The Home Store's Blog

Tales of a Modular Home Builder


Modular Home Checklists

There are many things to learn the first time you build a modular home.  But if you’re like most homebuyers, you won’t get the full benefit of what you learn, since you’ll likely only build one home.

But you can benefit from what I’ve learned over twenty-eight years building more than 1,200 homes.  To start with you can read my book, The Modular Home, which gathers all this information in one place.

Use these modular home checklists to guide you through the process of building a modular home.

Use these modular home checklists to guide you through the process of building a modular home.

Take Advantage of My Experience by Using My Modular Home Checklists

Of course, it’s hard to use a book efficiently the first time you use the information.  That’s why I’ve created several checklists that cover the most important steps.  Below is a link to each of the checklists.  There’s also a link to this list on the home page of The Home Store’s website.  I hope you find these modular home checklists helpful.

  1. Ensure You Are Ready Willing and Able to Build a Modular Home
  2. Selecting a Modular Home Dealer
  3. Your Modular Home Dealer Customer References
  4. Selecting a Modular Home General Contractor
  5. Your Modular Home General Contractor References
  6. What to Include in Your Modular Home Legalese
  7. Selecting the Right Modular Home Plan
  8. What You Should Ask Modular Home General Contractors
  9. Reviewing Your Modular Home Floor Plans
  10. Reviewing Your Modular Home Elevation Plans
  11. Modular Additions
  12. Building a Universal Design Modular Home
  13. What Your Modular Manufacturer Needs from Your Contractor
  14. How to Air Seal a Modular Home
  15. Making an Offer To Purchase for a Building Lot
  16. Your Municipal Water and Sewer Connections
  17. Reviewing Your Modular Construction Drawings
  18. Potential Permits and Supporting Documents
  19. Your Modular Dealer and Financing Tasks
  20. Your Permit and General Contracting Tasks
  21. Omitting Materials from the Modular Manufacturer

For more information about all the topics covered in the checklists, see my book The Modular Home.

Modular Addition Checklist

Planning for Your Modular Addition

When planning for your modular addition your general contractor will have to examine several details about your current home and property.  The list is surprisingly long.  But if your GC ignores some of the details, you’ll be disappointed with the result and have to pay your GC to make the necessary corrections.

Below is a list of construction details your GC needs to consider when developing the scope of work, specifications, and pricing for your modular addition.  It’s best if your GC has experience with additions as well as renovation work, since almost all additions require some refurbishing of the existing structure.

Make sure your general contractor attends to all the details when determining what he must do to build your modular addition.

Make sure your general contractor attends to all the details when determining what he must do to build your modular addition.

Existing House

  • Style
  • Approximate age
  • Length and width
  • Height of first floor from ground
  • Height of eave from ground
  • Asbestos or lead paint – where

Property

  • Trees or brush need to be cut or moved – where
  • Landscaping will need to be redone – where
  • Driveway needs to be relocated or refinished – where
  • Sidewalk needs to be relocated or refinished – where
  • Crane can be located to set modules – where

Existing Foundation

  • Block, stone, or poured
  • Crawl or full
  • Wall height and thickness
  • Work required to shore up walls
  • Modular addition’s foundation can be connected to existing foundation – how connected
  • Modular addition’s foundation cannot be connected to existing foundation – how formed
  • Concrete for new foundation needs to be pumped – distance

Existing Siding

  • Material
  • Profile
  • Color
  • Siding needs to be removed and/or replaced – where and how matched

Existing Roofing

  • Truss or rafter framing
  • Pitch
  • Soffit width
  • Gable overhang size
  • Soffit width
  • Fascia height
  • Shingle type
  • Shingle color
  • Shingles need to be removed and/or replaced – where and how matched

Existing Electrical System

  • Service amperage
  • Overhead or underground
  • Meter location
  • Meter needs to be moved – where
  • Panel location
  • Panel needs to be moved – where
  • Panel disconnect needed
  • Smoke detectors in existing house – hardwired or battery
  • Existing smoke detectors connection to addition – how

