The Role of the Modular General Contractor
A modular dealer’s primary job is to design, price, and order a modular home from the manufacturer. The job of turning it into a livable home is that of a modular general contractor (GC). Most dealers also function as a modular general contractor or work closely with a particular modular general contractor, and this is a good route to follow. Acting as your own modular general contractor or working with one who does not have experience with modular homes can be risky, since you and your modular general contractor will not know the particular requirements of a modular home.
Hiring an Independent Modular General Contractor or Acting as the GC
Consequently, if you are intending to select an independent modular general contractor, you should ask each modular dealer to identify the specific construction tasks required to complete your home, including the plumbing and electrical hookups, heating installation, and carpentry button-up. (See chapter 7 of my book, my book The Modular Home for a thorough discussion of the modular general contractor’s responsibilities.) The dealer’s written information should reduce the likelihood that you and your modular general contractor will underestimate the scope of work. Should the dealer not have the knowledge to provide this information, you should ask yourself what else he does not know, and who will provide the answers to your modular general contractor’s technical questions.
Learning What a Modular General Contractor Must Know
An underlying industry problem is that few manufacturers or other industry professionals have developed systems to educate dealers, general contractors, or consumers about the modular-specific areas of construction, namely scope of work, procedures, and warranty obligations. Only a few dealers have developed their own comprehensive educational programs for consumers who want to act as their own modular general contractor or hire an independent general contractor without modular experience. Several manufacturers and dealers have created checklists to enumerate these issues, but as anyone who has ever used construction checklists can attest, they do not do the job by themselves. For one thing, few dealers, modular general contractors, or customers feel they have the time to study checklists. Second, reading alone is not the preferred method of self-education for most people when they are learning how-to assembly tasks, such as how to finish a two-story vaulted foyer so that movement between modules, and thus future drywall cracks between floors, is minimized. Illustrations, photographs, videos, and, best of all, professional hands-on training, are all better teaching tools. For those modular general contractors who have been building modular homes for several years, the poverty of educational tools is not much of a problem. But if you are trying to teach yourself or a GC new to modular construction without some assistance from a dealer, you will have an uphill climb. You will be much more vulnerable to misunderstandings and mistakes, which are likely to cost time, money, and stress. If you are in this situation, it would be worthwhile for you or your GC to consult with another GC with modular experience. Even if you will not be using your modular dealer as your GC, you should give strong preference to those dealers who have the technical construction knowledge required to assemble a modular home.
For more information about selecting a modular general contractor, see Selecting a Modular Home Dealer and Selecting a General Contractor in my book The Modular Home.