Tag Archives: Structural insulated panel

SIP’s and Why We Love Them

Our first experience with using foam on the exterior of a structure, besides using it to insulate our poured concrete foundations, was during 2005, when we built our first Timberpeg, Post & Beam home.

Timberpeg Frame

Timberpeg Frame

We had the choice of implementing one of two different methods. The first method is what’s referred to as “wrap and strap”. This method relies on the use of multiple layers of 4’x8′  foil-faced, isocyanurate foam panels, 4’x8′ sheets of plywood and 1×4 pine strapping.
This method provides an excellent thermal boundary, while leaving the beauty of the timber-frame joinery fully exposed at the interior of the home.
The “wrap and strap” method helps to hold down materials costs, but due to the fact that it requires multiple trips around the structure, in order to install each layer, it requires more labor than the second method of using SIP panels to enclose the frame.

Wrap & Strap

Wrap & Strap Method

We choose the “wrap and strap” method, because of the material cost savings, but after taking those multiple “trips” around the house, we vowed to try the SIP option on our next Timberpeg post & beam project and we did just that.

Heart & Soul of Beauty & Strength

Heart & Soul of Beauty & Strength

SIP Roof Panels on Timberpeg Frame

SIP Roof Panels on Timberpeg Frame

Our experience has shown that the SIP panels speed the process and provide higher levels of air-tightness and strength.

It was obvious to us that SIP panels were the perfect way to create a strong, air-tight, robust thermal boundary for our Timberpeg projects, but we realized that some of our clients might not be interested in a timber frames structure to go along with the SIP’s.
We immediately became interested it bringing this building envelope system to our all of our clients. Folks that might not be interested in a beautiful post & beam frame, but wanted a home that was safe, durable and energy-efficient.

We did our homework and researched the different SIP panel companies. We were looking for a company that had the best system, had a great reputation for customer satisfaction and wasn’t too far from our home range.
We found Enercept to be the best of the  SIP panel companies.
Their commitment to quality and service is second to none. It is a real pleasure to work with people who share our values and our commitment to helping people save energy and our environment. At that time Enercept had been in business for over 25 years and had a great track record.

In our previous post, we talked about the challenges we face in educating consumers and SIP’s fall under the category of the unknowns.

According to  the Structural Insulated Panel Association, (SIPA)
SIP panels were invented at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in the mid 1930’s.
Some of the earliest examples of SIP construction can be found in the Usonian homes, designed by visionary architect and early adopter,  Frank Lloyd Wright.
It was one of Wright’s student’s, Alden B. Dow, son of Dow Chemical founder, that was the first to use foam between the panel skins.
That was in 1951. Now, you know.

SIP’s have been around for quite a while, but public awareness of this killer-app building envelope technology has gone almost unheard of… Until now.

First Panel for Energy Sipper

First Panel for Energy Sipper

Think about that last scolding hot coffee or chocolate that came in a styrofoam cup. You had 1/8 of an inch of foam, between your hand and the hot liquid.
Now, think about a wall system with 5-1/2″ or 7-1/2″ of foam in your walls and 9-1/2″ or 12″ of foam in your roof system. Are you catching on?
SIP homes are very energy-efficient. They are also very air-tight.
Did I mention quiet? SIP homes are also very quiet. The sound deadening properties of SIP panels are excellent.

Another benefit of building with SIP’s is the construction time line. We’re able to get projects under-roof in record time. The last two SIP homes that we built were in the 1800 square foot range and each was under-roof within 4 days.

SIP homes are also very strong, due to the nature of the construction of a SIP panel and the shear strength inherent with its design. SIP homes are 2-1/2 times stronger than typically built homes. There are many reports of SIP homes surviving earth quakes and tornadoes, worldwide.

As you can see, there are huge benefits to building with SIP’s.
We at Great Lakes Carpentry believe that using SIP panels for our building envelopes makes perfect. We consider them to be the wave of the future.
The small amount of extra costs to build using SIP’s is recovered very early on, after which our clients realize very meaningful savings on the costs to operate their homes, for the life of the home.

One would think that cutting edge home building technology like this would be part of the conversation, when considering a new home. This is not the case.
We continue to encounter folks that don’t  have a clue about this great way to build. Our biggest hurdle lies in educating the customer.
In most cases, once we show our prospects this system, they have a eureka moment. They get it! Because it’s so obvious.
Who wouldn’t want to save 40% to 60% on their energy costs?

