The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

REAL ESTATE Question for builders (SIP and ICF construction)

Remove ads while supporting the Unscripted philosophy...become an INSIDER.

8 SNAKE

Contributor
Aug 15, 2007
239
44
25
Midwest
Any of you using SIPs or ICFs in your construction projects? I've done some research on both and am curious to hear some feedback from people who have used either method.

My main questions:
1. Does the labor savings typically make up for the increased cost of materials?
2. What brand of SIP/ICF did you use and why?
3. How is the market for selling an SIP/ICF home compared to stick frame? (this is
obviously region biased)
4. Did you notice a significant reduction in waste materials using either method?
5. Would you recommend SIP/ICF over stick frame? Why or why not?

I'd also love to hear from anyone who owns a house built with SIPs or ICFs.
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

Jason_MI

New Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
106
8
15
Any of you using SIPs or ICFs in your construction projects? I've done some research on both and am curious to hear some feedback from people who have used either method.

I was a builder for 15 years with my own construction company and specialized in SIP construction.

My main questions:
1. Does the labor savings typically make up for the increased cost of materials?

That depends. From a purely financial standpoint, always. Does that mean SIP/ICF contractors 'pass' on those savings to the end-customer? Absolutely not. Just like any other specialized/out of the ordniary construction practice, for the end user, it usually is more expensive.

2. What brand of SIP/ICF did you use and why?

R-Control, WinterPanel. Best sources/local. R-Control plant is only 60 miles from my house.

3. How is the market for selling an SIP/ICF home compared to stick frame? (this is
obviously region biased)

It was poor. The majority of people are first interested in size and anemities. Energy effeciency was not even a consideration for 99% of the people in this country in the 90's and early 2000's. Think of it this way; people who are interested in effeciency are the ones who chose to drive a Prius in 1998, even though everyone else was driving a SUV. I think this will change as energy prices continue to remain high. This is obviously a much smaller market than mass-produced housing; but like anything else; less competition for those fewer customers.

4. Did you notice a significant reduction in waste materials using either method?

Yes. 50% or more less.

5. Would you recommend SIP/ICF over stick frame? Why or why not?

Absolutely. I'd never build stick frame again. Purely from an energy savings standpoint and future energy costs, stick frame would not even be a choice for me.

I'd also love to hear from anyone who owns a house built with SIPs or ICFs

My own home is SIP. Let's see...I spend/spent about $600 annually, in Michigan, for propane for all my heat, cooking, water heating, and clothes drying. The stick frame house next door of similar size spends $250/mo average for the year; that's what....3K?
 

8 SNAKE

Contributor
Aug 15, 2007
239
44
25
Midwest
Jason,
I was hoping that you'd find your way into this thread. Thank you for the replies! I have a few more questions and was going to PM, but thought that perhaps a public response might be helpful to other members. I appreciate your insights.

1. Is the labor savings strictly related to time, or does the installation also require less skilled labor (I don't mean that as badly as it sounds!)?

2. How difficult was it for you as a builder to transition from stick frames to SIPs? If I'm looking for a builder, how vital is it that I find one that is experienced in using SIPs? I realize that many builders that are not familiar with SIPs and ICFs will bid high because of that, but others might not.

3. Assuming that a person has construction knowledge and experience, how user-friendly is SIP assembly?

4. What was the ordering process like for you? I assume that you'd work up a set of prints, then send them to the SIP manufacturer to get your panels built for the specific application. In doing so, the manufacturer would make channels for plumbing and wiring as needed right?

5. As a builder, it would seem that you could create a niche market with SIP/ICF homes that would promote "green" building AND cost savings for customers. While "green" practices are currently in vogue (and expanding), I'm not certain how long the party will last. However, saving customers money will ALWAYS be in demand. In this case, customers would save on energy (like you said, few will care) and construction cost (if passed along by builder). What are your thoughts?

6. Do you have any experience with ICFs? Did you consider ICFs but then decided to go with SIPs for some reason? I've read a ton about comparisons between the two and as best I can tell, it comes down to personal preference more than anything else. I'd love to hear your opinion though.

