PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

PATH Case Study

Hybrid Combines the Strength of Steel with the Speed of SIPs


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[IMAGE: Steel SIP walls are placed into their bottom track, braced, and then fastened in place after installing the top track.]

"Convincing people that their home could be built faster and better with insulated steel panels can be tricky at first, but once they walk into a SIP-framed home, they are sold. Our homeowners have been known to brag about how stable the indoor temperatures are compared to outside."


Steel SIPs can be used for floors, interior and exterior walls, ceilings, and roofs. Manufacturers of steel SIPs usually produce specific widths, so designing with modular increments corresponding to stock panel widths is recommended. Stock panels are typically 4 feet wide and range from 8 to 12 feet high. Even if panels are cut to fit one wall, the remaining portion can usually be used in another location to minimize waste.

"The TransconSteel UltraFrame panels we use are made with Delta Studs, a patented lightweight steel framing system with the same geometric profile as conventional steel stud C-channels. A moisture-cured adhesive is then used to glue expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam between the Delta Studs. The EPS foam has a fire retardant built into its cellular structure and also includes a Borate treatment to keep pests from nesting in the walls."


SIPs are made from a thick layer of polystyrene or polyurethane foam sandwiched between two layers of oriented strand board, plywood, light gauge steel studs or fiber cement. The result is an engineered panel that provides structural framing, insulation, and exterior sheathing in a solid, one-piece component. Arriving precut to the jobsite, the panels can be rapidly assembled by workers without extensive training. SIPs construction allows builders to quickly construct an exterior building envelope that is strong, airtight, and energy efficient.

Read the ToolBase Tech Spec.

"TransconSteel panels come in thicknesses of 3½" and 5½" with light gauge (24 ga.) Delta Studs at either 16" or 24" on center. We use both 3½ and 5½ inch thick panels, but lean more towards the 5½ inch thick panels to create a more satisfying-looking wall with deeper window jambs and increased sound attenuation."

"We prefer SIPs with pre-cut openings, which include headers and require accurate door and window measurements to minimize cut-out waste. The alternative is to field cut openings and deal with the extra waste. Even with precut panels, unforeseen plan changes are accommodated fairly easily. There's nothing that can happen in the field that's unfixable."

"When building with steel SIPs, the one thing you can't do is go to a typical home improvement store to purchase anything you might be short of. For example, if you find yourself in need of an additional panel, it could cause a significant construction delay, depending on the location and responsiveness of your supplier. We sometimes order a few extra panels just for backup."


"Steel SIPs are also lightweight and easy to handle. Most panels weigh between 30 and 80 pounds, depending on the size, requiring only 2 men to position them. We like to have 3 to 5 crew members on site to install the panels. As long as your crew knows square, level, and plumb, they can install the panels just fine. A typical house, around 2,000 square feet, takes about 3 to 4 days to get the SIP walls and roof up."

"As with any home, but even more so when using SIPs, it's really important to make sure that the slab is formed and poured properly to ensure straight edges and a level finished surface. We measure the slab, lay the bottom track out, much the same way we would lay out a bottom plate for a wood-framed wall, and then use anchor bolts to attach the track to the slab shortly after the concrete has set up. I like to hang the track off the slab ½" to create a drip ledge even though we also seal underneath the track. Once the bottom track is set in place, we start at a building corner and set two corner panels into the track, joining them with a sealing caulk adhesive before fastening them together. It's almost like building with Legos--it's truly that easy."

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Content updated on 9/27/2006

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