Thursday, January 19, 2012


Last week I sent over 1,100 emails to people on Linkedin, Facebook and in my Google accounts asking them for their help in answering a question about modular homes.  The response was overwhelming with almost 400 people replying.

Some of the responses came from modular industry people but there were quite a few that just knew that modular was the way to build their next home. 

Some of the responses were so detailed I am going to put them into several articles.  Here is Part 2.  

Here is my email:

I've been writing Modular Home Builder for over 5 years trying to explain to both new home builders and new home buyers why modular is a great way to build a home. But something happened today that stopped me in my tracks. I was asked if I were looking to build a new home, would I really consider building it as a modular?

Of course I would but would you?

Here is where I need you help. If you were looking to build a new home right now, would you look at modular as an option?
Absolutely! The first time I walked into a homebuilding factory, I was absolutely sold. I don't know why anybody would want to build a home any other way.


No I wouldn't.  Twelve years ago I bought a modular home from Design Homes in PA and had a bad experience with both the builder and the Township inspectors.  Design Homes built my wife and I a cape cod but there were so many things wrong with it that the builder gave up trying to finish it because they wouldn't help pay for his repairs.  Then the inspector gave us a hard time about the entire house.  It took us a year before we could move in and another year to sell it so we could buy another home.  Never again.

Anonymous (wanted his name withheld)
Modular is definitely the preferred option here in the upper Midwest. Factory built modular production lead times are typically right in sync with site well/septic, flatwork & basement preparation timing. This allows efficient scheduling of sub-contractors with parallel processing to get folks into their new homes quicker than stick built. Thus allowing customers and building contractors to optimize our limited seasonal build window.

Jay K. McDonald
Lancaster Division of Skyline Homes 


Absolutely! As a matter of fact, 3-1/2 years ago we bought our new home from ProBuilt Homes. We have been very happy with it.  

Jackie Shank
My answer would be Absolutely!! I live in a Modular Home. My husband and I built our home in 2003 and have been so happy with our home. We built a 1900 sq. ft. ranch and put it on a walkout basement. We finished our basement with bedrooms and a family room and it's wonderful for our large family.

I built a cape cod for my brother in 1999 and they have made improvements with a breezeway & garage and just recently finished their basement as well. They love their home too.

I have been selling modular homes for almost 16 years now and I believe in "stick built" Modular Homes 100%!! That is why I love my job so much!

Judy Ginther
Professional Housing Consultant 

We are in a transitional economy that will leave us in a 'new economy' with new rules, standards and thinking. Modular will be a major choice as will 'rental by choice' and some from of traditional building on site. We are living in a time of unprecedented change...Don't leave any stone unturned to create the life you want...The status quo is dying a slow death but make no mistake it is dying! I would absolutely consider a Modular or Manufactured home as an alternative today. In the 'new economy' owning a home and living the lifestyle you desire will demand each person to look at all the possibilities available to find what will best meet all their needs, wants and desires. 

Mike Moore
As a new home builder I would NOT build a modular home.  I don't trust anything that I can't have a hand in putting together.

Tommy H. (asked that his last name be withheld)
I would very much consider the purchase of a modular versus site built as an option.

I would believe that many look at modular home as "manufactured housing" (mobile homes), which today they are more strictly controlled to the finished installation process from earlier years prior January 2009.

The difference of "manufactured homes" and "modular" is the modular home is constructed to local, state, and national building codes that are the same as residential housing (ICC, IRC, etc), in those areas that apply to residential construction. Plumbing, HVAC, and electrical codes are of nationally recoginized model building codes, with all designs required to be "approved" by a third party professional engineering agency. Whereas site built homes may have varying levels of model building code adherence where a local or state code is not well defined, the modular level of model building code adherence is more defined.

Modular homes are constructed in a "Third-party Compliance" facility, meaning that the structural construction design, mechanical, thermal, plumbing, electrical, etc., are monitored in a controlled environment that is very strict in "discipline" of approving each stage of construction before movement to the next stage process. This is similiar to the "Building Permit" inspection stage process, just more controlled with additional monitoring of the construction by an independant third party inspection process.

Framing tolerance limits are well defined in the modular industry, whereas in the site built construction they are left to the discretion of the local building inspector (should he view them). Within the modular industry a defined third party approved "building package" is followed for even the most mundane task, no construction aspect left to quess work.

Those who are not familiar with the modular design process are amazed to find that the design of the homes are developed by Professional Engineers, those designs submitted and approved by a third party professional engineering agency, those designs follow the home from construction to the installation, being monitored by third party approved quality control inspection and testing protocol, and all this comes together to assist the final inspection process of issuing the "Certificate of Occupancy" (same certificate used in residential, but the process getting to there is much more controlled).

The other advantages of modular versus site built:

All construction is completed in a dry environment free of wetting building materials which shrinks and swells in moisture changes. Lumber carrying 19% of moisture content and over cannot be used (however you will commonly see rain soaked materials on a site built location).

Material costs are controlled due to volume purchases.

Labor is controlled in cost due to less downtime between stages, task set-up time less, labor becomes more effective in precise construction with duplicating task over and over again.

Harold L. Mouser, BCO

The question posed is, "If I was going to build a new home, would I build it "Modular" or Site-built / stick". That depends on what type of home I was going to build. If I had a piece of land, and wanted a new single story ranch type home, I would surely go Modular. Here is where I upset people on both ends of this spectrum. In my life, I have held apporovals for all parts of the evolving building codes. (CABO, BOCA, IRC, IECC, IPO, etc) for Residential homes and used to do site inspections for stick built. Before and after that, I have worked for 4 Manufacturers in 6 divisions approved to build under both HUD code and MODULAR codes. I can assure you, that in my opinion, Modular homes are audited, inspected, and verified on a much more stringent, continuing basis than site built homes. Financing and engineering approvals are comparable between the two. 

If I wished for a multi-story, multi-box home, I would lean more toward a site built home, as there is so much "on-site-completion / finishing" that is required, that the lines between the two types becomes blurred. 

My control over my new home, from initial engineering, approvals, permitting, and completion, from the initial local jurisdiction approvals to delivery are much more under my control than for a site built home. My control over revising layouts and optioning variables are also more under control. Currently, as a Quality Assurance Manager / Code Compliance Supervisor, building for 13 sttes, under both HUD code and MODULAR code, we have 23 assembly stations, and over 200 inspection points that require signed-off approvals is more under control with existing processes and auditing than any site built home. Also keep in mind that every approved Modular Manufacturer must have an independent neutral third party engineering firm that comes into the facility regularly to audit, monitor, and evaluate the continuing effectiveness of all facets of construction of a Modular home. This includes every facet from Engineering approvals to the Quality Assurance Processes as well as systems and testings and our ability to effectively meet or exceed requirement on a continuing basis. With the ability to produce a single story ranch home under Modular Codes, after the initial local permitting and financing is done, can be done in a week from being granted approval to delivery, the time constraints comparisons is obvious. In an approved Manufacturing Facility, there is much more control over the unseen critical factors that need to be verified. This includes compliance to engineered loadings, uplift, bearing, etc., etc.,. This is why, depending on the home desired, I would surely choose factory built Modular. 

Barry Flory
Q.A.M. / C.C.S

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe that's why Design Homes is out of business. I can't help but wonder if the builder was as much to blame as the factory.