project. But why should you even consider building with these panels to start with? 

That’s a very good question and is one that ever self-builder should consider. So, to help you understand the reason why more builders are choosing to use SIPs, here are some of the main advantages that they will bring.

A SIPS panel with two windows installedBlack bi fold doors in dining roomA SIPS panel with two windows installedBlack bi fold doors in dining roomA SIPS panel with two windows installedBlack bi fold doors in dining roomA SIPS panel with two windows installed

SIPS panels are highly energy efficient by design

The Main Benefits Of A SIPs-Panel Home

When you build a home with SIPs panels, you will very easily be able to create some aesthetically pleasing open-plan living spaces

Improved Gables

Do you want to create some gables in your new home? If so, then it is really worth going for SIPs panels. You will be able to construct some beautifully glazed gables that will really add some style to your home. To create them, a steel frame makes a large opening that can be fitted within the frame made from the SIPs panels. 

You can then stack either double or triple-glazed units onto this. To achieve some really great glazed gables, it is really essential that you get your window and frame suppliers to work closely together so that everything fits together well.

Open-Plan Rooms

When you build a home with SIPs panels, you will very easily be able to create some aesthetically pleasing open-plan living spaces. As these styles of rooms are very on-trend at the minute, this could be one explanation as to why SIPs are becoming so popular right now. These open rooms are made possible thanks to the large spans of the roof panels and joists. 

In fact, if you use the I-joist systems, then you will be able to achieve a span of up to 5m. To achieve a wider span, you will need to use a steel beam and integrate it in the floor build-up. Thankfully, this beam can be easily hidden.

Factory Produced

One thing that many people like about the SIPs panels is that they are all completely manufactured in the factory from which you buy them. This is a completely new method of construction in the building trade. Usually, when materials such as these kinds of panels would need to be produced, they would be manufactured on site.

Not SIPs panels, though. They will be manufactured at the factory and will arrive at your site complete and ready to start building with. This will provide you with a few useful advantages. Firstly, you won’t have to deal with all of the waste that is usually created when materials are manufactured on site. 

So, that is a lot less waste and rubbish that you will need to figure out how to dispose of. Not only that, though, but it also limits the amount that you are sending to the landfill as well. Ideally, for a greener build, you should always use a SIPs panels manufacturer that doesn’t send their waste to landfill as it will only impact the overall eco-friendliness of your own build project.

Made From Sustainable Materials

Lots of builders who are aiming to keep their project as environmentally friendly as possible decide to use SIPs panels because of the sustainable materials that they are made from. For example, the Orientated Strand Board (OSB) that is used in the panels is often manufactured from sustainable spruce trees. 

As well as this, in most buildings that do rely on SIPs panels, there is usually 35% less timber used in them compared to traditional builds. So, this is one thing that you might want to keep in mind when thinking about using sustainable materials in your next self-build project.

Vaulted Ceilings

Another great benefit of SIPs panels is the possibility to create vaulted ceilings. Because the panels are always well structured, there is no need to construct the more traditional roof trusses that you might find in other buildings. 

As a result, the top floor can be made much larger. Generally, it is increased from the standard 2.4m between floor and ceiling to a very generous 3.6m.

Speeds Up Build Time

You will also find that your self-build project won’t drag along for too long if you do decide to use SIPs panels. These panels don’t take too long to construct and are very easily and quickly put together. Before you realize it, the structure will be up and ready for you to get cracking with all the other aspects of the build! 

But a faster construction time doesn’t just mean that you will be finished in plenty of time. There are other benefits that this will bring you as well. For instance, it can help you cut down all of your costs and stick to your original budget. That’s because you won’t need to have all the builders and labourers on site for too long, which can greatly reduce your labour costs. 

Not only that, though, but you also won’t have to pay extensive costs for the prolonged hiring of machinery, equipment, and any possible temporary accommodation for all your contractors.

Lightweight

One other thing to bear in mind is that SIPs panels are extremely lightweight. In fact, they usually only weigh around 25 kg/m2 on average. Thanks to this, there will be no problems whatsoever moving them around the site and assembling them. Assembling them will also be quite quick thanks to this as well.

Just because they are quite light, though, it doesn’t mean that they lack any strength. In actual fact, SIPs panels are super strong. You will be able to have plenty of peace of mind knowing that your building will be able to withstand inclement weathers and other extreme conditions because of all the SIPs panels that went into building it!

Energy Efficient

Another reason why so many self-builders are now turning to SIPs panels for their construction needs is that they are incredibly energy efficient. There will be a lot less air leakage through them, which greatly cuts down on draughts and energy loss. 