Finally, thanks again. Speed +++
 

Jason_MI

New Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
106
8
15

Jason,
I was hoping that you'd find your way into this thread. Thank you for the replies! I have a few more questions and was going to PM, but thought that perhaps a public response might be helpful to other members. I appreciate your insights.

1. Is the labor savings strictly related to time, or does the installation also require less skilled labor (I don't mean that as badly as it sounds!)?


Well, someone has to know what they’re doing; just like they do if they were building a regular stick-frame building. Around here, framing crews typically have one or two ‘framers’ and then a number of lesser skilled people; the same would really need to hold true for SIPs. Giving a bunch of panels to a regular framing crew generally doesn’t go over that well, as their main objective is speed. So someone has to know how they work, and be willing to work with them. On the other hand, the learning curve is pretty small, which is why SIPs go over so well with owner-builders; putting up a wall with SIPs is easier to understand and execute than building a correct wall with studs and sheathing. The downside is that with SIPs, there HAS to be more quality in measurements and square, or else it doesn’t fit. There are some builders I know (and not just here and not that small a number), who build on foundations that are 2, 3, 4†out of square; that wouldn’t work with SIPs. So by default, some of the work has to be higher quality, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s contrary to the current high-volume, high-speed method of home building.


2. How difficult was it for you as a builder to transition from stick frames to SIPs? If I'm looking for a builder, how vital is it that I find one that is experienced in using SIPs? I realize that many builders that are not familiar with SIPs and ICFs will bid high because of that, but others might not.


It was easy for me; but then again, the first house I built (mine), was SIP. My guess is that the easiest thing to do is to find an up and coming builder who’s willing to work with you and try new things. If you go to an established stick builder, they’re going to want a crap load more money to do something out of their generally accepted practices. Or, you could start your own company…..


3. Assuming that a person has construction knowledge and experience, how user-friendly is SIP assembly?


Very. Like I said in my first response under #1; it’s a good system…it takes some time to kind of figure out and you have to have things spot on (square and level), but it’s like any other panelization method. In 2000, we did a bunch of cabins in the UP of Michigan. They were stick built, but we designed all the buildings on 4’ spacings, then made the panels in one of my buildings, and trucked them up there. It took literally a couple hours to do a whole floor. We couldn’t ship enough panels at one time to keep up with two guys putting them up; that’s how fast it CAN be. But there was a lot more planning at the beginning.



4. What was the ordering process like for you? I assume that you'd work up a set of prints, then send them to the SIP manufacturer to get your panels built for the specific application. In doing so, the manufacturer would make channels for plumbing and wiring as needed right?


I’ve ordered panels from both a distributor, and from a factory. The distributor route was cool, because you’d send them a set of plans, and their designer would determine the panel layout, cuts, and so on, and they were nearly ALWAYS more efficient in layout than I was. But they took a cut as well. Ordering from the factory, many will do cutouts and specific panel sizes, but you have to supply the drawings. You can also buy simple blank panels and then do your own cutouts, something Habitat does a lot. There’s also a potential business there. In 2002, I was talking to a panel factory in Lousiana about getting panels (blank), for about half of what I could here…if I could ship them up here, I could act as the distributor, and provide either blanks to other builders, or hire a draftsman and actually do cut-outs and kits. Unfortunately, that factory got spread all over by Katrina, then we had the big slowdown.


5. As a builder, it would seem that you could create a niche market with SIP/ICF homes that would promote "green" building AND cost savings for customers. While "green" practices are currently in vogue (and expanding), I'm not certain how long the party will last. However, saving customers money will ALWAYS be in demand. In this case, customers would save on energy (like you said, few will care) and construction cost (if passed along by builder). What are your thoughts?


Well, when I put my tinfoil hat on and look at quaint little terms like ‘peak oil’ and such, I really don’t believe that we’ll be returning to the days of very low energy rates which allowed such large, poorly insulated homes and vast commutes. I have a tendency to think that the vogueness of green building (and in general, living) practices is just starting. And, given the current residential building downturn, I’d say that now is the time to start thinking of these types of businesses; before the upturn and before every laid-off factory worker with two nickels to rub together becomes a ‘builder’, like they all did starting in 1998. That’s why I’ve been working (on and off, I’ll admit), with an architect and discussing smaller, modernistic pre-fab structures. I’ve also been looking into other wall panel types like insulated, tilt-up concrete.


