APA - The Engineered Wood Association

“SIPs combine speed, moisture control and structure into one system.”

Larry Nelson   /// 
Thermal Shell Homes  ///  Houston, Texas
Gary Beck, P.E., SECB, LEED® AP  ///  Eco-Holdings Engineering  ///  Houston, Texas

  Raised wood floor home by Thermal Shell Homes
  Larry Nelson’s homes typically feature Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) floor systems. “The SIP itself serves as the structural framing, insulation, air barrier – all combined into one product. When you install a SIP panel, you achieve all of these requirements.”

SIPs (structural insulated panels) are high-performance building panels made by sandwiching a core of rigid foam insulation between two skins of wood structural panels. SIPs are often used in wall construction because they offer improved energy efficiency, strength to the structure, and are prefabricated off site for fast installation. Thermal Shell Homes owner-builder Larry Nelson says that SIPs are just as advantageous in a raised floor system. “The quality of a SIP floor system is higher. It goes together faster and it saves the builder time.”

“SIP subfloors just go down so fast,” adds Eco-Holding’s owner-engineer Gary Beck. “You put your beams down, then you lay your panels down, and then you are ready to start building your walls. And you’re already insulated too.”

Nelson, who has built with SIPs since 1987, and Beck have designed and built many raised floor homes with SIPs in the Houston area. “Even if you’re not building the rest of the house with SIPs, they have too many good things to offer just as a subfloor,” says Beck. “SIPs combine speed, moisture control and structure into one system.”

Common SIP subfloor spline connection  

Nelson says “all-in-one” SIPs are the most labor and energy-efficient floor system on the market today. “Once you lay down that SIP panel, you’ve got your structural framing, you’ve done your insulation, you’ve done your air barrier... everything! You don’t have to fool around with subcontractors or handle additional materials. It just simplifies things.”

According to Beck, SIP subfloor panels that are properly joined together during construction eliminate air infiltration, preventing drafts and moisture from entering the house. “When properly detailed, you don’t get that moisture transfer or that temperature differential across the SIP subfloor,” says Beck. “Having seen other systems and all different ways of doing insulation, a SIP subfloor on a crawlspace foundation can be cost-effective, in terms of energy, and very effective in structural performance.”

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