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Frequently Asked Questions

Check out our frequently asked questions or contact us for more information.

Do you have a question about Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)? Odds are, you’ll find the answer to your question in our comprehensive FAQ. Use the search bar below to fasten your search (click on the magnifying glass to the right).

 

We’ve covered questions from “how much do SIPs cost?” to installation information and much more. If you’d like to know more about us as a company, please read our story.

 

If your question is unanswered, or you’d prefer to speak with someone, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

  • What are SIPs?
    Structural Insulated Panels, more commonly known as SIPs, are top-tier panels used in place of more traditional framing, such as stud walls. Both residential and smaller commercial builds utilise SIPs for their flooring, walls and roofs to achieve better insulated, eco-friendly and energy efficient buildings. Our Smart SIPs panels are expertly crafted under meticulously regulated factory conditions by sandwiching a durable Neopor core insulation between two robust structural facings. The structural facings vary depending on the skin material chosen for your specific needs. SIPs are precision cut to your specifications and allow for tailor made designs. Opting for SIPs streamlines the construction process, leading to significant time and labour savings, along with being a more cost-effective option long-term.
  • How is building with SIPs faster?
    Building a SIPs home is much faster than building with other traditional framing methods for many reasons. According to research conducted by R.S Means, when using well-trained SIPs installers, you can see up to a 55% reduction in framing times (when compared to traditional framing). How? As we provide jumbo size panels which can be cut as big as 2.440m by 7.200m (or 8 by 24 foot), you can quickly assemble whole sections of your wall and roof. This also reduces drying time. Our panels are pre-cut to your specifications and arrive ready to assemble, reducing, if not eliminating, jobs like framing and insulating. Our panels provide the framing and insulation, combining two jobs into just one.
  • Can I save money by choosing to build with SIPs?
    The short answer is, yes! Building a SIPs home can certainly reduce your building and long-term operating costs of your new build. Builders, homeowners and owner builders alike can save money through reduced labour time. The reduced labour time will decrease the costs of your construction, leading to a more streamlined and cost-effective build. Using pre-cut panels, such as SIPs, also significantly reduces job site waste, reducing your spend on waste removal. On top of that, the ongoing high-performance of your new build will yield lower energy bills long-term. The Brock University Study demonstrated significant energy bill savings for SIPs homes - an $88 reduction in a winter month when compared to the stud wall home. This was based on the Canadian energy price of 2001 when the test was made. Energy costs in Australia are over four or more times the cost of when the study was conducted, so using SIPs and reducing your home’s energy usage is more important than ever.
  • Are SIPs sustainable?
    SIPs are among the most sustainable building materials available on the market. From reducing jobsite waste to creating homes with significantly reduced energy consumption, it’s hard to find a building system that is more eco-friendly than SIPs. By using SIPs, you'll decrease your, and your build’s, carbon footprint. SIPs buildings are incredibly airtight, reducing air leakage and the need for cooling and heating. Your energy-efficient home will positively impact the environment by reducing greenhouse emissions for the life of the home. For example, a home we’ve built (featured on our homepage) has an energy rating of 8.2. When compared to a 6 star rated building of the same size and in the same area, the 8.2 star rated home’s cooling bills will be 85% less while the heating bills will be 67% less.
  • Are SIPs strong?
    SIPs are incredibly strong and perform well in severe weather conditions and natural disasters. The strength and structural characteristics are comparable to a steel l-beam. The robust Neopor core acts as a web to the structural facing’s l-beam flange-like qualities. The strength of SIPs allow them to better handle in-plane compressive loads. If you’re looking to build in a high-wind zone, or an area prone to cyclones, SIPs are approved for up to 289 km per hour winds.
  • How do I properly size HVAC equipment?
    When installing HVAC equipment in your SIPs home, we recommend working closely with a HVAC professional. As SIPs builds are high-performance homes with low levels of air infiltration, HVAC sizing is essential, which HVAC professionals can advise on so you have energy-efficient equipment.