6. Do you have any experience with ICFs? Did you consider ICFs but then decided to go with SIPs for some reason? I've read a ton about comparisons between the two and as best I can tell, it comes down to personal preference more than anything else. I'd love to hear your opinion though.


Well, I was around when the very first ICF panel system was being ‘sold’ around here; it was the Owens-Corning pink system; 2†4x8 sheets held together with plastic ties. I stood there at the demo site with all the big foundation contractors, and watched in amazement as the thing blew out and dumped about 7 yards of wet concrete into the basement. The foundation guys shook their heads and walked away, and ICFs are ‘just’ starting to come back in this area. I think it’s a comparable system, but I’ve also heard about a number of them that have failed energy efficiency tests because of leaks between the foam blocks that weren’t part of the concrete cores. Some perform exceptionally well, others don’t, and a lot of it comes down to the simple fact that there are about 300 makers of the blocks, and like other building systems; the quality (that you can’t see), is totally dependent on the people putting it in and filling those cores. Wrong mixture or wrong vibration, and both the efficiency and integrity ‘might’ be compromised. Blower door tests show this.

I don’t want to give a blanket comdemnation of any one system; because even the best system can be messed up by a good moron, but the SIP system, IN GENERAL, appears to be an easier way to get the effeciencies that you’re looking for, and it’s a system that’s been in use for a lot longer; refrigerated trucks, large buildings, even room dividers used in fast food resteraunts are all SIP panels. It’s actually old technology.


Finally, thanks again. Speed +++


Now; let me ask you a question; is your interest level in building your own home, building specs, building developments, forming a business??? Where we going today? :smxB:
 

8 SNAKE

Contributor
Aug 15, 2007
239
44
25
Midwest
Now; let me ask you a question; is your interest level in building your own home, building specs, building developments, forming a business??? Where we going today? :smxB:

Thank you so much for your input. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions and offer insight.

Now, to answer your question. I started learning about SIPs and ICFs as part of research for my next personal home. After I dug around a bit, I began to see quite a few viable business opportunities appear. I see a lot of potential for these methods of construction and it appears to me that they are being underutilized. But since I haven't put hammer to nail, I wanted to ask the people who have been there and done that before. It appears that you've got a similar point of view, which is reassuring to me.

I plan to continue my research so that I can design and build an efficient and sustainable home of my own. After completion, I want to take the knowledge and skills and transfer them into a business of producing similar homes for others. Eventually, I want to grow into the development phase so that I can create communities based on these concepts and practices.

On a side note, I can't help but feel disappointed with most of the house floor plans that I look at today. Most of them make very poor utilization of space and have rooms that serve a single purpose and are rarely used (formal dining rooms!). I want to work with architects to create floor plans that offer flexibility and intelligent design while utilizing the construction methods that we've talked about. That should make a challenging and rewarding business opportunity for me.
 

Jason_MI

New Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
106
8
15
Now, to answer your question. I started learning about SIPs and ICFs as part of research for my next personal home. After I dug around a bit, I began to see quite a few viable business opportunities appear. I see a lot of potential for these methods of construction and it appears to me that they are being underutilized. But since I haven't put hammer to nail, I wanted to ask the people who have been there and done that before. It appears that you've got a similar point of view, which is reassuring to me.

Just remember that to the vast, vast, vast majority of home buyers, energy effeciency is still something forced upon them by the government. I know I'm making a huge generalization; but study after study, as well as the past ten years show that many people'd save a buck on insulation if it meant they got granite countertops. So your market really is significantly smaller, and many of them (those that are interested in 'green' items), are also at a generally lower socie-economic scale. So you have some things to overcome, but that shouldn't stop you, because it also means there is less competition.

Completely agree with you on the design, and appreciate the link, Sean.
 

8 SNAKE

Contributor
Aug 15, 2007
239
44
25
Midwest
Just remember that to the vast, vast, vast majority of home buyers, energy effeciency is still something forced upon them by the government. I know I'm making a huge generalization; but study after study, as well as the past ten years show that many people'd save a buck on insulation if it meant they got granite countertops. So your market really is significantly smaller, and many of them (those that are interested in 'green' items), are also at a generally lower socie-economic scale. So you have some things to overcome, but that shouldn't stop you, because it also means there is less competition.