We refer to our most recent SIP home as “The Energy Sipper”, because of the fact that is sparingly “SIP’s” energy.
We used Alpen High Performance windows, as they are the perfect fit for this type of building envelope.
We are very proud of the fact that we achieved stellar performance levels for the home. We achieved Passive House air-tightness standards, which are the most stringent energy design criteria in the building industry and we achieved a HERS score (home energy rating system) of 37. The HERS rating is fast becoming the industry standard for calculating the efficiency of new homes. Similar to miles per gallon. We strive to reach the lowest number possible.
Net-zero energy homes are on the horizon and we’re anxious to get the opportunity to build our first in the near future.

The Energy Sipper

The Energy Sipper

Great Lakes Carpentry specializes in building what we refer to as “Future Proof” homes. SIP’s are a big part of our strategy.
As always, our goal is to help educate the public about the benefits to building energy-efficient new homes and remodeling projects.
If you find this post educational and you believe in building homes that are part of the solution and not the problem, forward this post to a fiend.
Together, we can help drive the paradigm shift to building responsibly.

We love to talk about energy efficiency and building science. If you have any questions or are interested in building a future-proof home, contact us today.

Passive House


Super energy efficient homes are not a thing of the future, but rather a blast from the past.  The Passive House standard was developed in Germany by a physicist Wolfgang Feist in 1996. His inspiration came from the super insulated homes that were being build in the 1970s in the United States and Canada. Now, upwards of 20,000 Passive Houses have been built in Europe while the U.S has built less than two dozen.  A few reasons why this idea did not catch on 40 years ago was because the technology for high performance windows, doors, and ventilation systems were not quite there yet. Politics is also another factor, and still is an important factor when talking about energy efficient building practices. If politicians don’t understand or believe energy efficient building standards are important than its hard to make any progress in the building industry.

Main Goal

The goal of a Passive House is to maximize solar gain. This is achieved through a virtually airtight building envelope, mechanical ventilation, triple-pane windows, and eliminating thermal bridging. The three requirements that a Passive House needs to meet include: Air Infiltration, Btu consumption, and Energy usage.  If these requirements are not met or there is a slight mistake, the home will not acheive the title of Passive House.

Main Advantages

Passive House performance based building standard can result in a home that consumes as little as 10% of the total heating and cooling energy.

Doesn’t fall into the trap that electricity production is better done on the roof.

A Passive House is planned even before the contractor breaks ground. Contractors and the home owner know exactly how much energy the home is going to consume once it is built, and how much it is going to cost of operate.

One of our most recent projects (pictured above) which we refer to as the “Energy Sipper” achieved Passive House air-tightness standard and a HERS score of 37. To learn more about how we can help you get into a super-energy efficient home visit the  Great Lakes Carpentry website. Like us on Facebook, also follow us on Twitter!

If you missed our article last week Net Zero: The Next Frontier check it out. You can also compare and contrast the differences between Passive House and a Net- Zero energy home by visiting Green Building Adviser. If you would like more information about Passive House, check out this PDF.




Full frame eastern white pine.


Timber framing structure is an ancient method of building construction and dates back to the earliest recorded in history.  The first settlers brought this tradition to the United States.  Timber framing was the dominant form of construction in the States until the early 19th Century.  This style of building went to the wayside for two reasons.  First, there was a lack of large trees, particularly in the West. Second, the development of the circular saw and round nail brought on a revolution.  Pre-sawn nominal timbers were easier to ship via railroad and could be constructed by a smaller crew.


Timberpeg®takes its design from traditional mortise and tenon joinery.  This centuries-old technique of securing timbers with oak pegs is the primary fastening system used with Timberpeg® timber frames.

This is a Douglas Fir frame that was stained by the homeowner prior to erection. This project would be considered a timber frame hybrid, which means only this part of the home was built using timber frame.

An important aspect to take into consideration when designing a timber frame home is the type of look you want.  Timberpeg® allows you to choose from a variety of truss designs. We offer the highest grade of Douglas Fir.  Douglas Fir is Select Structural and better, rather than the number one or two grade used in most building.  Another grade of timber we suggest is eastern

This is a full timber frame home using eastern white pine. Here you can see the curved knee braces which add character to the home.

white pine.

