Ah spring! It hasn’t arrived weather-wise to the Midwest. BUT I see signs of spring around the neighborhood, as people start launching that next home improvement project. SO, it’s the perfect time to talk about just that with Michael Macek of Elite Remodeling Group out of the Chicago Land area. (For all of you outside of Chicago, “Chicago Land” is just the insider term for the suburbs of Chicago.)

Anyways, I talked with Michael last fall about his company’s new eSIP Basement Finishing System. I checked back in with him this week and found out it’s really taking off.  Due to demand for SIPs basement finishing in Peoria, Champaign, and Springfield, Elite Remodeling Group is opening a location in Peoria! Ok, enough from me, here’s what Michael had to say:

waterproof basement system

Proof that a waterproof basement can be stunning!

The Panelman: So is this new location an eSIP showroom?
Michael: No, our consultants actually prefer to take the “showroom” to our customers. We’ve found we can provide more accurate estimates for our customers if we can see their home, and find out what they truly need. It’s a time saver for the customer.

The Panelman: Why do you think SIPs for basement finishing are really taking off in the Chicago Land area?
Michael: Well, that flooding that hit us in 2013 really tore up basements in Illinois and Indiana. Neighborhoods were devastated. And anyone who undergoes disaster repair will tell you: it’s a lengthy repair process. It’s something you don’t want to have to deal with again. As many families began to clean up and renovate their basements, they sought out a solution that would stand up to water should flooding happen again. People gravitated towards the eSIP basement finishing system because the panels are built with MgO, a material that – IF it comes into contact with water – will not become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. There’s a new level of awareness of the health effects of mold and mildew. People don’t want to worry about breathing in that nasty stuff! Ultimately, who wants a wet basement? This is the wet basement solution that actually works in the long term.

The Panelman: I think I know the answer, but drywall in basements…what is your latest advice on that for a homeowner – or a contractor thinking of putting drywall in a basement?

Michael: Lately I’ve been using the analogy that when you install drywall in a basement, it’s like you’re renting that product – you don’t own it. It has a shelf life, which will expire. You can count on there being water in your basement, whether it’s from condensation, flood water, backed up sewers, you name it. And water will destroy drywall, it’s only a matter of time. With the eSIP system, it’s like an investment. It will be there as long as the house is. In fact, if one of our customers asks our team to install drywall in a basement, our contractors simply won’t do it.

The Panelman: Besides mold and mildew resistance, what else do customers like about basement SIPs?

Michael: It’s a great way to feel like the basement is a livable room, not just extra space. It looks and feels like an upstairs room – most customers say the basement becomes the most comfortable room in the house.

The Panelman: I know the “secret” to a comfortable basement, but tell our readers in your own words!
Michael: Well it’s just one word: Neopor. The most comfortable room in the house is the most well insulated room in the house! Other SIPs out there are made with regular EPS foam. Our manufacturers have switched to Neopor, a product that contains graphite. The best way to describe what it does is that it reflects heat back to its source. That means if heat is coming IN in the summer, the Neopor reflects it back outside – keeping your basement cool and dry. If it’s winter, and your furnace is running, the Neopor reflects the heat back into the basement room – keeping it warm and cozy.

The Panelman: I know aesthetics are a big deal to homeowners, tell our readers how the eSIP system looks.
Michael: With some panel systems out there, you feel like you’re surrounded by office cubicles! That’s because these other basement panels just don’t connect properly. Instead, we have a specialized spline that connects our panels seamlessly AND permanently. With our proprietary panel system, we are not just butting panels up against each other, ours actually connect. That’s key. Houses naturally settle overtime, and some other panels will shift and the seams become even more “unseemly.”

The Panelman: So now that you’re expanding basement finishing into Peoria, Springfield and Champaign, what do you want to tell a homeowner who’s never heard of SIPs basement finishing?
Michael: I know a lot of folks are unsure when they haven’t heard of a product before. We understand that, but this technology is in use across the country. There’s even a group of dozens of other manufacturers and installers involved with SIPs technology, check out their website! The most important thing I’d say is that I think this system will become even more popular once the Energy Star requirements are revamped!

ThePanelman: Thanks Michael! For our readers, if you’re a homeowner in the Chicago Land area looking for a better basement solution, contact Elite! If you’re a general contractor, and interested in providing a waterproof basement finishing system with full factory and sales support, then contact me and I can help!

Drywall or SIPs in the Basement, you decide...