I completely agree that energy savings are a tough sell. My hope is that the efficiency of the building process would allow me to offer a cost advantage on the front end of the sale to customers. Is that a practical goal?
 

andviv

Gold Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Jul 27, 2007
5,421
2,215
625
Washington DC
I just want to provide my input as a 'customer'.

Yes, we ALL love energy efficiency. I am one of those that, when thinking about 'green', I think about dollars, not energy efficiency first. Why? The average time a family lives in a house is around 7 years, but to recoup the cost of energy-efficiency was being quoted at ten years. So I'd be subsidizing the next owner. Oh, and in order to make it 'efficient' I now need to live in a shoebox. Yup, great for the planet, bad for my wallet.

Se the 'logic' here? If you can offer a product that will make people feel good about the environment AND you don't need to modify substantially their lifestyle you will have a huge winner.

Jason_MI's comments are right. When you buy a house you are buying 'cool' features like nice kitchens and bathrooms. You can 'show' that to people that come visit you. You probably won't show the energy bills to show how low they are. Finding a way to translate those long-term savings into a cost advantage sounds like a great goal to me. Maybe finding a way to finance the property differently, like getting some tax credits for energy efficiency, or finding mortgages that reduce .5% in the rate for energy-efficient homes would be a great way; try to find if/who provides these types of incentives from the financial perspective, that may help.
 

andviv

Gold Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Jul 27, 2007
5,421
2,215
625
Washington DC
bflbob, when you were building that house, did you analyze energy-efficient features? I'm curious about this in your case as you recently went through it.
 

8 SNAKE

Contributor
Aug 15, 2007
239
44
25
Midwest
Maybe finding a way to finance the property differently, like getting some tax credits for energy efficiency, or finding mortgages that reduce .5% in the rate for energy-efficient homes would be a great way; try to find if/who provides these types of incentives from the financial perspective, that may help.

If memory serves, there are special financing options for homes that meet certain criteria. I have also been looking at tax breaks and other incentives that are available to homes that have alternative energy sources like solar and geothermal.

I'm hoping that construction methods utilizing SIPs would allow me to streamline the building process to the point that I could produce a better home at a lower cost to the consumer (both up front AND in energy costs down the road). If I can bundle those savings with a superior floorplan design and alternative energy sources, I should have a real winner!
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

bflbob

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Jul 25, 2007
1,906
379
142
Endicott, New York, United States
bflbob, when you were building that house, did you analyze energy-efficient features? I'm curious about this in your case as you recently went through it.

Nothing major. Lots of foam in the cracks (Great Stuff). Plenty of insulation. And we used poly on the entire interior, and sealed every gap.

The basement is uninsulated except for the joists and perimeter wooden areas. We did use dimplesheet around the foundation for drainage. It also has a slight insulation factor, aided by 1/2" of styro sheeting on the outside of it.
 

Sponsored Offers

  • Sticky
FEATURED! Introducing... WEALTH EXPO$ED, A Short Story By MJ DeMarco
Hi Mj, I just bought it. And reading it. I think is a great idea to write using the stories to...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Fox Web School "Legend" Group Coaching Program 2020
Great post @Fox, very much appreciated! How can I reach out to you? I sent you a PM a while...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Lex DeVille's - Advanced Freelance Udemy Courses!
Hey @Lex DeVille ! Having some issues with the NOREGRETS code? Udemy thinks it has expired...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Grow Your Business With a Book (An Unorthodox Marketing Strategy That Built One of the Largest...
Are you looking for a new, lesser-known but potentially very lucrative source of leads to your...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE You Are One Call Away From Living Your Dream Life - LightHouse’s Accountability Program ⚡
Just got off the phone with @LightHouse. Having just a 45 minute conversation with him has...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Kill Bigger Incubator
@Kak Thanks for the reply. Whats interesting is that I have an idea that's been cooking which...



Forum Sponsor

sponsor

New Topics

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Monthly conference calls with doers
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Top Bottom