A SIP roof panel laid on the attic framing of a home under construction

SIPs or Structural Insulated Panels are high-performance construction panels providing airtight interior space. They’re great for controlling interior temperatures as well as protecting from the weather outside.

However, considering all these benefits, you may wonder what the cost of SIP construction is.

This article will discuss the average cost of building with SIPs panels, the best time to install them, and synopsize the advantages and downsides you should consider. 

So, let’s dive in!

How Much Do SIPs Cost?

A SIPs panel costs around $17-$30 per square foot ($183-$323 per square meter). If bought as a kit – with the truss and timber frame – it costs around $35,000-$41,000. Without the truss, a panel costs around $17,000-$20,000.

While there are cheaper alternatives, SIPs panels are worth the extra cost because they’re more durable. 

Structural Insulated Panel Cost Breakdown

SIPs panels may seem like they cost more than other construction materials, but they are more cost-effective in the long run. You can buy SIPs panels individually or together in building kits which can be inserted into place.

The following will give you an idea of how much SIPs panels cost: 

  • Structural insulated panels’ retail price range from around $17-$30 per square foot ($183-$323 per square meter). 
  • SIPs panels without a truss timber frame cost less, averaging around $17,000-$20,000 for a typical home.
  • SIPs with a truss timber frame cost around $35,000-$41,000. This price is significantly more, but the panels are also of higher quality.
  • The thickness of the SIPs ranges from 4.63-12.25 inches (11.76 to 31.16 centimeters). Thicker ones are better at insulating your home.
  • For a 4 x 8-foot (1.2 x 2.4-meter) panel, the average price ranges from $307-$386.
  • For a 4 x 16-foot (1.2 x 4.9-meter) panel, the average price ranges from $615-$772.
  • For a 4 x 24-foot (1.2 x 7.3-meter) panel, the average price ranges from $923-$1,847.
  • For an 8 x 24-foot (2.4 x 7.3-meter) panel, the average price ranges from $1,847-$2,317

To work out the prices, builders take into consideration the following:

  • The weight of the cladding
  • Delivery time
  • Area of load bearing
  • External walls
  • Roof material

If the panels are used in a roof extension, the total cost is usually less than building from scratch. 

When To Install SIPs

You can install structural insulated panels throughout the year. In areas with a warm climate, SIP insulation repels the heat instead of absorbing it into the walls. 

Even in the summer, the area inside stays cool due to the airtight nature of the panels. It prevents the heat from seeping into the building, making it much easier to keep the space cold.

A stack of SIPs with a workers putting his hand on the panel on top.

In areas with cold climates, the benefit of installing structural insulated panels is that the insulation controls the temperature. As a result, the furnace inside keeps the house warm for much longer.

If you live in an area with a lot of pollution or smog, SIPs are ideal. The mechanical ventilation system installed with structural insulated panels keeps the air clean. Additionally, it keeps the indoors free from moisture, which can cause mold damage in areas in cold, damp climates.

Advantages of SIPs

There are numerous benefits of structural insulated panels.

Some of the most prominent include:

Maintaining the Indoor Temperature

Structural insulated panels are airtight, which helps keep the indoor temperature constant. They don’t let the outside weather affect the temperature inside the building. Other framing construction materials like timber, cement, or concrete aren’t airtight and don’t offer constant temperature control. 

Minimizing Your HVAC System’s Energy Consumption

SIPs are energy-efficient. Since they don’t let air get in or leak out, they reduce the load on HVAC systems, minimizing the energy used to maintain a constant room temperature. This feature will help you save on energy bills. 

You will only need to invest in more robust HVAC systems if you have energy-saving SIPs panels. Unlike timber, they don’t retain heat or cold for long.   

Flexibility and Customizability

SIPs are very customizable, allowing architects to explore and construct creative designs. Unfortunately, rigid panels such as concrete, timber, and steel don’t allow this flexibility.

A picture of a small prefabricated home being built. It shows unpainted walls hanging from a crane being moved into place with the help of two construction workers.

At the same time, structural insulated panels are relatively durable. For example, they are seven times stronger than timber panels, making them ideal for hurricane-resistant homes

Less Build Time Required

SIPs are quicker to build with than other construction materials. They are the perfect option if you’re in a hurry and need something readily available. They’re sold pre-cut, so builders only need to fit them. As a result, you can expect reduced construction errors and labor requirements.

Long-Term Financial Savings

Homes made from structural insulated panels are so robust that they last between 60-90 years. Their construction time is also significantly decreased, leading to less waste on job sites. So by building with SIPs, you’ll save on waste disposal costs. 

Disadvantages of SIPs Panels

Despite the multitude of benefits, like most things, structural insulated panel construction has distinct drawbacks.

Some of these weaknesses include the following:

Prone to Moisture Damage

SIPs panels start degrading as soon as moisture seeps into them. Water causes rotting of the outward wood, which can severely weaken your building structure. For this reason, you might prefer cement, brick, or steel frames. 

Mold growth and wood rot behind the wall in our second Net-Zero home
Mold growth and wood rot behind the wall in our second Net-Zero home.

They Don’t Allow Alteration

SIPs panels are usually available pre-constructed, leaving little to no room for improvements or changes. Unfortunately, this permanence can be limiting when customizing a project based on specific needs or preferences.

With timber, on the other hand, builders have access to various options, such as different sizes and shapes of wood pieces. These can be cut and assembled into unique structures that fit your specifications.

Not Every Builder Has Experience With SIPs

Since structural insulated panels only gained popularity in the last few decades, only select professional builders and contractors specialize in their installation. As a result, you may have to wait longer than expected for a professional to start working on your design. 

They Require an Additional Ventilation System

Due to SIPs being so airtight, they prevent stale air from escaping out of the building. Indoor spaces built with structural insulated panels need a mechanical ventilation system. It’s necessary to add vents and extractors so that condensation doesn’t build up, which can lead to mold. 

A homeowner replaces an air filter to improve HVAC efficiency

Alternatives to Strucutural Insulated Panels

While SIPs are the industry standard nowadays, here are several alternatives you can consider:

  • Timber – timber framing is the norm in many places. It has a faster building time and gets stronger as it ages. However, it may also be susceptible to rot from moisture and condensation in the air.
  • Steel – steel frames are a solid, long-lasting, and reliable alternative to structural insulated panels. In addition, they’re resistant to termites, mold, and most pests. However, they’re limited in flexibility and don’t have the same level of insulation as SIPs.
  • Insulated Concrete Forms – insulated concrete forms, or ICFs, are strong, durable, and moisture-resistant. Like SIPs, ICFs also provide airtight framing options. But you should know that ICFs need professionals who are used to working with this material. Unfortunately, as we’ve mentioned, these professionals can be difficult to find due to their limited availability.

Final Thoughts

While the initial installation costs of SIPs are slightly higher than traditional building materials, they offer more durability and better insulation. These characteristics make them an ideal choice for homeowners looking to reduce their energy consumption. 

Unlike traditional wooden frames or cement blocks, which can absorb moisture and cause complications in insulation, SIPs panels use an airtight seal to prevent heat transfer. Finally, they also require less labor during installation, significantly reducing labor costs.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *