Construction Insurance for Building a Modular Home

Why You Need Construction Insurance

Here’s a risky way to save money building a modular home.  Select a modular dealer and contractors who are not properly insured.

Imagine that a neighbor’s child is seriously hurt when he falls into your cellar hole before your modules are set on the foundation. Imagine that one of the trucks delivering your modules strikes your neighbor’s car causing serious damage.  What if the crane company drops one of your modules rendering it unusable? What if a member of the set crew is seriously injured or killed when he falls from your roof?  Or what if the plumber fails to securely connect a pipe, which causes severe water damage before the leak is discovered?

Accidents and mistakes can happen when building a home, regardless of the type of construction. Since the right insurance can mitigate the damages, you need to ensure you’re thoroughly covered.

Require Everyone to Obtain Construction Insurance

This is best done by requiring everyone involved in building your home to have insurance. (Here’s a previous blog that elaborates on the insurance you need.) Making this a requirement won’t prevent disagreements about who is responsible for coverage, but it will increase the likelihood that one or more of the insurers will take on this responsibility, which is a lot better than you being saddled with the liability.

Don't forget to obtain proof from everyone working on your modular home that they have proper construction insurance.
Don’t forget to obtain proof from everyone working on your modular home that they have proper construction insurance.

Verify Construction Insurance Coverage

Making insurance a requirement, however, isn’t enough. You need to verify that each party has a current policy with sufficient coverage. To do this you need to insist on receiving a “certificate of insurance” directly from each party’s insurance agent. Getting a copy of the certificate directly from the insurance agent will protect you against being duped by a dealer or contractor whose policy has run out, since it is not difficult for someone to doctor a photocopy of an expired certificate.  You might be surprised how often this happens, mostly because builder insurance is expensive. There will be no sympathy from the insurance company, however, if you file a claim against a policy that was not renewed. After receiving the certificates, you should ask your own agent to review the coverage. They should be able to determine if the coverage includes sufficient liability insurance and workers compensation insurance.

Secure Your Own Construction Insurance

Since you need to have coverage from everyone working directly on your project, you also need to follow the same procedure with any subcontractors you directly hire. In addition, you should obtain either a “builder’s risk” policy or its equivalent for yourself, since this will provide better coverage against theft and vandalism than an ordinary homeowner’s policy.

For more information about modular home construction insurance during its construction, see  Selecting a Modular Home Dealer, Selecting a General Contractor, and Financing a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

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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.

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Building in the Winter

Protect the Ground When Building in the Winter

If you are building in the winter months in a region that requires protection against frost and snow, your general contractor should take some steps to reduce the impact of his work. He should blanket the areas he will be excavating before the work begins to minimize frost penetration. This might be done, for example, by covering the ground with hay. The excavated areas should stay blanketed until they are backfilled.

There are several extra steps to take when building in the winter.
There are several extra steps to take when building in the winter.

Keep the Access to Your Property Clear When Building in the Winter

The access to your site must be kept free of snow and ice. Even though bulldozers can move mountains, their tracks will just spin if they attempt to pull any substantial weight on ice. All snow and icy areas, even small light patches, must be plowed and sanded just prior to delivery. If it snows after the foundation is poured but before the home is set, the GC should remove as much of the snow as possible from the basement before the set. This is often easier said than done, however, and sometimes it’s impractical, especially when the slab has not already been poured.

You and your GC will need an agreement about who is responsible for snow plowing, shoveling, and sanding while your home is under construction. Since neither of you will know what the winter will bring in any given year, an allowance, with a reasonable rate per snowfall or per hour, is a fair way to handle it.

If your home will be delivered in the winter, try to have the foundation installed in the fall. The GC should then protect the foundation from the frost.

Take Precautions Pouring the Concrete Floor When Building in the Winter

When building in the winter in a cold climate, the GC should try to pour the floor before the temperature drops below freezing, as long as he can also protect it from the frost. If this cannot be accomplished, and the floor will be poured after the house is set on the foundation, the area must be covered with hay or in some other way protected from freezing immediately after the hole is dug. Any frost that remains after the house is set must be removed by heating the basement before the foundation floor is poured. Otherwise, the floor may crack substantially. If extensive frost or snow must be removed by heating the basement after the house is set, extra caution should be taken to prevent the house from absorbing the moisture.

Get the Heat Going When Building in the Winter

Contractors are less productive when they are cold, and many construction tasks, such as taping and painting drywall, cannot be done until a home is reasonably warm. Consequently, if you are building in the winter, the GC will need to get the heating system up and running quickly. He will be delayed, however, if the heating system is going in the basement and the slab cannot be poured because of frost. The installation will also be delayed if the electrical power is not immediately available. In these circumstances, the GC will need to supply temporary heat, which is more costly and less effective.

If you live in a climate with cold winters, you may want the contractor to add antifreeze to the heat loop. You should do this if you are away from home in the winter or if you have a drive-under garage, since leaving the door open on a cold day can cause the pipes to freeze.

If you are building during the spring, find out whether your community allows heavy equipment to travel on the roads during the spring thaw.

For more about building in the winter, see The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

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Trash Removal

Trash Removal after Set Day

After the set, the site will have piles of plastic wrap that were removed from the modules.  The quantity of material almost always surprises customers and GCs without modular experience. The GC should dispose of all the material left over from the set immediately after it is completed.

In addition to the pile of trash created on set day, the button-up phase and construction of site-built structures will generate trash daily. Therefore, it is usually best if the GC uses a large dumpster to dispose of the trash.  If the site does not have room for a dumpster on set day, the GC can have one delivered the following day.

The best option for managing trash removal on the site is to use a dumpster.
The best option for managing trash removal on the site is to use a dumpster.

The GC may decide instead to use a truck or van to carry the waste from the site. In that case, he should provide a container or at least designate a location for everyone to place their trash. This can work as long as the GC regularly removes the trash; if he does not, your new neighbors may find trash being blown into their yards. You would probably prefer to get to know them under different circumstances.

Trash Removal when Packing to Move    

As you pack your belongings while preparing to move, you will undoubtedly generate a lot of trash. Resist the urge to use your GC’s dumpster. Even though you are paying for it, the GC needs all the room he can get for the construction debris. In addition, if your contribution fills the dumpster prematurely, you may receive a bill for an additional dumpster, which will cost a lot more than the extra time it would have taken you to use the town’s disposal services.

For more about trash removal, see The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

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Modular Home Delivery Challenges

Modular Home Delivery Challenges         

A road sign indicating a winding road ahead for the next 5 miles
The dealer should confirm the modular home delivery route.

Although most building sites can take delivery of a modular home, there are some locations that require enough extra site work or a redesign of the house plan into smaller modules that building a modular home is not practical. Narrow approaching roads with hairpin turns, lots on the side of steep hills, and very narrow properties can pose challenges. The only way to know if a building lot can comfortably receive a modular home delivery is to have a modular dealer visit it.

But sometimes that’s not enough.  A few years ago we delivered a two-story home to an “easy” lot.  It was flat, wide, and deep with no trees to obstruct either the delivery or set.  The roads to the property were also straight and wide enough. Or at least they were when we completed our inspection of the route.

A week before delivery we were informed by the customer that our planned route had been closed by the town for six weeks to complete some emergency work to the sewer and water pipes. We immediately revisited the site and searched for an alternative route.  Fortunately there was one option, but unfortunately it required us to cross a very old, narrow wooden bridge that wasn’t rated to carry the weight of the modules.

Modular Home Delivery Backup Routes

We ultimately decided to use a very large crane to lift each module plus its carrier from one side of the bridge to the other. Ever since then we’ve always made sure to look for a back-up route to the property. However, we’ve not always been able to find a viable alternative.  Usually there is more than one route for a car, but the alternatives aren’t always wide or straight enough to handle the size of the modules.  Whenever we have any concern about the primary or backup routes, we talk to the town public works department to make sure they aren’t planning to close the road around the time of the scheduled delivery.

