How Easy is it to Install Structural Insulated Panels?

How Easy is it to Install Structural Insulated Panels?

Written by:  Jeff Beason, Premier Building Systems, Regional Territory Manager

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are easy to install

Let me tell you a story about how easy SIPs installs can be. Having been in the SIP industry for nearly 20 years, I have worked with many homeowners who have installed SIPs themselves. A couple of years back, I went to a job site where a family was building a 1,300 square foot home. They were doing all the SIP install work with the help of their two teenaged sons. It was awesome!

They were having a great time working together, taking breaks together every few hours, grilling up food for all of us. The second day I was there, I was standing next to the oldest son, 19, and I said to him, “your parents are great.” And he was like, “yeah, they are alright.” I said, “alright? You all seem to get along splendidly.” And he said, “your perception of your parents changes over time. When I was younger, I would look at my parents and think, “you two are the most embarrassing people that I have ever seen in my entire life.” Then, as I got older, a bit wiser, I am thinking, “you know what? I think these two might be all right.” But I have a feeling that once they retire and I spend more time with them, I will be thinking, “oh, no, I had it right the first time. These two are nuts!” I am pretty sure he was joking; they were a great family. I stayed there for a day and a half, helping them build their home. They were nearly complete with their wall panels by the time I left.

Why are SIPs so easy to install?

With SIPs, you are getting the framing, the sheathing, and insulation all in one. According to an RS Means study, SIPs can be installed up to 55% faster than stick framing. SIP panels can be sent to the site ready-to-assemble (RTA). They come pre-installed with lumber and headers to maximize on-site speed and efficiency. If you hire a crew, typically, a five-person crew is optimal. With two people installing, two people preparing the next SIP for installation, and one person applying the sealant, cutting the little lumber required, and helping lift the panels into place, the SIPs will be up in no time. How fast can they go up? Well, I know a crew that installed the exterior walls and roof panels on a 1,900 square foot home in two minutes. Do you not believe me? Well, here is the proof on video. Okay, this is a time-lapse video, but you can still see how fast and easy it is to install SIPs. This house went up in one day.

Stuck inside Sticks? 

You can encounter many problems when framing with 2x’s. Stick framed structures are susceptible to termite and moisture problems (fungal decay). At the same time, Premier SIPs have Zinc Borate (ZB) treated OSB skins that, according to the OSB manufacturer’s warranty, “will perform without failure of structural integrity due to damage caused from termites and fungal decay.” And if you have ever gone to a lumber yard and tried to purchase more than a few straight pieces of lumber, you know how that can be a challenge. Want straight walls? Good luck with today’s lumber.

Would you believe that 70 percent of home contractors accidentally wall themselves in when using sticks to frame a home? Stick framing is that complicated. Framers just start building walls everywhere and eventually trap themselves inside the enclosure they created? The framers are accidentally standing the last wall before they realize that they made a big mistake and did not provide themselves with a way out. Entire construction crews are often trapped on the top floors of multi-story homes because they forgot to build stairs.

Cabin Drawing

Actual shop drawing of a typical SIPs structure.

As far as I know, that has not ever happened, but I am sure you get the point. SIPs, on the other hand, go together like an enormous jigsaw puzzle, while stick framing requires hundreds of more parts and additional labor to address the components that comprise a non-SIP wall. When you purchase a SIP package from Premier, you will get a set of shop drawings. These drawings will show you where every SIP goes, where they connect, and where the minimal amount of lumber is required. The shop drawings will give the dimensions of each panel. The shop drawings are typically reviewed by the purchaser of the SIPs, the builder, engineer, and any other involved parties. Once the shop drawings are finalized and approved, the SIPs are fabricated and shipped to the jobsite for installation.


Structural Panels Are the Solution

When you want to build a home, consider SIPs as your framing option. Especially if you want to hang out with your family through task-based projects and you say to your significant other, “Let us buy some lumber and learn how to build.” Forget the lumber! SIPs are much easier to install, plus they go up much faster than stick framing. Avoid the problems created when building with sticks and use SIPs. All you must do is follow the shop drawings and build your puzzle. Once the puzzle is complete, you will have a great, energy-efficient home.

About the Author

Jeff Beason, MBA has been selling Structural Insulated Panels for over 20 years and has consulted both homeowners and architects. If you would like to contact Jeff directly, he can be reached at