Perhaps you’ve seen the term “SIPs” mentioned when reading about tiny house construction, and you wondered what those were exactly. One of the primary goals when building a smaller home is to make sure it’s energy-efficient and also lightweight, without sacrificing structural integrity. This is especially true when building one on a trailer, where weight is a primary concern.
SIPS, or Structural Insulated Panels, are made by sandwiching an insulated foam core between two structural facings, usually made of oriented strand board (OSB). They’re extremely strong and versatile, not to mention cost effective. They generally cost about the same as building with a wood frame construction. In the long term their high insulating properties saves on heating and cooling costs as well.
SIPs are quite flexible when it comes to using them for a build – from studs and joists, insulation, or vapor barriers, they offer a wide array of usage options. You can even use them on flooring, roof, and foundation. The standardized nature of these panels coupled with a wide range of use makes for shorter build times. It’s common to spend half the time you might spend if you chose normal materials and they require less labor in many cases.
Made of foam? Are they strong?
You might think these panels with their foam cores aren’t as strong as a conventional stick-framed house, but you’d be wrong. In fact, they outperform traditional construction methods in regards to axial load strength.
What sizes are available?
In the US, SIPs can be found in a variety of lengths and thicknesses. They range from 4′ to 24′ long and can be 4″ to 12″ thick. The foam core that’s sandwiched between the boards is made from EPS foam, a strong, dense type of foam that has very good insulation properties.