Modular vs stick built

david_caryFebruary 27, 2011

I am considering modular construction for a vacation home. The last (and only) thread on this was helpful to an extent.

There is no question that some people will frown on all things modular. I get that. But I'd love to hear from people who have considered both options and what they have learned from it.

I am building a basic house that will be a rental for a good deal of the time. Hurricane area. The modular manufacturers have no issues meeting modern hurricane code. They also can work with custom plans. I am interested in cost savings for sure but also if the house can get done quickly, I can get rent this summer - and that can be $40k.

FWIW - FEMA seems to think modular does better in a hurricane.

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Before this thread devolves into a sea of confusion over modular v. manufactured (which they always do)- A true modular home is every bit as good as a site-built home; sometimes a little better. Advantages are that they are built in a climate-controlled environment, everything is glued to withstand being hauled down the road, and as you pointed out, they are faster. We looked at some, and found them to be very nice and sturdy. They weren't much cheaper than a site-built home of the same trim level, though. When you get prices, don't forget the costs of the site work, which needs to be done for any home. And research the builder well- I've heard horror stories, just like any other type of construction. I would think the big advantage is mainly speed.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 5:31PM
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We are planning to build a modular home. Flgargoyle - thanks for your clarification. Our kitchen designer turned up her nose thinking it was "a house on wheels". When I explained the process and the fact it is custom, her attitude changed.

Interesting point about hurricanes. I live in tornado country and the builder said the modular house would be the last to leave when a tornado comes through. This particular company uses 30% more lumber.

We will have custom mouldings, wood floors, Marvin Integrity windows, LP SmartSide, 30 year architectural shingles, spray foam insulation, etc.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 6:05PM
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I think the concept of a factory built house is sound. It could lead to a better built house in less time. It was exciting to watch the building of my neighbor's custom modular. Unfortunately however some modular builders use the method to build cheaper rather than better. Would I buy a home like my neighbor's? No thanks!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 7:23PM
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Each unit of the modular has it's own ceiling joists. Necessary for strength for lifting and transport. That means that multi-story builds with units for the upper rooms will have ceiling below and floor above using separate joists. Foot traffic above and plumbing noises from above will be less downstairs. Stairways will be a bit longer and taller due to this construction. The framing lumber will not get wet during construction. Most houses can be set, dried-in and locked up during just one day. Proper foundation build and skillful set of the units is crucial for satisfactory results. With stick build, the carpenters can adjust for errors in the foundation. Not so with modular.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 3:01PM
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The 30' figure was given to me by the local dealer. Maybe it has to do with the expansive clay soils in SC?

BTW- Thomas Edison designed a modular home for his winter home in Fort Meyers, FL. It was built in Maine in 1885, and transported to Florida on 4 schooners, and assembled on the site. It's still standing today.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 4:30PM
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In a strange set of circumstances, the NC insurance of last resort will not cover modular homes as a second home. The agent thinks it is a throw back to mobile homes but the fact is the insurance will cost a good deal more for wind/hail policy. And the safe building credits don't count.

So site built it is....

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 3:52PM
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I planned a modular for 8 months. We were ready to sign the contract when my husband decided that he didn't agree with it. I was so upset. We were building at the beach but we live there year round. Modular homes are great! They can be a little boxier than a stick built but they are usually very well made. We had every upgrade that I wanted including 2 fireplaces, butler pantry, custom tile,etc. I was so far into it that we had planned my cabinets, tile, tile placement, etc. We decided to do stick built which is costing about 150,000 more. We have a fabulous builder and it will be more custom than the modular with more charm. Our house should be finished in May. We are so excited but I am still confident that the modular would have been a beautiful house as well. And you can't beat the time frame that they are finished in! Go for it! It was so easy and so much fun planning it even though it fell through. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 9:37PM
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* Posted by david_cary (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 1, 11 at 15:52

"In a strange set of circumstances, the NC insurance of last resort will not cover modular homes as a second home. The agent thinks it is a throw back to mobile homes but the fact is the insurance will cost a good deal more for wind/hail policy. And the safe building credits don't count."

WRONG,wrong,wrong!!....I have a 2nd home in NC that is modular and is covered and discounted for safe building (130mph roof).

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 8:33AM
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bigdee - the safe building credits kick in May 2011 so it is hard to see how you are getting them already. There may have been other discounts but the safe building one is so new that most brokers don't even know how to work it. No one has any idea who is going to do the accreditation or inspection.

I've talked personally with the underwriters at the NCJUA and they will cover it but only as a dwelling coverage which is often fine but it doesn't cover for wind driven rain as well as liability. You can get liability from other sources so it definitely is doable, it just isn't the typical wind/hail policy.

The underwriting rules vary based on county and this is the rule in Pender. Your county may be different, you may not be oceanfront, or you may just have a dwelling policy.

Who built your house?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 9:44AM
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david - I don't know for sure that the discount is the "safe building credit" you refereed to but it was definitely discounted for it's location and construction integrity. The house was built by Crestline Custom homes of Laurinburg.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 10:09AM
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david cary can you elaborate on the safe building credit in NC? Where might we find more info? Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 12:04PM
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The actual credit amounts I think vary on county. This is a coastal issue only.

In Pender, the different levels of certification get you up to 21% credit. It should be noted that a hip roof and opening protection (ie impact windows) get you 13% and you can't add those credits.

After doing some research, I am just going with the hip roof and opening protection. There are levels from Bronze to Gold with 2 steps at each level (for a total of 6 levels I think). The lowest credit is 13% and the highest 21%.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fortified website

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 2:06PM
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My daughter and her husband built a modular home about 5 years ago. Cost wise, they didn't save any money over a stick built. And there was alot of work to be done once the house was up. The house is nice, quite attractive, and works well for their family. However, their neighbors were furious!! And 5 years later, the neighbors still aren't talking to them.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 2:57PM
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My neighbor was so furious that he sold his property and moved. The new neighbor turned out to be a good neighbor but he does not know my house is a modular and I'm not telling!!! It really bothers me when so called intelligent people act so ignorant. My vacation house is the only one in the community built to withstand a d-2 earthquake,F-2 tornado and a F-3 hurricane and is indistinguishable from any site built house. It was these attributes plus location (gated community) that lowered my insurance. I had to provide the documented engineering data in order to negotiate rates.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 4:04PM
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