Panel Building Update

Archive, 2001

EPS or Urethane Cores- Another Opinion

My position on SIP cores has always been that EPS makes more sense than urethane for a core material with a few exceptions- high heat (Southwestern desert roofs or commercial situations such as mushroom farms) or when core thickness is essential to design.  A recent posting in SIPWEB on-line magazine made me re-think whether the product needs more development before it is viable at all.  In the posting ( click on SIPTALK and go to Urethane or Expanded Polystyrene), the homeowner was very upset with urethane for two issues I'd never considered, varying panel thickness and foam crushing pre-installed conduit.   After reading this posting, I checked with other homeowners and found that both of these issues are common problems with non-standard panels (fabricated to the job prior to foaming).  Be VERY wary.


Panels for Log Home Roofs

Panels are an excellent way to complete the roof structure and provide insulation for a log home wall system.  Typically, log home systems include walls, rafters and purlins, but quit there.  Most conventionally built systems are costly, time consuming and disappointing regarding their insulation performance, so SIPs are a natural complement to these log home systems.

Will California's Energy Problems Affect You?

I've been doing a great deal of reading about California's energy crisis and I've come to the conclusion that it will affect everyone eventually.  First of all, depending on which survey you believe, California's economy is either the 5th largest or 9th largest in the world when compared head to head with all countries.  Energy problems there could easily impact the economy for everyone.  In addition, their problem is the cost of "peak load" wholesale power which should be of concern for everyone.

Since electricity is the ultimate "just-in-time" commodity, most utilities provide the large part of their need themselves and buy what they need at peak power times to keep their non-peak costs in line.  Energy produced for the non-peak periods by wholesale sources is essentially valueless, which requires these producers to get all they can for peak load sales.  It's only a matter of time before energy suppliers throughout the country start selling their non peak surpluses to California at California's peak times.  This means the shortage could spread and that some local suppliers might jump ship to provide peak load service due to the opportunities in peak load sales, leaving local suppliers short at peak and non-peak times.

This is important because most of the peak load requirements are for heating and air conditioning, which are essentially residential and commercial insulation and HVAC unit efficiency problems.  It is likely that meters in California will be re-structured to allow higher rates at peak times.  Over time, this will happen throughout the country.

The issue is not deregulation.  Deregulation became necessary to encourage energy production given the demand increases likely.  When California deregulated it's utilities and their suppliers, it was attempting to encourage capacity to head off this problem.  The issue is increasing demand.  It is likely that peak load users will feel the pinch in the immediate future.  The best defense is to reduce your need for peak load energy.

Your protection against this sizeable increase in the cost of living is a truly energy efficient building.  You need one with acceptable r-value (structure and fenestration), U-value, thermal mass, and infiltration/exfiltration, as well as high efficiency HVAC.  SIP homes are perfect in this equation.  Not only do they provide excellent overall energy efficiency, they do not require high peak load usage to maintain their comfort.

Your investment in a home is long term - 10 to 40 years.  The value of that asset in the future will be limited by your choices in building now.  Most people spend a significant amount of time, money and energy in visual design efforts and relatively little time in structural and energy efficiency issues.  Look around at 40 year old homes on the market and you'll see that the design of homes becomes dated rapidly.   At resale time, design is less important and structural strength and energy efficiency are very significant.  Honor your future and your estate by paying attention to these matters during the planning of your home.

In 1972, just before the last serious energy crisis, cars were large, impressively designed, and inefficient.  The value of cars produced in 1972 dropped precipitously during the oil embargo.  We're looking at a similar value drop for energy inefficient housing over the next twenty years.

SIP Sales Up, Prices Still Down

We've been having a record sales year here at Perma R.  In conversations with other SIP producers, SIP sales are up 40% over last year in the first quarter, which was itself a record quarter.  Most producers are at, or near, capacity, with lead times starting to extend to two and three months.  This is unusual because the first quarter is usually a down part of the cycle.  With interest rates dropping it looks like SIP production will likely be filled for the year by August.

