Modular Homes Vs. Kit Homes (What To Choose?)

Share

While you can purchase both Modular – and Kit homes out of a brochure, these two are completely different types of construction sharing more differences than similarities. The main difference remains in the construction process: while most of the modular home construction takes place in a factory-like environment by a trained team of professionals, a kit home is mainly built on site and conceived as a DIY construction.

Main differences between Modular and Kit homes:

  1. Construction process
  2. What is included in the delivery
  3. Building time
  4. Customer participation
  5. Design options and customization
  6. Home price and construction cost

Modular and kit homes are often compared because they both offer an innovative way to purchase a new home. These two types of homes often offer a more affordable cost in comparison to traditional on site construction. However, to avoid extra costs or delays it is key to choose the construction method that is right for you and your own situation.

Main differences between Modular Homes and Kit Homes

Construction process

The construction process of a modular home is quite different from that of a kit home. Modular homes are a type of prefabricated constructions that are built per modules. Every module is a volumetric section of the house that is built in a factory-like environment and delivered to the building site where it is assembled and set on the permanent foundations.

Kit homes are designed by a manufacturer who draws all construction floor plans and prepares the necessary materials to build the house. Floor plans and materials are delivered to the building site so the construction process, usually managed by the same owner, can begin.

Some manufacturers deliver pre-cut materials and prefabricated components to simplify the construction work, reason why it is common to associate kit homes with prefabricated constructions. However, despite the building instructions and labelled construction pieces, most of the building works take place on site.

What is included in the delivery

Both modular and kit homes are purchased similarly: out of a brochure with a picture of the house as it will look when its built. However, what the manufacturer delivers to the building site is quite different.

The modular home manufacturers deliver a home that is almost ready to be lived in. The finished modules are built separately and shipped to the building site where they are assembled by the same modular home manufacturer. Once the house is put together the delivery process isn’t completed yet since the modular home workers are still in charge of connecting the electrical wires and plumbing to the on-site utilities. When the modular homes builders deliver the house keys all that is left to do are minor works such as paining the indoor walls, furnishing and landscaping.

A kit home delivery looks quite different. What the kit home manufacturer delivers to the building site is far from the finished product. On delivery day, the owner will receive the whole set of materials needed to build the house [1]. What is included in this delivery will vary from one company to another, though it is most common for this building kit to include all the necessary materials and pieces to build the structure and exterior shell of the house alone. After a kit home’s delivery, all construction works are still left to be done.

Customer participation

The construction of a modular home is entirely carried out by professional builders that take care of most of the process: from the design to the finished house delivery. As a customer all you need to do is choose your modular home manufacturer and a contractor, decide your home design and wait until the house is built. In most cases, these two professionals coordinate the whole construction process including acquiring the required building permits.

A kit home on the other side, is conceived as a DIY home and to obtain the finished house, the customer should get involved. Some owners choose to become self-builders and built the entire home themselves. However, it is common for those customers without building experience to hire some help.

It is possible to hire a contractor who will take care of the overall kit home construction process. Although given that kit homes are often purchased to lower the overall construction price, most owners choose to hire specialist to handle those works that they can’t complete themselves. The most common works requiring a specialists are plumbing and electricity installations.

Building time

In most cases the time required to build a kit home is longer than a modular home construction. Still, how much longer will depend on the variety of construction decisions taken by the owner.

Building a Modular home usually takes from 4 to 8 months since the moment the manufacturing of the modules begins [2] [3] [4]. The construction of a kit home varies extensively depending on the expertise and the time invested by the builder. Since kit homes are conceived as DIY construction kits, the structure of the house tends to be easy to assemble and a self-builder without acquired building skills could erect the structure in an average of three days [5]. It is usually faster to build a home kit than it would be with traditional construction since it is usually prepared and labelled with assembly directions. 

The rest of the home construction that it´s not included in the kit is usually quite similar to an on-site construction and will take some time to be completed, especially if those in charge of the construction are self-builders with no previous experience. Moreover, since the construction of a kit home takes place right on the building site, it is common to experience delays due to weather events.

