Below are some of our more frequently asked questions
Q: I thought Styrofoam for construction was blue or pink, is this white Styrofoam okay for use in buildings?
A: “Styrofoam” is the trade name owned by Dow for the blue or pink board, product that is made from styrene and gasses that foam and expand it. Its technical name is XPS – Extruded Polystyrene. Our product is EPS – Expanded Polystyrene. EPS is made from styrene as well but uses only heat and steam in the manufacturing process. Both products are used heavily all types of construction.
Q: How do we keep rodents away?
A: By using proper exterior finishes, trims, and sealing as you would in traditional construction. The EPS used in our foundation systems has no nutritional or food value and will not attract rodents. Also, it’s solid monolithic core deters rodents interest by providing no immediate cavities of interest or access.
Q: What happens if a vehicle crashes into the building?
A: The same, or less, damage you would expect from a crash into homes made with wood construction methods. Such an event would cause significant damage, but the steel stud structure and solid EPS core is stronger against such an event than any traditional wood and batt insulation construction.
Q: How do I hang curtain rods?
A: Same process as any house, different screw. The SI wall system has steel studs at each side of windows and doors. A metal drill bit with standard metal screws are used to fasten the mounting system of the brackets to the walls.
Q: How to we hang pictures on the wall?
A: Same process as any house, different screw. Many pictures require only a drywall screw or fastener tape for hanging, large pictures needing stud support are easily mounted by drilling with a small metal bit and using a metal screw as the hanger.
Q: Are the walls sound proof?
A: Not fully sound proof, but certainly as sound proof as wood framed construction. All different walls have different characteristics. The SIC systems are generally equivalent to traditional wood construction assemblies for sound transmission, they are not noticeably worse or better overall.
Q: Does the styrofoam in your systems off gas?
A: No. Our product – EPS – does not off gas, it is totally inert and has no chemical fumes that would affect the air quality or health within your home.
Q: We already have our blue prints done for our dream home, can we still use your system?
A: Yes. SIC foundation, floor, and wall systems are designed to match almost any set of standard building plans that are already done. We use your plans to design our system, it’s a direct changeover that will not affect your dream.
Q: We have been researching energy efficient homes, would this product be a good fit?
A: Yes. Our standard walls exceed current energy codes, and our no bridging design eliminates almost every point of heat or efficiency loss. We can make our systems to meet Net Zero, Passive-House, and off the grid designs.
Q: We are concerned that styrofoam is not earth friendly.
A: It is Earth Friendly. EPS is 100% recyclable. It has one of the highest R-value per dollar energy ratings for insulation, and our SIC systems are precut to minimize or eliminate handling, scrap, waste transportation, and landfill issues. When properly made, used, and delivered it has significantly less energy units for lifetime install to recovery than almost every other building material
Q: We are in a rural area and concerned with construction waste, how do we deal with all the construction waste from the system?
A: Easily, because the system has minimal to almost no waste that needs to be dealt with. It is supplied fully precut, to your design, for assembly only construction on the jobsite. Any waste that may be created is plastic or steel, both materials that are readily recycled or inertly disposed of.
Q: What kind of exterior finishes do we have to use?
A: Your choice – any finish used in traditional construction. The SIC system can be made with specific exterior connection points or details required to accommodate vinyl or plank siding, sheeting, stucco, metal cladding, and more. If it can be used on any building, it can be used on a SIC building.
Q: Do you know anyone that lives in a styrofoam house like this?
A: Yes, I know over 1000 families that do. The original Polycore brand was started in 2003, and since that time 1200 projects have been completed. As a founder of the brand, I myself have lived in a house I built with it since 2008.
Q: How do we get permits for the system?
A: Permitting is the same, or perhaps easier, as with other builds. As the SIC system is Engineered, we supply stamped drawings needed for the permit process that are used in applications, plus inspection and verification letters when needed.
Q: Will we have problems getting home insurance?
A: No, you will not. The system meets all codes, regulations, approvals, and permits and exceeds other building systems by its engineered status. In some cases, it can even receive lower insurance rates due to the steel structure classification.
Q: Do we have to hire expensive installers for this system?
A: No. All trades, contractors, do-it yourself builders or handyman builders are capable of installing SIC systems. While any full project is a complicated procedure that will benefit from professional builders, our systems used within home builds are built with simple, easily trainable, and easily guided procedures.
Q: Do you have a crew you send to our site to install all this for us?
A: No, but we do send advisors. Our area coverage and wide variety of buyers and builders benefits from focus on local or owner based installers. The simplicity of the install procedure is best explained by ‘on-site’ advisors training builders with a hands-on process taking only a few hours at your jobsite.
Q: We have a very small infill lot not a lot of site working room, how do you think this would work for us?
A: It would work very well. Though components are bulky, they can be scheduled to arrive on site as needed. Panels are handled easily without large equipment and a full level is typically installed in 1-2 days to free up site room in short order.
Q: So how do I hang the drywall on this kind of wall panel system.
A: Same process as any house, just a different screw for the steel studs. Your drywall crew will spend equal or less time installing as they would in a wood frame build. Then, taping and finishing with our straight, true walls will take less time and less adjustments than on traditional ‘drying and twisting’ wood framing.
Q: What do I need to do to to get drawings and engineering done to use this system?
A: Simply tell us to start. SIC system drawings and engineering are usually included in our project prices. We do of course need information from you for that process, but we take care of the details to provide you a complete solution.
Q: Do you have any builds outside of Alberta?