If you are considering building with SIPs, get moving quickly or it may be next year before anyone can get to your project.  So far, prices are down, but demand on materials will drive prices up by late Spring.  Our prices are online at .

Structural OSB/GYP Panels

Perma R is developing osb/Fibrerock panels for use as finished skin (interior) SIPs.   Testing is complete for the panels over timberframes and for short span roof applications (8' o.c.).  At this point, all that is offered is the 4' x 8' size, but sizes up to 8' x 24' will be developed over the next year.  The osb/fibrerock panels are available for loghome and timberframe use immediately.  For more information contact Butch Johnson at 800 251-7532. 

The Stairframe System

A nifty new stairway framing system has just been introduced by The Stairway System, Inc.   ( is a computer designed metal framed stair system that ties right into the framing and is extremely easy to use.  For beginners, stairways are probably the most daunting part of building.  With this system, even novice carpenters can get their stairway right.


More on California's Energy Problems

When people think of California, they think of sunny, comfortable days, no rain, and no winter, and, on average, California weather is pretty hard to beat.  Even so, California energy planners, legislators, and Building Code Officials have always lead the way in requiring energy efficient residential and commercial structures.  As you might expect, this lead to requirements for increased R-value and "tightness," and research into ways to increase efficiency further.

California is actually doing a pretty good job on energy efficiency in new construction, although more consideration of radiant flow and thermal mass would be beneficial.  The bigger problem is all the homes built in the 1950's through the 1970's, before energy efficiency standards were adopted.  A poorly built home, with no infiltration/exfiltration barriers, no meaningful insulation, no thermal mass, and no radiant barriers is virtually impossible to retrofit.  The only way that a comfortable environment can be maintained is through active HVAC systems- requiring energy expenditure.  This is not a short term problem.

This does not need to be your problem in your own home.  Plan for energy efficiency in your construction.  Passive systems are the key- design, insulation and construction method are critical.  SIPs are part of the answer.

Imagine how hard it will be to sell a poorly performing (from an energy cost standpoint) home in ten years.  Architectural trends are quick to change.   Family lifestyle has changed, requiring floorplan re-structuring, with further re-structuring likely.  An energy efficient shell is probably the only part of the long term investment- your home- that is predictable and controllable.

A Discussion of Thermal Mass

The March, 2001 Rural Builder Magazine included an excellent article regarding Thermal Mass, written by Rob Pickett of Southland Log Homes.  The article "Thermal Mass Beyond R-value", deals with the limitations of R-value as a predictor of energy efficiency, and is a useful in seeing why, in spite of Building Department focus on energy efficiency, energy problems still confront us in places like California.

According to the article:

"R-value measures how readily heat moves by a process called 'conduction' from the heated side of a material to the cold side under steady-state conditions..."  Thermal mass " the result of the dynamic process of a building components' "heat capacity," modulating heat flow over the course of a day.  For example, on a summer afternoon with a 90 degree F outside temperature and cooler inside temperature, the conduction heat flow moves toward the inside.  At night, when the air  temperature drops to 50 degrees, and inside temperature may be 75 degrees, the driving force for heat flow reverses back toward the outside."

"The heat capacity of a building's walls- such as logs, masonry, or concrete- accounts for variable energy needs over daily and annual cycles, an occurrence which engineers, standards and codes refer to as the thermal mass effect."

Among the benefits of building with thermal mass vs. insulated stick frame are:

Consistent thermal value without the "thermal bridges" inherent in light frame construction.
Consistent volume compared to insulation voids, compression and aging.
More consistent interior temperatures.

Thermal mass is an under-valued factor in energy efficiency. as are radiant deflection, and infiltration/exfiltration.  This under-valuing of these factors, to the benefit of R-value has a great deal to do with why increased energy efficiency awareness in the general public (and  in Building Jurisdictions) has not resulted in the the energy efficient homes that were anticipated.  This is not really surprising, given that most energy efficiency studies are carried on by the vested interests in insulation, and "more is better" is a typical approach to R-value.