Existing Heating System

  • System can produce enough BTUs to heat addition – type, fuel, location, vent method, and how connect
  • Modular addition needs new heating system – type, fuel, location, and vent method

Existing Domestic Hot Water System

  • System can produce enough hot water for addition – type, fuel, location, vent method, and how connect
  • Modular addition needs new hot water system – type, fuel, location, and vent method

Existing Water Supply

  • Well or town water
  • Sufficient water pressure
  • If well – size of pump and tank
  • If town water – size of service entering existing house
  • Entrance into existing house – where
  • Entrance needs to be moved – where
  • Connection to modular addition – how

Existing Waste System

  • Septic or town sewer
  • Height below top of foundation
  • If septic – system can meet demand from addition
  • If septic – system needs to be modified or replaced – where on property
  • Entrance into existing house – where
  • Entrance needs to be moved – where
  • Connection to modular addition – how

Connection from Modular Addition into Existing House

  • Location
  • Change existing windows to doors or existing doors to windows – where
  • Close-off existing windows/doors – where
  • Cut through existing wall – where and material
  • Move electric wires and/or meter – where
  • Move heating units – where
  • Move plumbing pipes – where
  • Install headers – where
  • Firestop required – specify

Draw a Site Plan Showing the Existing Roof

Include all information above plus existing locations and size of hose bibbs, GFIs, chimneys, roof vents, fireplaces, windows, doors, and any other relevant items.  Show where the crane will be located during set.

Draw the Basement Plan of the Existing Home

Include all information about water, sewer, heating system, hot water, basement stairs, windows, and any other relevant items.

Draw the 1st Floor Plan of the Existing Home

Include all information of first floor layout, locations of smoke detectors, location of entrance to modular addition, and any other relevant items.

Draw the 2nd Floor Plan of the Existing Home

Include all information of second floor layout, locations of smoke detectors, location of entrance to modular addition if it impacts on second floor, and any other relevant items.

For more information about building a modular addition, see Building a Modular Addition in my book The Modular Home.

Building A New Home Is Best For Accessibility

Why Building a New Home Is Better Than Remodeling When You Need Accessibility

What should you do if you need an accessible home?  Should you remodel your current home, buy a more accessible used home, or build a fully accessible new one?

Since there are very few truly accessible used homes, let’s compare remodeling your existing home with building a new one.  Since I believe building new is almost always better than remodeling, I will outline the advantages of building over remodeling.  Of course, if you don’t have the resources and flexibility to build a new home, remodeling will be your only viable alternative.

No Demolition and Shoring Up Expenses

You will not waste money demolishing or shoring up your new home.

Remodeling your existing home to make it accessible can often be surprisingly expensive. You will undoubtedly anticipate some of the costs for adding new features, but you may not plan sufficiently for the cost of the other work required to remodel. Most importantly, you must add the cost of the destruction (taking apart and removing what you no longer want) to the cost of construction (building in the new features). In addition, you must add the cost of shoring up the existing structure of your home so that the new construction can be completed. For example, in addition to tearing down old walls and ripping out old plumbing and electrical, you might need to add structural supports in the ceiling and basement before you can begin. Otherwise, your home will not be structurally sound.

The task of removing walls and shoring up the structure is usually a Pandora’s Box for the remodeler. Often the remodeler can’t know what problems and expenses he is going to run into until he actually starts the demolition. If you ask him to give you a fixed price for the entire project in advance, he will usually build a significant cushion into his price.  If you agree to pay him for “time and materials”, and he uncovers a number of problems that require additional work, he will hit you with a change order that will create cost-overruns for you.  That’s why remodeling often goes significantly over budget.

Remodeling requires the de-struction of your existing home as well as the con-struction of it's new features, which makes remodeling expensive and subject to more cost overruns than building a new home.

Remodeling requires the de-struction of your existing home as well as the con-struction of it’s new features, which makes remodeling expensive and subject to more cost overruns than building a new home.

