How To Prepare Your Land for a Modular Home

It can be the difference between sticking doors, cracking windows, creaking floors, or a smooth transition into a new home. Learning how to prepare your land for a modular home is every bit as important as the home you select.

Selecting the site

Site selection is the first step in preparing an area of your property for a modular home. You don’t have to be a civil engineer, but a basic understanding of soil principles, including how the soil on your land compacts is important.

Look at the proposed site carefully. Are there any natural indicators that you could have problems with runoff during a sudden downpour? Is the soil clay, sandy, rocky or swampy. Odds are the soil will be one continuous type, but it’s worth a closer look to determine that.

The worst thing you can discover later is that one or more of the pairs, or footings you’ve laid are sinking into wet soil. It’s much easier to find a proper site, and much more expensive to mitigate a site that has issues that appear later.

Utilities

If you think you’ve found a suitable spot for your modular home the next step is determining how to connect it to utilities. The primary utilities in question are water, sewer, electricity, and natural gas.

If you’re in a municipality, you’ll need to determine how to tap into the existing water and sewer lines. A good location can save you thousands of dollars.

If you’re in a rural setting, outside the city limits, you’ll need to connect a well to your modular home and find a suitable site for a septic system if you can’t tap into an existing sewer line.

A well requires state permits to dig, and a septic system, whether it resides inside a municipality or within a county’s jurisdiction requires a site survey, a certified plan prior to construction, and an inspected, and certified septic system once it is complete.

Laying these out in advance of the arrival of your modular home is an important step. 

Gas and electric supplies aren’t as important a step since the utilities themselves will dig and connect the lines to your new home.

How to place it

What your modular home is set on is sometimes determined by you, but more often it is part of the Uniform Building Code that your city engineers office, or county planning office follows as a guideline for all new construction.

Manufacturing differences

Modular homes are designed in different ways. Part of that design is determined by how a contractor will place the modular structure on your foundation. 

It is a good practice to check with the manufacturer of your modular home before building a foundation. Some require a gap down the middle to slide support structures for the new home, others use a cross-connection style that relies on specific measurements in the exterior stem wall to properly set the building.

Concrete Foundation

The best footing for your new modular home is identical to a traditional stick-built foundation.

Concrete footers, set at a depth that follows the Uniform Building Code is the first step. In locations that freeze in the winter, footers should be poured below the frost line to ensure that your foundation doesn’t heave during the freeze and subsequent that the following season.

Locations across the northern United States that dip to 20 below degrees during the winter months require footers 30 inches below ground level. If you’re not sure about the requirements for your area, don’t build without checking the local ordinances.

The footer should mirror the support structure of the modular home you’ve purchased. Bolt-together style modulars require a central support structure, but others require horizontal support across the middle as well. Every modular home requires the stem or supporting walls to be located directly below the bearing walls of the home.

Pier foundations

Across the American South and into the Southwest, the pier support system is common. A pier is a column of concrete dug into the earth, supported by reinforced steel bars inside the column, and poured to an identical height.

This type of support is ideal for setting a modular home on a slanted, or irregular surface. The various piers are of differing heights, but the concrete surface at the top of each pier is set at the same level, creating a perfectly level surface in all directions.

Pad foundations

Some areas don’t require a footing at all, just the placement of concrete support pads on level, undisturbed earth. If you have to dig or disturb the earth to level your modular home, the disturbed earth must be compacted to specifications to eliminate sagging, subsiding soil, or simple slippage that can cause structural damage to the home above pads.

Many contractors use triangular base screw jacks at key points under the modular structure to support and level the home.

Learning the process of how to prepare your land for a modular home is the best investment you can have in your new home.  Planning is the antidote for eliminating mistakes that can arise later.

Planning, preparing, and finally setting the modular home is a process that requires careful considerations at each step.

Setting the modular home

The final step is to set the modular home on the waiting foundation. It doesn’t matter what style of foundation you’ve chosen, all of them will work if you’ve planned correctly.

The retailer you purchased the modular home from has a crew that will install the home at your new location.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I put my modular home on a hillside?

Yes, you can, but you must level the site.  This will involve cutting into the hillside to level one side, and possibly moving the earth to the lower level, compacting it, and creating a level surface.
Runoff from the side cut into the hill can be an issue.

Can I set my modular home on pads or jacks?

Yes, if the local zoning commission allows it. Stable pads on level ground, with ample jacks set across the area, can provide a stable setting.

Final thoughts

Any home is only as solid as its foundation. A modular home, properly set on a solid foundation is as stable as any stick-built home.

The extra effort in choosing how to prepare your land for a modular home always pays off.