For more information about the modular home delivery, see The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

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Make Sure You Air Seal Your Modular Home

Why You Must Air Seal Your Modular Home

I’ve written in the past why it’s important to air seal your modular home.  It’s because air infiltration in the gaps where modules are joined can cause a great deal of heat loss.  If you want an energy efficient modular home, you need to air seal these gaps.

The modular manufacturer can control air infiltration within each of the modules, but when the modules are placed side by side or stacked on top of each other, significant gaps are created. It is just not possible to bring two modules together tightly when a cable is wrapped around each one while being lifted onto the foundation. In addition, even when the framing of one module is tightly butted up against the framing of another module, it is not possible to make the joint airtight.

What Can Happen When You Don’t Air Seal Your Modular Home

One of my first customers, Jim, hired a general contractor who didn’t take this seriously.  Jim’s home was a raised ranch with a drive under garage.  It was a good sized home, 28’ x 60’.

When Jim called me, it was after three winters of substantially higher heating bills than he expected.  His first comment was, “You said my home would be energy efficient.  But my heating bills are almost as high as for my previous home.”

Shows all connections where two modules are joined, both side to side and top to bottom, as well as where the modules sit on the foundation. The GC must air seal these against air infiltration.
The general contractor must air seal the modular home against air infiltration where two modules are joined, both side to side and top to bottom, as well as where the modules sit on the foundation

When we visited his home to complete an inspection, we expected to find that his contractors had not insulated the basement walls, as Jim and I had discussed while planning his home.  We also thought his contractors might have failed to put the attic insulation back in their bays after completing the button-up work.  Plumbers, heating contractors, and electricians often pull out some of the attic insulation so they can do their work.  Sometimes they forget to put it back, and the general contractor forgets to make sure they do.

But that’s not what we discovered.  So we performed a “smoke test” to see where air might be leaking.  What we found was that the joint where the front and back modules met in the basement and in the attic had not been air sealed by Jim’s contractors.  This gap at the “marriage wall” was creating a “chimney” effect, which was allowing the air to flow – and heat to escape – up through the middle of the house all winter long.  Although this was seriously compromising the energy efficiency of Jim’s home, we only needed a couple of hours to seal the marriage wall.

As we agreed, Jim called me after his next heating system.  He happily reported that his heating bill was substantially lower.

Have Your General Contractor Air Seal Your Modular Home

Ever since this experience, we’ve made sure to emphasize to our customers and their general contractors that they are responsible for completing the air seal where the modules join.  But we still find that some GC’s fail to do this task.  I strongly suggest that you ensure that your GC does.

For more information about why you must air seal your modular home, see The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.  For information about how to properly air seal a modular home check out this blog post and my Checklist for How to Air Seal a Modular Home.

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Preparing for a Modular Delivery and Set

The GC’s Responsibilities for Preparing for Delivery and Set

The GC is responsible for preparing your site for the delivery and set of the modules. More specifically, he is responsible for preparing both the access leading to the lot and foundation, and the area where the crane and modules must be located during the set. If the area is flat, with good soil conditions and relatively wide, straight roads, this responsibility may be without challenges. On the other hand, problems can arise on what appears to be an easy site. Bad weather, poor soil, loose fill, a utility pole in an inconvenient place, a septic system located where the crane needs to go, a customer’s refusal to cut a favored tree or remove an old stone wall; these are the kinds of things that can turn a site into a logistical challenge, or even a logistical nightmare.

When the manufacturer’s delivery time from its factory to the site is more than a couple of hours, it will deliver the modules at least one day before the scheduled set. In such a situation, the GC should try to create sufficient space on the site to store all of the carriers overnight. Since the most efficient way to set a home on the foundation is to place the crane in front of the house with one carrier on each side of the crane, the preferred storage plan is to create a space wide enough for the carriers to be delivered directly to these positions. Unfortunately, the combination of lot size and configuration, topography, soil conditions, foundation size, and the number and size of the modules can sometimes make it impossible to place all of the modules in the right place while preserving room for the crane to set up.