Greater Equity and Resale Value

Your new home is likely to provide you with greater market value and equity than a remodeled home.

Since the demolition and shoring up your home will not increase its value as much as it costs (only the new construction will), the total cost of the remodeling will often be considerably greater than the value added to your home.  Since much of the money you will spend on remodeling will be lost, your bank’s appraiser will be unlikely to justify a loan for the full cost of remodeling unless you already have a lot of equity in your home or a large down payment.  And should you decide to sell your home, you will likely lose some of the money you spent remodeling it.

Full Accessibility

Since every room in your new home can be designed to be accessible and located where you want it, you will need to make fewer compromises to get the features and functions you want.

Because the remodeler will have to work with your existing structure, he might not be able change the home sufficiently to give you enough of what you need. For example, the remodeler might not be able to locate the accessible bathroom where it would most benefit you.

Efficient Use of Space

Your new home will provide you with the rooms you need without wasting space.

When remodeling your home, you will often have to give up some existing rooms so that the needed features and functional space can be added. For example, one of your existing bedrooms might have to be donated to the remodeling cause so that your hallways, doors, and bathrooms can be widened. When the work is done, you may feel that you have lost valuable space.

Attractive and Functional Landscaping

The site of your new home will be graded and landscaped in ways that are esthetically pleasing as well as usable.

When remodeling your home, you will sometimes have to settle for site work and landscaping that is less attractive. With your foundation, driveway, and walkways already in place, the remodeler is limited in how he can make your site more accessible without detracting from its appearance (often with long ramps) and adding considerably to the cost.

Lower Architect Fees, Custom Design

Whether you wish to customize a builder’s standard plan or design a completely new custom plan, a modular home builder’s fees will be substantially less than those required for a sizable remodeling project.

When remodeling your home for accessibility, you will often are best served by hiring an experienced architect to design a remodeling plan.

Home and Lot Matched in Size

You will be able to match a building lot of appropriate size with a new home that is as big as you need and your budget allows.

When remodeling, your design choices will be limited by the size of your home and your lot. If your home is too small, and your lot does not allow for easy expansion, which can happen in city lots, your design options will be limited.

Right Sized Home

When building a new home of your choice, you will end up with a home that is neither too big nor too small.

If your existing home is already bigger than you need, your remodeled home will almost certainly be too big.  If your existing home is not too big before remodeling, but the remodeler is forced to add rooms in order to meet your needs, your remodeled home may become too big. For example, if you have all of the bedrooms that you need, but they are all on the second floor and you need a first floor master bedroom suite, you will be forced to build an extra bedroom.

Lower Energy Costs

Your new home will be considerably more energy efficient than your remodeled home.

Your remodeled home will usually have higher energy costs. Older homes were not built as energy efficient as new homes are today. Often the budget for remodeling won’t allow for improving the energy efficiency, since to insulate all of the walls and replace all of the windows can be expensive. In addition, older homes have very high amounts of air infiltration (leaks around the windows, doors, and electrical receptacles), and air infiltration is the number one cause of heat loss, even after insulation has been added and windows replaced.

Brand New Fixtures, Fully Featured

With your new home, everything will be brand new with the features you desire.

With older homes, your remodeling budget will require you to keep certain things you would prefer to replace. For example, although you might like to replace your fifteen year old appliances, the cost of the remodeling will probably prevent you from replacing them. In addition, your budget will often prevent you from affordably adding features that you would desire. For example, if you want to add central air conditioning, but you have hot water baseboard heat, you will need to add the duct work in addition to the air conditioning compressor, which will add substantially to the total cost.

Lower Maintenance Costs, Extended Warranty

Because your new home will come with new materials, it will require minimal maintenance. Furthermore, all the parts will be protected by a warranty. In fact, your entire modular home will come with a ten year structural warranty.

Even after your older home is remodeled, it will have higher maintenance costs. All areas and components of your home that are not completely replaced will continue to bear the effects of wear and tear. In addition, the only items that will have a warranty will be the ones installed by the remodeler.

