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.

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.

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.