Omitting Modular Home Materials

Customers often ask whether they can safely omit any modular home materials from the manufacturer so they can buy them on their own and have their GC install them. Some materials are easy for the manufacturer to omit and the general contractor to install. This includes both required materials, such as a faucet, and optional ones, such as a zero-clearance fireplace. Other modular home materials can create significant additional work for the GC when not done by the manufacturer, although it is still reasonable for a customer to omit them. Interior moldings and doors fall into this category. Still other materials, such as electrical wiring, make no practical or economic sense to omit. The lists give typical examples of modular home materials that fall into each of these three categories.

Modular Home Materials You Can Omit As Long As Your GC Plans Properly

A contractor replacing modular home materials (kitchen cabinets) by installing them on-site
Kitchen cabinets are modular home materials that are easy for the manufacturer to omit and the general contractor to install
  • Gable dormers installed in unfinished attics
  • Appliances
  • Bathroom medicine cabinets and mirrors
  • Closet shelving
  • Door handles
  • Exterior doors
  • Faucets
  • Flooring
  • Kitchen cabinets
  • Kitchen countertops
  • Light fixtures
  • Decorative gables
  • Siding
  • Sinks
  • Skylights
  • Stair railings
  • Toilets
  • Zero-clearance fireplaces

Note that it may cost more to buy and install the materials listed above from a local supplier and installer, but not much more.

Modular Home Materials You Can Omit But This Will Create Significant Additional GC Work

  • Electrical switches and receptacles
  • Interior doors
  • Interior moldings
  • Roof system
  • Shingles
  • Stairs to upper floors
  • Tubs and showers

Modular Home Materials You Should Not Omit

  • Drywall
  • Electrical wiring
  • Floor, roof, or wall sheathing
  • Second floor plumbing
  • Windows

When deciding to omit the manufacturer’s modular home materials, make sure that the general contractor understands what additional work he is expected to perform; this is particularly important when the GC is not also the dealer. In addition, consult with the GC and dealer to determine what the manufacturer should and should not do to prepare the house for the GC’s on-site installation.
For more information about modular home materials, see Modular Home Specifications and Features in my book The Modular Home.

Your Modular Home Elevation Plans Details

Checking the details of your modular home elevation plans is one of your most important responsibilities. Make sure that the features that apply to your house are shown on the drawings and look as you expect them to look. Don’t assume you’re getting what you want and expect – verify for yourself.

Modular home elevation plans showing exterior features that add character to the facade
The modular home elevation plans show which exterior features are included on your home

Modular Home Elevation Plans Checklist

Roof

  • Pitch
  • Shingle type
  • Eave and gable overhang size
  • Gable end returns – size and style
  • Decorative gables – size and pitch
  • Skylight location

Shed Dormer

  • Size
  • Style
  • “Fake rakes” along gable ends and rear

Gable Dormers

  • Size
  • Style
  • Symmetry

Windows

  • Quantity
  • Size
  • Spacing and symmetry
  • Grills
  • Transoms
  • Specialty styles, such as elliptical, bow, bay

Doors

  • Quantity
  • Size
  • Spacing and symmetry
  • Sidelights
  • Grills
  • Transoms
  • Door lights

Siding

  • Type
  • Corner post style and width

Decorative finish

  • Dentil-moldings and frieze-boards
  • Window mantles, lineals, and shutters
  • Door pediments

Raised ranch and split-level finish

  • Front elevation – cantilevered or flush with foundation
  • Entry – recessed or flush
  • Kneewall windows and doors – quantity, location, and size

Exterior stairs

  • Tread width
  • Landing size
  • Number of steps
  • Railings – location and style

Chimney

  • Size
  • Style
  • Location

For more information about checking the details of your modular home elevation plans, see Designing a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

Modular Home Plan Selection

Before looking through a book for the right modular home plan, first determine which features are most important to you.

