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!
House Built with MgO

A House Built with MagWall Panels.

Hello Panel Man readers, I hope you had a great Memorial Day Weekend! I just got back last week from a trip to Denver where I attended an open house for Rocky Mountain MagBoard. I’m more excited than ever about magnesium oxide SIPs’ potential in the U.S. market. My enthusiasm only increased after talking to Shane Vigil, of Phoenix Framing in Colorado, as he explained the advantages of MgO SIPs from a residential framer’s perspective….

The Panel Man Asks: Before discovering the benefits of MgO SIPs, what materials were you using in residential construction?

Shane Vigil: I’ve used SIPs in residential construction for years, usually an OSB exterior with a polyurethane interior. But six weeks ago, I just completed the foundation on a 2600 sq. ft. residence using MagWall SIPs from Rocky Mountain MagBoard. I can tell you, I am completely sold on the benefits, not just for framers but for the homeowner.

The Panel Man: Since this was your first time installing MagWall, did it prolong the foundation build out?

Shane Vigil: Not at all, in fact, it took less time! To construct a typical concrete foundation, it would take about a week. That 2,600 sq. ft. house? It took two days, and that was our first time doing it. I can see it taking a day and a half in the near future. As you can imagine, homeowners appreciate the time savings, too, as they’re anxious to get into their new house! Not to mention, it takes time off expensive construction loans!

The Panel Man: What are some of the key benefits of MagWall from a homeowner’s perspective?

Shane Vigil: Well, MagWall is a non-combustible material which would appeal to any homeowner. However, it’s especially important here in the Denver area as we’re prone to wild fires. MagWall is also water, mold, mildew, and insect resistant. It’s also really durable and the interior can be finished with virtually anything. You can cover it with sheet rock or treat the seams and finish it similar drywall. Or, on the exterior, you can do a direct stone veneer or stucco application. One of the primary benefits is the energy savings!

The Panel Man: What if the MagWall is just used in the foundation, will that still provide energy savings?

MagWall Panels in a Residential Basement Foundation

MagWall Panels Offer an Innovative Alternative to Cement in a Residential Basement.

Shane Vigil: In the residential foundation we just built out, we were happy to report to the homeowner that she could easily downsize her HVAC system by 30%! People forget, concrete isn’t like insulation. In fact, unfinished concrete basements steal heat from the home, which requires increased energy consumption. MagWall is a fully insulated system, with R Values ranging above 20 – it was actually R-36 for this foundation – so instead of sucking warm air, it contributes to even distribution of heat throughout the home.

The Panel Man: In comparison to working with other materials, how does MagWall measure up?

Shane Vigil: As I mentioned earlier, unlike OSB or stick frame sheathing, you can apply virtually any finish directly to the MagWall. For example, in a typical concrete foundation basement finish, you have to built out the wall about a total of 5 inches, then add in insulation, vapor barrier and cover with drywall which takes away interior space from the basement. With MagWall, you don’t lose any space. Or, let’s say a homeowner wants a stucco finish on the exterior of the home. With conventional framing, you’d need to apply tar paper, then lathe and then apply the stucco. In a MagWall frame, the lathing process is eliminated so you’re saving time, labor and an inspection, which means, you’re saving money. Also, with OSB, you need a house wrap and usually a vapor barrier depending on the climate. MagWall doesn’t require ether. Again, this results in saving time, labor, and money. By eradicating these extra layers, you’re also reducing opportunities for problems to occur. MagWall just makes it a streamlined, simplified process.

Rocky Mountain MagBoard On Site

Rocky Mountain MagBoard Provides On-Site Support.

The Panel Man:

How did the manufacturer, Rocky Mountain MagBoard, assist with your first MagWall installation?

Shane Vigil: The owners of Rocky Mountain MagBoard are builders themselves. Not only do they have a deep understanding of the MagWall product, but they have the expertise to ensure its proper application. In addition to the comprehensive installation manuals and instruction they provided, they were on site with me and my team the entire time. They wanted to ensure I was really educated on how to work with MagWall, explaining everything from installation of the trusses to connection details.


The Panel Man: Any final thoughts you want to share as a framer?

Shane Vigil: Just as you are, I’m excited about MagBoard and MagWall. It gives me a new product to offer customers and as you can tell from my experience using it for the first time, it really benefits both the framer and the homeowner.