What are Modular Homes?

S. Mithra

Modular homes offer a customizable, efficient, quick alternative to site-built homes. Separate units of a modular home are built in a factory, transported, and assembled on your property. They offer distinct advantages over traditional methods of building, such as lower expense, yet cannot be distinguished from a "normal" house.

Most companies that build modular homes suggest different floor plans, yet allow you to fully customize your entire home.
Most companies that build modular homes suggest different floor plans, yet allow you to fully customize your entire home.

The first step in creating your perfect modular home would be design. Most companies that build modular homes suggest different floor plans, yet allow you to fully customize your entire home. You can choose the floor plan, square footage, roof slope, types and locations of windows, style of carpet and fixtures, etc. Therefore, it is an unfounded complaint that modular homes are cookie-cutter copies of each other. They are often more distinct than many houses in planned communities.

Costs of modular homes can be more predictable than conventional ones.
Costs of modular homes can be more predictable than conventional ones.

Next, the company will transfer your modular home plans into component parts, or elements, called modules. Your house might have one section for the master bedroom and bath, another for the porch and deck, and another for the attic. These are prefabricated in an efficient manner in an indoor factory; therefore they can be built year-round, no matter the weather. Modules are almost complete when they leave the factory, including interior paint and flooring.

The modules of modular homes must be transported on large trucks to the ultimate location. The property only needs a few preparations, such as a poured foundation and utility hook-ups for water, electricity, and gas. Then, the modules are carefully swung into place with huge cranes. A local contractor works with builders to assemble and finish building the home. Astonishingly, this can take as little as two weeks, and is usually completed within a month. Finish elements include wiring, plumbing, exterior siding, strengthened connections, or a driveway.

Remember, modular homes share many characteristics of standard, site-built homes. They are financed by bank and loan centers in the same way. They conform to all state and local building codes, so they successfully accumulate resale value. Many people cannot tell them apart from the house next door. Modular homes have little in common with mobile, or manufactured, houses. Many people faced with an empty property consider modular homes a simple and rewarding investment.

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Discussion Comments


@Jausten: It sounds like you just had a terrible builder. I just don't think your experience is the norm and there are plenty of people who have built modular and other prefabricated homes with none of these issues.

As Framemaker stated, I think a person's best decision is to ask for references, review the company's license (if you're in a state where that's applicable), and do the same due diligence you would do with any other homebuilder. Nevertheless, I really don't think Jausten's account is representative of that entire industry.


@jausten- That sounds horrible. I have been looking at a few contemporary modular home manufacturers, but now I am going to think twice about buying a modular home.

I think if I do buy a modular home, I will ask the manufacturer if I can have a few references. I would like to talk to other homeowners who bought homes form these manufacturers. I definitely do not want to end up with a house that is more of a headache than my sanctuary.


I had a 2000 ft modular house put up in February 08 and am in the middle of a large lawsuit. Recently a state inspector came in and he said in general, modular homes are not as well built as stick. You see my modular is up to code, (especially after the roof had to be completely redone) but that does not mean good workmanship and I had a contract where I paid much more for the modular company to oversee the subcontractors. You have the manufacturing company usually in PA to deal with and the company in your state that does the setting and the buttoning up. The company in PA did poor bridging of my floors which were not level. Remember they precut the bridging and just pop it in so it may not as in my case be flush with the joists or have enough glue. So my tile is not level and my hardwood floors creak and squeak like mad but the modular company asserts that bouncy floors are not a structural defect. The bolts securing the main roof beam in the attic are crooked but that is acceptable because it still is up to code. Also the primary carrying jack stud under the ridge beam is completely broken but the modular company's warranty said it is not suppose to carry any appreciable load so it is not an issue. I have hairline cracks throughout the sheet rock in every room. The state inspector said that the problem with modulars is that they often slap sheet rock right over commercial grade lumber or green lumber and it takes a few seasons for the lumbar to dry out. Therefore in my case the sheet rock in about a year cracked in all the rooms. If the setting company is not a pro they will not set the units flush and as in my case I have a 4 inch corner sticking out upstairs, charming. The marriage wall was never insulated and many modular companies do not insulate so you have a 1-2 inch gap from basement to attic where you can feel a breeze coming through and heat is lost. The whole idea of putting all your money up front for this modular the day it arrives before you can ascertain any problems is faulty. Then few modular companies allow you to interview the contractors who are doing the setting and buttoning up and obtain references. Modular companies will hire the cheapest to get the most profit and it comes down to that.

I had clowns do my sheet rock, siding, gutters, porch roof and cement porch slab. There are humps where the units are joined, the porch roof has a dip, the siding has fallen off, my gutters all leak and the cement porch has shrinkage cracks but it is considered up to code. Lastly the in-state modular company had taken the plans off another modular company's internet plan, did not obtain the blue prints and although they tweaked the plans to make a few changes they completely forgot an overhang on the back of the house so the rain falls flush down on my kitchen windows. There is an overhang on the original plans but I did not know modular companies had no scruples about taking other copy written plans and claiming them as their own even putting their own stamp on them.

So in essence, you are using complete strangers to put up your house, using the cheapest local contractors, putting your money up front and the warranties are useless. Nevermind the hidden costs. You pay extra for installing shower doors, gas fireplaces, knobs on cabinets, painting, light bulbs, garage overhead doors, and seeding(grading) over the tile and hardwood floor expenses. Also when they show you the samples for counter tops, you can't see how they look. I opted for simulated granite that looked beautiful in the round samples and ended up with noticeable seams and straight cuts, not the rounded curves I expected. This simulated granite easily scratches. My modular was just as expensive as stick and remember on the average the company in PA is completing your modular in about 4 days so you are not getting quality. I checked out 3 other modular homes before deciding on this one and still was cursed. Never again. Ever.

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