Fact or Fake: The Truth About Today’s Modular Construction

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The home construction industry is changing. The way we have built homes in the past won’t continue to be the way we build homes in the future. With the shrinking construction labor force, the constant improvements in construction technology, and the constant march towards zero energy homes that are healthy to live in – something has to give. For most, everything you purchase is built in a factory today… except for one thing, your home. Modular is a method of construction, not a type of home. Over the years modular construction has become the superior way to build a new home. The internet has proven to be a great resource to help home buyers learn why building their homes indoors is better. Let’s summarize some of the key facts about today’s modular construction. 

#1 FACT or FAKE: A Modular Home is a Manufactured/Mobile Home  

FAKE: A mobile home is a home that hasn’t existed since before 1976. It was eliminated by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development and a new Federal Building Code was created to offer an affordable class of homes to the masses called Manufactured Homes. These homes are built to a performance standard that can be built at a lower cost and be easily manufactured. These homes are targeted to be built as affordable housing alternatives. The manufactured home industry has tried hard to actually blur the line between a manufactured home and one built using modular construction by creating homes that technically meet site-built code but leaving them on that tell-tale frame. These types of homes are actually prohibited in many states.  

FACT:  The confusion around this one issue has plagued the modular construction industry. The industry hasn’t done itself any favors by having each of these terms start with the same “M” letter and sound the same! The term “modular home” is somewhat of a misnomer. It is a home that is stick built, it is just built offsite in modules. Modular is technically a type of construction, not a type of home. A modular home follows the International Residential Code for construction of Single Family Homes. This is the same building code that site-built homes are required to meet. The difference is that modular homes are built in a factory, delivered to a home site, and placed on a foundation. The home must be built with additional strength to be able to withstand the rigors of the transportation and set process. 

#2 FACT or FAKE: You Can Buy a Modular Home for Half the Price of a Site-Built Home 

FAKE: This probably has more to do with the confusion between a manufactured home, which is built to a building code that allows it to be cheaper, and a modular home which is built to the same building code as a site-built home.  

FACT: A modular home does take advantage of some economies that can make it somewhat more cost-effective. Factories can take advantage of items such as higher buying volumes, concentrated labor forces, and assembly-line construction. The geographic area can also play a role in some of the cost savings. For example, central Pennsylvania is home to many modular home factories. They build and ship homes to higher cost of living areas such as Long Island, NY, and the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The labor costs much less in central Pennsylvania thereby creating significant labor cost savings in the home while at the same time delivering g a better quality product. Overall savings for a modular home are typically 5-10%. While this makes modular homes a great value, it’s not 50% savings 

#3 FACT or FAKE: Modular Homes aren’t Built as well as a Site-Built Home 

FAKE: A home built onsite is engineered for the area in which it will be built. It takes advantage of factory-built roof trusses, factory-built floor trusses, and many other manufactured items. In jurisdictions that have building departments and enforce building codes, a site-built home and a home built using modular construction are built to the same building code. 

FACT: Most homebuyers today have done the research and discovered on their own why a modular home is built just as well, if not even better than a site-built home. A site-built home is just that, built on-site. It is exposed to the weather, availability of materials, and inconsistencies in the workforce. It gets wet and almost all materials are cut outdoors one piece at a time which makes the whole process inconsistent. Modular construction takes place indoors. In addition to building code inspections, quality inspections take place throughout the process. Finally, a modular home is built to structurally handle the additional transportation and installation process that a site-built home never has to endure. A modular home has to be built to a higher standard. 

#4 FACT or FAKE: Modular Homes are Limited to Rectangular and Boxy Designs 

FAKE:  Homes built using modular construction are, by definition, built-in modules. These modules are designed by taking any home plan and dividing it up into modules that can be built, delivered, and assembled on site. Once assembled, the collection of modules can form just about any style or any size of home.  

FACT: Today’s modern modular factories have the ability to build and deliver homes in virtually any style. Modern construction materials such as Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), floor trusses, roof trusses, and even the sophistication of Computer-aided Design (CAD) systems are propelling modular design to the forefront of the building world. 

#5 FACT or FAKE: Modular Homes are Constructed with Low-Quality Products 

FAKE: Much of this goes back to the confusion between manufactured homes and modular homes. A manufactured home is designed to structurally cost less to manufacture to make it available to more people as affordable housing. Another way to do that is to complete a manufactured home with lower quality items such as thinner carpet, cheaper cabinets, and thinner walls. Products and fixtures such as faucets and lighting are all designed to be cheaper to make the home more affordable. 

FACT: Modular homes are built using the exact same items as you would find in a home built on site. Structurally, the home is even built to a higher standard than is built onsite. However, the exterior and interior products used are the same. Hardwood flooring, tile, and high-quality cabinets are installed in modular homes the same as site-built homes. Lighting and plumbing fixtures are the same name brands you would find at local lighting or kitchen and bath showroom. You can choose the options you want when it comes to meeting the budget for your new home. 

#6 FACT or FAKE: Modular Homes aren’t as Safe as a Site-Built Home 

FAKE: The news takes the opportunity; after every hurricane, tornado, or other natural disasters, to barrage us with footage of the damage and devastation that was just unleashed on a nearby mobile home park. Again, this isn’t modular construction. These are manufactured, or even older mobile homes, that are being displayed on the evening news.  

FACT: The U.S. government completed a study after Hurricane Andrew in Florida and noted the superior construction of modular homes that held up better than site-built homes in that same disaster. Following Superstorm Sandy that hit New Jersey and New York, pictures came back showing that homes that withstood the storm the best were modular homes. After that storm, a large part of the homes replaced were replaced with a modular home. Modular homes, being built in modules, are assembled into a more sound structure that is just better able to withstand Mother Nature’s forces.  

Do Your Own Research on Modular Construction  

There is more information than ever before on the Internet about modular construction. Do your own research. Do searches for topics such as: 

construction labor shortage 

modular home design 

modular home construction 

Find out for yourself how better quality, higher energy performance, and design flexibility are now the hallmarks of modular homes. The technology of modern modular construction is propelling modularly constructed homes to the forefront of home design.  

With labor constraints that are only growing in the construction industry, modular homes are finding their way into the mainstream of construction. The Internet and savvy home buyers are putting the helping put the fake information about modular construction to rest. The facts are coming out and modern modular construction is positioned to the new way homes are built in the United States!  

About the Author
Ken Semler

Ken Semler

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Hi, I am Ken Semler the founder of Impresa Modular. I am passionate about our company and the homes that we provide. Modern modular construction enables us to deliver healthy, safe, and energy-efficient living spaces. Impresa Modular is a licensed/registered/certified builder/contractor in almost every state. I believe that modular homes provide the best way to deliver virtually unlimited design flexibility at the greatest value.

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Comments 2

    1. Ken Semler Post

      It really depends on several factors such as your location in the country, the style of home, and the impact of builder availability in your area. In the south modular construction is typically at about the same costs as on site construction. The benefits are that it is built to a higher quality standard and the time-frame is much quicker. However, if the local builders are all busy and you can’t get a home built, sometimes you may have to pay a premium just to build a home.

      In the northern regions and in urban areas, modular is almost always a better value. For example, on Long Island modular construction could save 10-25% on a comparable site built home. Again, the other benefits don’t change. Modular homes tend to be build stronger, built better, and built faster than comparable homes constructed onsite.

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