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 (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!