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SIP Tiny House – How to Build Tiny with Structurally Insulated Panels


This is Art’s SIP Tiny House on Wheels. SIP stands for Structurally Insulated Panels. They come pre-manufactured with insulation and everything. All you have to do is put the panels together. Don’t worry, at the bottom half of this article, you’ll see how it’s all done.

The outside of Art’s house was covered with 100-year-old reclaimed cypress from around the area in Louisiana. You would never know it was built with SIPs from looking at it, right? Much of the trim and structural supports for the structure are antique pine that was removed from barns and other buildings in the surrounding area.

Inside you’ll find fresh and locally milled tongue and groove cypress to clad the interior walls and ceiling. The flooring is antique pine salvaged from the surrounding area. When you walk inside it actually feels roomy thanks to the 11′ ceiling. The couch triples it’s service as a convertible guest bed while serving even more with storage underneath.

Be sure you take a look at the way Art designed and built his loft ladder because it folds up in a unique, space-saving way that’s great for tiny houses. Enjoy! To explore more amazing tiny homes like this, join our Tiny House Newsletter. It’s free and you’ll be glad you did! We even give you free downloadable tiny house plans just for joining.

Updated January 3, 2019

Art’s SIP Tiny House on Wheels

SIP Tiny House - How to Build Tiny with Structurally Insulated Panels

Photo Credit Art

I encourage you to see and learn about the rest of this unique little house below:

Kitchen in his SIP Tiny House

The kitchen is approximately 6′ by 4′ and features a beautiful one-piece stainless steel countertop with built-in sink.

Kitchen in Art's SIP Tiny House

All of the appliances utilized are from the marine industry because of their space and energy saving features.

SIP Tiny House - How to Build Tiny with Structurally Insulated Panels

The refrigerator is small but opens up like a chest and doubles up as a cutting board. Very cool!

SIP Tiny House - How to Build Tiny with Structurally Insulated Panels

Head over towards the bathroom and you’re magically greeted by a beautiful custom-made Japanese style paper door that lets the light shine through.

SIP Tiny House - How to Build Tiny with Structurally Insulated Panels

Inside there’s a full size 30″ shower made out of fiberglass.

SIP Tiny House - How to Build Tiny with Structurally Insulated Panels

The toilet is a nature’s head composting toilet with vent.

SIP Tiny House - How to Build Tiny with Structurally Insulated Panels

SIP Tiny House - How to Build Tiny with Structurally Insulated Panels

The sleeping area is in the loft directly above the kitchen and bathroom.

SIP Tiny House - How to Build Tiny with Structurally Insulated Panels

There’s just enough closet and storage space for one or two persons with not very much clothing or stuff.

SIP Tiny House - How to Build Tiny with Structurally Insulated Panels

At just 117-square-feet, this house is packed with functionality and features.

SIP Panels and Tiny Homes

“The panels allow someone without the technical knowledge of framing a house to erect a structure that is stronger and better insulated in a weekend. I hope you are inspired to create your own tiny house and that you now have an example of a different construction method to explore.” – Art (builder/owner), Finished SIP House

SIP Tiny House Construction

100-year-old Cypress Exterior Siding Used on this House and Why

“The exterior of the house will be clad in antique cypress beveled siding. Cypress was the building material of choice for the early settlers in south Louisiana. It was abundant, easy to mill due to its soft nature and it was rot resistant and insect resistant. This Resistance was due conditions created when the Mississippi river would overflow into the wetlands infusing brackish water in the deltas of the south. Now that the Mississippi is confined by levies the conditions are no longer present for the new growth cypress.  As a result it is not rot nor insect resistant. I collected cypress from several sources. All the siding was removed from buildings that were 100 years old or more and being torn down. It is impressive how beautiful the siding still is after 100 years of use in this harsh environment. The siding was partially covered in what was left of the last paint job and has holes left by the original nails.  I decided to install the siding with the back side out, (paint against the structure). The back side still has light saw marks but a light sanding makes it look amazing.” – Art (builder/owner), SIP Tiny House’s Siding

SIP Tiny House Construction: Putting up Walls

Windows and Ventilation

The casement windows (which are hinged and open just like a door) open fully as you can see in the photos. This allows maximum air flow throughout the house. Plus the window placement was strategically designed for maximum ventilation. Kudos on the casement window choice (and placement) Art!

