Post details: Breaking Out of the Box - Part 3


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Breaking Out of the Box - Part 3

How Modular Systems Stack Up

Most modular homes are ready to move into eight to 10 weeks after they're ordered, says Ron Evans, vice president of builder sales for Nationwide Homes, the third largest modular home company in the United States. That's a drastic difference from the average 5.9 months it took to construct a home on-site in 1995, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The house can be built in a factory while the foundation and other side work are completed. Doug Cutler also thinks modular construction is the most complete way to assemble a building. "You can design around and manipulate that system to create solutions as varied and as equal in quality and style as conventional site-built homes," says Cutler.

Top Quality
Modular home quality may even surpass that of site-built homes. To strengthen the modules for transporting them to the site and lifting them onto the foundation with a crane, the plywood inner exterior walls are glued, as well as nailed, in place. Drywall is applied with a foam adhesive and then screwed into place, with wall panels assembled on jigs, which creates perfectly square walls and flat ceilings, Cutler says. Construction inside a factory also means the components of the home aren't exposed to extreme temperatures or weather conditions as they would be at a job site. Consistency in construction is enhanced because the home is built by a single source -- the factory -- rather than many subcontractors.

Another advantage, Cutler says, is that modular homes are nearly complete when they arrive at the site. Carpet, vinyl, and other flooring is installed at the factory along with the trim, and walls are painted or tiled. Plumbing and electrical work are completed at the factory, too, with utility connections made at the site by the local contractor, who directs the project and assembles the finished modules. That cuts cost.

The total modular home project, according to Cutler, typically costs about twice what's paid to the factory for the modules. This covers the foundation, septic or sewers, well or water lines, the driveway, a little landscaping, connecting the plumbing and wiring between modules, and hooking up the home to utilities. Included in the total cost are shipping charges of around $4,000, and $1,000 for a crane to place the modules. The Cutlers' home cost around $75 per square foot, not including the property. Had it been built using standard construction, the cost would have risen to nearly $120 per square foot, Cutler says.

Most modular companies allow customers design flexibility, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Manufacturers are most willing to do custom homes when plans come from architects practiced in modular construction, Doug adds.

For greater design flexibility, have your local contractor install some materials after the modules are in place. "Whether it's adding on the cupola in the case of a Georgian colonial or adding on a portico with columns and a pediment or any other trim, those items can help reinforce certain styles of architecture," Cutler says. "From Victorian to the avant-garde contemporary, you can create all these [styles] through the modular building unit."

Start to Finish

Here are the steps in custom modular construction and the average time each takes.

- Select a design from a building designer or architect specializing in custom modular design.
- Order the home through a local builder authorized by a modular home manufacturer. Shop drawings will be sent by the manufacturer to the builder for final review. The builder or designer should be responsible for technical approval. (2 weeks)
- Apply for constructions loan approval. (4 weeks) This step often runs concurrently with the second step, although some lenders require detailed blueprints before proceeding with the process.
- Release plans to the factory for construction. Local builder constructs foundation and roughs in utility connections while the factory builds the modules. Modules delivered to site. (4 weeks)
- Home is completed on-site. Utilities are connected and site work is completed. For a typical ranch-style house, this takes 3-4 weeks. Two-story homes take 5-6 weeks.

Better Homes and Gardens



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