Modular homes are like the hybrid car of the house-building industry. They save money, they make sense, but they haven't caught on yet. General misconceptions keep many from considering going modular, and the confusion between modular homes and manufactured (mobile) homes has led to regulations and restrictions being placed by towns that have new home builders scared into going the traditional route. But the word is getting out. It turns out modular homes are in many ways superior to stick-built homes, and, once assembled, cannot be distinguished from their traditionally built counterpart.
What is a Modular Home? "There is no such thing as a modular home," states Dave Boniello, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Simplex Industries, a Pennsylvania-based modular home manufacturer. It is a matter of the literal meaning of the word modular, which insinuates a standardized unit or repeatedly used structural component. "The modular homes industry uses a system-built technology," Boniello explains. "The homes are built in a factory in a controlled environment. They are built in a system."
Simply put, a modular home is one that is built in a factory, usually in assembly-line fashion, and then transported to a site in large units. These units are then lifted from the transport by crane and rested on a pre-built foundation and fastened together. The entire process takes a fraction of the time it takes to build a house on-site, and the finished product can cost a good deal less.
Customize, Customize, Customize "There is nothing you cannot do with a modular home." So says Chad Harvey, the Assistant Director of Government Affairs with the Modular Building Systems Association. Harvey, who splits his time between apprising Association members of any new industry regulations and seeking new ways to educate the public on the benefits of modular homes, is a firm believer in the industry he represents. "Anything you want in a modular home, you can have."
Many people incorrectly equate modular homes with manufactured or mobile homes. To these people a modular home is a one-size-fits-all boxy construct made of low-end materials and generic products. "The biggest public misconception on modular homes is that you can only build what is in the brochure," Boniello explains. The ability to fully customize is just one of many distinctions between modular and manufactured housing that Boniello wants the public to be clear on.
Modular homes today can be built to any specification and any size. From a simple one-and-a-half split-level ranch to a grand, three-bath, 3000+ square foot two story — the industry has it covered. And any amenity one can think of can be included. Think whirlpool bath in the master suite, granite countertops in the kitchen, or even structured wiring in every room. Although most modular home companies use the same product for each component of each house on the assembly line, it is still possible to substitute another brand to suit a homeowner's desires.