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Stick, SIPs, and Steel, Oh My.

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  • Stick, SIPs, and Steel, Oh My.

    Hello again Tiny House Builders with Big Dreams!

    Well I've decided on which Tiny House I want to build. Next phase of the plan is figuring out how to build it. Here are my three options:

    Stick Frame: This is the traditional framing using 2x4 to build the frame. This option allows me to take my time building the frame, piece by piece. However, stick frames are heavy (weight wise). I like that using this traditional method of framing that a lot of people are familiar with, it would be easier getting construction help. It also makes it easier to modify supporting elements like electrical and plumbing when compared to SIPs. Stick framing would allow me to customize the type of insulation in the walls (important for me since I'm moving to far into the Northeast after construction is completed).

    Steel Frame: This framing uses steel beams for the frame. It's lighter weight than wood frames which means less gas when I have to haul my house from the Southwest US to the far Northeast. I can still customize the insulation and its very study when it comes to structural support. The company I'm buying my trailer from already has the structural plans for my tiny house and would be able to produce the steel frame for me which is super helpful. What isn't helpful is that I have no clue how to put together steel beams for a tiny house frame. Also the price tag is kinda high.

    Structural Insulated Panel: If you haven't checked out these bad boys, then you should. Honestly, I'm leaning towards using these to build my tiny house. These panels are pre-made with the insulation already in them and they get put together similar to how you would make a gingerbread house.

    I found a company right down the road from the business I'm buying my trailer from that has done SIPs for my tiny house before. I like the fact that they seem a bit more user friendly for the construction challenged. I also can get them in a high level of insulation (one again important for me). I've seen several blogs that have shown SIP installation in 48-72 hours (from nothing to a tiny house frame). These come with a high price tag too however they might simplify the building process. The big downside!- Everything has to be planned out prior to the SIPs being made. You have to know where every electrical line is going to run and where every pipe is going to lay. Basically, I have to lock in my plan because I won't be able to make too many changes after the SIPs are built.

    How do y'all plan to build your tiny house?

  • #2
    NikkiVIntl My wife and I are still on our own tiny house journey and one of the things we've found very helpful in planning out our ideal tiny house is to stay at tiny house rentals over the weekends a couple time throughout the year. There are tons of individuals who rent out their tiny houses as well as numerous tiny house resorts across the country. It can really give you some good ideas for your own house. You can note the type of construction and the pros and cons of each in terms of the comfort level and how well each different construction method deals with varying weather conditions. I've got a Word document on my computer that's about 50 pages long with notes regarding different features, sizes and pros and cons from all the different houses we've stayed in. Doing even a few weekend rentals is a great way to "try before you buy" and will result in your own tiny house being built in a manner that best suites your own wants and needs.

    We also find it very useful to attend tiny house shows and festivals where you have the opportunity to tour all different types of tiny houses and ask the builders questions about their products and styles of construction. But actually staying in some for a weekend can give you a much better feel for what you like and don't like so that you can better plan out your own tiny house.

    There's no doubt that SIP's will offer the highest R-value of the 3 construction methods you've noted. And they're clearly the winner when it comes to ease and speed of construction. The only real drawback I see to SIP's is as you mentioned, you're pretty much locked into what you spec out prior to build in terms of plumbing, electrical, low voltage wiring, etc. as it's extremely difficult to make any adjustments to those items after the build is completed.

    One thing I'm wondering and don't have an answer for is the weight differential of SIP's vs. steel frame vs stick frame. From your post it sounds like you're just planning to move your tiny house from the Southwest to the Northeast and park it. If I'm understanding that correctly I wouldn't really worry about which was lightest as the difference in the cost of gas to move it once would be so nominal that I don't think it should even be a factor in deciding which construction method is best for your situation. Now, if I misunderstood you and you're planning to travel frequently with your tiny house then I would definitely give consideration to whether or not there's a significant difference in weight between SIP's, steel frame and stick frame.

    Regarding maximizing the thermal efficiency of your tiny house one of the things you may want to consider is a product like RB Shields Me. I noticed in the video you posted at 3:42 it shows them installing "Aluminum Foil Paper (Special Purpose)" which appears to be a similar product to RB Shields Me however I think the RB Shields Me product is much more robust and durable than the product being used in the video. I'll try and get Herman from RB Shield Me to pop into this post and give us some feedback on his product vs. what's seen in the video. Great video by the way, thanks for sharing and welcome to the forum!


    • #3

      My tiny house is going to be for residence only and not travel, so i understand what you are saying about the weight issue. I appreciate you feedback on my concerns regarding thermal efficiency. While I realize that there is there is the rule of diminishing returns when it comes to insullation, I want to make sure I make my tiny house the best it can be in for keeping me warm (i'm from the South while my BF is from the cold cold cold NE).

      I love you idea of going to stay in some tiny houses to get a feel for what I want. Right now I'm debating bathroom/closet layout. Lucky for me the plan I've chosen actually has a couple of versions of the floor plan constructed and available to stay in via Air BnB. I had looked at their pictures of their tiny houses however it never dawned on me to actually go stay it.

      I really would like to attend a tiny house convention however the next one that is close to me (Denver in June) is the same weekend I will be on vacation with my family. I am going to keep my eye out for some others.