This is the story of our Bunny Vista experience with SIPs, which Kelley and Jordan decided to use for insulating the roof of the Bunny Vista timber frame. I will warn you in advance that this story is from the dark side of the Bunny Vista experience, unlike my previous posts, which I hope have conveyed the joy and exhilaration this project has brought.
SIPs are Structural Insulated Panels, essentially a thick layer of insulating material sandwiched between two sheets of structural sheathing (OSB). Think of an ice cream sandwich: the wafers are the sheathing, and the nice thick layer of ice cream is the insulation. SIPs are great insulators and resist mold, mildew, and termites. They are recognized by various “green” building organizations as having a small environmental impact in the manufacturing process; they also save energy and reduce heating and cooling costs. Although their initial cost is high (our panels were to cost nearly $9,800), they are supposed to save in labor costs during installation because they are precisely manufactured to customer specifications. Reduced heating and cooling costs over a period of years also helps recoup part of the initial cost. SIPs range in size from 4’x8′ to 8’x24′. Ours are very large, with only eight panels covering the 1216 square feet of the timber frame ceiling. The panels come in a variety of thicknesses. The insulating material can also vary.
Aaron stands beside a SIP while a crane lifts it. This gives you an idea of the size of the SIPs.
On June 1, Kelley contracted with Richard Lloyd of Cardinal Building Systems in Winchester to provide the panels, which were to be manufactured by a Team Industries facility also located in Winchester. The SIPs Kelley and Jordan considered were available in two thicknesses, 8 1/4″ and 10 1/4″. Panels of each thickness could also contain insulating material in one of three varieties–EPS 1 lb, the least expensive, EPS 2 lb, and XPS 48, the most expensive. Kelley and Jordan ordered 8 1/4″ thick panels with EPS 2 lb insulating material. Jordan emailed Richard Lloyd very detailed drawings of the panels needed, including all of the cuts. Kelley sent Cardinal Building Systems a check for a deposit of $4,500. The cost did not include delivery, so Kelley arranged with Aaron, one of our builders, to pick up the panels at the Team Industries manufacturing facility in Winchester when the panels were complete, early in the following week.
Jordan and his crew prepared to bring the timber frame to Bunny Vista, taking into consideration the weather forecast (which kept calling for rain) and the finish date of the SIPs. It was important to install the SIPs as soon as the ceiling was in place, most importantly to protect the ceiling and the rest of the timber frame, but also to allow Jordan and his crew, who do not live in the area, to finish the timber frame, ceiling, and SIP installation in one trip.
With the SIPs scheduled for completion before June 10 and the weather slated to clear a bit at that time, Jordan scheduled the delivery of the timber frame for Thursday, June 11, the raising of the frame for Friday, June 12, and the installation of the ceiling and SIPs for Monday-Wednesday, June 15 through 17.
As the scheduled SIPs completion date approached, the delays from Cardinal Building Systems began. When Kelley called Richard Lloyd to schedule pick-up of the SIPs, Mr. Lloyd told him that there had been a breakdown at the Team Industries facility and that the SIPs would not be ready until Friday, June 12, the date of the timber frame raising. In a later conversation, Richard Lloyd told Kelley that the SIPs would be ready Monday, June 15. On Monday, Mr. Lloyd told Kelley that the SIPs would be ready for pick-up on Wednesday, June 17, at 2 p.m. On Monday evening, our builders began covering the ceiling of the timber frame with black plastic to try to protect it from weather damage.
The builders covered the ceiling with black plastic to protect the cypress boards from the weather.
Wednesday, June 17
Kelley and Aaron drove to the Team Industries manufacturing facility in Winchester to pick up the panels and bring them back on Aaron’s trailer. Kelley gave Pam, the facility manager, a check for $5,276 to cover both the initial contract cost and $600 in additional charges which Kelley and Richard Lloyd had agreed upon. After the panels were loaded onto Aaron’s trailer, Kelley inspected them and found that they had not been cut to the specifications on the drawing Jordan had emailed to Cardinal Building Systems. The plant workers produced copies of Jordan’s drawings and said that Mark Lloyd, brother of Richard and co-owner of Cardinal, had brought them the drawings and explained how the panels were to be manufactured; they said they followed Mr. Lloyd’s instructions. However, the panels were clearly incorrect: four of them could be re-cut and used, but the other four were not usable. Four more panels would have to be manufactured. Pam apologized, returned Kelley’s check, and gave Kelley the business card for Bob Hotaling, regional sales manager for Team Industries. During his meeting with Pam, Kelley asked about the facility breakdown on which Richard Lloyd had blamed the delay; Pam did not confirm a breakdown but referred Kelley to Mr. Lloyd.
Kelley spoke with Mr. Hotaling, who told him that it was important to Team Industries that the panels were manufactured correctly and that they would work to make sure that Kelley was satisfied with the product and service. Subsequently, Richard Lloyd called Kelley and said that he expected that Team Industries personnel would work on Saturday to get the panels done and that they would be ready early the week of June 22. He said that he would deduct the $600 in additional charges, which would return the price of the SIPs to the one originally agreed upon. And, he would have the panels delivered at no additional cost. Kelley agreed. Delivery was set for Wednesday afternoon, June 24. Jordan and his assistant, Mike, who had had to return home before completing the job because of the SIPs delay, arranged to return early on the following Thursday to install the SIP’s.
