ICF's vs. SIP’s

    I’ve been asked many times, what’s better, ICF’s or SIP’s?  It’s kind of like asking what’s
    better, a car or a truck?  Fundamentally, it all comes down to your application.  

    As far as the basement is concerned, I would recommend ICF’s.  ICF’s are a much better
    insulator than poured concrete. When it comes to the main floor, either SIP’s or ICF’s will
    work.  ICF’s seem to work better in warmer climates and SIP’s seem to work better in
    colder climates.  

    Here are the times I would recommend ICF’s for home construction.  If you live in a
    predominantly warm climate, or building in a high-risk flood area, or building in a high fire
    risk area, or if soundproofing is a high concern or if you are building more than two floors
    high.

    Here are the times I would recommend SIP’s for home construction.  If you live in a cold
    climate or mixed cold and hot climate, or are building in an area of little fire risk, or building
    in an area of little flood risk

    Both SIP’s and ICF's can withstand high winds, ICF's cost a little more, SIP’s go up faster
    than ICF's and SIP’s have a little higher R value. SIP’s also make great roofs.

    I know that about this time, somebody’s going to say, “Yabut, ICF’s have more thermal
    mass!”  I agree that they have more mass, but I’m not convinced that by putting insulation
    on both sides of the mass is of any economic benefit other than strength.  If all the
    insulation was on the outside and the concrete on the inside, that may be of some benefit.  
    Look at it this way.  If you are hoping that the sun will warm up your thermal mass, you
    have insulation between the sun and your thermal mass. Besides, the sun can strike only
    one wall full on at a time, leaving three walls exposed to the cold air.  Also consider that
    during the winter, there are more nighttime hours than daylight hours and the morning and
    evening sun produce’s very little heat.  And if the sun isn’t going to heat up the mass, what
    is?   I would venture to guess that if the center of the concrete was tested, it would be close
    to the average of the outside temperature and the inside temperature.  The concrete was
    put into the wall for structural strength, not to be a thermal mass.   Every HVAC person
    that comes out to estimate the size of your furnace uses an estimator that takes into
    consideration the R-value of your windows, doors and walls.  And so far, that’s the best
    system to decide how big a furnace or air conditioner to use.  But, if you’re convinced that
    it will help you heat your home, both products will work at least twice as well as stick
    frame, and you will still come out a winner.

    Both ICF’s and SIP’s have their place, and both will help you save money on energy
    costs.  No matter which system you choose, both are excellent building materials that will
    provide you with a well insulated, green, efficient home that you will be proud of for many
    years.