How to Remove Walls in a Manufactured Home

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One can remove non-load bearing walls in a manufactured home. “Load bearing” refers to structural elements designed to carry the house’s weight, or those “bearing the load.” These are usually the home’s exterior walls and middle line wall if joining two whole sections together. Often, “non-load bearing walls” are the interior walls that only divide up living spaces and are not structurally loaded.

Just a disclaimer, as manufactured homes built before 1976 are called “mobile homes”, upon searching information on this topic, the terms “mobile” and “manufactured” were often used interchangeably. Manufactured homes and mobile homes’ walls are typically built with studs sandwiched by drywall. (1)

How To Know Which Wall is Load Bearing?

In a typical building, your load bearing elements are the exterior walls, columns and beams, so watch out for those around your space. If your designer has concealed them well, say one of those seamlessly columnless spaces, it always pays to request for the blueprints of structural drawings from your architect or by the company that manufactured your home.

If purchasing what some call a “double-wide” home, the exterior walls and midline wall are your load bearing walls. The midline wall is also known as the “marriage line.” Therefore many advise to “start at those lines and watch out for walls along the seam.” (1)

Image from Air Sealing Modular Home Marriage Joints | Building America Solution Center (pnnl.gov)

I know it’s quite technical, but imagine in the drawing above slicing your house in half. If you bought a larger manufactured home, you might’ve opted to combine two structural homes into a three, four bedroom. A ceiling or roof can only span so far without needing support in the middle. This is why the marriage line is often load bearing, to support the weight that could concentrate in the middle and sag down.

Removing that midline is possible but expensive. It requires an engineering expert that might need to implement construction strategies that will surely cost. Load bearing walls can also be replaced with thicker beams, thicker walls, a column or post. Structures are often designed with several redundancies, so should one structural system fail, another has been designed to catch itself. (2)

Even with the building experts in, an unexpected issue can always come about that will be specific to your case.

However, engineers will be the best in determining which elements are structurally load bearing, and which ones you can legally DIY knock down.

Another reason you’d want an engineer’s eye is because walls can also contain utility lines. You don’t want to accidentally hit a pipe burst or your electrical wiring.

The field of engineering is broad so get your money’s worth by investing in an engineer familiar with the prefabricated industry. (2)

Image from What’s Behind Your Drywall? (warnerservice.com)

Before knocking down that damaged wall panel, call your manufacturer to check if your wall panel model is in stock. If none, perhaps there are similar ones that can match. Also have your home serial number ready when calling. This information can commonly be found on the data plate of your closet, utility area or under the kitchen sink. (3)

Other tips from top U.S. Manufactured Home company, Clayton: (3)

  1. Use your fist or mallet to locate the studs in the walls
  2. Remove all fixtures first (such as convenience outlets)
  3. When removing the wall, cut the damaged panel horizontally in half for reduced cleanups and wastage.

Feel confident enough to replace the wall yourself? Check out Clayton’s instructional video on replacing a wall panel. Home Care – How To Replace A Wall Panel In Your Manufactured Home – YouTube

Key Takeaways

Consult a building professional. I recommend an engineer as they can easily determine which element is load bearing and if it is, how to compensate for the load lost.

Everything is constructed with purpose especially in a manufactured home, the components are few but crucial to keep costs low. A renovation is still costly on time and money whether the home is site built or prefabricated.

Just because the house is quick to assemble and move into, we should still take our time into the layout and feel of a home. Visit a few showrooms and think of simulating as many living scenarios in those model homes before making a final choice.

References:

  1. Stevens, S. (2021, April 6). How can you tell which manufactured home walls are load bearing? Manufactured Home Parts And Accessories. Retrieved May 2022, from https://manufacturedhomepartsandaccessories.com/which-walls-are-load-bearing/
  2. Kim. (2019, October 29). Questions about removing walls in a mobile home. Mobile Home Living. Retrieved May 2022, from https://mobilehomeliving.org/ask-a-mobile-home-expert-about-removing-walls-week-8/
  3. Clayton Homes. (2017, December 28). Home Care – How To Replace A Wall Panel In Your Manufactured Home. YouTube. Retrieved May 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DGnRpen-z4