SIP Tiny House Construction

SIP Tiny House Construction

SIP Tiny House Construction

Electrical Wiring and SIPs

When you want to wire your house and you choice SIPs you face a problem unless you designed your electric before you had the panels made in which case you can have the manufacturer create the holes for you. Otherwise, you have to do it yourself, as Art had to do. Even after you create the necessary holes for your wiring, it can be difficult to get the wire through all the foam and insulation. One method that has worked for this is using a heated ball bearing because it burns and melts through the foam. Before you do this you have to install some kind of metal flashing to catch the ball and funnel it into a bucket with water. Here’s a video clip of a couple of guys doing it:

Video Tour and Walk Through of Art’s SIP Tiny Home

This video will give you a complete walkthrough of Art’s little house. He’ll explain the interior, exterior, and how the utilities and appliances work. Oh, and again, be sure to notice how he built the ladder! I know you’ll enjoy:

For more photos and information on Art’s SIP Tiny House click here to visit his blog. To receive more awesome updates like this in your email, plus 6 free framing plans, join our free tiny house newsletter.

If you enjoyed this post on SIPs and tiny houses please “Like” and share using the buttons below and ask questions in the comments. Thank you!

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!

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  • Avatar john

    I was given the chance to help a friend build with SIP’s, i left before the end of the project so i didn’t get to experience the finished product, but i am told that though it looks like a normal home it has some outstanding and unexpected benefits.
    It allows for not only incredible temperature insulation, but also great sound insulation as well, the home is near a road used by large vehicles and i’m told that when the doors and windows are closed the silence is stunning.
    I loved the ‘hot balling’ technique used for running wires and plumbing through the walls, but for longer runs it’s a little inaccurate so we used steel rods heated in a charcoal fire pit to make floor to ceiling runs for conduits…the idea of a twelve year old girl who watched and delivered lemonade to the volunteers! Smart kid, wisdom can come from anyone if you’re willing to hear it.

    • Hey John thanks for sharing!

    • I had the chance to meet Art at a Tumbleweed conference this time last year (Feb 2013). I was turned on to SIPs while exploring sustainable living options (cob, straw bale, cord wood, and rammed earth are also faves, but not THOW friendly [>:-) and again while working with a timber frame company. Seeing the speed at which huge frames were wrapped with SIPs turned on the light.

      We carefully weighed the options and now design hybrid cabin, cottage kits, and tiny house packages using SIPs as the primary construction medium, and for good reason.

      Speed: Among the many advantages of SIPs, speed of assembly is a huge one for DIY builders of THOWs. Spending a little more in money offers a huge advantage in jump-starting a project. A one day assembly of THOWs and small cabin/cottages is common. Plus, it’s very “team friendly,” so friends and family can help with the 1-day raising.

      Air Tight: Controlling air and moisture vapor is a HUGE feature of SIPs. When assembling a SIPs structure, there are far fewer ways for air to travel into, out of, or through the tiny house. Proper assembly includes the liberal use of a mastic that remains flexible, which is key for building a mobile-ready SIP house. Standard construction includes lots of places for air to leak through (average equivalent to an open window), and it’s bound to get worse after negotiating out of the driveway, a pot holed parking lot, and bumpy road into a campground!

      Stable: Stability of the structure is fantastic as there’s no flex in a tiny house of SIPs due to the panels’ rigidity. The need for shear walls is eliminated as racking is non-existent in the finished structure. Lifting one corner of a THOW lifts the whole house as there’s just no flex if it’s properly mounted and assembled (its not rocket science).

      Design: Greatly simplified, offers many options, and optimizes cost while reducing waste (part of what makes it a green building technique). Design costs can be minimized, allowing for a unique tiny house to be modeled for less than the price of a set of plans.

      Insulation: Integrated into panel. Thermal bridging (cold conducted through wall members like framing studs) if the tiny house is designed properly. Again, use of mastic at all seams ensures a tight “exterior envelope.”

      Additionally…

      Soundproofing: Done. – Forget about nearby noises.
      Wall sheathing: Done. – Interior and exterior, maybe sub-floor.
      Roofing structure: Done. – Sheds rain in a day.
      Rough openings: Done. – Add windows and doors.
      Dried-in: Easy. – Add house wrap and roofing underlayment.
      Layout: Any. – SIPs provide an open floor plan.
      Walls: Simple. – Use plywood panels and choice of sheathing.
      Lofts: Cool. – Screw into SIPs anywhere you like.
      Flexible: Oh yea! – Build over time, and easily adapt and modify.

      Okay… Now it wouldn’t be fair to exclude the negatives one should consider when thinking of using SIPs. The common complaints are 1) additional cost of framing materials (negated by short and long term savings), and 2) added weight over stick framing (marginal though balanced with benefit of a stronger longer-lasting structure).

      SIPs aren’t for everyone, but if you’re looking to get started quickly with assurance the two most “unforgivable mistakes” are already addressed — a solid foundation (purpose built trailer) and incredibly stable structure (SIP shell) — you could have a finish-ready THOW in the works in weeks and new home within a season.