Need for Staging Areas

When the modules cannot be properly placed, one or more of the carriers have to be delivered to a temporary storage location, which may be at another location on your site or at a nearby parking lot or open field. The carriers will then be moved to their proper positions next to the foundation on set day. Although the GC is responsible for preparing the site to facilitate these efforts, he is not responsible for things beyond his control, such as a heavy rainstorm that washes out the driveway. Nor should you expect him to pay for the required repair.

Risk of Delivery and Set Delays

If the GC does not prepare the site in a satisfactory manner, and this causes the delivery and set operations to be delayed, you and the GC will be liable for the additional costs incurred. The drivers and escorts that deliver the carriers will budget enough time to drive directly to the site or wherever you designate. They will expect to maneuver the carriers into place with reasonable effort, and then leave. They will not expect to spend hours waiting for trees to be cut, fill to be delivered, or a bulldozer to arrive. If any of these are required, the delivery company will charge the modular dealer, who will in turn bill you, for the additional time. The crane company will charge the dealer by the hour, with a minimum fee. The longer the set takes, the more the meter runs. The crew that completes the various set activities will also charge the dealer for any lost time caused by the delays, and the dealer will pass this additional expense on to you. If the delays were caused by the GC’s poor site preparation, it fair for you to submit the invoices from the delivery, crane, and set companies to the GC for reimbursement.

Many sets take a full day, and some take two or more days. One of the most important responsibilities of the set crew is to protect the home from weather damage as quickly as possible. If the site is not prepared, and the set is subsequently delayed by several hours, the set crew may not be able to complete enough of the set to give your home the protection it will need should it rain over night. If the delay happens before the first module is set, the set crew and modular dealer can cancel the set and reschedule it for the next available day. But if some of the modules are already set on the foundation, with the protective coverings removed, the set cannot easily be stopped and the crew may not be able to take the required steps to protect the home until the cause of the delay is removed. If this delay takes a few hours, the home will be exposed to the elements longer than it needed to be.

In this example about the logistics of a delivery and set, the delivery crew needs to move a long module onto the property. To do so requires the transporter to cross into the ditch and the neighbor's property on the opposite side of the street. It also requires the group of trees next to the end of the driveway to be taken down.
In this example about the logistics of a delivery and set, the delivery crew needs to move a long module onto the property. To do so requires the transporter to cross into the ditch and the neighbor’s property on the opposite side of the street. It also requires the group of trees next to the end of the driveway to be taken down.

Create a Written Delivery and Set Plan

General contractors, excavators, and customers consistently underestimate the difficulties involved in preparing a site. Their misjudgments come at great expense and aggravation to the dealer and, ultimately, the customer. The best way to avoid a disagreement between your dealer and the GC, if they are not the same company, is to have them meet on your site before any work begins to jointly develop a plan. The dealer should put the plan in writing so that both parties have written documentation. The plan should indicate what the excavator needs to do to properly prepare the site as well as where the dealer intends to place the carriers and crane. If a problem develops on the delivery or set because the plan was poorly conceived, although executed correctly by the GC, the dealer will be responsible for any additional costs. When the excavator is about halfway done with his preset work, the dealer should again meet with the GC to review and, if necessary, update the plan; the best thought-out excavation plans do not always work as well on land as they do on paper. If the dealer has any lingering concerns, he should return for a third visit just before the excavator is ready to leave the site. Either way, the dealer should visit the site for a final pre-set inspection after the GC reports it is prepared.

For more information about the delivery and set of a modular home, see Finding and Preparing a Building Lot for a Modular Home, Selecting a Modular Home Dealer, and The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

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Modular Home Set Responsibility

Responsibility for hiring the modular home set crew and crane should always be left to the modular dealer or manufacturer. A customer should refuse to hire the modular home set crew and crane, even if a dealer promises it will save substantial money.

