Written by home-improvement  |  04. May 2008

If you are planning an addition or planning to build a new home, you would be wise to consider modular construction. Forget preconceived notions about cheaply-constructed, pre-fabricated cookie-cutter boxes - that is not what modular construction is about. This article will introduce you to modular building and its advantages. What Is A Modular Home? Modular homes are distinguished from traditional site-built or "stick-built" homes in that they are built in a factory and assembled on site. They should not be confused with other types of partially factory built homes, such as precut, panelized or manufactured homes. For precut homes, elements, and in particular, the wood pieces are factory cut and shipped, and assembled at the home site. Precut homes have been built in the U.S. since the late 1800's. Sears sold mail order homes in the early 1900's. Many of these are still inhabited in our area, especially in NY and NJ. Panelized homes consist of individual panels 8' by up to 40' that are factory-built and shipped, assembled at site. Manufactured homes are typically built in great part within factories and shipped to the home site, but are built to federal standards which may or may not be as strict as local standards. Placement of manufactured homes is limited to sites and conditions that can. Unlike these homes built using these other methods, modular homes are built as boxes, or "modules", which are constructed in a factory to exact specifications, transported to the home site and assembled on site. The types of materials used to create the modules are exactly the same as those found in conventional site-built homes. Why Consider Modular Building? Modular homes have several advantages over site-built homes, including superior quality, faster construction time, and lower prices. Superior Quality Many home builders are converting to modular home building. A shortage of skilled construction workers in several parts of the country has driven up costs and lowered craftsmanship. These conditions result in poor construction, delays and ultimately, unhappy customers. To combat this, and to gain more control in the building process, many concerned site-builders are turning to modular construction. The factory environment greatly helps to organize the construction process. Labor in a factory is more closely supervised than site labor, and factory laborers are more stable and reliable. They also have greater opportunity to master their individual crafts, resulting in higher quality finished work. The use of automated assembly equipment and assembly-line technique produces greater consistency of product quality and greater efficiency. Only framing materials of very good quality will work well with precision factory equipment. For example, wood that is warped, green or heavily flawed can slow down the assembly jigs, and these less-than-perfect materials are therefore rejected at the factory receiving door. Modular manufacturers purchase massive amounts of building material and can command significant attention from their suppliers. Materials are also stored in climate-controlled conditions and not left exposed to the elements. Reducing moisture content during the building process reduces the likelihood of mold later in the home. Because modular homes are built to withstand highway transportation to the home site, and crane-lifting onto the foundation, they are built more sturdily than site-built homes. In addition to nails, special adhesive is used to fasten major components, such as walls. Double and triple headers are used where modules will be joined together. Unlike some site-built homes, modular homes are usually perfectly square since they are built on perfectly square jigs to ensure perfect joins at the home site. Lastly, standard techniques employed in modular construction reduce air leakage significantly versus site-built practices. Testing on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Program has demonstrated that a correctly finished modular home outperforms a typical site-built home on air filtration. A tighter home means lower energy bills. Faster Construction Time A simple site-built house constructed by a competent custom builder will likely take at least one month longer to complete than a comparable modular home. For more complex houses, a custom builder may take at least two months longer than a modular builder. Modular methods avoid weather-related delays during the bulk of construction process, and the labor that takes place in the factory environment creates great efficiencies that speed the building process. Lower Prices The modular home manufacturing process creates cost advantages over site-built homes through lower labor costs and assembly-line efficiencies. Additional cost advantages are generated by lowered material costs due to negotiated volume purchasing, elimination of material losses due to weather damage, theft or vandalism, and reduction of waste. According to estimates, in an area with average construction labor costs, one can expect to save about five percent versus site-built costs, for the portion of building done by the manufacturer and the GC. These savings may increase in areas where local construction labor costs are high. Obviously, no savings would apply for the costs to clear the land, install utility access, build the foundation and add landscaping or hardscaping. The Modular Home-Building Process There are three basic stages to building a modular home. A modular home dealer, possibly working with your own architect, designs your plan, determines building specifications and determines the price of the home. A modular manufacturer builds the home as it was designed and ships it to your building site. A general contractor (GC) puts the home together on site. The dealer, manufacturer and GC may represent one, two or three different companies. In most cases, however, manufacturers sell to dealers who sell to you, the homebuyer. It is recommended that you purchase from a dealer who is either an experienced GC or works hand in hand with an experienced GC. ---------- Tom Mirabella and Bob Roddini are homeowners. Like you, at times they needed help with repairs and remodeling, and have had difficulty in the past finding qualified and reliable contractors. Their goal was to connect homeowners who need remodeling and repair work with prescreened professionals ready to work. They created LIHome411.com as a one stop resource for Long Island home improvement projects big or small. You can find a directory of contractors and easy access to useful information about home improvement and repair, to inspire and encourage you to get it done, whether "it" is adding a master suite or fixing a leaky faucet.

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