Structural Insulated Panels are an excellent energy efficiency alternative because they are efficient in all four areas.  As a result, SIPs always out-perform their R-value.

Log Homes-"Structural" Insulated Panels

According to Jim Leroy and Ted Cushman, Building Systems Magazine, "March/April, 2001," SIPs are more than foam core panels, they are "structural" insulating panels.  For log home builders, they represent a number of solutions to common log home roof issues.

If all that is needed is insulation over an existing structural roof deck, nailbase is the answer-  EPS foam laminated to osb or plywood to provide an uninterrupted insulation layer and a non-slip roof nailing deck.
If you are covering the space between log purlins or rafters, it hardly seems logical to build a full (and inadequate) roof system between the rafters, when a SIP would solve the problem in a single step, and close in your structure in 1/4 of the time.
Rather than use two-by or three-by T&G, why not face nail 1/2" T&G to SIPs and fly them up as a finished roof/ceiling structure.  Haven't you already got enough wood in that log home?

Log home packages often include substandard structural and insulation materials for the roof as a give away to make the package more attractive.  Don't make the mistake of using substandard materials because they're free.  You didn't buy the log home package to cheapen your life- you made a lifestyle choice which is an upgrade.  Don't downgrade that choice with a poor roof structure/insulation decision.  See

New PermaFast Panel Fasteners

We've always felt that panel fasteners could be improved, and have been working with TruFast to develop the best possible panel fastener.  As a result of several discussions, preliminary testing and installer input, we have come up with the all new PermaFast Panel Fasteners.  Features include:

Increased shank diameter for greater shear strength
Increased thread outside diameter for greater pullout
Threads per inch decreased to allow easier installation and lower heat buildup leading to failure
Increased head diameter to increase pull-through ratings, and
Longer thread length to allow more variation in substrate depth relative to the panel thickness.
Additional screw lengths offered to better suit nailbase requirements (8 3/4" fasteners available to with 7 3/8" nailbase into 1 1/2" T&G for example).
Packaging options to reduce "overpurchase."

Testing should be complete by the end of April and we anticipate that the new PermaFast Panel Fasteners will be available by mid-June.

Price Increase

It took longer than I thought, but osb prices have begun their usual Spring price increase pattern.  We are calculating the next price increase now, and it will take effect by mid-May.  If you have an order than can ship in the next 45 days- get your order in quickly.  OSB is already up 30% and it looks like it might get up another 40% or more by mid-June.  Right now, it looks like panel prices will be increasing around 10%.  We are also concerned that, if oil prices stay up all summer, EPS prices will also start to go up, further increasing panel prices.

Our prices are available online at .

GrailCoat Over SIPs

GrailCoat is the only acrylic-modified concrete stucco coating that is warranted for application directly on SIPs.  As a result, as the SIP industry has increased, so has the GrailCoat covering it.  The customer comments have been overwhelmingly positive.   If a portion of your structure needs stucco, consider GrailCoat.   Applicators and distributors have started springing up all over the country. 

GrailCoat also makes an excellent foundation waterproofing, deck coating, flat roof coating, and marine corrosion coating.   For more information go to .

Log and ICF Roof Seminar

I will hold a panel roof seminar at the Johnson City Plant in mid-June.  This course will be specifically oriented toward the use of panels over log walls and ICF walls.  If you are considering either logs or ICFs, you should consider attending.  Please contact Butch Johnson at 800 251-7532 for more specific information.

More Energy News

I've been speaking with people in the West, and it seems that the California Energy Crisis is affecting much more than California.   People in Nevada are starting to feel the pinch as California outbids local Nevada providers for peak time energy.  One woman I spoke to in Reno, NV said that her kWh rate had doubled in the past year and it was likely to double again over the summer.   My prediction is that we'll all feel the cost of this crisis before the year is out.

SIPs made a lot of sense prior to the Energy Crisis and in most cases, energy cost paybacks (for costs above stick frame construction) seldom exceeded five years.  Now, with energy costs rising, stick frame construction cost soaring, and panel prices down, it seems downright careless to use anything else.