A trained modular home set crew is working with an experienced crane operator to set the 4 modules on this two-story modular home.
A trained modular home set crew is working with an experienced crane operator to set the 4 modules on this two-story modular home.

Why You Should Never Hire the Modular Home Set Crew or Crane

The set procedures require a great deal of specialized knowledge, skill, and teamwork that a modular set crew acquires only through training, supervision, and experience.

Because of the size and cost of the modular units, as well as the risks associated with the modular home set procedure, whoever sets a home has substantial liability.

If a modular home set is done poorly, the general contractor’s job will be made substantially more difficult and the quality of the finished home may suffer as a result.

If someone on the modular home set crew is injured, the person or company that hired the crew could be held liable.

Why Would a Dealer Want You to Hire the Modular Home Set Crew and Crane

The goal of a dealer who asks the customer to hire the crane and the modular home set crew is to hold the customer responsible for any problems with how the house goes together. Since he neither built nor set the home, the dealer can disclaim responsibility for any problems. It is best to avoid dealers who operate this way.

For more information about hiring a modular home set crew, see Selecting a Modular Home Dealer and The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home

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Preconstruction Tasks and Your Construction Schedule

The previous two posts listed the tasks that must be completed before your modular home can be delivered and set on its foundation. This post will discuss how long it takes to complete all of these preconstruction tasks.

How Preconstruction Tasks Affect Your Move-In Date

Most people building a new home are prepared for the construction to take longer than planned. They have heard that subcontractors, inclement weather, utility companies, and inspection officials all contribute to delays. Few people, however, anticipate how long it takes to complete those tasks that must be done before they begin construction. Consequently, they budget too little time for these preconstruction tasks and then try to compensate by skipping some tasks and rushing through others. When this strategy fails, they miss their desired move-in date and pay for it with stress with their family, conflict with their dealer and GC, and cost overruns with their budget.

How Long It Takes to Complete Preconstruction Tasks

It can take you as little as five weeks or as much as a year or more to complete all of the preconstruction tasks listed in the previous two blog posts. But all of them must be done before your modular home is delivered and set on its foundation. Your responsibilities can take as little as one day, if you order a standard modular plan with no changes, select only standard features, agree all decisions are final, have cash to pay for everything, have a GC lined up and ready to go, and have a building permit in hand or don’t need one. If this is true for you, you will be an exception.

More likely, you will want to customize your modular and GC drawings and specifications, require some time to consider your decisions, and need to wait for the lender to approve your loan and the building department to issue your permit. You may even want to revise your drawings and specifications two or more times. Consequently, you will likely need several weeks before you are done with your preconstruction responsibilities.

Even if you are able to make final decisions about your drawings and specifications in one week, the manufacturer cannot build your home, and you do not want the manufacturer to build your home, until you have obtained a building permit and secured financing. These preconstruction tasks can take a couple of months. Closing on a construction loan often takes six to eight weeks, completing the preliminary steps required to apply for a building permit can sometimes take several weeks, and receiving a building permit after submitting the application can take up to 30 days. One of the most important variables affecting whether you will be done on time is how quickly you begin your efforts. If you wait two weeks, you will not be able to make up the time by asking your dealer, GC, lender, or building department to work faster.

Other Preconstruction Tasks

The start of your schedule will also be extended if you have not completed all of the following preconstruction tasks before you order your home, if you need them done:

  • Secured a building lot or will purchase one immediately
  • Surveyed your building lot
  • Resolved any deed and zoning issues with your building lot
  • Resolved any wetland issues with your building lot
  • Obtained a valid perc test and at least applied for a engineered septic design
  • Selected a GC and/or subcontractors
A for sale sign on an undeveloped building lot
Finding the right building lot can take more time than you expect.

