Friday, January 24, 2014

A terrific blog entry by showing the benefits of modular homes over stick-built:

Modular vs. stick-built homes

Homeowners looking to build a new house have more options available to them than simply size, style, and materials.  The building method is also an increasingly complex choice with the rise and advancements of modular building.
Deconstructing the Building Method
Traditional building methods – known as stick building – haven’t changed much over the years.  The house is constructed on site using materials workers brought to the site for this purpose.
Modular building, on the other hand, takes place almost entirely off site.  With the exception of site improvement and foundation work, the house is constructed in modular units by craftsmen who are each skilled in a specific part of the building.  The finished boxes are transported to the jobsite where they are lifted into place and secured to each other and the foundation.
Differences between the Two Methods
The biggest difference between the two building methods is where they are constructed; both methods can give you a house in nearly any style, size, and shape, and both methods cost approximately the same amount.  Modular homes are built indoors, away from the elements, constructed with precision, aided by a state-of-the-art computerized production line.  The finished units are transported to the site, instead of being built there.
The other major difference lies in the construction itself; because a modular home has to be lifted on and off of trucks, it has to be built more securely.  According to Michael Tornillo, the managing director for Superior Built Development, LLC, “On average, a modular home incorporates 20% to 30% more lumber in the dwelling to hold up under shipping and setting conditions.  Just imagine lifting a stick built home by securing it with wires to a crane, and lifting it off its foundation.  The structure would surely fail somewhere. Whereas, lifting and setting a modular home with a crane is the standard, done thousands of times a month. Each one is set safely and securely.  In fact, in many situations, the house can be dissembled years later and still hold up under the stress.”
Additionally, “Most traditional homes use 2×4 outer wall construction, whereas all of our modular homes use 2×6 perimeter wall construction, thus making for a sturdier structure and allowing much thicker insulation to be used. The cost of heating and cooling a modular home because of the construction standards are much less expensive and highly economical for the home owner.”
Take a look at the pros and cons of each building method, to shed some light on additional differences between them.
Benefits of Traditional Building Methods
Traditional building has been around for years, and despite the rise of modular building techniques, it isn’t going anywhere soon. This is due in part to the popularity and familiarity of the building technique.
Most people who are looking to build a home are familiar with at least some of the methods. This familiarity offers some level of security and control that most homeowners feel comfortable with; during the year long process of building the home. Homeowners can make multiple trips to see the construction, offer input, and feel that they are taking part in the process.
Photo courtesy of K2 Contracting
Other benefits to traditional building methods include:
  • The house is built right on site, so there’s no need to worry about damage during transportation
  • Homeowners can watch the building process taking place
  • Lack of misconception – in some areas a modular home is the name given to a mobile home unit, and these homes may sell for considerably less money at resale even if attached to a foundation
Drawbacks of Traditional Building Methods
Unfortunately, while traditional building methods offer a certain familiarity and level of comfort for the homeowner, they have multiple drawbacks as well. Among other things, traditional building methods:
  • Take longer to complete – a year or more from start to finish
  • Are only as high in quality as the builder – homeowners who don’t know the builders they are using may hire people who aren’t using the best materials or technique for the job
  • Can have a lot of unexpected costs – the long building process means that delays, changes, and other issues could add to the cost of the project
  • Are exposed to the elements during the entire building process before the house can be sealed – this may lead to structural problems if enough harsh weather has is experienced
Benefits of Modular Building Methods
Depending upon the builder, you may find that modular homes are available in the same styles and materials that stick built homes are.  Which means you can get a quality home built in far less time than traditional building methods use. Tornillo adds, “With site preparation, and completion of the dwelling after delivery, we can have a customer in their new home in as little as 90 to 120 days depending on the variables we face in the field.”  This is a big difference than the months-long process that accompanies traditionally built homes.
 Photo courtesy of Superior Built Modular Homes
Additional benefits to modular building methods include:
  • A home that is built indoors, out of the elements
  • Each part of the home is built by someone that specializes in that section – they may do nothing else but work on windows, for example, which means you have less room for error
  • In some areas, inspections are carried out in the factory, rather than on site, which saves additional time and reduces the chances of failing an inspection.
  • Modular homes must conform to federal building regulations, in addition to state and local codes and regulations, ensuring they are built to the highest standards.
Drawbacks to Modular Building Methods
While current and future modular building methods offer a lot of advantages over stick built homes, they do have some drawbacks that need to be considered by homeowners looking to build a new home.  The biggest drawback is the many misconceptions that surround the method.
Many homeowners may feel that they are getting a deal on a home, when in reality, as Tornillo notes, “The misconception is that modular homes are somehow less expensive to build.  That is not the case.  The costs of the materials are a little less expensive because of the massive buying power the manufacture has by centrally purchasing and the labor costs are controlled because each craftsman is working on a specific task every day, five or even six days per week.”
This misconception leads homeowners to feel the product may not be the same quality.  The myth also remains in many parts of the country that modular homes are not “real” houses.
In some instances, a modular home could prove difficult to ship, stage, and set, making the process much more expensive, justifying a field built home.  Field conditions also play a major role in making a decision to go modular, and some subdivisions also have neighborhood associations that prohibit or restrict this type of building.  Homeowners may have to challenge these restrictions to get the home built.
Stick versus Modular
While stick building will always have a place in the building industry, the many advantages to modular building mean that this method may become more popular in time. Tornillo, who has worked in the building industry since the early 1980′s believes, “… that, given an educated public, modular homes will become the standard in future years as opposed to the alternate.”
If you’re building a new home, consider looking into modular building in your area, to compare costs and timeframes for yourself.
Let us know what you think in our remodeling forum.
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