Mobile homes have gained in popularity in recent times, in part because they are cost-effective, and in part because their quality has improved. Not only that, but mobile and manufactured homes offer a nearly unlimited variety of choices for finishing materials to suit almost anyone’s taste.
Contrary to popular belief, the terms “mobile home” and “manufactured home” are not synonymous, despite the fact that many people use the terms interchangeably. Both are prefabricated (AKA “pre-fab”), meaning they are built in a climate controlled factory and are then delivered to a site for permanent location. But while mobile homes are built in accordance with local building codes, manufactured homes are built in accordance with federal codes. While the criteria may be similar, region specific codes are often not identical to federal requirements since each region requires different building methods to withstand the typical temperature extremes, wind loads, frost depths and other natural factors related to that region. A home here in Pennsylvania requires much more insulation than one in Florida, for example. Here in PA full basements are the norm, whereas in Virginia (a milder climate) crawlspaces are more prevalent.
Fortunately, mobile and manufactured homes are built to comply with modern building codes and are thoroughly checked several times in the factory throughout the building process. At a minimum, this helps ensure that they are able to withstand normal weather conditions, loads, etc. However, they are built with lightweight materials and are often not capable of withstanding the more extreme stresses that most stick built homes can handle.
As a general rule, the materials used to construct mobile or manufactured homes are not as durable as those used to build traditional homes. And while some mobile homes get placed on a permanent foundation to add to their structural integrity, many are placed on above-grade piers or other supports which allows frost heave to affect the structure and makes it more prone to wind related movement, shifting, and other forms of environmental damage.
Likewise, the interior components are generally not as durable in a mobile or manufactured home. Thin wall panels are typically used for wall covering instead of thicker drywall. Again, as a general rule the materials are thinner and lighter than those used in traditionally constructed homes.
When considering whether or not to purchase a mobile home, there are certainly many factors to consider. The normal climate conditions in your area are a big factor; but cost, customization, durability, and many other considerations play a big role. The risk in purchasing a mobile or manufactured home by current standards is not as high as that of purchasing an older pre-fab home – especially if it is secured to a permanent foundation – but it is certainly still riskier than purchasing a traditional stick built home. That being said, a well constructed pre-fab home may, in fact, hold up and suit the needs of certain homeowners depending on individual needs, desires and circumstances.
In any case, if you are considering purchasing a mobile or manufactured home, you should definitely have it inspected by a qualified home inspector prior to making the investment. An inspection is all the more important when the property is more prone to potential defects.
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