Once you complete your preconstruction responsibilities, the manufacturer will need a minimum of five weeks to complete its tasks. The manufacturer typically requires at least three weeks to complete your production drawings and order your materials, one week to build your home, and one week to get it ready for shipment – for a total of five weeks from the date you are ready. It does not matter whether you complete your responsibilities in one day or one year, the typical manufacturer still needs a minimum of five weeks. Furthermore, if you select materials that need to be “special ordered” or are “back-ordered”, the manufacturer will need even more time. And if the manufacturer has strong sales, its backlog of orders can add several weeks to its schedule and your delivery date.

For a detailed schedule of when all of your preconstruction tasks must be completed as well as each player’s responsibility for completing each of these tasks, see Building a Modular Home on Schedule in my book The Modular Home.

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Assessing Modular Home Quality

The best way to evaluate the modular home quality provided by dealers and manufacturers is to walk through one or more of their homes. No amount of words of reassurance from a dealer will be as helpful as seeing the modular home quality with your own eyes. You may be able to view a home in one or more of the following situations:

  • A home at the end of the manufacturer’s assembly line
  • A home immediately after it is set
  • A finished home

Since you are likely to view a home in only one or two of these situations, it is important that you know what each situation tells you so you are not misled by what you see.

Modular Home Quality at the End of the Manufacturer’s Assembly Line

A modular home being constructed on the factory's assemply line. You can learn a lot about a dealer's and factory's modular home quality by viewing a home after it comes off the assembly line and before it is delivered to its destination.
You can learn a lot about a dealer’s and factory’s modular home quality by viewing a home after it comes off the assembly line and before it is delivered to its destination.

Viewing a modular home at the end of an assembly line is the best way to learn about the manufacturer’s level of craftsmanship and quality control apart from the contribution of a general contractor’s finish crew. Any one house on any given week may or not be representative of what the manufacturer’s typical home looks like, however, since all modular factories have some variability in the quality they produce depending on the design of the home, which of their crews work on the modules, and whether they are behind or ahead of schedule. In addition, most manufacturers spend from one to three days fine-tuning the appearance of the modules after they come off the production line and before they are delivered to the dealer. This means you need to see a home after it has undergone this cosmetic makeover to assess the modular home quality you will receive when it is ready for delivery.

Modular Home Quality Immediately after the Set

A modular home being set on the foundation. You can learn other things about a dealer's and factory's modular home quality by viewing a home after it has been set on the foundation but before it has been completed by the general contractor.
You can learn other things about a dealer’s and factory’s modular home quality by viewing a home after it has been set on the foundation but before it has been completed by the general contractor.

The delivery and set of a modular home will always impose minor stresses on the structure of each module. These will inevitably produce some visible symptoms such as small drywall cracks and slight misalignments of moldings and doors. Although these symptoms are easily fixed by a competent modular general contractor, it is worth knowing what affects their frequency. Longer modules with long open spans, where the walls between modules have been removed to make a larger room, are especially vulnerable to these symptoms. This will be less true for those manufacturers who sheath the outside of the marriage wall, which joins two modules, or use some other comparable technique to strengthen the structure. Those manufacturers who temporarily brace the open spans during delivery also tend to have fewer symptoms. You will likely see more of these symptoms when a manufacturer uses old carriers with weak suspensions to deliver the modules.

Difficult delivery routes and rough site conditions will have the same effect on modular home quality you see after the set. How the set is conducted, especially how the set crew picks up each module, will also affect the number of drywall cracks and misalignments. Using more straps for longer modules will provide greater support and thus reduce the stress on the modules. Consequently, when you view the modular home quality immediately after the home is set, you will not necessarily know whether any drywall cracks and misalignments were caused by the manufacturer’s construction, one of the other factors, or a combination of the two. On the other hand, should you see a home with few drywall cracks and misalignments, you can feel reassured about the work of all of the respective players.

