The Pros and Cons of Building with SIPs

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) have been gaining popularity in the construction industry due to their numerous benefits. These panels are made up of a foam core sandwiched between two structural boards, usually oriented strand board (OSB). They offer better insulation, easier control of heat, air, and humidity, and are more energy-efficient compared to traditional wooden frames. However, like any other construction method, SIPs also have their disadvantages that need to be considered before deciding if they are the right choice for your project.

The Disadvantages of SIP Houses

One of the main disadvantages of building with SIPs is their vulnerability to moisture damage. This is primarily because the composition of SIP panels includes wood, which is susceptible to rot, mold, and mildew. This can lead to structural damage and health hazards if not addressed properly. Another disadvantage is the limited durability of SIPs.

While they can last for decades if properly maintained, they are not as long-lasting as other construction materials such as concrete or steel. This means that they may need to be replaced or repaired sooner than expected. SIPs also offer little room for improvement once the construction is complete. Unlike traditional wooden frames where walls can be easily modified or moved, SIPs are more difficult to alter without compromising their structural integrity.

This can be a disadvantage for those who may want to make changes to their home in the future.

The Advantages of SIP Houses

Despite their disadvantages, SIPs offer numerous advantages that make them a popular choice for many builders and homeowners. One of the main benefits is the reduction of thermal bridges. Thermal bridges occur when there is a break in the insulation layer, causing heat to escape and increasing energy consumption.

SIPs, with their solid insulation, eliminate these thermal bridges, making them more energy-efficient. Another advantage is the ease of controlling heat, air, and humidity in SIP buildings. The solid insulation built into the panels means that the air seal should be easier to achieve compared to traditional wooden frames. This results in better temperature control and improved indoor air quality.

SIPs also offer design flexibility, allowing them to be used together with other conventional construction materials. This makes them a versatile option for various building projects.

The Importance of Proper Ventilation

One of the key considerations when building with SIPs is proper ventilation. Since these panels are usually airtight, special attention should be paid to ventilation to ensure adequate air circulation.

This is essential for maintaining a healthy living space and preventing moisture-related issues. Investing in a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery (MVHR) is recommended for SIP buildings. This will help avoid moisture problems and maintain good indoor air quality.

The Cost of Building with SIPs

The cost of building with SIPs can vary depending on the size and complexity of the project.

Generally, building with SIPs can cost around 10% more than traditional wooden frames. This is because SIPs are precisely cut and customized to fit your building's CAD drawings, and altering their design can compromise structural strength and efficiency.

My Experience with SIP Houses

I have personally built a house using SIPs and have experienced both the advantages and disadvantages of this construction method. While my house has been energy-efficient and well-insulated, I have also faced moisture-related issues that needed to be addressed.

I have also tested fan doors in my SIP house and measured an air leak rate of 1.7 air changes per hour at 50 pascals (ACH50). This is a good indication of the airtightness of SIP buildings. However, I have also seen the negative effects of moisture on SIPs in another house built by a friend. This has made me realize the importance of proper ventilation and moisture control when building with SIPs.


SIPs offer numerous benefits such as energy efficiency, better insulation, and design flexibility. However, they also have their disadvantages, including vulnerability to moisture damage and limited durability. Proper ventilation is crucial when building with SIPs to avoid moisture-related issues. It is also essential to work with experienced professionals who can ensure proper installation and address any potential issues.