  • Is ventilation important in a SIPs build?
    Due to their airtight nature, SIPs do require mechanical ventilation to bring in controlled amount of fresh air. The ventilation also helps remove humid and or stale air. The limited flow of air in and out of the building helps to provide better air quality due to limited allergens and humid air coming inside. You can learn more about air quality in our next questions. SIP buildings are extremely airtight with air leakage rates well less than 3 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals of pressure (3.0 ACH50) and require mechanical ventilation. Ventilation systems bring fresh air into the building in controlled amounts and exhaust moisture laden and stale air to the outside. By limiting air exchange to controlled ventilation systems, SIP homes allow for all incoming air to be filtered for allergens and dehumidified, creating better indoor air quality. Proper ventilation is important in all homes to preserve indoor air quality. For more information, watch the SIPA website’s 50-minute educational video Integrating Mechanical Systems with SIPs.
  • Do SIPs improve indoor air quality?
    Yes, SIPs improve the quality of indoor air due to the airtightness they provide. Your airtight SIPs home prevents unwanted outside air from seeping inside. Only controlled amounts of air enter the home through the mechanical ventilation system. But how does this improve the air quality? Reducing air leakage provides a more controlled environment with less humidity that is all round more comfortable and healthy. Controlling your home’s humidity is an important factor in limiting dust mites and mould growth. Your home will also experience less allergens due to the filtering process.
  • How do SIPs react to fire?
    SIPs offer a manageable fire risk as long as their construction and installation meets the building code’s fire precautions. Depending on whether your build is residential or commercial, it will require different fires rating and potentially sprinkler systems. Please chat to us about any of your fire risk requirements.
  • Are SIPs compatible with other building systems?
    SIPs have a high compatibility rate with other building systems, making them a flexible choice to work with. Our wall panels are compatible with various foundation materials, from concrete to blocks. SIPs also work well with conventional framing options, providing solutions for those who would like SIPs walls with traditional roofing, or stud walls with a SIPs roof. To achieve a better-insulated house than using stud walls alone would allow, many opt to have SIPs as the building enclosure to traditional framing structures.
  • Do I need to factor in any considerations when building a SIPs home instead of a traditionally framed home?
    While SIPs is a different building material to conventional framing, you’d be surprised at how similar the process actually is. SIPs are secured together by using nails, staples or screws and accept dimensional lumber. However, it’s of utmost importance to ensure that all SIPs joints are well sealed with a SIPs specific sealant or expanding foam sealant. Occasionally, self-adhesive SIPs tape is required. When building with SIPs, you will need to consider the staging and placement of the panels on your construction site. While smaller panels may be set by hard, large panels will need equipment.
  • Can SIPs be modified onsite?
    Yes, onsite modification is possible and easy to do when using SIPs specific tools. While the need for onsite modification is usually unnecessary due to the panels being pre-cut to your design, we understand that a situation may arise where you wish to cut down a panel to a smaller size.
  • How do we install our electrical wiring and fixtures?
    The manufacturing process will follow your electrical design to add chases that the electrical wires are pulled through. This process is easily done without the need for drilling or compressing the insulation.
  • Are SIPs prone to insects?
    While we wouldn't say that SIPs are prone to insects – insects such as termites don’t eat the Neopor core – there have been some reported cases of nesting insects hollowing out the panels. To help prevent this, we can treat the panels to deter insects. Insects, such as termites, are generally deterred due to the design of the panels. We always recommend thorough insect prevention and ongoing maintenance, as you’d be advised with any other wooden structure.
  • Can I repair or replace damaged SIPs?
    Should damage happen to your building’s panels, we advise you to get in touch with a structural engineer as soon as possible so they can check for structural damage. It can be hard to determine if there is cosmetic damage alone, or if the damage has impacted the structural integrity, so a structural engineer is integral as they are qualified and experienced in doing so. Cosmetic damage will indicate that there is a source of moisture that needs to be identified and fixed. If your panels have suffered structural damage, the engineer will identify the issue in their assessment and provide a solution to repair the damage. Onsite modification or total panel replacement will depend on the extent of the damage. Please contact us if you’ve experienced damage to your SIP. We can advise you on what you may need to do next.
  • Will an asphalt shingle manufacturer still provide warranty coverage if the shingles are used over SIPs roofs?
    The answer to this question really depends on the individual manufacturer. Some will, while others won’t due to the high temperatures asphalt shingles can reach. We recommend using other more durable roofing materials over asphalt shingles. Or you can opt for a ventilated roof.
  • Does a SIPs roof require ventilation?
    No, a SIPs roof does not require ventilation. A home built with SIPs is ventilated and considered a conditioned space. Including a vented attic for a SIPs roof would jeopardise the conditioned space. However, we believe it’s a good idea to consider installing a “cold roof” (a space between the SIPs roof and roofing materials). While it’s not a requirement, we believe it’s best practice to enhance the building’s durability and moisture resilience.
  • I’m interested in learning more about designing and engineering a SIPs building.
    We invite you to contact us with any of your SIPs related questions, we can advise you on the designing and engineering processes.
  • How much do SIPs cost?
    SIPs costs are dependent on the size, volume and specific needs of your build. Please contact us today to get a ballpark quote on how much your SIPs build may be. While the initial costs of SIPs, when compared to timber framing, are about 5% more, using SIPs is a more cost-effective option when considering the reduced labour times, onsite waste and ongoing operating costs of your home. Reduced labour times include time spent on electrical, plumbing and framing. A study conducted by R.S. Means demonstrated that a SIPs build’s labour time was decreased by up to 55%, when compared to traditional framing.
  • Are SIPs accepted and approved by building codes?
    Yes, Smart SIPs is approved by the Building Code of Australia (BCA). We take the quality and safety of our products seriously, so we’ve also invested in independent testing by three different companies. The approval of an engineer or architect is sometimes required for specific constructions. You can contact us for more information
  • How are exterior claddings and sidings attached to SIPs?
    We recommend seeking guidance from your siding manufacturers or the installation instructions. You should be able to find the information for attaching the siding to the SIPs in the installation instructions. Please keep in mind that the panels are very solid, so factor in an increased fastening schedule for exterior cladding. If you are unable to access any instructions from your siding manufacturer, please contact an engineer or architect. They will be able to calculate and advise.
  • Does shingle ridging happen in SIPs buildings?
    While rare, shingle ridging can happen in traditional roofing and SIPs roofing. It’s caused by changing moisture levels in the roof’s sheathing, causing the panels to expand. The expansion is cosmetic only and does not impact the SIPs roof’s performance. To help avoid shingle rigiding happening to your build, we recommend utilising a cold roof, or adding an additional layer of panels over the joints. Otherwise, consider using other roofing materials instead of asphalt shingles.
  • What is the R-value of SIPs?
    Please see our comprehensive chart for the R-values of our Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs).
  • Are there studs in SIPs? How are the panels supported?
    In the majority of SIPs builds, SIPs are structurally self-sufficient due to their strength. Please learn more about their strength in the above questions: Are SIPs strong? In scenarios where additional support is required, you can do so with an engineered wood spline or dimensional lumber spline that’s installed at in-plane panel connections. Overall, you can lower the amount of structural support required which will heavily reduce your material costs. In roof installations, SIPs do require support in the form of beams or purlins. SIPs can be cut large, so they can span vast distances, again reducing your need for structural supports.Increase the span and load of your roof by embedding l-joists.
  • Can recessed lights be used in SIPs?
    We recommend using the more energy-efficient thin LED lights in place of recessed lights. The thin LED lights are more energy-efficient and they are a modern fixture that is gaining popularity. Please do not embed recessed lights in SIP. If you wish to still use recessed lighting over the LED lighting, please note that you will need to construct an interior soffit.