      Just passing along a few thoughts from one who looked at multiple options and selected what made the most sense for our friends who want to build tiny houses. Live Large — Go Tiny! – Thom [>:-)

  • Great idea of using SIP’s. I like that they’re easy to assemble, for people with little framing experience. The other advantage is that they’re flat and straight. I think, though, that SIP’s could also be used to push the limits of construction to achieve an architectural form that wouldn’t be possible with standard framing, something that goes beyond a shrunk-down standard house, but with a form unique to the tiny house genre.

  • We too employ the SIP panel construction method for our Tiny Houses. The benefits are incredible. Not only is there a great gain in energy efficiency, but the structural strength is incredible. We couple this construction with double pane insulated windows and the sound insulation is great as well. Love the “hot ball” method of cutting a wire chase. I may have to try that one. Nice job on the house.

    • Hi Brian! That’s great, I wasn’t aware you guys were using SIPs. Since you’re by Tampa, I’m curious.. Are you ordering them from somewhere nearby? Thanks for sharing and looking forward to getting to stop by over there soon!

  • Avatar DJ

    Amazing. I would have been so worried about burning the house down with the heated ball bearing inside the wall!

    I wonder how difficult it would be to plan out all the electrical and plumbing runs for the SIP manuf. to create… measure, measure, measure, I suppose.

  • You can make your own SIPS using foam board insulation and that would allow you to install your wire and plumbing runs before you attach SIPS into the frame.

    A little advanced planning for common wire runs would help!

    • Avatar JOHN O'NEILL

      You will need about $500,000 MINIMUM to make your own SIPs. You will need high pressure presses and precision glue applicators and ovens. You will also need engineering and various certification stamps.
      If you make them yourself what you are making is NOT a Structural Insulated Panel. You are making an ip. Insulated panel. What makes these ‘structural’ is the engineering and methods of manufacturing them….entirely different than a foam board, some adhesive and a couple sheets of your preferred sheathing…

  • Avatar jerryd

    I really like SIP’s but they all seem to have chip board faces which means one has to add another layer/weight/cost to the project. Does anyone make sips with decent faces?

    Most sips I thought come with hollow spaces at 14”? or so standard high to run electrical, com or water. Coming up from below is good if designed right for easy installation, mods, service.

    • Hi Jerry,
      Eco-Panels in North Carolina makes sips with a polyurethane core that can have a variety of different siding materials on them. OSB is most common, but also Huber ZIP or LP Smartside which is a finished siding material. The panels lock together with a simple cam-lock mechanism and the single piece corner panels and pre-framed windows and doors can really make “framing” a breeze without any of the thermal bridging that a stick-framed structure has.

  • Therma-Save jerryd is what you are looking for. Their sip’s are made with a concrete product inside and out. Stand them up and a little plaster inside and whatever outside(paint, stucco, siding,stone)and you have a mold,bug,moisture proof structure almost fireproof.

  • Avatar jerryd

    Hi Bill, thanks, Therma-save looks good.

    Any other choices especially closer to Tampa others might know about?

  • Avatar Mark Anderson

    Another qay to “tunnel” the sips I’ve seen on a construction site- First the contractor located the location of he outlet box, cut it with a router. next was to measure and draw lines on 4the sip for the tunnel. He then took a custom made 1/2 pipe, that had on one end a 1/2 holesaw. The Holesaw had the back end of it cut off with c cutting wheel and the “chuck part” with the back end was used on the other end of the pipe. I believe both ends were soldered, or possibly spot welded. It was chucked into an 18v drill, and with carefull aim to keep it straight and “level” sawed thru like a core saw into concrete. He said he had to use slow speeds to keep from melting the insulation, which you do not want to do. Once he reached the box, he stopped, and withdrew the pipe & core. Without melting the core, it pulled easily out of the pipe for more use. he made it about 6 feet long, but it looked to me like you could go 10-12 feet easily. Then, if there is an air penetration issue, a spot of insul foam on each end seals it up. The airspace acts as a natural insulator so you don’t need to fill the whole channel, just the ends.

  • Avatar Tim

    I really like that refrigerator but i’m having trouble finding more information on it. i don’t see a chest refrigerator like that on the manufacturers website. Did he build it custom?

    • Avatar Grant

      It’s a custom build fridge. He basically took a commercially available model and ripped off the outside, then double insulated it and formed it to fit the space he had. He details the process on his website.

  • Avatar Claudia

    I remember first reading about a SIP tiny home via Sing Honeycomb and was really impressed with the technology. I’m surprised more people aren’t using SIPs for their tiny homes, considering how they make the building process so much easier and faster, plus have all sorts of other benefits.

    You’ve done a great job, Art! Your home is not only practical, but has a lot of character.

