“Tips On Construction”

                         By: Randall Eaton

 

This report is a selection of text taken from my book, "How To Buy A Manufactured Home And Save Thousands Of Dollars". I have included some excellent tidbits of information that you will be able to use when shopping for a manufactured home. This report will reveal various construction techniques and methods used in the industry today that will probably surprise you. My goal for writing this report is to help educate potential buyers about the hidden structural flaws within the industry. This article is in no way a complete picture of the problems facing many builders today. As you read this information it will become obvious that buying a manufactured home is more involved then just picking out a floor plan. The fact that you are searching the Internet and taking time to read this shows you're interested in a quality built manufactured home. If you find this information helpful and wish to learn more, you will have opportunities throughout this article to order my books or video series on-line through our secured server. Remember the best defense is a great offense. By educating yourself about the industry you're taking an offensive approach, this will help you make wise decisions that will have a lasting impact on you and your family for years to come.

 

Introduction

 

You have heard of the saying, "A few bad apples spoils the whole batch." Today the manufactured housing industry is seeing some of the effects of scam artists, improper lending techniques and weak building codes. As a whole the industry has slowed down during the last four to five years. There are many sales-centers that have gone out of business because of the down turn. Some manufacturers have no choice but to close their factories and lay people off. There are large inventories of manufactured homes collecting dust on vacant lots all across the United States. Oakwood homes a major builder in the industry recently filed for chapter 11. Other large builders like Champion and Fleetwood have been closing plants all across the country. The number of repossessed manufactured homes has risen sharply over the last three years and some major lenders have pulled out of the industry all together. Conseco a major lender recently filed for bankruptcy and I suspect others will follow. That's the bad news, the good news is things are changing for the better.

 

Builders who thought poorly built manufactured homes where the wave of the future have seen their sales plummet, along with their stock prices. Sales centers that manipulated down payments and interest rates to get loans approved are out of business or behind bars. To give you an example…the town I live in use to have eight different sales centers, today only four remain. The industry still has some loose cannons out there but things have improved for the better. I believe the industry is re-examining its role in the housing market, with the emphasis on quality construction, residential appeal and customer service. Companies that focus on these types of issues will be around for years to come.

Tips On Construction:

 

When shopping for a manufactured home most people have it backwards; they are pre-occupied with floor plans or furniture decorations and not structural integrity. Now…a floor plan is important but would you purchase a home for the floor plan and compromise the structural integrity? Of course not, don't be fooled by appearances and miss what really matters, "Structural integrity".

 

My goal in this article is to point out the differences between a poorly constructed manufactured home and a quality built one. By choosing a quality built home you will avoid costly repairs in just a few years. Yes, that's right a poorly built manufactured can have costly repairs in only three years. Problems usually hit when the warranty has expired. In chapter one of my book, (Financing Your Dream Home Buyers Beware) I revealed ways to save thousands during the financing process. In this chapter I am going to show you what to look for in a quality built manufactured home.

 

In some cases you may have to spend a little more for a quality built manufactured home but in the long run you’ll be glad you did. Now, I know some of you have already shopped different sales centers and you may have your eye on a particular model right now. After reading this you may want to consider adding some up-grades to improve the overall structural integrity. If I can convince some of you that it’s worth paying a little extra now, to avoid spending thousands in repair bills, I’ve accomplished my goal by saving you money. But more importantly your home will withstand the test of time and prove to be a solid investment.

 

In an article written by Consumer Reports called, “Dream Home or Nightmare.” Consumer Reports interviewed over 1,000 people who owned manufactured homes. They discovered that poorly built manufactured homes were more likely to have problems because of the low-cost materials being used. They also concluded that high-end manufactured home can last as long as site-built homes. To read the article in full, visit Consumer Reports at, www.consumerreports.org Type in the words, “mobile homes” in their search column and be sure to use quotes around the word, like above.

 

I believe Consumer Reports is right on in their assessment of the manufactured housing industry. I have seen what happens to poorly built manufactured homes in just a short period of time and it’s not pretty. One way to cover up a poorly built home is to hide it behind a lot of fluff. Some sales centers professionally decorate their display models this is impressive but can be misleading. I am not against showing homes with furniture but you need to look past the furniture and decorations and focus on how the home is built. The biggest frustration for many is spending thousands of dollars in repairs when your home is only three or four years old.

 

Looking Past the Sheet Rock (Drywall)

 

What is behind the sheet rock/drywall or gypsum board of most manufactured homes? You may be surprised in what you learn.  For example, solid headers over exterior windows and doors are standard features in site-built homes but in manufactured homes these structural features have been ignored. A header is a solid beam of wood that is designed to support the weight of the roof. If a window has no header supporting the weight of the roof the window will sag in time. The window will become difficult to open and may pose as a health hazard during a fire.