Drywall doesn't stand up to rough housing!

I recently had a firsthand experience involving the strength of certain building materials which are commonly (unfortunately) used in basement finishing.

This is a photo of the resulting hole caused by my grandson (9) pushing his brother (11) through a drywall wall in their neighbor’s finished basement in Denver, CO. They had been rough housing as boys do!

They had to repair it with their Dad, which was supposed to be a learning experience. (And no, I didn’t require them to install MgO SIPs.) The original wall was constructed 24″ inches between two by four centers and using 3/8″ drywall.

My son sat down with his 9 year old son afterwards. He asked his son if he had learned anything something this experience, hoping for something like “I should have more respect and control my temper.”

This was his response: “I don’t think those walls are very strong.”

Just a funny thing I wanted to pass on. And just a reminder that MgO SIPs are impact resistant – think before you finish a basement with drywall (and think before you rough house at the neighbors!).

Hi Panel Man readers, I can’t believe summer’s over. It’s been a dry summer which is bad for farmers, lawns, and golf courses – but it’s good for keeping your basement dry, right? You know I can’t go too long without talking about panels, specifically SIPs panels. They really are the best option for a dry basement whether we’re in a drought or a very rainy season. Just a guess, but I’d say half of Americans have –or have had – a basement that smells like mildew, with nasty watermarks and mold, plus drywall crumbling from moisture. Yuck! The worst is when a contractor tries to “cover it up” by slapping on more drywall instead of offering a better basement finishing system.

The good news is that over the summer I’ve talked with a lot of contractors who ARE starting to offer a truly waterproof finished basement…they’re installing SIPs panels for homeowners. Now, there are a lot of SIPs basement finishing systems and waterproofing companies out there, but they are NOT all created equal.

I’m going to talk to the contractors out there in this post, because I have 5 questions you need to ask a SIPs manufacturer before you start working with them!

1) “Have you personally built with SIPs before?”
I’ve found that the best SIPs manufacturers are run by owners who have finished their own basements with SIPs – or at least have plans to in the future. These manufacturers have gotten their hands dirty, so to speak…they believe in the product, they’ve worked with it, and they would use it in their own home. This also means they’re going to be more knowledgeable about working with SIPs, and their expertise will come in handy. Finally, at the end of the day, you want to choose a manufacturer who’s confident in their SIPs! I compare it to buying a car from a Ford dealer – you want to make sure he’s not driving home a Chevy (or vice versa…I am not partial to either – just making a point).

2) “Do you just provide the SIPs, or the whole system?”
As a general contractor, chances are you’re new to SIPs for basement finishing. Yes, SIPs have some similarities to drywall –for example, many manufacturers suggesting attaching SIPS using drywall screws. But there are many differences, too. SIPS are generally wider, larger, thicker, harder, and well…just different to work with. You don’t want to just get SIPs from your manufacturer – you want the whole system. You want the installation support and guidance down to the exact specified size of drywall screw!

3) “Are you ‘on the bandwagon’ or have been involved with SIPs for a long time?”
Ok, no contractor is going to jump out and ask this question, but a little internet research will pay off here. How long has the SIPs manufacturer been in business? Are they just now beginning to manufacture SIPs or has it been at the core of their business? Are they involved in any industry organizations like www.SIPA.org? (A great resource, by the way.)

4) “Are you testing your SIPs to back up these great claims you’re making?”
Right now, SIPS laminated with MgO board are generating a lot of interest (this blog is evidence of that!). As a material, magnesium oxide board has some great inherent qualities: it’s resistant to fire, mold, mildew, insects, impacts…sounds great, right? It’s essential that the manufacturer you’re getting MgO SIPs from, has the testing to back up these claims. These tests are what homeowners want to know about – they want to hear words like “proven” and “tested” – especially when trying something NEW like SIPs for basement finishing instead of dry wall.

5) “Will you help me with sales and marketing?”
Last but not least, ask the manufacturer if they will help you market the SIPs basement finishing system. This is one of the most important questions to ask because no matter how good the panels are, if you have trouble getting your customers to want them in their basement – you’re stuck. In my business, Total Panel Source, I’m working with a SIPs manufacturer and we’re generating brochures and sales materials for homeowners – to help them understand the benefits of SIPs.

I know I keep saying it, but it’s only a matter of time before SIPs (specifically MgO SIPs) become standard in America’s basements. And when they do, your contracting business will hopefully be working with a top SIPs manufacturer after having asked these 5 questions!