How do you find out if a home is a modular?

jenawadeJuly 18, 2011

We're looking at houses, and one had a very strange basement that looked like 2x4 shaped concrete pieces spaced apart and in between some kind of blue sheets that look like foam or insulation sheets you buy at Lowes or Home Depot, and the house was bolted to the basement. We ended up seeing another basement just like that, and it's listed as a modular home. So we had our realtor check, and the owners swear theirs is a site built. Hubby is in and out of about a dozen houses a day for his job (15 years now) and has never seen a basement like that for a site built home.

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Sounds like "Superior Walls", which are used with modulars but also with stick built homes.

Does this look like what you saw?

Why are you opposed to a modular home? We have owned a few, and their construction can be just as good as stick built.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 7:49AM
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Modular homes have an advantage over site built in that the studs, subfloor, sheathing etc are never exposed to weather as is the case with site built.

That said, are you by any chance confusing modular with "manufactured" homes...aka mobil home?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 9:27PM
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Yes! They did look a lot like that! And no, we have no issues with modulars. We've been living in a double wide manufactured since 1994, we're not exactly 'house prejudice.' My concern is our ability to sell it when we're ready to move on, as I see so much negativity about modulars everywhere. It won't matter how superior the construction is if we can't get buyers to even consider it in the first place, much less some take a look

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 10:58AM
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Usually the town in which the house is located should have the building plan on file and that will tell you if it is modular or site built.

Have you checked with their construction code office?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 12:41PM
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Modular is NOT the same as mobile.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 12:48PM
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The OP obviously knows the difference between modular and mobile. They are living in a mobile and trying to determine if the new purchase is modular or stick built.

Yes, there is a stigma to modular. It is debatable whether that stigma is deserved at this point, but it certainly exists. If you live there for 10 years, maybe the stigma will be gone by the time you go to sell, but it certainly exists now.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 1:49PM
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The easiest way to check where I live, is to go on the regional buildings inspection website and see if there were any inspections for plumbing, electrical, frame etc. signed off during construction.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 2:18PM
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How about just asking the current home owner. If they don't know your REA should be able to find out for you.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 3:16PM
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I was curious about this, too. When we were selling our old house (built in 1964) a contractor came to the open house and told our REA that he thought the house was a modular home of a type that he had helped his father build. He went upstairs, looked (at something) and said that it in fact was a modular. News to us! We had lived there 13 years, and always thought it was a stick built home. It was a split level with a daylight basement.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 4:13PM
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What is right or wrong with a modular?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 7:21PM
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Here is a link to a previous discussion about Superior Walls. When we were thinking about building in PA, we were going to use them. What you are seeing is 2x4 studs attached to the concrete panels. They were put there so you have a place to attach drywall or paneling.

I don't know why there would be a stigma attached to modulars. They have to abide by all the same building codes as stick built.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 7:25PM
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Nowadays you can find multi-story commercial buildings, hotels, schools, and apartment buildings built using modular construction. It's still a pretty small percentage of all construction, but it's there.

There is a difference, however, between temporary and permanent modular buildings, and this may be the reason for the stigma. Temporary modular is construction trailers, school "portables" and the like, usually one-room buildings, and typically with inexpensive finishes. They're built to be moved, and often are re-leased out every few months or years. Then again, when I went to high school we had 20-year-old portables. :-)

Permanent modular is typically a construct of multiple rooms, all factory built, then shipped to the site and bolted or welded together. My sister had a neighbor who added a modular (meaning factory-built) second story to their house. A one-day operation to install it--pretty cool. Heck, you can even buy a modular elevator, which is a steel shaft with the car already assembled inside of it.

Anyway, I think the stigma comes from people thinking modular=movable=trailer=cheap.

Here is a link that might be useful: Modular Elevator

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 9:48PM
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I agree. Many people confuse modular with manufactured.
Understandable, because in essence they are both manufactured...but that is where the similarity ends.

Manufactured homes were called mobil homes for a very long time...until some marketing whiz realized the a mobil home can indeed be permanently installed if desired. However, it still maintains the undercarriage that would allow it to be mobil once again. That said, "manufactured" just sounds so much better.

Anyway, IMO, the modular home biz needs to come up with their own whiz bang term to differentiate from manufactured...or else the stigma will probably ..and undeservedly..remain.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 10:44AM
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In part of PA they call them "Slide-ons" but personally I think that's worse :)

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 7:30PM
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'Anyway, IMO, the modular home biz needs to come up with their own whiz bang term to differentiate from manufactured...or else the stigma will probably ..and undeservedly..remain'.'s mostly a PR issue.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 11:39PM
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Yes but when the modular company's standard kitchen and bath floor is essentially stick on laminate, then there is some reason to continue the stigma.

When the construction technique makes keeping the a/c ducting in conditioned space impossible on a two story house, then there is a reason for the stigma.

When by nature, there is more stairs to climb on a two story house, then there......

Not to be a total snob, but there are downsides to modular. I strongly considered one but there were just too many issues. No cost savings and only about a month of time didn't help either.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 7:47AM
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The problem with modular remains issues with transporting and placing them.

They are often built stronger to survive transport and lifting into place, but still must contend with vibration and flex.

it is very hard to design a ceramic tile floor that can withstand delivery and placement without cracking.
It increases the price enough to make it not a viable option in many cases.

Some concrete modular structures do not have this problem, but they are not the norm for residential.
They are used to make hotels by stacking up rooms.

At least the modular units are typically built to regular code standards for their destination, as opposed to mobile homes that are built to HUD standards.

There can be remnants in modular sections depending on how they are transported.
Some have areas for wheel clearance from flat bed trailers in the floor framing that are closed up after placement, while others do not.
The wheel clearance allows low boy trailers to be used for less height on the road.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 10:39AM
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