SIP vs 2x4 construction

Old 11-07-05, 02:04 PM
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SIP vs 2x4 construction

We are in the planning stages of a small 24x32 cabin at the lake, I am trying to compare the framing costs of SIP Structral insulated panel construction to that of traditional stick construction. The cabin is 24x 32 with 12/12 pitch on the roof allowing for 2 bedrooms up stairs. We have received a bid for the SIP construction of $24K. We were told it would cost in the neighborhood of 3-4K to have them installed and take under 1 week, The bid includes all structral lumber and door and window openings, and each panel will come with a wire chase. The way I understand it we just need to apply the roofing materials and the siding install the windows and doors and we are weather proof. What phases of traditional construction would we need to complete and what is a rough estimate of the costs. We are being told the amount we save in labor will almost make the two compatible. Does anyone know if this is true and do you have any advise of which is better in the long run?
Old 11-07-05, 04:52 PM
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Since you got one bid for SIP, then I suggest getting bids for stick construction. I also would get bids for what the SIP manufacturer will not provide based upon what you purchased.

Providing a guess at cost here would not be right nor very accurate. You need to get bids and determine which way will either save money or cost you money. I can tell you that the costs are more for SIP but energy savings may be its MAIN selling factor. I assume where you live, it may be equal in cost but that is an assumption. Where one lives, does make a world of difference in price.

In addition, what other issues must be considered when comparing SIP to stick built construction?

More planning/time has to be done with SIP!

Pre-planning is one of the keys to the success of SIP construction. Plumbing and electrical runs need to be pre-determined, so the manufacturer can accommodate these needs. It may take two or three weeks for the SIP manufacturer to modify a set of blueprints for their building system. The quality (level of detail and thoroughness) of the shop drawings the SIP supplier produces is very important, as they address questions up front before they can become problems on site. The finished structurally insulated panels can be delivered in as little as two weeks after approval of the modified plans.


Many factors come into play when building a home panelized. Because they are engineered and built in a factory, panelized walls (and roof panels) are more expensive initially than buying raw materials for conventional construction. However, the resulting savings in terms of site labor, material waste and clean-up fees, and shorter construction timeframes offset much, if not all, of the cost of the panels. SIPs may cost more than other panels due to the insulation component, but again that cost is largely offset when compared to adding the insulation on site. In fact, SIP walls typically carry a much higher insulation factor which would require additional expense to bring a conventionally framed home up to the same energy efficiency of an SIP home. One drawback to using SIP is that they are thicker. Not by much but when you consider 4 1/2" wall verus 2x4, it does start to add up of the space that you cannot obtain with SIP.

I will warn you that the SIP does make for a tighter home and in more cases than not, Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV) or Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) will be required. This does add cost! It doesn't only happen to homes that are construction with SIP's but conventional framing as well when things are done right. There is a need for controlled ventilation in tight homes. These devices salvage about 80% of the energy from the stale exhaust air and then deliver that energy to the fresh entering air by way of a heat exchanger inside the device.

Hope this helps!
Old 02-18-06, 03:42 PM
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Take a look at It answers questions about SIP framing and energy use.
Old 02-21-06, 05:40 PM
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I design plans for (2) local sip manufacturers. With sip the product cost is slightly higher for the actual materials as with any premanufactured building product. The advantages are great... The framing time is reduced from 3-4 weeks to frame, plumb & line and pickup down top 3-5 days to shell. The time savings are great and the other added benfits are high insulation values, all electrical and plumbing are predrilled and so the electrical and plumbing cost should be reduced. Technically you can paper the roof with 30 lb paper and be good to go for a few months as well as building paper and install windows. You would be dry in just 2 weeks worst case. The disadvantage is the stigma with any alternative framing methods. With sip you can build the floors and roofs as well. I would suggest looking at either the sip council at or look up the guy who helped bring sip panels to market 25 years ago Gary Radzat. You will find both sites have a lot of questions already answered as well as contacts for you locally to find another price.

Brian Garrison

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