Renovating Or Remodeling A Modular Home (What To Know)

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Modular homes can be both renovated and remodeled despite being prefabricated constructions. Being prefabricated affects the construction process, though once the house is built, it operates just like any site-built house. Like any other type of construction, it is possible to both repair and modify any element in the house, though any modification done to the house needs to bear the structure in mind. In a modular home, the structure is integrated into every module, so always check the original floor plans and consult with an expert if you are planning to demolish a wall or a part of it. 

The main thing you should know when remodeling a modular home depends on the type of construction works done:

  • While remodeling the kitchen or the bathroom, consider the plumbing and electrical works.
  • Updating interior and exterior finishes is usually easy, though some modifications might be regulated
  • Upgrading the house to achieve energy efficiency is highly encouraged
  • Adding extra space can be done by adding one more module

The amount of work, money and trouble is unique to every renovation. Some are very simple updates that highly increase the value of the property, while others require complex and expensive work. To determine if a renovation is worth it, it is important to identify the reason why we are planning the improvements and analyze if the cost of it is worth the benefits.

Things to consider before renovating a modular home

Remodeling a house is a complex procedure that has to be properly studied and planned before the construction works start. Verifying the legal constraints attached to our property, as well as the capability of the house to safely withstand the modifications are key to avoiding future complications. Moreover, investing some time to thoroughly analyze which options benefit us the most will make the process a lot easier.

  • Check the property’s deed: The property’s deed often includes restrictive covenants attached, which are conditions written in the contract defining what can or cannot be done in the property after the sale [1]. Even if you own the property,  the house might have been sold to you with a restrictive covenant preventing you from doing certain modifications to the house.
  • Consult with your local government: Most renovations require permits that should be approved by your local government. Pay special attention to the zoning laws if the renovation involves extending the property. These usually define the size, height, or distance between the house and the property’s limits [2].
  • Ask your contractor: Look for a contractor with experience renovating modular homes that could advise you on the renovation’s feasibility. In case the renovation involves tearing walls or extending the house, get a proper inspection of the current structure by a structural engineer to verify it is in optimal conditions and capable to withstand the modifications.

What you should know about the most common modular home remodeling works

Remodeling is a big work that can include a huge variety of construction works. We have grouped some of the most common remodeling works done on modular homes to explain to you what are the main aspects you should consider.

While remodeling the kitchen or the bathrooms, consider the plumbing and electrical works

Remodeling a Kitchen or a bathroom in a modular home is no different from remodeling a kitchen or bathroom in a traditionally built home as long as you are planning to maintain the original walls. If you are planning to expand the space and demolish some walls, get sure first that those are not structural. 

When remodeling either a kitchen or a bathroom the most important element to consider are plumbing and electrical wiring. If you only plan to replace the fixtures; the plumbing work will be minimal, though relocating them to a different location requires adjusting the plumbing as well [3]. Hire a professional plumber to ensure the new fixture distribution is possible and to properly place and fit the pipes to avoid post-renovation plumbing problems. 

The electrical installation is one you should be extremely careful with while remodeling bathrooms or kitchens. If you are planning to modify the electrical wiring while remodeling you will need to obtain a wiring permit and ensure that the electrical installation is up to code [4]. Hiring a professional electrician will assure that the minimal requirements are accomplished and the resulting remodeled space is safe to use. 

Updating interior and exterior finishes is usually easy, though some modifications might be regulated

Updating the interior finishes is one of the most satisfying remodeling works since it isn’t very complex and once finished the overall look of the house is highly improved. The most common finishing updates are changing the tiles, painting, papering, or changing the cabinets. None of these works usually require a permit, though the building codes vary from one location to another [5].

Exterior finishes are often more regulated, upgrades such as adding new windows definitely need to acquire a permit. Also, in some areas, how the exterior of the house looks isn’t entirely up to the owner. For example, if you live in a historic district, likely, the color and materials of the house’s siding are strictly regulated [6]. 

Upgrading the house to achieve energy efficiency is highly encouraged

This is an upgrade that is growing in popularity. A house that is energy efficient is definitely more cost-effective and sustainable than the average house. It uses less energy than expected to perform the same task [7] and therefore, reduces the energy consumption and demands, which translates into a lower bill cost.