As a result, the home will stay a low warmer for longer, requiring the heating system to be on less. That can bring down energy consumption and bills down by quite some way. That’s not all, though. Lots of homeowners find that the SIPs panels cut down on a lot of noise entering the home from outside, so houses end up a lot quieter as well.

Better Thermal Reliability

As briefly touched upon before, when you use SIPs panels in your new home, you will find that the property retains a lot more heat. This is all down to the rigid insulation that is used in them. When SIPs panels are used in a construction project, it is usually found that the building can reach a Code Level 4 or 5 for sustainable homes.

Of course, the benefits shouldn’t be the only thing that you consider when you do think about using SIPs panels in your next self-build project. Here are some other considerations that you will need to make as well.

A white SIPS panel house with a verandaA white SIPS panel house with a verandaA white SIPS panel house with a verandaA white SIPS panel house with a veranda

An example of a completed SIPS panel house; we think it looks great

Things To Keep In Mind When Building With SIPs Panels

There’s a good chance that you will be hiring professionals to help you on the build. Unless you have plenty of construction experience yourself

To make sure your use of SIPs panels goes without a hitch, it is worth thinking about these important factors when you are planning your new build.

Plan Your Ventilation System In Advance

You can’t simply build your home out of SIPs panels and then leave it. If you do that, you will have created an air-tight box which won’t be any good for heating and moisture control inside it. It is best to think about the ventilation system that you want while you are still in the planning stages so that you can figure out if it will work well with the specific type of SIPs panels that you are going to go with. 

Not only that, though, but designing it in the early stages will then give your architect time to include it in their drawings as well. This should flag up any issues that might arise during the construction phase so that you can now figure out any potential solutions.

Find A Reliable Expert To Work With

There’s a good chance that you will be hiring professionals to help you on the build. Unless you have plenty of construction experience yourself, this is always the best way to go. If you do try to build a home on your own, even after researching it a lot, you will find that there is a lot that could - and will- go wrong. So, it’s always best to rely on professional help.

When you do start to look for a construction professional, it is important to note that not everyone will be experienced with working with SIPs panels. As these are a fairly new method of construction, you might, in fact, struggle to find the right kind of professional for your job. However, it is really important that you do find someone. 

If you go with a builder who has no training with them or has never used them before, then the building project might not go quite as smoothly as you had envisioned. So, even though it may take a little longer to get your project up and running, it really is taking the time to find the best building expert to bring on to help you work with SIPs.

Think About The Size Of Your Site

Don't forget to carefully consider the size your site for the home will be as well. Even though you won’t be constructing the panels on your site, you will still need to have enough room to be able to manoeuvre them without any hold-ups. 

This can end up being a problem on smaller sites. That doesn’t mean that you will be unable to use SIPs to construct small properties, though. It’s just important to remember that you will need to be extra careful when it comes to planning the logistics of the project.

There will need to also be room on the site for a crane as this will be required to lift the heavy panels onto the roof. This could make the build problematic for a property that is located on a small country lane, as there might not be enough space to get the crane onto the site. 

This is obviously something you will need to think about before you do commit to using SIPs panels in your new home.

Plan Your Finishes

You will also need to consider what finishes you will use on the exterior and interior of your SIPs panels. These finishes will not be required to provide any structural support as that will all be down to the panels themselves. Instead, you just need to ensure that they help to make your property look good!

Lots of self-builders decide to go for lightweight cladding systems, such as rendering or rainscreen cladding. Of course, you will be able to opt for brick or other forms of heavier cladding if you prefer, but you will need to bear in mind that these will need to have their own foundations built.

You should also consider the finish that you will use on the interior of the panels. Don’t forget that this will be covering a number of services, such as electrics and water pipes.

Your Budget

SIPs panels are most builders’ dream material to build with, but some people are put off from using them because they can be quite expensive compared to other types of timber framing. So, before you do commit to buying these kinds of panels, you really do need to consult your budget and make sure that you can afford them.

It can be easy enough to work this out. You will just need to figure out how much you can afford to spend on the building project as a whole. Once you have a figure, simply allocate a percentage of it to the various parts of the project, such as windows, decorating, and plumbing. 

Some will need to be allocated to the frame and construction. Once you figure out how much you have to spend on this, you can then see if there will be enough for you to use on SIPs panels.

So, do you think you will use SIPs panels in your next building project? This article should have certainly given you plenty of interesting food for thought!