Modular Homes Section

10 Rules of Modular Construction

If you have drank the kool-aid of the modular homes sales force you probably think modular homes are the solution to everything. Modular homes can give you your dream home for pennies, in days it can replace all of the houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and it can even keep the housing industry out of a recession. Well maybe that is an exaggeration, ok a really big exaggeration. The point we are trying to make is that the sales force for modular homes does not always share with home buyers the full reality of modular construction.

As we have said many times we like modular homes and think they can be a great solution for many people but just like everything in life it is not perfect solution for every situation. To help you make sure you get the best experience and avoid having a modular horror here are some simple guidelines to follow. As always use common sense, after all that is what your mom would tell you to do.


I know you just want to buy a new pretty home and do not want homework. Before you can make an educated decision you need to be educated. Modular construction aka systems built homes are a very different process from traditional stick-built homes. There is a different timeline that must be followed in order to avoid headaches and delays. Also since the foundation is handled by your local builder and the modules are assembled by other workers hundreds of miles away it is more important to have good communication. It is happened too many times that when the modules arrived at the building site they did not match the prepared foundation. By understanding the modular construction process you will be able to make sure you hire the people with the right experience (and also be able to look over their shoulders to make sure they are not making mistakes).


Just because you find a modular home manufacturer does not mean it is the right fit for you. There are about 200 modular manufacturers across the United States. Each of them builds their homes to different quality standards, uses different floorplans and styles and have their own network of local builders. In other words they are all very different and you should compare as many manufacturers as possible to find the best match for your situation. Just because they build the highest quality modular home does not mean they are a good fit. There is no reason to pay extra money for a roof that can handle a heavy snow load if you live in Florida. Contact the manufacturers and be honest with them about what you are looking for and then compare all of the responses. Also seek out customer reviews of those who have bought homes from them.


As previously mentioned there are about 200 modular manufacturers in North America. Each of these are affiliated with local modular builders. These are general contractors that will handle your onsite work like the foundation preparation and finishing touches after the modules are assembled. There are two main pitfalls to avoid when choosing a local modular builder. First make sure they are experienced and not new to the manufacturer. Each manufacturer is different and the modular construction has unique issues. You want your contractor to be well versed with these unique issues and being able to proactively take care of them. The second pitfall is to make sure your local builder has enough time to devote to your project. Unfortunately the good ones are always in demand and some of them take on too many projects. Even if your local builder is a good veteran if he is juggling too much he may accidentally overlook something on your project. Interview a few builders and do not be afraid to use a builder that is farther away from your work site. Paying a little extra for a good builder to drive an extra hour is better than using an inexperienced or overworked local builder.


Modular homes can be custom designed to suit individual home buyers preferences. You are not forced to accept a plain box anymore. You can have a colonial, ranch, cape cod or just about any design you like. However just because you now can match the design and appearance of stick-built homes does not mean you should go out and design a crazy home. The more custom and unique the higher the cost will be. Remember that modular homes need to be transported so if you want an awkward shaped home it will need to be built in smaller modules requiring more flat bed trucks, more drivers and slower building efficiency in other words alot more money. Keep your home design customized but not crazy to enjoy the best savings. Besides do you really want to be known as that "ugly weird house that looks like a UFO" ?


Since most of the home construction is done in the factory on the assembly line you will have very little chance to make changes to your design and options during construction. Make sure you have reviewed all of the small details. This includes paint color, carpeting, insulation, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures just to name a few items. Also make sure you are happy with the placement of the doors and windows. If you want to see the sunrise in your bedroom windows make sure that is noted before work is begun. Everything should be included in your invoice and if you have to make any changes make sure they are noted in an official change notice and that your local builder and the factory both have it.


Mobile homes were not built as well as stick built homes and thus they were always cheaper but we are not talking about mobile homes. Since modular homes match or exceed the quality of stick-built homes they do cost significant money. Generally it is cost effective and will be less money since modular homes benefit from factory efficiency. But no one guarantees a modular home will be less money than a stick-built home. There are several, yes several modular builders that only build million dollar modular mansions. Modular homes are high quality homes and just like everything in life high quality is never free and rarely cheap. You might be wondering why anyone would buy a million dollar home if they are not saving a lot of money. Well the reason is time savings. Modular construction helps home buyers have their dream homes alot faster than stick built construction can provide.


Every home buyer is unique and has unique dream home in their mind. Modular construction can be a great option for home buyers in places accessible with good roads and near the modular home factory. But it is not necessarily the best solution for every home buyer. It is not very efficient to buy a home in Texas and have it shipped to Alaska. Another situation where modular construction may not be a good fit is if your local home builders have no work, you may be able to negotiate a price that a modular factory can not match. Don't forget your custom home design may be less expensive to be built as a stick built home. As mentioned before very unique homes require more money to be built as a modular home and stick builders will be able to do it for less money. Make sure to ask your local builders for their opinion and compare their answers with information from modular home manufacturers to make sure you are using the right solution for your unique situation.


Your building site must be perfectly prepared. First you need to make sure you have a foundation that is perfect. Seriously, you need your foundation to be perfect. The modules are over 60 feet long and they need to rest on a perfectly straight line. Stick built homes do not need perfection since they are not built in such long straight lines. If a mistake is made, it is made in concrete which is not very forgiving. Also those oversized modules that are over 60' need to be able to fit on the building site along with the oversized crane that assembles the home. Did I forget to mention you need a high clearance all around for the crane to be able to lift the modules into the air and swing them into place. Make sure whoever is handling your building site understands all of this. I hope you aren't too sentimental about the landscaping because your local builder will probably need to remove some branches, maybe even entire trees, move electrical lines etc to make sure those oversized modules will fit on that perfectly prepared concrete foundation.


Some modular home manufacturers offer to sell modular homes direct to home buyers. These owner/builder solutions at first glance can be very appealing since you do not have to pay the general contractor for his services. This could result in saving tens of thousands of dollars. But unless you are a former construction worker or a fanatic DIY genius you are getting in over your head. It is not as simple as knowing how to hammer in a nail or fixing some drywall. There is a reason why many modular builders go through specialized training programs. There are many unique issues with modular home construction that you should have an experienced professional handle. Many mortgage companies do not even allow home buyers to do this. That should tell you something. Please do not overestimate your DIY ability, especially when it involves the roof that is hanging over your family.


Since alot of the work is done at the factory and out of your sight it may be easy to not pay attention and keep the focus on your new home. You need to get ready for the most critical part of modular home construction - the setting of the modules on the permanent foundation. Hopefully your foundation was built perfectly level and you have a veteran set team to handle the placement of the modules. If the placement takes more than one day you should make sure the general contractor covers all modules to protect them. After they are placed the local builder will still need to make some final touches on the marriage walls where the modules were connected. You should do a thorough walk through to make sure everything is as it should be.

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