For more information about building a fully accessible Universally Designed modular home, see Modular Home Specifications and Features in my book The Modular Home.  For more information about building an accessible modular in-law addition, also known as an Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity (ECHO), see Building a Modular Addition also in my book.

Pouring a Concrete Foundation in the Winter

Homebuyers are often concerned about having their concrete foundation poured in the winter.  They fear the cold will damage the concrete.  If they fall behind schedule with their modular planning and design, and this makes it impossible for their contractor to pour the foundation before winter, they tell him to delay the start until spring.  Of course that’s when lots of people want their home built.  This is one reason why spring projects often take longer than late summer and fall projects.

You Can Safely Pour a Concrete Foundation in the Winter

Actually there are safe, effective ways to pour a concrete foundation in cold weather.  They all begin with protecting the ground beneath the foundation from frost, snow, and ice.  This is done before winter begins by covering the ground with hay and covering the hay with tarps or plastic sheets.

The next steps are done by the concrete and foundation companies.  Their responsibility is to prepare the concrete foundation so it’s suitable for your site’s weather conditions, primarily cold temperatures.  They accomplish this by raising the temperature of the water and adding more cement to the mix.  They also control the amount of air entrapped and entrained in the concrete.  In addition, they add accelerators to speed up the curing process.

After the concrete foundation is poured, the chemical reaction created by the accelerant generates heat in the concrete.  The heat helps the concrete to cure before it freezes.  But this only works if the heat is retained.  This is done, first, by leaving the wood cement forms in place for several days; they can be removed the next day during warmer temperatures.  In addition, the cement and forms are covered with insulating blankets, which also reduce moisture loss.  Finally, if the temperature is too cold, a heater and enclosure are used to maintain temperatures above freezing.

Knowing that you can safely pour a cement foundation in the winter rather than waiting for spring allows you to take advantage of what is usually a slower time for your builder.  This in turn enables you to move into your new home in the spring.

Stick building in the winter subjects a home to ice and snow.

Stick building in the winter subjects a home to ice and snow.

Build a Modular Home to Protect Your Home from Inclement Weather

Building in the winter is a particularly viable option when building a modular home, since the modules are built in a climate controlled factory.  When the modules arrive on site and are placed on the foundation, they are already “closed in” from the inclement winter weather.  So while you can safely pour a concrete foundation in the winter, the only way to build your home protected from the snow, ice, and rain is to build a modular home.

Building in the winter is a particularly viable option when building a modular home, since the modules are built in a climate controlled factory.

Building in the winter is a particularly viable option when building a modular home, since the modules are built in a climate controlled factory.

For more information about pouring a concrete foundation in cold temperatures, see The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

Electrical Outlets for the Holidays

Electrical Outlets for Your Holiday Decorations

Now that the holiday season is upon us I’m reminded of one of our homebuyers who added electrical outlets under every window so she could display her Christmas candle lights without extension cords.  She also put two electrical outlets in the stairwell to the second floor so she could string a lighted garland along the railing.  And of course she included some extra electrical outlets on the outside of her home for lighting up Santa’s sleigh and reindeer.  Recalling my homebuyer’s foresight got me thinking about how important it is for homebuyers to think about how they’ll use their home before finalizing their modular home electrical plan.

Today’s modular homes come with many more electrical outlets than older homes, since the building code requires them to be spaced close together for safety reasons.  But this doesn’t mean you’ll have enough electrical outlets.  Nor does it mean they’ll be located where you need them.

Electrical Outlets for Special Purposes

Make sure you have electrical outlets where you need them!

Make sure you have electrical outlets where you need them!

If you’re a craft person, for example, you may want extra electrical outlets in your special room.  You may also want to raise some outlets a couple of feet for your convenience.  The same suggestions apply to an office.  You’ll want to make sure you have enough electrical outlets for your computer, printer, copier, shredder, charger, etc.  Adding electrical outlets in a garage that will do double duty as a work area is also a smart move.