 

A quality built manufactured home will always have 2x6 exterior studs, 16” O.C (on center) with a double-header, triple-header or a box-header above all exterior doors and windows. This diagram shows a single-header above the door, this is a poor design and should be avoided. Many manufacturers in the United States only use a single-header in their homes. This design will cause problems in the future, sagging headers will cause windows and doors to become difficult to open and close.

 

 

 

An upper-end manufactured home will usually have double-headers or triple-headers above every exterior window and door, like the diagram below shows. This is a big clue when shopping for a manufactured home.


 

 

When you go into a display model ask your sales consultant, which type of header is used in their homes, this will answer two important questions. First is your salesperson knowledgeable about the product he or she is selling and is the home you’re looking at built well? If you like a particular model and the headers above the windows and doors are a single-header ask if you can up-grade this feature. In most case you can and it should not cost that much. Some manufacturers in milder climates use 2x4’s for exterior walls, but I am still convinced that if you’re home has to travel any distance you need the extra support that 2x6 exterior walls provide.

 

By choosing a 2x6 exterior wall you are adding an extra 35% to the overall structural integrity of your home. That’s a big number and it really does make a difference. The other reason 2x6 exterior walls are important is it will allow you to increase the insulation factor. Now, you may be asking yourself why would I do that, especially if you live in Florida, Texas or Arizona. The answer is simple; more insulation means better R-factors, which means lower cooling costs in the summer months. In most cases to up-grade from a 2x4 wall to a 2x6 wall and increase your insulation package may cost between $1,000 to $1,300. Now consider the fact by having more insulation you probably will save $40 to $50 per month.

 

Let’s say you only save $400 year in cooling costs, in three years you have paid for your up-grades. Another factor to consider is a manufactured home with more insulation means a quieter home inside. Will your home be near a busy street? Noise pollution is a problem and it’s getting worst each year.

 

Imagine yourself vacuuming your new home and you accidentally pull on the vacuum cord and out comes the electrical out-let box. A few manufacturers only secure the electrical boxes to sheet-rock using clips. This can be avoided by having the electrical boxes nailed to wall studs. This is another big clue when shopping for a home, ask your sales consultant about the electrical boxes. Here is a tip… if a manufacturer is using sheet rock clips instead of nailing the boxes to the studs. You can be assured that the manufacturer has only one thing one their minds, cutting costs were ever possible this means a poorly built home to you.

 

 

 

Another important question to ask your sales consultant when looking at homes is what type of lumber is being used in the top and bottom plates of the exterior walls? If the answer is 1X6 lumber, look out because you’ll have a roofline that will be sagging in a few years. It’s crucial that all exterior walls have 2X6 top and bottom plates. I can’t stress this structural feature enough. Any builder still using this method of construction is not doing the homeowner any favors.

 

 

 

 

 

Quality built manufactured homes will also have 2X4 studs in the interior walls compared to 2X3 wall studs. If the home comes standard with 2X3 wall studs find out how much the up-grade costs. In most cases the option is not that much and it’s worth the extra charge. Many manufacturers use 2X4 studs on the interior bearing walls and 2X3 studs on none bearing walls. I don’t have a problem with this type of construction and realize that many manufacturers are trying to keep costs down. But if all interior walls are 2X3 construction then you’re looking at a poorly built manufactured home in my opinion.

 

Another big clue to look for when shopping for a manufactured home is, does the home come standard with ½" sheet rock, drywall or gypsum board? (Gypsum board, sheet rock and drywall all refer to the same product. In the Northwest we call it sheet rock or drywall and on the East Cost they referred to it as gypsum board) Don't settle for gypsum board, sheet rock or drywall that is only 3/8" thick or less this is a poor substitute and damages easily. ½" sheet-rock or gypsum board on the walls and ½" or 5/8" on the ceiling is recommended This gives you a one-hour firewall. Your hazard insurance may be lower if your home has ½" sheet rock throughout. Fully taped and textured homes save lives, not to mention they look better.

 

Some friends of mine have 3/8” sheet rook in their home and they have holes in their interior walls. If you lean up against the wall you can actually push a hole through it. This is a big problem in the industry and I estimate that 80% of the builders in the United States use 3/8” sheet rock or gypsum board in their models. Most manufacturer’s will allow you to up-grade to ½” or thicker and I would encourage anyone considering a manufactured home to choose this option. What I can’t understand is why this product is allowed at all. It only benefits the manufacturer and not the customers.  Trying to correct this problem after the home has been delivered is very expensive and basically you’re stuck with what you have. It’s always cheaper to have the factory install these options now verses remodeling in later years.

