Using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) for Constructing a Tiny House on Wheels

Using SIPs for Constructing a Tiny House on Wheels (THOW)

Why we chose SIPs for the ASPIRE DIY Kit

Here at Close to Home as we developed the ASPIRE tiny house on wheels (THOW) DIY Kit, top on our list was making a kit that was truly Do-It-Yourself. There are other tiny house kits on the market and many of them require a skilled contractor to build. Knowing that most organizations have skilled volunteers ready to help, we sought to create a kit that a group of laypeople, including some with decent construction skills and experience, could put together fairly easily. When we thought about this criterion, along with a house that would be energy efficient, using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) was a no brainer. SIPs are a high performance building system whose panels consist of insulating foam core sandwiched between oriented strand board (OSB). The standard and more traditional construction uses wood or steel framing.

All the SIPS fit on the THOW trailer!

Three Advantages of Building with SIPs.

1. With SIPs no need for leveling when you build

Building the frame for a house on a trailer poses a few challenges. First, the trailer needs to be leveled and second you need to make sure it stays level as you level, plumb and square your framing. Since SIPs are precision cut in the factory with ninety-degree corners, precise leveling of the trailer is not needed – you just bolt the panels to the trailer and connect them. Imagine building a rectangle box with Lego blocks on a platform that’s not level – you’d still get a box with nice square corners because the blocks themselves are squared up. That’s the same idea when building with panels. And since the window and door cutouts are also precision cut in the factory, there is minimal leveling when installing windows and doors. You can say goodbye to all those headaches! And as anyone who’s done even the basics of wall or window framing knows, a lot of time can be saved when you’re not having to double check your squaring and leveling.


2. Using SIPs means the house enclosure goes up fast

The ASPIRE kit comes with eight wall panels, three floor panels and eight small roof panels, with the average size panel measuring 8’ x 8’. With a crew of five people and one supervising coach, Close to Home was able to erect the ASPIRE enclosure in a day and a half! Yup, you heard right! That’s 192 sq ft of floor, walls and a 10’ high-pitched roof built in less than 48 hours. It was quite remarkable to see how quickly it went up as we were building the prototype. Even the neighbors watching our progress over the weekend commented about the speed. This is typical for a THOW SIPs build — no more than two days when you have a crew of four.


3. SIPs assembly is straightforward

Another attractive feature about using SIPs is that the assembly and connection of the panels is straightforward. There is nothing complex about the process. Basically it’s about bolting the floor panels to the trailer, erecting the walls, laying the roof, and connecting the panels. Add the additional steps of measuring and cutting the lumber (that connects the panels) and there you have it — you’re building with SIPs. Other than our coach, no one on our crew had experience building with SIPs but we all caught on quickly. By the second day, half the crew was working on the house independently of the coach.

Main consideration – Heavy “lifting” required

The biggest consideration when erecting the SIPs is ensuring you have a crew in which each person can handle some heaving “lifting” and bending. Given the size and weight of some of the panels, it’s best to have four people. This number will ensure ease of panel placement and portability. Less than that and the panels become unwieldy and cumbersome with someone at risk of getting hurt. The SIPs are delivered on the trailer it will be built upon and, for example, it took our five-person crew about an hour to off load the SIPs. This time included identifying the panels (each is marked to indicate which part of house it belongs to) and placing them in the appropriate floor, walls and roof piles. TIP: Stack the SIPs and site them in the order that you plan to erect the house. This step will make a much more streamlined assembly process!

So, imagine building a tiny house in a weekend with a bunch of friends. . .

It can be done! With SIPs you can build the enclosure and sidestep the hardest part of the project – framing the house. And in the process, you save time and avoid the headaches. The bottom-line is: With SIPs, construction is quick and straightforward

Our ASPIRE DIY Kit will be available soon so you can have the easiest tiny house build ever!


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