Finished Skin Panel News

We've had incredible success with our Arauco simulated T&G roof panel this past year.  As a result, we've decided to expand our line of finished skin panels to include a higher-grade finished skin.  This new product will add another dimension to our osb/gyp, osb/mrg, osb/fiberrock, osb/Arauco line of finished skin products.  We are looking at various high-end specialty plywoods which closely simulate T&G pine.

Plate and Spline Material

We have finally found a supplier of high quality fingerjointed #2 plate and spline material for use as plates and splines for our panels.   Fingerjointed material is as strong or stronger than standard dimension lumber, but considerably straighter and more consistent in it's strength.  This makes it a perfect material for wall panel top and bottom plates- creating the straightest walls money can buy.  It also gives roof panels consistency of deflection when used as roof panel splines, due to the even deflection characteristics of the fingerjointed material.

SIPA Annual Meeting- Report

I attended the Structural Insulated Panel Association Annual Meeting last month in Washington State.  There were speakers from a West Coast energy supplier that gave us some insights into the serious energy crisis on the West Coast.  It seems the problem is much bigger than California now.  For more information, see the article further down "West Coast Energy Crisis- Who's Next?"  There were also speakers regarding "Green Building", supply forecasts for OSB, and wood promotion.   For more information regarding SIPA, go to .

West Coast Energy Crisis- Who's Next?

Last month, I predicted that more of the country would be affected by the energy crunch in California.  After the presentations at the SIPA meeting, it looks likely that all of the West will see some energy problems this summer.  In the past, California and the Northwest have shared power based on reverse seasonality for peak time loads.  This year, neither power supplier has excess capacity, forcing both to seek contract providers to meet peak time demand.  Since the absolute supply does not meet peak time demand under certain conditions, it is very likely that all of the West will experience brown outs and high prices this summer.  As other providers try to take advantage of these extremely high prices, other areas will also feel the pinch.

Once again, there is very little that can be done, at the individual level, to deal with this problem, other than make your home or business as energy efficient as possible, and especially to avoid peak time loads.   SIPs continue to provide one of the best solutions to the peak time energy demand.   This problem is unlikely to be resolved soon, and energy cost for homes may soon be as significant in resale figures for homes as it is in automobiles.

According to Lawrence Makovich, in the May, 2001 issue of Energy User News, the California Energy Crisis has three causes, 1) California set up it's deregulation power market with no incentives for new power supply- as a result, no new power sources were developed, 2) California did not provide for fast track site approval for new plants- even though new plant capacity was the purpose of the deregulation, and 3) the deregulation was only partial- it did not allow the market to adjust itself- it did allow the public utility companies to pay whatever it cost while providing energy at fixed rates- a certain disaster.  Some incentive for excess capacity is needed in resolving this issue or energy providers will not invest in new capacity.  His advice for the short run is 1) find more conservation and interruptible demand, 2) find unutilized energy sources such as hospitals, hotels and office buildings and have the utilities buy back this capacity at peak load crises, 3) Reactivate mothballed generators, and 4) expedite permitting and construction of power development already underway in California.

Green Building and SIPs

It is often overlooked that SIPs are a "green" building product.  EPS foam used as a durable use insulator is an excellent use of the resource, OSB utilizes "trash lumber rather than old growth dimension lumber, and SIP energy efficiency reduces energy consumption- all "green" goals.  The Southface Energy Institute, a leading Green Advocate, built their facility with SIPs as a conscious choice.  Their facility, located in Atlanta, GA, is open to the public to tour.

Why OSB?

The SIP industry uses OSB as it's skin of choice for a number of reasons.