Questions to Help You Make the Best Modular Home Plan Selection

  • What do like about the floor plan of your current home? What would you change?
  • What types of floor plans have you liked in other homes, including model homes and homes of family and friends?
  • What type of home will fit best in your new neighborhood?
  • What type of home will work best with the topography of your lot?
  • What design will allow you to take advantage of the sun?
  • What is your ideal budget? What is the most you can spend, leaving 2 or 3 percent aside as a contingency fund?
  • Do you need all of the space finished right away, or will an expandable plan work best, such as an unfinished cape?
  • Do you prefer one-story or two-story living?
  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need?
  • Do you prefer an informal family room separate from a more formal living room?
  • Do you prefer an informal eating area (“nook”) separate from a more formal dining room?
  • Do you need a study or home office?
  • Do you want the laundry on the first floor, second floor, or in the basement?
  • Would you like an exercise room?
  • What other rooms would you like to have?
  • Are you counting on a walk-in closet or pantry?
  • How big of a kitchen would you like?
  • How big would you like the rooms in your house to be?
  • The best way to determine if each room is big enough is to measure the rooms in your own home as well as in model homes and record this for future reference.

Visualize Walking Through Your Home

The Home Store's two-story Whately 4 modular home plan with optional master bedroom on the first floor
Click here to see this Home Store two-story modular home plan with an optional master bedroom on the first floor

When you find a plan that appeals to you, imagine living in the house. Visualize walking through it, entering first through the front door, and then through the other exterior doors. Think about traffic flow and the location of various rooms. Imagine greeting guests and hanging up their coats. See yourself coming in from the car with a bag of groceries, or your children returning from their play in the backyard. Visualize placing your groceries on a countertop or table before putting them away. Make sure you have ample cabinets and closets in the convenient places; as best you can, count the cabinets and closets, noting their size. Imagine serving a meal at the table, and what you will see when eating. Consider whether the children’s or guest’s bedrooms are too close to or too far from the master bedroom. Would you have to walk through one main room to reach another room? Are the halls too long? Think about the views through all windows.
For more information about selecting the right modular home plan, see Designing a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

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 Building Code Enforcement

Building codes vary from state to state and even from town to town. Enforcement of building codes also varies considerably. It even varies between types of construction, such as between modular and stick construction. Simply put, modular home building code enforcement by modular manufacturers and local inspectors is tougher than that for stick build homes.

Why Modular Home Building Code Enforcement Is Tougher

It’s not that local inspectors intentionally treat the two forms of construction differently. It’s that the third-party factory approvals required for modular homes always force the factory to build to the current code. However, there are no independent inspections that compel local officials to implement code changes immediately for conventional construction. It sometimes happens that local officials take months before they implement new codes.

An Ironic Example of Modular Home Building Code Enforcement

An inspector using the checklists on his computer to carry out his responsibility for modular home building code enforcement
Modular home building code enforcement by manufacturers and local inspectors is tougher than that for stick built homes

One of my customers became upset when this happened with her modular home. Before selecting us, she did a lot of shopping with local stick builders. None of them mentioned the new wind bracing codes for homes built in her area along the shore. When we mentioned the likelihood that her home would have to comply with these codes, she cited the fact that none of the stick builders had mentioned this. We agreed that we would get the plans drawn and see what the code officials required.
Sure enough, the independent inspectors hired by the factory to comply with the state’s modular home requirements flagged the home as needing several structural enhancements to meet the coastal wind conditions. The customer was so upset that she went to the local inspector and asked if she needed to do this. He said that he had not yet been enforcing this code with local builders, although he planned to do so. But he also added that he could not override the third party inspection company because they were right about the new requirements and the state would not allow him to waive them.
It ended up costing our customer a few thousand dollars to beef up the structure of her home. On the other hand, she was quite glad to have this additional strength when her home was blasted by some strong winds from a hurricane that later hit her area. After all, there was a good reason the state building officials had adopted the new codes.
For more information about modular home building code enforcement, see Why Build Modular in my book The Modular Home