If your living room or family room furniture will not be placed along a wall, you’ll want to include some floor outlets to power the lamps you locate away from the walls. This is especially true with today’s open floor plans, since they provide fewer opportunities to mount outlets on walls.  If you’re using window air conditioners, it might help to locate electrical outlets below the window.  If you enjoy barbecues and lawn parties, you should include extra electrical outlets on the exterior of your home.

Before approving your modular home for construction, give some thought to whether you should include additional electrical outlets in other places for other purposes.  Take advantage of the fact that it’s relatively inexpensive to have the manufacturer add them when it builds your modular home.

For more information about planning your electrical layout, see Designing a Modular Home and Modular Home Specifications and Features in my book The Modular Home.

You Deserve the Construction Details

Homebuyers Need the Construction Details for Their Home

Our homebuyers often tell us that few of our competitors, stick or modular, provide thorough and detailed construction information.  The reason homebuyers like our emphasis on construction details is that they are almost always novices.  They recognize that they lack professional knowledge, and they’ve heard the stories about cost overruns from their friends.  They’re afraid they’re going to make a mistake or be taken advantage of.  They are comforted by our efforts to patiently explain the construction details and then to document them in writing.

However, sometimes we don’t explain the construction details as well as we could because we forget how much more we know as professionals than our homebuyers.  Our homebuyers sometimes unintentionally contribute to this miscommunication by saying they understand something they’re embarrassed to admit they don’t understand.

We take our responsibility for presenting the construction details very seriously

We take our responsibility for presenting the construction details very seriously

For example, a construction professional knows the significance of this note on a homebuyer’s elevation drawing:

“The ground level elevations are approximate, and the final heights will be determined during the site work”.

The professional realizes that any of the following might be affected by the site work on their homebuyer’s property:

  • How much of the foundation will be exposed above the finished grade
  • Whether kneewalls will be required or a walkout will be possible
  • How many steps will be needed from the ground to their entry doors, porches, and decks
  • Whether railings will be needed on the steps to their entry doors, porches, and decks
  • How many steps will be needed from their house into the garage

Moreover, the professional knows that each of these changes will alter how their homebuyer’s finished home will look and function.  Because homebuyers are unlikely to recognize these implications, the professional needs to explain them in some detail.  Of course, this level of construction detail overwhelms some homebuyers.  And few homebuyers absorb all the construction details.  But even though the professional can’t make every homebuyer understand or recall every word they say, they should err on the side of too much information rather than on too little.  

Presenting the Construction Details to a Novice Is Not Over Explaining

Sometimes construction professionals are concerned they are guilty of “over explaining”.  They would be over explaining if they were talking to an expert rather than a novice.  An expert has mastered the material, so they can be presented new information in their area of expertise in a few simple, brief statements.  But a novice is trying to learn unfamiliar material they don’t yet understand.  When explaining this new material to them, the professional needs to elaborate the details until the novice understands how the parts fit together.

For example, if a construction supervisor tells an apprentice carpenter on his first day to “frame the house”, the apprentice might not know where to begin.  But once the apprentice has framed many houses, the supervisor can say this and the carpenter will know all the steps.  When we say, “Always keep your explanation short”, we confuse the two stages of learning.  What works for the expert isn’t enough for the novice.

Finally, providing the construction details to homebuyers does not necessarily mean being long winded.  Completeness and brevity can go together.  But if a construction professional is going to make a mistake, they should err on the side of completeness.  You as the homebuyer deserve this.

For more information about getting all of the details from your modular dealer and general contractor, see Selecting a Modular Home Dealer, Modular Home Specifications and Features, Selecting a General Contractor, and see The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

How Long to Build a Modular Home

How long does it take to build a modular home?

It depends on what you mean.

For example, is the start date when you sit down with a modular home builder to complete an estimate or when you order a home?  Is the home “built” when the factory delivers it or when the general contracting work is completed?  Are you ready to move forward now or are just now beginning your shopping?  Will your home be small or big?  Will it be a standard or customized design?  Will it have mostly standard features or lots of upgrades?

