Pros And Cons Of A Modular Home (What to know before buying!)

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For prospective homeowners looking for something affordable and environmentally friendly, modular homes are a great option. However, it can be difficult to select the right home with knowing all the information first.

That’s why we’ve compiled a full buyer’s guide, including pros, cons, and extra tips, so you can make an informed decision before committing to a modular home.

Here are some of the major pros and cons of modular homes:

Pros of Modular HomesCons of Modular Homes
High-quality materials and constructionNegative public perception
Faster construction timesNot suitable for all locations/environments
Affordable constructionLimited availability in some areas
Custom design optionsDesign constraints
Environmentally friendly and energy efficient
Safer in extreme weather conditions

6 unique benefits of modular homes to consider

70% of overall modular home construction actually takes place off-site [1] in a large-scale assembly line. Their unique construction process offers several unique advantages over traditional houses.

1. High quality materials

The modular home construction process meets, and often exceeds, the quality standards of traditional houses. Modular homes are carefully monitored at every stage of the construction process, which reduces the chance of building errors [2]. 

Centralizing the construction also guarantees a sheltered storage location which keeps materials in better shape for longer. [3].

2. Faster construction times

Building a modular home can take as little as four months from the moment the module manufacturing starts to the moment the modular home is ready for residents [5] [6] [7].

That’s less than half the time it takes to construct a stick-built house, which almost always takes more than eight months to complete [8]. 

Most modular home construction takes place in a factory-like setting, which offers access to sophisticated equipment that mechanizes the construction process [4].

It also helps avoid adverse weather conditions, the number one cause of most on-site construction project delays.

3. Affordable construction

The centralized construction process translates into lower labor costs, reduced transportation costs, and more reusable materials.

Every modular home is built in the same location, so deliveries tend to be less frequent and in bulk, reducing transportation costs. Reusing materials from previous projects built in the same space also reduces building and material costs. [9].

4. Custom design options

A common misconception about modular homes is that they end up being homogeneous “cookie-cutter” structures with no personal touch.

A predesigned floor plan doesn’t limit the design options. There are plenty of custom options for modular homes.

Be sure to select the right company that has the custom designs to make your vision come to life.

5. Environmentally friendly and energy efficient

The construction industry is responsible for 23% of the air pollution due to the consumption of raw materials and the use of heavy machinery [10].

Modular home construction allows for bulk transportation of materials and heavy machinery to the work site and the reuse of materials from one house to the next.

Modular companies also offer more options for energy-efficient features compared to traditional construction companies.

Modular home companies such as Plant Prefab or Method Homes [12] [13] have managed to produce Net-Zero energy-efficient homes by integrating systems like solar energy or geothermal energy exchange.

6. Safer in extreme weather conditions

Modular homes are not earthquake or hurricane-resistant, but they often show a higher level of resiliency than standard site-built homes.

Every module is built to be strong and flexible enough to withstand transportation from the factory to the building site [14].

There is an increasing number of manufacturers specializing in weather-resistant homes, which will lead to further innovation down the line.

The Disadvantages of Modular Homes

Most of the disadvantages of building a modular home are a direct result of misunderstandings, logistical difficulties encountered during transportation, and some design limitations.

1. Negative public perception

Not all prefabricated structures are created equal. Modular homes are often mistakenly equated with mobile homes although the two could not be more different.

Modular homes are solid, permanent constructions to the same standards as any traditional site-built home, while mobile homes are typically lower quality, non-permanent constructions.

This common misconception could become an issue when trying to rent or re-sell your modular home.

2. Not suitable for all locations/environments

While nearly all modules are optimized for easy transport and installation, some locations are just simply not feasible for modular homes.

In the United States, modules measure approximately 12 to 15.9 ft wide, 60 to 72 ft long, and 11 ft high [15]. 

Prefabricated modules are transported on flatbed trucks and, due to their size, the roads leading to the site must be in good condition and free from obstacles such as tunnels, narrow bridges, trees, or steep hills [16]. 

Once on the building site, the modules are assembled by sizable cranes, so the building site must have adequate space and be relatively free of trees or power lines that could obstruct the module assembly [17]. 

Some modular home manufacturers are testing alternative shipping solutions such as helicopters [16], to avoid any obstacles on the road. However, this is still a rare service that is still fairly pricey.

3. Limited availability in some areas

Most modular home manufacturers focus on a limited service area.

Given that modular homes are considered permanent constructions, they are required to adhere to state and local building codes.

Limiting the service area allows modular home manufacturers to build according to local regulations.