Energy Efficient

A Timberpeg® home is not only gorgeous but the company keeps the environment in mind throughout the whole manufacturing and building process. Cutoffs from their manufacturing process are recycled locally and made available at no cost to people who use them for fuel, crafts and other projects. The sawdust is also donated to local farmers.  Timberpeg® uses citrus-based cleaners to clean their tools, which wont harm the environment and most of the tractors and trucks are powered with biodiesel fuel.

Not only are their factories environmentally conscious, but they are dedicated on helping you preserve the environment as well.  A Timberpeg® home can be equipped with structural insulated panels (SIP) which will save money on energy costs and reduce energy consumption.

Three Tips When Building a Timberpeg® Home

1. Agree on a realistic budget: Be upfront with your Timberpeg® representative about a budget. There are three variables of construction: size, complexity, and level of finish. All of these can be adjusted to build the home you want an within the budget you specified.
2. Plan Based on the Framing: You want to make sure your framing and the floor plan work well together in order to avoid going over budget due to having to customize the frame design.
3. Don’t overbuild:  It can be easy to get caught up in the beauty and want to add more luxuries such as stonework, professional appliances, and custom interior and exterior trim.  However, these features will drive up the building costs.

Great Lakes Carpentry is an independent representative of Timberpeg® and can’t wait to help you get started on your new Timberpeg® home!

5 Reasons to Build an Enercept Home

Think about that last scalding hot cup of coffee you bought and how that 1/8 inch foam cup kept your coffee hot and your hand cool.  That is exactly how an Enercept SIP (Structural Insulated Panels) home operates.

We refer to this project as the “Energy SIPPER” which was built in Mercer Wis.

Energy Efficiency

We like to call our SIP Homes “Energy Sippers” because that is exactly what they do.  They use as little energy as possible to heat and cool your home.  This feature will save you 40% to 60% on your energy bills.

Air Tight

SIP homes are very air tight keeping the heat in and the cold out.
Some people are concerned about indoor air quality, but by making a home air tight, you now have complete control of your indoor environment. The home owner can now manage the quality through mechanical ventilation, through the use of a

These are the actual panels before they get dressed up with siding. If you look closely you can see the insulation between the wood panels.

Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) or an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV).  These systems will allow you to manage the humidity in the home and will provide a complete change of air on average every four hours during the winter months.

Quiet and Comfortable

A SIP home doesn’t have any thermal bridging which will keep all the heat in your house during the winter months and keep it nice and cool during the summer.   Another benefit of a SIP home is how quiet the home is.  The insulation will keep all the noise outside where it should be.

Speed of Construction/ Less Waste

A SIP home comes together very quickly due to the fact that the panels are already assembled when they get to the job site.  For example, an 1,800 square foot structure can be assembled in less than a week.   This also equates to less job site waste making this method of building a better for the environment.

Fully Customized

Enercept panels are the most customizable panels on the market.  Meaning you can build the home exactly the way you want it.  For example instead of having your outlets at the typical 16 inch height above the floor, you might prefer to have them up 24 inches.  This will make plugging in your electronics easier.  Enercept panels will allow you to do that easily.

Great Lakes Carpentry is an independent dealer and factory trained installation specialists.  Enercept offers fee panel quotes.

Stop by next week where we discuss Super Insulated Windows:  Serious Windows.

Our Purpose

We are Great Lakes Carpentry, Inc. and our objective is to help our customers save money on their home energy costs, while helping them reduce their carbon emissions through smart home building.   We are proud to be the first builders in the State of Wisconsin to build a Wisconsin Energy Star Rated and Green-Built Certified Full Log Home.

Great Lakes Carpentry is a custom home builder serving beautiful Northern Wisconsin.  We specialize in building high performance timber frame, full-log and SIP (structural insulated panel) homes.  Our passion lies in building safe, durable, and extremely energy-efficient homes. We’ve taken the Department of Energy’sBuilders Challenge” for innovative and energy-efficient homes and currently hold the lead for enrolled and verified homes for the State of Wisconsin.

We created this blog in order to inform the public of the benefits of practicing building science principles and disciplines, for the design and construction of their new homes and remodeling projects.

We will do our best to keep our posts current and fresh. We look forward to  sharing our experiences with what we hope will become a like-minded following. We look forward to any and all comments, as long as they are constructive. It’s how we learn to raise our game. We hope for encouragement and are eager to share information and ideas.

Thank you, for reading and showing an interest.