Modular Home Quality after Construction Is Completed

A modular home after it is completed by the general contractor. You can learn still other important things about a dealer's and factory's modular home quality by viewing a home after it has been completed by the general contractor.
You can learn still other important things about a dealer’s and factory’s modular home quality by viewing a home after it has been completed by the general contractor.

The modular home quality you will see after a home is finished is a product of both the manufacturer’s and general contractor’s efforts. Not surprisingly, some manufacturers deliver better quality than others. The same is true for GCs. A modular home will exhibit the best quality when both the manufacturer and GC are top-notch. But you might be surprised what a very good GC can do with a home manufactured with below-average quality, or how poorly a well-built home can look when buttoned up by an ineffectual GC. When you view a finished home, whether a customer’s home or a model home built for a manufacturer or modular dealer, you need to consider who served as the general contractor, and whether you will be using the same one to complete your contracting work. If you are considering using the same GC and you like the quality, you will not need to be as concerned with whether the home was delivered with this quality or it was created by the GC. On the other hand, if you do not find the modular home quality acceptable, it probably will not matter to you who was responsible, since you are likely to look elsewhere for a dealer and GC.

It gets more complicated when you like the modular home quality but are not planning to use the same GC. Your eyes will not be able to tell you whether the manufacturer built the home with good quality or the GC did a superior job improving what the manufacturer delivered. You may be able to learn more if you can talk with the customer, but this will not be possible if you are looking at a model home. If the quality is less than you expect, you will have to look closely to determine who was responsible for the unacceptable workmanship. If the entire home appears to suffer from poor workmanship, chances are good that both parties share the responsibility. If you are not hiring the same GC that worked on the home or homes you inspected, it is a good idea to visit a couple of the manufacturer’s homes at the factory or immediately after they’re set.

For more information about assessing modular home quality, see Selecting a Modular Home Dealer, Designing a Modular Home, Modular Home Specifications and Features, and Selecting a General Contractor in in my book The Modular Home.

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Modular Home Friendly Designs Can Save You A Lot of Money

It’s true that some house plans are not modular home friendly designs. Not every style and design of home can be built economically by a modular manufacturer.

Why Some Plans Are Not Modular Home Friendly Designs

The most significant limiting factor is the size of the modules that can be driven from the factory to the job site. Federal, state, and local laws limit how wide and long each module can be. Fourteen-foot-wide modules are the most popular and most conventional house designs that can be comfortably built with these modules. Now that many manufacturers are building sixteen-foot-wide modules, even more conventional designs can be built without sacrifice in layout or style. However, there are many contemporary designs that are too expensive and impractical to build as a modular home. If you prefer such a design, you will need to have it stick-built.

A Rule of Thumb for Selecting Modular Home Friendly Designs

This contemporary cape is not a modular home friendly design because of the multiple gables and roof design
This home, although handsome, cannot be built economically by a modular manufacturer because of the multiple gables and roof design

One rule of thumb that puts this constraint in perspective is that if a design cannot be built as a modular home, which means it cannot be built out of rectangular boxes, it will likely be more expensive to build regardless of the type of construction used. In short, designs with multiple bump-outs and roof angles are always more expensive to build. If you want to get the most home for your money, you will likely want a design that can be built as a modular home even if you ultimately decide to build it as a site-built home.

Site Conditions and Access for Modular Home Friendly Designs

Although most building sites can take delivery of a modular home, there are some locations that require enough extra site work or a redesign of the house plan into smaller modules that building a modular home is not practical. Narrow approaching roads with hairpin turns, lots on the side of steep hills, and very narrow properties can pose challenges. The only way to know if a building lot can comfortably receive a modular home is to have a modular dealer visit it.For more information about why some plans are not modular home friendly designs, see Designing a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

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Modular Home Delivery and Set

When I first starting selling modular homes I had a difficult time convincing customers to bring the right equipment to their modular home delivery and set unless the need was completely obvious, which it often is not. That changed after one nearly disastrous incident.