 

 

Insulation Packages

 

The National Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards require separate energy efficiency levels for the three different temperature zones of the United States. I would encourage you to increase your home's energy efficiency by choosing an up-graded energy package. There are a variety of optional energy packages available, such as increased insulation, double pane windows with low “E” rating, "High-Efficiency" water heaters, furnaces, refrigerators, and air conditioners. Here is a tip…your local power company may offer an incentive or have a rebate program. Ask your sales consultant about available energy saving programs. In the Pacific Northwest for example, we have a program called, “Super Good Cents”. With this program a home must have R-21 in the exterior walls, R-33 in the floor and R-38 in the ceiling. By choosing an optional energy package you will save on your monthly heating bills by 25% or more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One day a person called me from Minnesota and was asking me questions about installation packages for his area. He was considering a Fleetwood home at the time and I asked him what the “R” factors were in the model he was looking at.  He told me, R-19 in the walls, R-21 in the ceiling and R-19 in the floors. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; Minnesota gets well below freezing during the winter months. I told the gentleman that the R-factors where not satisfactory and he needed to consider up-grading his insulation package or look at another manufacturer. It is my personal belief that every new manufactured home should have R-21 in the walls, R-21 or better in the floors and R-38 in the ceiling. For those of you that live in milder climates, I recommend up-grading your insulation package also. This will reduce your cooling costs during the summer months as I have mentioned before.

 

Roofs (Fiberglass Asphalt Shingles)

 

Roofs can be a problem especially with older manufactured homes that have metal roofs. Seams are common in metal roofs and they can leak if not properly sealed. Asphalt roof shingles are the most common roofing material used today in the manufactured housing industry. More recently many manufacturers began using shingles using a fiberglass mat to replace the felt. The fiberglass mat was thought to have good tear resistance, possibly slightly better fire resistance, and as the mat was generally thinner than the felt mat. When shopping for a manufactured home look for fiberglass asphalt shingles verses none-fiberglass shingles.

 

We live in a windy area and chose to upgrade to a 30-year shingle over a standard 25-year shingle. A 30-year shingle is thicker and weighs more and seems to stay down during a windstorm. Architectural shingles are becoming very popular as well. They offer more of a residential look verses a standard three-tab shingle. Quality builders usually offer this product as a standard feature. I would recommend an architectural shingle over a standard shingle if your budget allows.

 

Manufactured homes with small eaves 3” or less are a poor design and may be prone to water seepage. Look for eaves that are 6” or more. Better-constructed manufactured homes will have 12” eaves or better. Not only do eaves reduce the risk of water damage, larger eaves of 12” or more will protect your home from driving rains and the hot summer sun.

 

When shopping for a manufactured home concentrate on the roof pitch. Most manufactured homes come standard with a 3-12 roof pitch.  A 3-12 roof pitch raises 3’ for every 12’ of roofline.  Likewise a 6-12 roof pitch raises 6’ for every 12’ of roofline. Some manufacturers build 4-12, 5-12, 6-12 and 7-12 roof pitches. By choosing a 4-12 roof pitch or steeper you’ll have more residential appeal. If you can afford this feature it will add style and value to your home for years to come.

 

As you can see not all manufactured homes are built the same. I have given you a preview of some construction methods used today that are designed to save the manufacturer's thousands. Unfortunately these design flaws cost homeowners millions of dollars each year.  I believe a manufactured home can be a solid investment without compromising quality construction. For many the main attraction to owning a manufactured home is the price. While price is a big factor I believe you can achieve both a quality built manufactured home and an affordable price. I did it with my home and you can too. Learn how to save thousands by following my tips and suggestions. At the same time learn what structural features to consider when selecting your home. This will ensure your home lasts a lifetime and appreciates in value. Here are some other areas of construction that I cover in my book:

 

A Longitudinal Floor Verses A Transverse Floor System

Plumbing (Understanding the Differences)

Sub-Floors (Which Product Is Best?)

Ceiling Vents (Do They Work?)

Touring the Factory (Learn What To Look For)

Roofs and Eaves

Construction Guide/Chart and Much More!

 

My book also deals with other topics that are as equally important such as; financing, choosing a sales center, negotiating the best possible price and site preparation. In my book "Manufactured Home Comparison Guide" I rate the most popular builders in the country and give you my honest assessment of each company. My books have helped thousands choose the right home at the best possible price. Get the facts about the industry and you'll have a huge advantage when it comes to selecting your home. Thanks for taking the time to read this information and I hope it was helpful.

 

Best regards,

Randall Eaton

Author/Consultant