Low cost- OSB is the least expensive structural material available.
Plenty of supply- OSB production is growing constantly, with new mills increasing capacity substantially over the next few years.
Environment- OSB uses fast growing "crop" woods, eliminating reliance on National Forests and old-growth timber.  ALL of the tree is used in OSB production.
Sizes- OSB is available in 4' x 8' to 8' x 24' in many thicknesses.  The continuous size is important in SIP construction, allowing spans and wall heights unattainable with standard plywood thicknesses.
Research- The OSB industry intends to be the structural sheathing of choice and necessity for the foreseeable future.  Toward this end, they are continually evaluating existing performance, setting standards to maintain performance and doing research for how to improve the product for the future.
Strength- OSB is consistently strong due to it's manufacture.  This means that it's failure is predictable, which allows much more certainty in engineering.
Water resistance- OSB has often gotten a bad rap regarding water.  OSB absorbs water much more slowly than plywood or other woods and is not subject to material delamination as is plywood.
Consistency- OSB meets its specifications very consistently for dimension, thickness, density and squareness.
Nail pullout/pullthrough- OSB pullout and pull through is almost identical to plywood in the same thickness and density, and is more consistent in it's failure.

In addition to all these reasons, the SIP industry is closely tied to the OSB industry due to the long term support of the SIP industry by the OSB industry.  They have helped us with research, demonstration and marketing, from the beginning.

Energy News From California

Although President Bush's approach to energy policy is supply-side (needed) with no efforts to reduce demand, California's approach is to reduce demand (needed even more) through energy efficiency.  In a landmark law, California has provided $850 million for energy efficiency measures, including 50% rebates for energy efficient household appliances and rebates for high efficiency lighting and HVAC systems.  Almost half of the appropriation is for weatherization and increased insulation for low income housing.

California's lofty goal is to reduce peak demand by 582 MW by the end of this summer.

Cool Roof Program

Another element of the California Energy Efficiency Package is the Cool Roof Program.   Recent studies by DOE and EPA have shown that energy efficiency of cooling systems is greatly enhanced by using light colored, reflective roof colors.  California's analysis is that 120 MW of their 582 MW goal can be achieved by eliminating dark roofs on commercial structures.  This reflects a 20 to 40% decrease in energy cost for cooling.

State Energy Efficiency Programs

The move from regulated to free market electricity has definitely stalled, with 24 states currently reviewing how to do it.  At the same time, 19 states have passed energy efficiency programs to help reduce overall energy usage while longer term supply issues can be addressed.  In addition to the California and New York bills recently passed, recent laws in Arizona, New Jersey and Iowa have recently become reality.  Arizona's approach is through Energy Star financing incentives.   New Jersey's approach is rebates for energy efficient and renewable systems administered by the utility companies.  Iowa is aiming at public buildings and has increased energy payback on investment from 6 years to 15 years.

Task Force Study says Energy Efficiency is Under-Stressed in Public Policy

In spite of all these state programs, a recent study, financed by the major oil companies and conducted by the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and the Council on Foreign Relations which was presented to the White House recently emphasized that a supply side focus would not solve the energy problems anticipated over the next ten years.  To quote from the report, "Supply-side responses alone will not be enough.  To be effective and politically acceptable, solutions must also focus on demand-side efficiency.. Indeed, if quick fixes on the supply side alone brought prices back down in the absence of effective efforts to promote energy efficiency, they might actually prolong the problems the United States now faces in the energy arena, by bringing even greater reliance on imports."

My Predictions

Every now and then, things come into focus for the future.   This is one of those times.  The energy problems in California are not isolated and peculiar to California.  At some point most of the country will be dealing with California-type energy problems.  Why do I predict this?

Current and intermediate term Federal energy policy is aimed at supply side only.
State policies are not focused or market oriented and are mostly appliance oriented.
Building Code is not embracing new technologies which could solve the energy efficiency problems over time.
Existing building products suppliers influence construction and energy-efficiency programs to a greater degree than is beneficial to public policy.
No one wants to pay the cost now, so it will cost MUCH MORE later, when there is no alternative.

There is very little that you can do about this runaway train- Public Energy Policy- but you can limit your exposure to the costs by building with energy efficiency as a primary focus.  Household energy costs have already doubled in California, in spite of decreases in usage of 25% over the previous year, and they are just starting to pay the price.  It might be wise to budget for energy prices to rise three or four times as fast as other cost of living items for your long term budgeting.