This type of upgrade usually involves adding insulation, replacing or sealing the windows, upgrading the appliances, and changing the lighting. For a better energy-efficiency outcome, these upgrades might include as well installing systems that allow the house to generate its own energy such as solar panels.

If you are remodeling your home to become more energy-efficient, you will most likely need to acquire a permit though also you might benefit from some sort of financing program or even a subsidy. There are several initiatives promoting energy efficiency among residents, and organizations such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are finding ways to help households reduce their energy use [8].

Adding extra space can be done by adding one more module

A common reason for remodeling a modular home is the need to add some extra space, which with modular construction becomes as easy as adding another module to the existing modular house. This additional module can be placed to create a second story, to extend the ground floor, or even as an independent unit. 

Before adding a module it is important to analyze the condition of the current modular home structure to determine the feasibility to enlarge it. This evaluation is done by an experienced modular home professional who will afterward design the added module. Modular home extensions always require permits and despite their complexity, appear to be quite fast and easy to build given that most of the construction takes place off-site.

Is it worth remodeling a modular home?

In general, remodeling a modular home is a worthy investment. Modular homes are high-quality constructions that are built to last 30 to 50 years, just as much as any traditional house [9]. Though this duration can be extended with proper maintenance and necessary renovations. Therefore in most cases remodeling a modular home is the best way to keep it up and running for some more years. Still, before claiming that remodeling a modular home is worth it, we should analyze the main reasons behind these works:

  • Remodeling to adapt the house to upcoming needs: After living in a modular home for a while, it is common for our needs to change, maybe the family grows and we need to add some more space, maybe some members of the family leave and we can join rooms to create a bigger space, or maybe we just want to change the way the house looks. In most cases, all these modifications are definitely worth it.
  • Renovating to repair: Reparations aren’t only worth it but highly recommended. Leaving broken things unattended will without a doubt increase the damages. For example, a small water leak is very easy to fix, though when left unattended it may seriously damage elements as important as the wooden structure of the house. However, when the house is in very bad condition, sometimes the renovation would take more time and money than building a new house would. Evaluate the damage, ask for a quote and compare the cost of repairing with that of building new. In some situations, tearing the old house down and building a new modular home is the more affordable solution.
  • Remodeling to sell the property: In general, remodeling the modular home increases its value, though this isn’t always the case. To figure out if your situation is worth remodeling before selling the house, you should first know what is the highest value the house could get according to its location. With this value in mind, it will be easier to calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) to figure out if remodeling is worth it in your case [10].

References

  1. Dehan, A. (2020, January 22) Zoning: What it is and how to understand zoning codes Quicken Loans https://www.quickenloans.com/learn/zoning
  2. Restrictive covenants – what they mean Home Owners Alliancehttps://hoa.org.uk/advice/guides-for-homeowners/i-am-buying/restrictive-covenants/
  3. Molitor, M. (2016, December 13) 5 Plumbing Considerations When Renovating Your Bathroom Construction 2 Stylehttps://construction2style.com/5-plumbing-considerations-renovating-bathroom/
  4. Walch, J. How to wire a new bathroom SFGATEhttps://homeguides.sfgate.com/wire-new-bathroom-50695.html
  5. When do I need a permit? NARI Remodeling Done Right https://remodelingdoneright.nari.org/Homeowner-Resources/Questions-to-ask/When-do-I-need-a-permit
  6. Tips on re-siding in historic districts LP Building Solutionshttps://lpcorp.com/blog/tips-on-re-siding-in-historic-districts
  7. Energy Efficiency EESI, Environmental and Energy Study Institute https://www.eesi.org/topics/energy-efficiency/description
  8. (2022, February 1) EPA Launches ENERGY STAR Home Upgrade to Take U.S. Households into the Clean Energy Future EPA United States Environmental Protection Agency https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-launches-energy-star-home-upgrade-take-us-households-clean-energy-future
  9. How Long Do Modular Homes Last Home Smitten https://homesmitten.com/how-long-do-modular-homes-last/
  10. Hogan, B. (2020, May 29) Is it Worth the Investment? Knowing when to Remodel or Move on Hogan Design & Constructionhttps://www.hogandesignandconstruction.com/blog/is-it-worth-the-investment-knowing-when-to-remodel-or-move-on