Wednesday, June 24
Richard Lloyd called Kelley to say that the trailer delivering the SIPs would not be able to leave the Team Industries facility until 4:00, so that it would not arrive until around 6:00, well after our builders had finished work for the day. Kelley asked how Cardinal planned to unload the SIPs, since there would be no one here to help the driver. Mr. Lloyd said that he would send a crew of several men. Later, Kelley got a second call: Mr. Lloyd said that the trailer had a “broken spindle” and Cardinal would not be able to deliver the SIPs until mid-morning Thursday. Kelley said that he had an out-of-town crew scheduled to arrive at 8:00 Thursday morning and a crane scheduled to arrive shortly after that. Mr. Lloyd said he would arrange another trailer which would arrive late Wednesday evening. At 6:00 p.m., Mr. Lloyd called to say that the second trailer, although twenty-four feet long, was only six feet wide–not wide enough to deliver the panels safely–and that the panels would not arrive until Thursday morning.
Thursday, June 25
At about 7:30 a.m., Kelley called Pam and asked her what insulation had been used in our SIPs–EPS 1 lb or the more expensive EPS 2 lb, which we had contracted for and been billed for. Pam said that she thought it was EPS 1 lb, because they hadn’t used EPS 2 lb “in a while” but that she would check and call Kelley back. She said that the trailer with our SIPs had left the facility.
At about 9:30 a.m., the trailer arrived. The SIPs had sustained damages during the trip.
The SIPs were propped on OSB strips.
Bottom left, OSB props have collapsed. Top right, uncushioned packing straps have cut into OSB and EPS insulation.
Straps without any cushioning or padding cut into and mashed the panels.
Shortly after the panels arrived, Steve Jesnek, Team Industries Director of Sales and Marketing, called Kelley to tell him that the panels contained the EPS 1 lb material, rather than the more expensive EPS 2 lb material.
The driver refused to unload the truck until Kelley gave him a check for $4,600. Kelley would not pay him for panels which did not not use the insulation he ordered and which were damaged in shipping. A standoff ensued. During the standoff, our builders were able to determine that, not only were the panels damaged and made of the wrong material, but that they also had miscuts that would require at least two days of work to correct. Here’s one of the errors:
One of Jordan's drawings, sent to Cardinal Building. Bottom left panel was to receive an approximate 9' long cut-out from its right edge toward the center of the panel. Remaining length of the panel is approximately 13'. The cut in the panel should be just above the second timber frame post from the left.
Compare this cut to the specs drawing Jordan provided Cardinal and Team Industries. Cut-out portion of lower left panel is approximately 13' long with 9' remaining, a reversal of the specifications. The cut in the SIP occurs about four feet to the left of the Timber frame post. Lewis and his crew will have to correct this error. Lewis estimates that it will take two days at $1,000 a day to make this correction.
Other miscuts included incorrect placement of the skylights, incorrect cut of the roof ridge requiring our builders to fill the gaps with foam, and failure to recess the insulation on the plumb cut for the kitchen roof. Kelley is not yet sure how he will remove the excess foam from this miscut. Richard Lloyd told him on Thursday that he would come here on Friday with a hot knife to remove the foam, but he did not come or call to other arrangements.
Thursday, after several conversations with Jordan while the driver refused to unload the trailer, Richard Lloyd finally agreed that he would accept the $4,500 down payment as final payment to Cardinal Building Systems and that there would be no further charges. The crew unloaded the trailer, and the driver left.
It was too late on Thursday to install the SIPs. Fortunately, Kelley was able to reschedule the crane operator for Friday. Jordan and Mike spent the night, and Jordan, Mike, Aaron, and Braxton installed the panels on Friday, June 26.
The final cost analysis:
The panels Kelley ordered cost a little less than $9,800. Richard Lloyd reduced this price to a little more than $9,100, which was the originally agreed upon price, in consideration of Kelley and Aaron’s wasted trip to Winchester to pick up the first set of SIPs. However, the panels which Cardinal Building Systems and Team Industries actually supplied were not the ones Kelley contracted for, and the value was $900 less than the original price–about $8,200.
We paid Cardinal $4,500 for the SIPs, which were full of miscuts and damages. Kelley has calculated our costs for delays, repairing damages, and correcting errors at about $5,100, making our total cost for the SIPs $9,600. We originally agreed to spend $9,800 for perfect panels that would require little on-site labor and would give us a superior product. We are paying only $200 less for a cobbled-together SIP system, which our builders will have to fix, after a thoroughly unsatisfactory and frustrating experience.
Kelley emailed Steve Jesnek, Team Industries’ director of sales and marketing with a detailed list of the expenses we have incurred with the manufacture and delivery of the SIPs. Here’s Mr. Jesnek’s response:
From: Steve Jesnek <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 1:20 PM
Subject: RE: Blanton panels
To: Kelley Blanton
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for the detail. I understand you have already negotiated a final price of $4,500 (what you have paid to date) with Richard Lloyd of CBS, which is in affect a $2,993 discount from the 1 lb. density price of $7,493 to cover your expenses and related inconvenience. As we discussed, Team and CBS will handle the division of this $2,993 discount behind ‘closed doors’.
We again apologize for your inconvenience. To incent your working directly with Team Industries in the future, we will avail you a significant discount on your next order to further recognize your inconvenience on this order.
Director, Sales & Marketing