Congressional Changes Affect Energy Policy

A few months ago, energy policy was clear cut, but politically problematic.  The Bush Administration emphasis was entirely on supply.  Congress was split, but likely to mostly follow policy.  When Jim Jeffords announced his defection from Republican ranks, ending the Republican run (due to the tie breaker) majority, energy policy got VERY murky.

Committee chair changes are all-pervasive, putting conservation as a much higher priority than before.   President Bush has few supporters in charge of committees now, so it will be much more difficult for the Administration to promote it's position in Congress.  Although Vice President Cheney has reiterated the Administration's Energy Policy, there is little doubt that policy will change, if for no other reason than to get things done.   Look for every supply deal to be heavily burdened with riders, primarily conservation riders.

Clearly, both policies are necessary.  We need more energy capability, and we need to greatly reduce the amount of energy expended, especially the energy which is inefficiently used and "peak time" usage.

If the Administration and Congress are going to avoid a "do nothing" session on Energy Policy, they will need to work out some compromises soon.   Doing nothing is NOT an option that voters will live with. 

California Exceeds Conservation Goals

For those who feel that voluntary and conservation can't work, California has set an excellent example.  Residences and businesses reduced consumption in May, 2001 by 11%, making the state eligible for financial incentives and delaying a utility rate increase designed to reduce electricity consumption.  The July figures look to be similar.

NAS Global Warming Report- There is a Problem

Just before President Bush left for Europe, he received the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report to the White House on Global Warming, which indicates that the earth's atmosphere is getting warmer and that human activity is largely responsible.  It is particularly critical of power production due to the burning of coal and oil, making conservation much more important than supply, and increasing the need to find alternative supply sources.

Social Costs of the Energy Crisis

I was reading an article in Energy User News (July, 2001, Kevin Heslin, "Bi-Coastal Problems") in which he laments the under-reporting of social costs due to the energy crisis in California.  I heartily agree.  I was in California (and Washington and Oregon) in May, 2001 and the affect of people living in 100 degree temperatures without air conditioning, living in the dark in urban environments, and dealing with freezers and refrigerators not working can not be overstated. 

Imagine the effect in mid August in East Los Angeles.  Imagine the spoiled food cost alone.  These are all problems of our Energy Policy.   According to Energy User News, California will pay 10 times what it paid in 1999 for energy in 2001.

George W. Bush was absolutely right in his election rhetoric that we have not had a comprehensive, workable energy policy in this country.  I only hope he's the man to get it done.  It will only happen if he's a VERY good politician.  This process will take a lot of negotiation.  He's in no position to throw out policy decisions and blame things on a do-nothing Congress.  Things HAVE to happen- NOW.

National Energy Policy- What the Experts Say

Recently the Association of Energy Engineers asked its members, in a survey, what are the keystones of a new National Energy Policy (Energy User News July, 2001). 

98% of the engineers were critical of the Supply-only approach of the Bush administration as well as the domestic-only nature of the supply. 
69% said that environmental regulations should not be compromised in order to increase power generation. 
94% said that an investment tax credit and accelerated depreceiation should be used to encourage the adoption of efficient end use technologies.
81% said that global warming concerns were significant in the consideration.
75% said that nuclear power should be encouraged to meet demand for electricity.
92% indicated that a national energy policy should encourage investment in new power generation and transmission lines.

Perma R Panels for Panel Enthusiasts in the West

Although freight costs can be an issue, and solving problems cross country is often difficult, Perma R Products has found that they are doing more and more work west of the Mississippi.  This is particularly true for timberframe enclosure and loghome roofs.  Our specialty Arauco simulated T&G panels have been very well received throughout the country. 

Given the long term energy situation in the West, which is beginning to be experienced in areas in the Midwest, northeast and southeast, SIPs are becoming less an alternative building system and more the material of choice.