Here’s an answer that breaks up the timeline into eight steps.

(1)   How long will it take for you to be ready to order a home starting from today?

1 to 12 weeks (assuming you are ready to meet with a modular home builder to complete an estimate).

It will take longer if you have not decided on the exact modular home floor plan and specifications.

A modular manufacturer's construction drawings of the first floor of a two-story home with notes

The modular manufacturer’s preliminary drawing of a homebuyer’s first floor of a two-story modular home.

(2)  How long after you order your home until you receive the first set of preliminary plans?

1 to 3 weeks.

It will go faster if the modular home builder and modular manufacturer are not too busy and if your modular home plans are simple with no custom details or special engineering.

It will go faster if you mostly select standard specifications and published factory options.

(3)  How long after you receive your first set of preliminary plans until you receive a revised set of preliminary plans that incorporate your changes?

1 to 3 weeks.

It will go faster if you select mostly standard specifications and published factory options.

It will go faster if the modular home builder and modular manufacturer are not too busy and your plans are simple with few changes.

It will take longer if you take more than a week approving your preliminary plans.

(4)  How long after you receive your second set of preliminary plans until you receive your permit plans?

3 to 15 weeks.

It will go faster if your modular home plans are simple with few changes.

It will go faster if you select mostly standard specifications and published factory options.

It will go faster if the modular home builder, modular manufacturer, and third party inspection company are not too busy.

It will take longer if you take more than a week approving your second set of preliminary plans of if you require a third or fourth draft of plans.

(5)  How long after you receive your permit plans until your building permit is issued and loan closed?

1 to 6 weeks.

It will go faster if your town’s building department is not too busy and if you’ve applied for your loan several weeks earlier.

It will take longer if your lender requires a building permit, since the closing cannot happen until after the permit is obtained.

An example of the first two pages of a building permit application

Click Here to See an Example of a Building Permits Application.

(6)  How long after you receive your building permit and close on your loan until you authorize us in writing to have the manufacturer begin construction?

1 week or less.

It can go as fast or slow as you wish it to go.

(7)   How long after you authorize us to instruct the manufacturer to build your home until the delivery and set of your home is completed?

6 to 18 weeks.

It will go faster if there are no special order materials with long lead times.

It will take longer if the modular manufacturer has a production backlog.

Modular general contractor turnkey tasks before home is delivered

Modular general contractor turnkey tasks before home is delivered

(8)  How long after your home is delivered and set until you receive your certificate of occupancy and can move in?

6 to 25 weeks.

It will go faster if your modular home is smaller, with few site-built structures and little on-site customization.

It will go faster if the modular home builder is not too busy.

It will take longer if there are unforeseen delays due to bad weather, utility company and building inspector schedules, material backorders, changes in the scope of work requested by you, etc.

It will take longer when the turnkey is substantially more involved than the “typical” project.  This happens, for example, when the modular home is bigger and/or it requires more button-up work, as is true of a chalet cape and a six module two-story or when all of the finished flooring – for example, hardwood, tile, and laminate flooring – is done on site.  Additional time is also needed when the GC has to build one or more structures on site, such as mudroom and family room.  The completion time will also lengthen if the GC has to finish a basement or the second story of a cape.

Modular general contractor turnkey tasks after home is set

Modular general contractor turnkey tasks after home is set

This gives a total range of 20 to 83 weeks.

Our experience is that most homebuyers take between 26 and 40 weeks (6 to 9 months) to complete all of the steps required to build a modular home.  Most homebuyers lead lives that are so busy that they don’t have the time (or energy) to go faster.

What should you take from this?

There are many more things that will slow you down than will help you go faster.  If you hope to move in to your modular home next summer, I strongly advise that you begin working on the first step now.

For more information about how long it takes to build a modular home, see Building a Modular Home on Schedule in my book The Modular Home.