A: Yes. Though more than 90% of our system are sold into our Alberta market area, we have many in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. There are also several sold into international locations including the USA and Czechoslovakia.
Q: How long do I have to wait? I want to have this home built by Christmas.
A: Whole house builds need 3-4 weeks to design and engineer, and 3 more weeks to deliver the first level. From that time, delivery as needed can meet any schedule that meets your building site timelines.
Q: Does this SI system have a Warranty or Guarantee?
A: Yes. SIC has a 10-year warranty on the materials and products. Plus, the design of our system includes stamped engineered drawings, a lifetime structural warranty from the Engineer. Note that like most products, these coverages are dependent on and set in motion by inspections done during your build.
Q: What is the life expectancy of this system?
A: We design for a 100-year house. Both EPS and galvanized steel that make most of the system are materials with historically proven long lifetimes. An understanding of these properties, and our goal of designing to optimize for longevity, gives you a building envelope that will last for your life and future generations.
Q: What about mold?
A: EPS and steel studs in our system have no nutritional value, they do not support or benefit the growth of mold in any situation. Our design also eliminates all thermal bridging to reduce or stop any moisture and condensation issues which are one of the root causes of mold in buildings.
Q: What is the cost difference between this system and regular wood framing?
A: You should save money with our system. Every house design has different costs and all builders have different prices for the same house. Best value comes down to scheduling, labor, and field man hours. SICS save time, shorten schedules, and require less skilled labor. So though project tasks may be higher or lower as each arise with our system, the start to finish build should save cost. And, a SIC home will continue to save cost with energy savings for generations to come.
Q: Can we purchase this product in other parts of Canada?
A: Soon. Right now you can purchase it for other parts of Canada. SICS now designs and manufactures in Alberta, but we will work with you as we have in the past for others to make the product available for builds in any province or territory. Give us a call for a conversation on how we can accommodate your needs.
Q: Do you have a manual we can have to review this product?
A: Yes. Though dated and often general rather than specific, we do have manuals for past system versions that will provide an understanding of the tasks required. Our install advisor program has become the main training for our system, and we are working on manuals and videos that will on our website as they are made.
Q: How many years has this product been around?
A: It was first started as “Polycore” in 2003, by two partners one of whom is the current owner of SI Construction Systems Ltd. Though there have been some name and partner changes, the product has been used on over 1200 projects.
Q: How do I attach my deck?
A: Decks are generally attached to the edge of the house floor system, and this would be the same method used in our designs. Other methods are also available and our engineering will choose and define the best method for your build.
Q: I would also like to build a single car garage?
A: Certainly, you can use our product for garage wall systems. Whether you require a slab on grade or a footing with below grade wall, our system can be used.
Q: Our city has just approved Garden Suites, can I use this product for this application?
A: Yes. The residential and the garage portions of the Garden Suites are both served well by the SIC system, so it can be used for the complete project. In fact, there are many benefits of the system that apply in these types of builds.
Q: Can this product be used for the party wall or fire walls required in duplexes or triplexes or multifamily buildings?
A: No. Demising wall systems have special requirements including specific wall test ratings and certifications. SICS has chosen not to pursue such ratings due to a low sales opportunity with a high cost of entry. However, any recognized demise wall systems can be used with our external walls.
Q: I have heard this kind of home is very air tight?
A: When installed properly, the SIC system will provide an air tightness that exceeds typical framed construction. The better result is, like all construction, determined ultimately by following proper air sealing procedures throughout the build.
Q: My electrician said that it is very difficult to wire a house using steel studs.
A: This can be true with other systems, but SICS has precut electrical channels that make wiring easier. A horizontal chase runs through all wall studs and each stud is already punched with grommets inserted to meet code. Vertical wire channels are in almost every panel, allowing electric drops and rises as needed.
Q: My infill home plan has a roof top deck, is this system strong enough to carry the loads?
A: Yes. Our wall systems are individually designed, we make them to carry whatever loads are required to meet the building or code requirements.
Q: How is styrofoam a green, earth friendly product?
A: That’s a big question. EPS is not technically styrofoam (see FAQ#1), but it is the same material and both have a bad rap. EPS is 100% recyclable, has low input of energy/resources when manufactured, has high energy savings for low cost, has no gasses or toxins to pollute soil or air. For the long answer, see my blog.
Q: Why are you not using this for all the interior walls as well?
A: Simply put, it’s not needed there. A key feature of our system is insulation value, and interior walls do not need insulation. Wood or steel framing can be used for interior walls at less cost than our systems and meet all the needs for those areas.
Q: Explain how to buck the windows. Frame doors
A: Certainly. Our system has structural steel studs on all four sides of all openings. Wood studs (bucks) are screwed to that steel to frame the opening out in order to provide wood for window sealing, mounting, trims, and finishing.
Q: Many of your construction photos show lots of bracing, is this really necessary?
A: During construction SIC walls are light weight, fully exposed, and only partially attached like any sheeted wall being built. Bracing is needed to hold the system in place against any expected winds or weather your site and location could have.
Q: Why aren’t all the builders using this?
A: Because its different. Many aspects of new home construction have not changed in decades or longer, and those that have were forced by new regulations or codes to make buildings better. The bigger the builder the more adverse to change. Our system is becoming more prevalent with smaller (1to 5 houses per year) builders as new energy codes are coming into the industry, but change is a slow process.
Q: I want custom height walls, could we have say 9′ or 10′ walls rather than the standard 8′?
A: Yes. Tall walls, garages or shops, two story entries and open high ceiling vaulted family rooms, all can have any wall height you wish. It’s in the design, and we design what you want.