Perma R would like to help to build your home.  Let us bid your project.  We are also looking for distributors.


The huge increase in SIP business has required that we utilize distributors to get our customer's needs met.  There just isn't sufficient time to handle all the details to keep your project on course without more hands.  We are currently looking for SIP Distributors in many areas.  Here is the list of our distributors.  They are listed by the areas that we expect them to serve, but our distributorships are non-exclusive- you may work with any distributor in any area that they are willing to handle.  Please call Butch Johnson at 800 251-7532  if you need help finding a distributor.

Timberframe home enclosure panel distributors- most of the timberframers in the Southeast specify and distribute our products.  For information regarding which timberframers carry our products, please call (800) 251-7532 or email .

Loghome roof panel distributors- Panels are a new product to loghome builders.  To find out who upgrades their homes with our panels, please call (800) 251-7532 or email .  If the loghome manufacturer that you select does not specify panels, we would be happy to handle the panel portion through our distributors.

Structural Insulated Panel Distributors-  Call- we're still working this out.

Building Inspector Comments on SIPs

An excellent resource for SIP information is .  A recent article indicated that a North Carolina Building Inspector viewed SIPs very favorably, especially with regard to hurricanes.  In a follow up article, they contacted the inspector and he confirmed that he probably said that "if he had his way, every home would be built with SIPs."  The article is worth looking at.

SIPs and Non-Toxic Houses

A recent article in Building Systems Magazine ("Panels Provide Perfect Fit For Nontoxic Housing," July/August, 2001) deals with the specific benefits of EPS core SIPs as "healthy Homes" and with the advantages to builders for this niche.  A new niche with as much as 3% of all new homes has opened to specifically service people with sensitivities to various building products, mold and mildew, and other unhealthy home attributes and which represents an opportunity to builders that learn to service this niche.  SIPs made with EPS foam are a natural for this market due to their offgassing stability, extremely tight construction, energy efficiency, and durability. 

If you are considering a home which meets the qualifications for the American Lung Association Healthy Home, EPS core SIPs are the only certified system.

SIP Industry Growth

The Structural Insulated Panel Association  predicts a 40% increase in panel sales during 2001 and a similar increase in 2002 which would bring total SIP sales to nearly 80 million sq ft, the equivalent of about 22,000 homes.  The industry projects sales equivalent to 50,000 homes by 2005.  Right now, one in fifty homes in the United States is a SIP home, we hope to make it 1 in 4 by 2010.

Recent SIPWEB article on SIP roof rot

Over the past few weeks there has been an ongoing set of articles regarding SIP roof problems in Juneau, Alaska.  Although it clearly a site workmanship problem ( the insurance companies didn't quibble over the fault), it points out that building a "very" tight house can cause problems if workmanship is poor. 

The culprit is almost always moisture.  Foam is a vapor barrier.  This means that moisture can not pass through foam easily, so all migration of moisture must occur at foam joints.  All SIP manufacturers require that panels be firmly affixed (splined or fastened to the structure) and tightly sealed at the joints.  Unfortunately, often the crew installing the SIPs is not familiar with - or worse, does not care about- the need to adequately seal the joints.  Although this can be an issue in any climate, it is especially critical where interior temperature and moisture greatly exceed exterior moisture and temperature.  Throw in 300+ days of rain (in Juneau) and the stage is set for trouble.

Tech reps are available for every job we ship.   Their job is to make sure that things are done properly on site.  If you have doubts about your contractor, or if you are doing the job yourself, please consider having a tech rep on-site for a couple of days.  The roof problems in Juneau were easily avoidable, after all, most SIP roofs up there have had no problems.

Here in the Southeast, our issue is primarily cooling, and our winters are not as severe- or as wet.  Moisture problems in roof and ridges are relatively rare here, but the same techniques that assure that moisture problems do not happen are the recommended techniques for energy efficiency and strength, so there is no reason not to follow the construction manual guidelines.