Rain Gutters Will Protect Your Modular Home

Purpose of Rain Gutters        

Many people think the main purpose of rain gutters is to protect the side of their home.  Actually its to protect their home’s foundation by channeling water away from the foundation.  Otherwise water running directly off the roof will dig a ditch along the sides of the foundation, and as the water soaks into the ground, some of the water will work its way through the foundation.  If you choose not to install gutters, the excavator must take extra care to grade your property so all sides slope away from your modular home.  Keep in mind that this solution isn’t as effective as installing rain gutters.

It’s also true that gutters are helpful with protecting the exterior of your modular home from back-splash stain and rot.  In addition, they help shield your landscaping and reduce ground erosion.  Most importantly, gutters shield windows and doors from water infiltration as well as family and guests from being soaked while entering your home.  Gutters are especially helpful for preventing leaks around the thresholds of exterior doors during heavy storms.  Without gutters, the exterior doors will be pounded with rain falling off the roof as well as from the sky.  In such circumstances, the doors will be prone to leak.

In fact, the reason I decided to write about rain gutters is that two of the problems we’ve had from time-to-time have been with homes that did not have gutters because the homeowners wanted to save money.  For sure, gutters are costly.  But homes without them are much more likely to have a leaky exterior door or a damp basement or both.  Since such leaks are not due to a defect in the exterior doors or foundation, they’re not a warranty claim.

The 44' long gutters on the front of our two-story model home are seamless.

The 44′ long gutters on the front of our two-story model home are seamless.

Rain Gutter Material

Gutters are available in four materials:  vinyl, steel, aluminum, and copper.  Each material has its pros and cons for your home.

Vinyl gutters are lightweight, the easiest to install for do-it-yourselfers, and the least expensive.  They come in a variety of colors, and since their color is part of the material, they hold it well.  Another advantage of vinyl gutters is that they won’t chip, dent, or corrode.  However, they can become brittle in extreme cold.

Steel gutters are the sturdiest, which enables them to support ladders and falling branches without damage.  On the other hand they require the most maintenance and can rust if water doesn’t drain properly.

Aluminum gutters are very popular because they won’t rust.  However, they can dent and bend from too much weight, powerful winds, or falling debris.  This is most likely to happen if the gutters are fabricated out of secondary aluminum, which is made mostly of recycled materials, rather than primary aluminum, which is of a higher quality and thicker.

Copper gutters are usually reserved for classic restorations. They’re very attractive, durable, never rust, and never need painting.  During their 75+ year life-time they will oxidize to an attractive green.  On the other hand, copper gutters are the most expensive, which also makes them a target for thieves.

Seamless vs. Sectional Rain Gutters

There are two types of gutters, sectional and seamless.  Sectional gutters are built out of pre-cut pieces that are joined and fastened together as they are installed.  Seamless gutters are created on site using single lengths of gutter that are as long as can be functionally installed.  This eliminates the number of joints that need to be fastened together, usually only at inside and outside corners and downspouts.  Since gutters most frequently fail at the joints and seams, seamless gutters virtually eliminate this problem

Gutters need to be cleaned regularly to prevent them from clogging with debris, which can cause damage to your home.

Gutters need to be cleaned regularly to prevent them from clogging with debris, which can cause damage to your home.

Rain Gutter Maintenance and Repair

Gutters must be maintained regularly to remove leaves and other debris, since these materials will back up the flow of water.  When this happens the gutters will no longer protect the house.  In fact, the overflow can damage the roof and encourage the formation of more ice dams than if you didn’t have gutters.  An option is to use “gutter guards”, which are designed to keep debris out but allow water to enter.  Although these reduce the need for frequent cleaning, it’s still wise to inspect your gutters regularly.

You should also regularly examine whether your gutters are fully attached to your house.  Gutters can pull away from the roof over time due to the weight of snow, ice, branches, and small animals.  Checking for holes and leaks where gutter sections connect is another homeowner responsibility for maintaining well-functioning gutters.

For more information about rain gutters, see Modular Home Specifications and Features and The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.