Unfortunately, in some areas, this can result in a lack of local manufacturers.

4. Design constraints

Modular homes are built by combining prefabricated rectangular modules.

Although modules can be combined to create wider or rounder indoor spaces, the overall external shape of the house is boxy.

Complex or organic design shapes can be achieved by combining modular construction with other methods to create hybrid modular or on-frame modular homes. [18] These are not technically considered modular homes and have other factors to consider like higher building costs.

Is a modular home right for you?

Modular homes are an innovative, high-quality construction alternative to on-site-built homes. However, they are not suitable for all geographic locations and design preferences.

You could opt for a modular home if you:

  • Need to meet a tight deadline: With modular construction, you can build a house faster than with traditional construction methods while maintaining outstanding quality.
  • Have a lower budget: Modular homes are produced with the same quality materials as traditionally built houses at lower costs. If you have a tight budget, a predesigned modular home floor plan is the most affordable solution.
  • Live in an area where earthquakes or hurricanes are common: Modular homes are built to withstand the tremors ground transportation and respond well to horizontal forces making them more resistant to extreme weather events.
  • Own land that meets the criteria or don’t yet own land: If you already own land and the modules can reach the plot easily, building a modular home is a smart choice. Likewise, if you don’t own land yet and are interested in building a modular home you can easily opt for a plot that’s suitable for the modules.
  • Live in an area where the modular home companies suit your needs: If you live in an area with plenty of modular home manufacturers you’ll be able to choose the one that best suits your needs.

References

  1. Hodbe, A., & Sober, R. (2019). Design of Modular Housing. International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology, 06 (09), 734-738. [107]. https://www.irjet.net/archives/V6/i9/IRJET-V6I9107.pdf
  2. (2019, December 18) Modular Buildings Northgate Industries Ltd. https://northgateindustries.com/how-modular-buildings-enhance-construction-quality-control/
  3. Misron, N. & Khoiry, M. A. & Hamzah, N. (2018). A Framework of Efficient Material Storage Management on Congested Construction Site. E3S Web of Conferences. 65. 03005. 10.1051/e3sconf/20186503005. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329185666_A_Framework_of_Efficient_Material_Storage_Management_on_Congested_Construction_Site
  4. Martinez, S., Jardon, A., Navarro, J.M. and Gonzalez, M. (2008, April 18) Building industrialization: robotized assembly of modular products Assembly Automation,  Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 134-142. https://doi.org/10.1108/01445150810863716  
  5. (2019, August 15) How Long to Build a Modular Home? Design Build Modular https://designbuildmodulars.com/blog/how-long-does-it-take-to-build-a-modular-home/
  6. Discover a better way to build your home. Plant Prefab https://www.plantprefab.com/homebuyers/#process
  7. You have questions, we have answers Blu Homes https://www.bluhomes.com/fact-sheet
  8. Zhao, N. (2015, August 17) How Long Does It Take to Build a Single Family Home? https://eyeonhousing.org/2015/08/how-long-does-it-take-to-build-a-single-family-home/
  9. Why Are Modular Homes Cheaper? Home Smitten https://homesmitten.com/why-are-modular-homes-cheaper/  
  10. (2021, May 13) How can we improve the negative impact construction has on the environment? Procure Partnerships Framework https://procurepartnerships.co.uk/how-can-we-improve-the-negative-impact-construction-has-on-the-environment/
  11. Energy Efficiency EESI, Environmental and Energy Study Institute https://www.eesi.org/topics/energy-efficiency/description
  12. Frequently Asked Questions – Sustainability. Does Plant do LEED certification, net-zero or passive homes? Plant Prefab, Inc. https://www.plantprefab.com/faq
  13. Sustainability. Responsible Design + Construction Method Homes® https://www.methodhomes.net/sustainable-design
  14. (2015, April 17) Modular Homes Provide Advantages in Severe Weather Supreme Modular https://www.suprememodular.com/residential-construction/new-jersey-modular-homes/modular-homes-provide-advantages-in-severe-weather/
  15. Gianino, A. Modular Size: Maximum Length, width, and Height The Home Store https://www.the-homestore.com/blog/2013/03/modular-size/
  16. Semler, K. Can you get a modular home to my site? Impresa Modular https://impresamodular.com/how-can-you-get-modular-home-to-site/
  17. Crane for Modular Buildings Your crane company https://craneguys.com/construction/crane-for-modular-buildings/
  18. The difference Between Modular, Manufactured & Stick Built Construction Alpha Mortgage Corporation https://www.alphamortgage.com/differences-modular-manufactured-stick-built-homes/