    • Avatar elizabeth barrett

      I am seriously considering using Sing honeycomb cores for my build. They say that it can cut the weight of your house in half. I plan on moving mine about every 4 to 6 months….I am a travel nurse and I want my own home and my own “stuff” while on assignment…so traveling light is a priority of mine. Everything is custom, so you can get the SIP core covered with the finished interior and exterior surfaces if you want.

  • Avatar Mary

    I love the SIPS concept, but am concerned about fire ratings and toxic smoke created during a housefire.
    .
    I am also concerned about egress from the sleeping loft in case of fire – most windows appear to be too small to get out of in an emergency.
    .
    One question I cannot find the answer to: why 8.5 feet wide? Standard which allows an individual to move the TinyHouse without a permit? Fits the average frame?

    • Windows in sleeping loft should be made so you can crawl out in case of an emergency.

      Exactly. 8.5 feet wide for legal road standards without requiring a “wide load” license/permit to move.

      • Avatar elizabeth barrett

        I am putting a skylight that fully opens in my loft…it will be an escape hatch in case of emergency

  • I have not used SIP panels but I have made several tiny homes with a solid wall construction. For a simple wiring solution, I cut a chase 1″x1″ out of a full size 2″x2″and ran it along the bottom of all 4 walls. I then ran metal conduit up to a plug in then up to a switch and then up to a wall sconce light. All the conduit, boxes and cover plates were metal and mounted on the surface of the wall. It was very simple, quick and I think it looks great.
    Patrick

  • Avatar Athena

    I, too, would like to know what brand/company that chest refridgerator is….
    Pleeeeeeeze?

    • Avatar Steven

      Athena,
      The name of the chest fridge manufacturer that Art has is Dometic. Not to be confused with “domestic” which is why it took me FOREVER to find. It’s a company that makes appliances for RV’s and boats.

  • Avatar Mack Kinono

    is any way you guys can ship these tiny houses to Marshall Island??
    thanks,
    Mack

    • Avatar jerryd

      Assuming you are there your best bet is find out which ships dock in LA, SF, etc. Then find a shipping agent which is the key. Or ask several for quotes if on this end.

      Likely the cheapest will be one that can fit in a cargo container for shipping. Find out what size is practical for you to ship, then find a design that will fit.

  • Really love the idea of tiny houses made from SIPs. Which external temperatures range are they designed for comfort leaving?

  • Avatar Kevin Ballenger

    I like the way you’ve incorporated the composting toilet and the refrigerator in your tiny home. I’m looking at a permanent residence but with the ideas you have. I’m putting in a Dickinson propane heater for heat but was most interested in your SIP panels. I’d like to have my “small” residence made from them and was wondering where you acquired them from, how did you submit your plans, etc…This is the first time I’ve had a chance to build my own place and am afraid I’m a bit ignorant of what to expect. Any suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated. I know you probably get a pile of emails and do appreciate your time…
    Thank you and great job…You put a lot of “pondering” into your project..Well done…
    Regards,
    Kevin

  • Avatar Don Bursell

    Where can someone order SIPs for tiny houses and other small houses?

    • Avatar Don Bursell

      To answer my own question, my wife and I are now building our small house with SIPs, ordered from Curt at PanelWorks.com

      http://www.panelworksplus.com

      He’s been really great to work with, and he asks enough questions to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want, without going too overboard and paying much more than necessary. I give his company a full recommendation without hesitation.

  • Avatar Lisa E.

    This was, without a doubt, the best presentation I’ve ever seen. He gave us the tour, inside and out, and talked about all of the features while mentioning manufacturer names and referencing materials and where to get them. This was comprehensive, thorough and informative and wasn’t cluttered up with a lot of social information not pertinent to the building process. I’m impressed. Bravo, job WELL done!!!

  • We are starting our small house and ordered the sips last week. We made sure that the supplier had the window specs, and that all electrical opening and chases were indicated on the drawings.
    SIps do cost more initially, but the structure will be inclosed on 3 hours. When you are paying a contractor, time is money and helps recoup the additional cost of the sips. When weighing the cost, take into account that included in the sips is the insulation supply and installation, and a vapor barrier. The air tightness is a very important aspect when building in Canadian winters as well. We are using a 4″ sip floor and walls, and an 8″ sip for the roof.

    It is important to allow for fresh air in a tiny house built from sips as they are very air tight. This can be achieved with a opening window or a small exhaust fan.

    After you have built a home with sips, building with wood frame will seem tedious and inefficient. We are using http://www.enersmartsystems.com/

    We are starting our build on December 28th, so you can follow our progress of facebook robinsonplans.

  • Avatar Nancy

    Cute tiny house. Would love to see a non toxic option in SIPS for folks like me who have chemical sensitivity.

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