  • Can SIPs block or reduce sound transmission?
    SIPs are great at reducing high-frequency sounds, and most residents of SIPs homes do notice. SIPs aren’t as effective in reducing low-frequency sounds. Overall sound resistance of your SIPs home depends on the thickness of the applied plaster and exterior cladding. It also depends on what type of thickness you choose for your internal core of the panels.
  • Do SIPS buildings require air or vapour barriers?
    No, SIPs buildings do not require air or vapour barriers. Properly sealed SIPs provide an air barrier that is compliant with code regulations and have a permeability of less than 1.0 perm. Due to the robust Neopor core, the SIPs panel is solid and eliminates condensation issues and convection. Please note: we are not referring to external water register barriers. All external wooden structures require them for protection.
  • How does plumbing work with SIPs?
    When planning a SIPs build, the design phase needs to ensure that all plumbing is located in the interior wall, and not exterior due to the possibility of cold conditions causing frozen supply lines, and the chance of condensation. If plumbing needs to be located in an exterior wall, we recommend that you install a batten inside of the SIPs Wall, the thickness of the proposed plumbing pipes and fittings. After the plumbing pipes or fittings are installed and tested you can close the wall with a waterproof plasterboard or Villaboard. Do not cut a chase in the facing panel of the SIPs as this will affect the engineering design of the SIPs panel and void the warranty. Other methods are possible, such as including small amounts of traditional framing to house the plumbing and more. Please consult with us or your design professional for more information.
  • Can I attach kitchen cabinets to SIPs?
    Please refer to your kitchen cabinet manufacturer's instructions. Please note, an increased fastener schedule will be required. For enhanced holding strength, you may consider attaching plywood strips the the back of the cabinets. If your cabinet maker doesn't provide instructions for attaching to SIPs then please consult with Smart SIPs and we or our engineers will help with the fixing information based on the size and weight of the cabinets. As the SIPs have a 11mm solid OSB as the facing material and solid timber splines to the joins between the SIPs panels usually there is enough material to attached most cabinets. One method used successfully is to line the wall with a second layer of 11mm OSB providing 22m of solid material to fix the cabinet to.
  • Are SIPs prone to mildew and mould?
    The airtight and watertight nature of properly installed SIPs provides a great protection against mildew and mould. As only a controlled amount of dehumidified air comes through the ventilation system, mould cannot grow. On top of this, SIPs are solid structures free of any cavities, so you won’t experience hidden mould growth.
  • I want to build a SIPs home. What is the first step?
    For homeowners and builders alike, we advise you to reach out to us as a first step. Our friendly and knowledgeable team can advise you on what needs to be done and when, as well as giving you a ballpark estimate on your project costs. Please contact us today, we are looking forward to working with you.
  • How does the fabrication and design process for a SIPs build work?
    A SIPs build starts with construction documents. Once we, or a design professional, have them, they’re converted into SIPs shop drawings to determine the dimensions of each panel. Following this, the homeowner, builder and engineer will review the shop drawings. Upon finalisation of the drawings, the SIPs are then made to size and specifications before being delivered to the construction site, ready for installation.
  • Is there a steep learning curve for SIPs installation?
    SIPs construction is simple and easy for a carpenter or owner builder to learn and master the proper installation process. Smart SIPs also provides online and onsite training for our clients for their first installation of their Smart SIPs materials and ongoing support by way of phone, email or Zoom meetings. Smarts SIPs provide a full building system with SIPs materials, engineering, design support, and installation training for our clients.
  • I’m interested in learning more about SIPs?
    Our website is loaded with information about SIPs. Please explore our website to learn more information. If you have a question that isn’t covered on our website, we invite you to contact us so we can provide you with an answer. We are experts in SIPs and we’d love to answer any of your SIPs related questions.
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