Modular Homes Section

Modular Homes Need Good Contractors, No Exceptions

Modular homes are built in climate controlled factories and arrive at your local building site almost completed. The key word is "almost". You need contractors that are experienced with modular home construction to handle the local work. There is much less work needed when compared to stick built homes but there is still critical work that is needed. This critical work is not something that should be attempted by the average do-it-yourself person. Even experts DIY people should have people that are experienced with the unique issues of modular homes.

Before we get ahead of ourselves let us not forget that even before the home modules are delivered to your local building site you need to have it prepared. The land needs to be properly graded so rainwater slopes away from home as well as a permanent foundation needs to be built. It is doubtful that the most experienced DIY weekend warrior has the equipment to properly build a permanent foundation for a full size house. This is a good time to mention one of the unique requirements for modular homes. Since they are built in large, long sections the foundation needs to be extremely level. If the foundation is off by one inch the modules will not sit properly on the foundation.

After the site has been prepared and the home modules are set on the permanent foundation there is still a good amount of finishing work that is needed before anyone can start living in the home. Each module has electrical and plumbing connections that need to be connected with the adjoining modules and then connected to the outside. If you miss one connection then you will not have water or electricity in your home or worse you will have upstairs sink spilling into the ceiling of your first floor dining room. Ok, you may be thinking that you can handle these connections and will be very careful to make sure you do not miss any. There is another issue that needs to be handled that you have never dealt with - marriage walls.

Marriage walls are where the modules connect to each other. These need to be finished in the proper way or the wall will repeatedly crack as the home natural expands and contracts. This is a skill that only people who deal with modular homes have. There are several other smaller issues that are unique to modular homes. It is best to hire contractors that are experienced with modular home construction.

You have three types of contractors for you to choose from - general contractor, subcontractor and the wrong contractor. Here is an overview of these contractors:

  • General Contractors - This contractor is more of a manager. He will use his staff or hire subcontractors to do the work. This is the simplest option. It will cost more money since you are hiring someone to manage the project and make sure the subcontractors do their work properly. If you are not experienced with construction projects it is highly recommended for you to hire a general contractor. Consider the cost of the general contractor as an investment in making sure subcontractors get it right and you do not end up overpaying them for poor and late work.
  • Subcontractors - These are the people that actually will do the work. They will build the foundation, repair cracks, paint walls etc. You can act as your own general contractor and hire these people yourself. This option will save you the expense of the general contractor. It will also require you to be available 24 hours a day to answer their questions and to on the building site early in the morning every day. If you are not experienced you will be unable to judge the quality of the work the subcontractors provide. It is recomended that most home buyers do not act as their general contractors.
  • Wrong Contractors - These are the people that should never be allowed to even set foot on your work site. These are unlicensed and uninsured contractors. Your first question to any contractor should be what their license number is. And yes you should verify that it is legitimate by checking with your local state authority. Even if someone is licensed and insured you should also check to make sure they are in good standing with the Better Business Bureau.
Once you have your team of contractors in place you should make sure everyone is clear on what is required. Make sure to have signed contracts that are very detailed. If your contract simply states "drywall" the contractor could use lower quality 2/8" thick drywall or higher quality 5/8" thick drywall. If it says "wood framing" they might use 2x2, 2x4, 2x6 etc. wood studs. It is best for you to be specific so you can make sure they will deliver exactly what you want.

With all of these specifics you should also have a clause that makes the penalties clear if the contractor breaks the contract. It should state how much money will be held back or denied if certain items are not met. This is the only way to make sure the contractors come back to fix any issues. If you pay them all the money upfront they will not come back. You will need to pay enough upfront to cover the initial cost of the supplies and subcontractors. A written payment schedule will make sure everyone knows what needs to be completed before more money will be released. It is also important for the contractors to submit receipts for the money released. You want to make sure the money is going to the right vendor and not directly into the general contractor's pocket.

Building a modular home is a very exciting time. By hiring contractors it should also be an enjoyable and successful project. Good luck with your modular home and the contractors you hire.

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