Design options and customization

Modular homes allow far more design and customisation options than kit homes do. While it is possible to purchase a pre-designed modular home as it is, it´s common for customers to customize every detail to their needs and likes. Moreover, most modular home manufacturers offer the possibility to design a unique customized design. Despite being built in a factory every module is designed and built individually according to the design that has been previously approved.

The designs of kit homes on the other hand, are limited because they are sold as pre-designed kits. The set of materials delivered usually include the exterior shell of the house and therefore, the shape and finishes of the house’s exterior can’t be customized. Yet all those elements not included in the kit are entirely customizable. The amount of customization allowed in a kit home will vary depending on what is included by the manufacturer.

Home price and construction cost

The base price of a kit home is cheaper than the base price of a modular home, though the overall construction price of the kit home could be higher if the owner chooses not to be a self-builder and instead hires specialized workers to do the on-site construction works.

The base price of a modular home usually starts at $50 per square foot [6] and it includes the module manufacturing alone. The average finished house price rounds the $110 per square feet [7]. The base price of a mid-range kit home usually starts around $30 per square foot [6] and includes only the kit delivery. Any construction works have to be considered separately. If the customer becomes a self-builder the overall construction could be far cheaper than building a modular home.

When calculating the overall price of building a kit home, it is key to consider all the materials that have to be purchased separately. Pay special attention to what is included in the kit since it is common for kits to exclude electrical, plumbing, HVAC systems, and interior fixtures and finishes.

Both Modular and Kit Homes are innovative construction methods

Both Modular and kit homes are great alternatives to traditional on-site construction that are gaining popularity fast since they represent an advantage in a number of situations. Below we have listed the advantages that both modular and kit homes share:

  • Can be bought out of a picture: These homes can be purchased from a brochure, making it easier for the customer to visualize the final look of the house.
  • Lower Construction Cost: In general, these two alternatives offer a building solution that is more affordable than traditional on-site construction.
  • Easier material selection process: Being built or prepared by one manufacturer, all the available materials are centralized in one setting; saving the time of visiting different suppliers.
  • Faster construction timing: Usually these two construction methods offer a faster building process in comparison to traditional on-site construction.

Understanding when to choose a Modular Home or a Kit home

Both Modular and Kit homes can make a great building solution, though their differences are considerable. There are some important aspects that should be taken into consideration before choosing either a modular home or a kit home:

  • You want an easy and smooth construction process. Modular construction is a safe choice for you. The modular home manufacturer and the contractor take care of the whole construction process from design to delivery. Moreover, since most of the construction process takes place in a controlled environment delays due to weather events are unlikely and it is rare for the building schedule to be disturbed.
  • You are willing to get involved in the building process. Being involved in the construction of your new home can be fun and even save you some money, though it is not for all. If you have experience building or are ready to learn and invest some time on the building site, a kit home could be a good choice for you. With modular construction it is rare for the owner to be able to do some work by itself since most of the construction work takes place in a factory-like setting.
  • You want to be able to personalize the house as much as possible. Modular homes offer greater design and customization choices. If you are looking for a home designed to fit your unique needs, you will benefit from a customizable Modular home.
  • Your budget is tight. Home kits can be more affordable if you are willing to put some work yourself, you can save some money by becoming a self-builder. However, if you are in a tight budget do not rush into conclusions fast, check with different manufacturers -both modular and kit- and analyse well what is included and what extra cost you might encounter.

References

  1. The Buying Process Coventry Log Homeshttps://coventryloghomes.com/buying-process/
  2. Discover a better way to build your home. Plant Prefab https://www.plantprefab.com/homebuyers/#process
  3. Frequently Asked Questions – Process. Method Homeshttps://www.methodhomes.net/frequently-asked-questions
  4. You have questions, we have answers Blu Homes https://www.bluhomes.com/fact-sheet
  5. Frequently Asked Questions Kit Homes  https://www.kithomes.net.au/faq
  6. How Much Does It Cost To Build A Modular Home? HomeGuide https://homeguide.com/costs/modular-home-prices#kits
  7. JElitzer Modular Home Prices: How Much Will My Modular Home Cost? Modular Homeowners https://modularhomeowners.com/how-much-will-my-modular-home-cost/#google_vignette