A Lesson about the Importance of the Modular Home Delivery and Set

My customers were building a two-story home made up of four modules shipped on four carriers. I asked them to have their excavator assist the delivery crew on delivery day, and they complied. It turned out that the bulldozer was not needed because the ground was dry and firm. This enabled us to position two of the modules next to the foundation and crane on the property with the other two modules stored in a staging area over night. I reminded my customers that they needed to keep the bulldozer on site for the next day’s set, but they said they didn’t think it was necessary. I pointed out that if it rained that night, we almost certainly would have a problem. My customers responded that it would cost them $500 for the second day, and they thought it was a waste of money. When it began raining that night, I called them at home to again ask them to supply a bulldozer. They refused.

A caterpillar loader ready to help with the modular home delivery and set
Make sure your GC provides the proper equipment for your modular home delivery and set

The set started off well. We got the first module onto the foundation quickly. While we were setting the second, we delivered the third to the site. But the transporters could not get enough traction on the wet ground to move the modules close enough to the foundation no matter what we tried. My customers called their excavator, who arrived two and one-half hours later. While we were waiting, a thunderstorm hit hard. My set crew climbed on the roof, in spite of the lightning, and tried to cover the two modules with tarps. They did OK, but while trying to position the tarp, one of the crew slipped and pushed his foot and part of the tarp through kitchen ceiling.Allof the water that had pooled on the tarp while it was being installed poured onto a row of cabinets. Fortunately, none of my crew was hurt and the damage was repaired. But that experience taught me that I had to explain to my customers all of the things that can go wrong if they do not provide the proper equipment for their modular home delivery and set. It also taught me to delay the start of a set if the equipment is not on site.

Help Your Dealer Protect Your Home During the Modular Home Delivery and Set

When your dealer tells you to provide equipment for your modular home delivery and set day, remember that he isn’t just protecting his interests; he is also protecting your house.

For more information about the modular home delivery and Set, see The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

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Take the Modular Set Inventory Seriously

Subcontractors who finish the siding installation on a modular home need to have all of the materials accessible when they begin their work. Sometimes these materials, which are uninstalled and shipped loose with the house, are buried beneath a lot of other materials. The good news is that you’ll know what the factory shipped as long as you pay close attention during the modular set inventory.

What Can Happen When You Don’t Take the Modular Set Inventory Seriously

The subcontractor for one of my customers did not get fifteen minutes into his work when he called the customer claiming that no J-channel had been shipped with the house. He told my customer, who had hired him directly, that he needed the J-channel delivered within two hours or he would leave and not return for several weeks.

My customer called me in desperation. Unfortunately, we did not have any materials in stock and the local suppliers did not carry a suitable match. The only alternative was to “borrow” some J-channel from another customer’s house and have our modular manufacturer send us replacement materials as soon as possible. Before taking this step, I checked the ship loose inventory, which showed that my set day supervisor had found the J-channel and my customer had signed for it. I then called my supervisor to ask him what he remembered. He told me that my customer had not been paying attention when he conducted the ship-loose inventory, even after my supervisor repeatedly pressed him to do so. My customer told him, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll sign for it when we’re done,” which he did. After reviewing the situation, I suspected the materials were there, but I couldn’t be sure. So I had my supervisor track down and deliver the replacement materials. Unfortunately, it took him four hours to make the delivery, and the siding contractor was gone by the time my supervisor arrived.

Give the Modular Set Inventory Your Full Attention

Before leaving my customer’s house, my supervisor searched for the missing materials; he really wanted to know whether he had made a mistake. Sure enough, he found the J-channel buried beneath a couple rolls of carpet. I learned later that the siding contractor was good to his word and didn’t show up for several weeks, so my customer’s mistake cost him a lot of time. It is worth mentioning that if the J-channel had been missing, many dealers would have understandably informed the customer that he was responsible for replacing it. After all, he had signed a form saying he had been given the materials. My recommendation to you is to give the modular set inventory your full attention.

For more information about why you should take the modular set inventory seriously, see Warranty Service for a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

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