SIP Construction Techniques School

We have been working with Charles Judd, an independent tech rep, installer, master timberframer and panel guru to set up a SIP installation class.  It looks like the initial plan is for a one week class with hands on training and installation, including handling, laying out from panel plans, cutting and routing, spline attachment and sealing, square/plumb techniques, and rough electrical and plumbing approaches.  Walls and roof techniques will be stressed.   Later classes will focus on specific issues as needed.  If you are interested in attending one of these classes, or if you have a request for specific training to include, please contact me at (800) 251-7532.

Log & Timberframe Home Shows

I had a great time at the Greenville Log & Timberframe Home Expo in early September meeting with log and timberframe home owners-to-be, contractors and suppliers.  I plan to attend as many Shows as possible over the next year in an attempt to get out and get panels seen and appreciated and to meet the people that use our panels.  I plan to be at Shows in Atlanta (Feb 1st), Columbus, OH (Feb 15th). Charlotte, NC (Mar 15th),  and Chantilly, VA (Nov 1st) in addition to the SIPA annual meeting and the Timber Framers Guild meeting.  Look for me- I'll be around somewhere.

Perma "R" Purchases Apache Panel

New Company is General Panel Corporation

We announced in the September Panel Building Update that we would be providing jumbos (up to 8' x 24' SIPs) and fully Code compliant panels by mid November.  We recently purchased Apache Panel in Union, MS to provide jumbos and Code compliant panels.  The same fine production and administrative staff is on board at the Union, MS facility to provide continuity in quality control and service.  The Johnson City Plant will offer SIPs to distributors only effective January 1, 2002.   Timberframe enclosure panels, nailbase, and specialty laminates will be manufactured in Johnson City.  Union, MS will manufacture Code approved SIPs, fabricate, and offer timberframe and nailbase panels also.

We anticipate that this acquisition will allow not only additional geographical coverage, Jumbos, and Code certification, but also better pricing due to much higher volumes.

Our webpage, has been modified to reflect the changes resulting from this acquisition.  All existing bids which have not expired will be honored.  If you have a bid that you wish to rely upon which has expired, please contact Butch Johnson at (800) 251-7532 for an updated bid.  it is unlikely that bids will change significantly.

Log & Timberframe Home Shows

We plan to attend as many Shows as possible over the next year in an attempt to get out and get panels seen and appreciated and to meet the people that use our panels.  We plan to be at Shows in Chantilly, VA,  Memphis, TN, Dallas, TX, Charleston, SC, and Pittsburgh, PA Log & Timberframe Home Shows.  Look for us- we'll be around somewhere.

Pricing Policy Change

We have been able to work out square foot pricing on OSB, allowing us to switch over to square foot pricing for our panels in new standard sizes.  In Johnson City, our standard sizes are now 4' x 8', 4' x 9', 4' x 10', 4' x 12', and 4' x 16'.  In Union, MS, our standard sizes are $' x 8', 4' x 12', 4' x 16', 4' x 20', 4' x 24', 8'x 8', 8' x 9', 8' x 10', 8' x 12', 8' x 16', 8' x 20', and 8' x 24'.    Go to to see our new prices. 


Perma R Products and General Panel Corporation have decided to turn the accessories business over to people with better pick pack and merchandising skills.   We have had so many instances of "wrong item shipped" to our credit that we prefer to let someone better equipped to handle this type of transaction take over.   We are referring all of our panel accessory inquiries and specifications to SIPBIZ.   They can be reached at (423) 434-9527 .

GrailCoat Free Training Classes

GrailCoat recently launched a certified applicator training program to assure quality installation.  If you would like to become a certified GrailCoat applicator go to for more information.  If you would like to find a certified applicator to GrailCoat your home go to .  Their mainpage is .

The Panel Building Update is published by General Panel Corporation.   Our mailing address is PO Box 5235, Johnson City, TN 37602,  Our telephone number is (800) 251-7532.  Our email address is .  Our webpage is at .  Please contact Butch Johnson at the above addresses and telephone numbers to be added to or deleted from our list.  We do not sell, trade or share our list.