3 Things You Need to Know Before Building a Modular Home

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Before acquiring a modular home, you should consider that modular construction follows a process that is highly industrialized and quite different from traditional construction. Modular construction has great advantages, the most popular ones being the speed and affordability of the building process. However, any adversity could easily diminish these benefits by adding delays or extra costs. Keep the following tips in mind to get the most out of the construction of your modular home.

3 things you should know before building a modular home:

  1. Spend some time selecting the property
  2. Decide the design features before choosing a manufacturer
  3. Understand the importance of the modular home design

These three things are the most important aspects you must take into consideration when acquiring a modular home and are unique to the modular building process. However, there are some additional things that can’t be dismissed when building a home regardless of its construction type.

How does modular construction differ from traditional construction?

The main difference between modular and traditional construction remains in the building process. While the overall construction of a traditional house takes place on-site utilizing mainly manual workforce, modular construction takes place off-site following a highly mechanized procedure.

The overall volume of the modular home is built per sections known as modules. These modules are three-dimensional pieces of the house built in a factory-like setting and shipped to the building site where they will be assembled and set on a permanent foundation. The off-site manufacturing process takes as much as 70% of the building process [1] since most of the construction work is completed in this stage.

In the factory, the house’s frame is fully finished and topped with all its interior and exterior finishes. Additionally, elements such as the electric wiring, plumbing, or the installation of HVAC systems are also integrated into the modules during the manufacturing phase. The modules leave the factory fully finished, which is possible thanks to the mechanization of the process which often looks closer to an assembly line than to a traditional construction process.

When planning to build a modular home it is essential to understand that the modular construction method follows a highly industrialized procedure. This is very important to keep in mind because some stages of the construction process are highly defined by the nature of the modular method. 

Main things to consider before building a modular home

The mechanization of the modular method enables the possibility of building faster and cheaper without lowering its quality. However, to obtain these advantages, every step of the construction should be planned according to the modular techniques. Below, are the three main things to take into consideration even before starting with the modular building process. 

1. Spend some time selecting the property 

The very first thing to consider when acquiring a modular home is the importance of choosing a plot of land that is suitable for its construction. Given the nature of a modular home and its construction process, the characteristics of the property can either ensure a smooth construction or become a limitation with added difficulties. 

Choose a property with the following features:

  • Flat surface: The prefabricated modules conforming to the modular home are rectangular boxes of big dimensions and as a result, most modular home manufacturers require a flat surface to place the house. In most cases, it is possible to build in steep topographies, though extra work such as excavations, specialized foundations or even fully customized modular home designs will be required. These works tend to add additional difficulties and extra costs to the overall construction process [2].
  • Accessible roads: The conditions of the road leading to the plot are essential to ensure a successful delivery of the modules to the property. Notice that in the U.S., every module measures approximately 12 to 15.9 feet wide, 60 to 72 feet long and 11 feet high [3]. Given the vast dimensions of each module, the transportation route has to offer enough space to drive through and be free from obstacles to ensure a safe delivery without suffering from any damage [4]. 

2. Decide the design features before choosing a manufacturer

Choosing the right manufacturer is key to building the modular home that we are looking for without compromising or spending additional money on unnecessary costs. Since the process of building a modular home is highly industrialized, modular home manufacturers tend to specialize rather than offer a great variety of customizations. The right manufacturer is the one who specializes in those aspects we prioritize. Therefore, before deciding on a manufacturer, it is essential to define our priorities:

  • How you want your new home to look: Generally, manufacturers tend to focus on one particular style and aesthetic. Therefore, a manufacturer who designs traditional-looking homes will rarely also design modern-looking houses. Take some time to figure out what style of construction you are looking for and choose a manufacturer who offers that aesthetic. 
  • Which features are important to you: In a similar way, manufacturers tend to specialize in some very specific features: some are dedicated to building sustainable houses, some value energy efficiency, and others prioritize affordability. Identifying our priorities will avoid deceptions or extra costs. For example, if sustainability isn’t a priority for us, choosing a manufacturer whose focus is sustainable construction will add an unnecessary extra cost. Though the opposite applies too, asking a manufacturer to add a feature that isn’t part of its standardized process can highly increase the overall construction cost.

3. Understand the importance of the modular home design

The construction of a modular home starts with its design, just as with traditional construction, though the design phase of a modular home looks a little different than usual. Given the differences in the building process, modular construction offers different design approaches and has very strict requirements:

  • Choose the right design approach for you: When building a modular home we have two different ways of approaching its design, we can opt for a predesigned model or design a house from scratch. Both result in a high-quality construction and only differ in the amount of customization allowed. A predesigned house is often faster and easier to build but has the inconvenience of limiting the possibilities to customize it. A newly designed home is fully customized but might add some difficulties to the design stage. 
  • Do not rush the design phase: The process of building a traditional house is slow and since it takes place right on-site, it is easier for the client to walk around, change their mind and ask for some modifications. While building a modular home, once the manufacturing process starts, modifications are not possible. Therefore, it is essential to take some extra time in the design phase of both a predesigned and a fully customized modular home to verify that the floor plans are just what we are looking for. 

Additional considerations beyond modular construction

Building a new home is a challenging process for most. There are multiple things to consider and it is easy to leave some information behind. While above we have reviewed all the important things to be thought out while building a modular home alone, the following tips can apply to any type of construction type:

  • Think ahead and build a house that will hold your future needs.
  • Know how much you can afford to pay.
  • Recognize how much you can borrow and check your credit score to know if you qualify for a loan with a low-interest rate.
  • Consider the hidden fees or taxes that your city or county might require once the house is built.
  • Leave some budget to furnish and decorate the house. 
  • Find a location that fits your needs. Look for a place where your desires and needs are in balance. 

References:

  1. Prefabricated vs. modular homes: what’s the difference? Royal Homes https://www.royalhomes.com/tip/prefabricated-vs-modular-homes-whats-the-difference/
  2. (2018, August 21) How to Purchase land for a modular home Modscape Holdings PTY Ltd. https://www.modscape.com.au/blog/3-factors-consider-purchasing-land-future-modular-home/
  3. Gianino, A. Modular Size: Maximum Length, width, and Height The Home Store https://www.the-homestore.com/blog/2013/03/modular-size/
  4. Semler, K. Can you get a modular home to my site? Impresa Modular https://impresamodular.com/how-can-you-get-modular-home-to-site/