Monday, May 27, 2019

Tiny Houses, Manufactured Homes and Converted Garden Sheds are NOT Modular Homes

People on social media, news reporters, industry speakers and even most of the people you talk with all believe that tiny houses, double and single wide mobile homes and those companies selling converted garden sheds are the same as true modular housing. Nothing could be further from the truth.


First we need to define what is a true modular home. They can be found in almost every region of the US. They are built to the latest IRC (international Residential Code). The IRC is a comprehensive, stand-alone residential code that creates minimum regulations for one- and two-family dwellings of three stories or less. It brings together all building, plumbing, mechanical, fuel gas, energy and electrical provisions for one- and two-family residences.

This code determines how site built and true modular homes should be built. It requires standards not found in any other type mentioned above. Inspections on various stages of construction are required and each house must successfully pass the inspection before the next stage of construction can begin.

Modular homes built in factories are inspected by third party companies that employee inspectors to review plans and inspect the homes in the factories before they are shipped to the building lot where the final assembly and finish is performed. Local code inspectors check the finished home before a certificate of occupancy can be issued to the homeowner.

Inspections, plan reviews, safety and energy features are required for both site built and modular homes.

Now let’s take a look at a HUD manufactured home. Manufactured homes are constructed according to a code administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD Code). The HUD Code, unlike conventional building codes, requires manufactured homes to be constructed on a permanent chassis.

The HUD code is not as rigid as the IRC and requirements are not as restrictive as the IRC required for site and modular home builders. This gives the manufactured (mobile) home a real cost advantage over IRC homes.

Where the confusion happens is when a new home buyer looks at building a new home they equate mobile homes with modular and quite frankly, the mobile home dealer encourages that confusion by also selling IRC modular homes. Street dealers, the normal way of buying a mobile home, often place them side by side. They sometimes even look identical from the outside as their ‘modular’ homes and mobile homes are usually built on the same manufactured home assembly line.

New home buyers have been associating custom modular homes with mobile homes for decades and unfortunately that will probably never change.
When you think about buying a new home, Amazon probably doesn't top your list of places to look but, maybe it should be!

“Modular homes” are selling like hot cakes on Amazon! They can't even keep in-stock, they sell out as fast as they get posted! And they call them modular homes when in fact they are just garden sheds.


You can pick up a Lillevilla Escape | 113 SQF Allwood Kit Cabin for less than $5000, shipped FREE! Measuring 113-square-feet of interior space, this styling cabin is made of solid wood and takes a day to build according to the manufacturer.


But do you really get a home you can live in? What you get is a glorified garden shed that will cost you tens of thousands of dollars to bring up to your state’s current IRC standards if all possible, permitting if possible at all and finally be prepared for your neighbors to vehemently oppose it. And certainly don’t look for your bank to finance it.

Who would want to buy a nice 2 story home next to a family living in a converted garden shed?

Which brings us to Tiny Houses. A short time ago the tiny house factories and dealers got together and worked hard to be included in the IRC standards. Their efforts paid off with them being given a modified IRC approval just for tiny houses.

Problem is that even though they now have the IRC stamp not many are built to it. And local zoning in just about every state won’t let them be placed in traditional housing zones. So they become unlawful habitats parked in someone’s backyard or driveway getting water from a garden hose and electric service through a long extension cord.

The media thinks they are cute and does a lot of stories on people living in them. Social media has hundreds of groups preaching the benefits of living in homemade garden sheds built on utility trailers purchased from Tractor Supply. Many consider them affordable housing which I guess they are if you consider living in a space just slightly larger than a walk-in closet “living”.

So the next time someone calls a tiny house or doublewide mobile home a “Modular Home” please take a minute and tell them it is not a modular home. Hundreds of real modular home builders will thank you.

Gary Fleisher (the Modcoach) is a housing veteran, editor/writer of Modular Home Builder blog and industry speaker. modcoach@gmail.com

3 comments:

Unknown said...
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Steve Tidwell said...

What was stated in the article tells part of the facts.Modular Homes have different IRC,IMC, IPC,NEC,codes each state has adopted different Yearsof the Code.The manufacturer of modular has to be licensed for the state to build one which requires state Bond usually 2 million liability, and Construction Manual that Has Structural Engineers or Architect licensed to do calculations and certification by a Third party that also monitors the construction at least two times of build and has Quality control traveler that has to be signed by trained workers in plant.Some states require state inspection in addition to the 3rd party inspection agen6, Also approved plans,Bracewall design and located on plan per wind speed, 90mph, 130mph, 150mph, 180mph, etc. Also waterlines, drainlines,Electrical plan with circuits,electric load calulations,HVAC duct plan with load calculations CFM per room,Light and vent calculations per room.Also most states you can set modular with chassis or frame attached to modular Homes, Texas,and Georgia,California has to be built with 2X10 floor joist and set with a crane on foundation. California has strick codes because of wild fires homes can not have any exposed plastics must be steel or metal pipes and light fixtures, and sheetrock under the belly of home with high impact windows to meet code.When Home is completed the home get state modular label for the state it was built for, you can purchase multiple state modular labels but it is expensive usually additional costs $1500 per state and additional cost for different code requirements like arc fault breakers, zhigh impact windows,etc.So much for modular homes.
Now Manufactured Homes [HUD ] is based on the 3280 codes and monitored by HUD who has contracted IBTS to over the construction, DAPIA 3 party inspection, manufacturing facilities. The bracewall construction is shear wall systems. Wind zone 1 is 90 mph, wind zone 2 is 100mph, wind zone 3 is greater than 100mph, Wind Zone 3 manual D is for Homes designed for on the coastline of states, They also have Thermal zones 1, 2 ,3.The smaller the zone the less insulation example R7 floor,R7 wall,R7 roofer zone 1 while R22 Floor, R22 sidewalls [ 6"walls], R30 Roof zone 3.The homes has Approval plans ,Waterlines, Drainlines,electrical plans with circuits and load calculations per 2008 NEC manufacturing section, Homes have DAPIA manual with licensed PE engineers that has licensed for HUD,Quality Control manual approved by 3rd party inspection agencies also the home has QC traveler that has everything per station that has to be inspected and sign off completed work then it get a HUD label and Data plate in home. The main difference is the modular homes have double 2x top plates, only good for the one state it was built for, while HUD manufacturing home is good for the wind speed rating with thermal zone which has broader range of state locations and by Federal law superceded all state, city,local codes and can be set up anywhere as long as it is set up by the approved setup manual and has proper location per 3280 state map for wind speed and thermal zone.
There is also commercial Modular buildings build in manufacturing plants.Over My years of Engineering and Quality Control Manager I have built all types from same plant, HUD manufactured homes,FEMA homes, Modular Homes ,Commercial Buildings.If you have All the licenses, Approved Engineering Construction Manuals, DAPIA manuals,and Quality control mauals,Travelers for all the Different construction, And a multi approved 3rd party inspection agencies like NTA you can do this with right group of managers and electrical,plumbing, HVAC testers , Quality construction workers anything can be done.

Anonymous said...

Please be aware, "Tiny Homes" are also NOT manufactured homes. In most states, the only types of factory housing that can be used for permanent dwellings are manufactured homes and modular homes, however some states call them industrialized homes.