When is a Modular Home Not the Best Choice?

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Using modular construction to build your new custom home offers many advantages. Building your new home indoors and protected from the elements reduces its exposure to moisture, practically eliminating the opportunity for mold and mildew growth. It also promotes quality construction using a building system that is monitored and inspected for consistency. A factory’s purchasing power creates the ability to provide a home at the absolute best value possible. However, sometimes a modular home just isn’t the best option.

Getting a Modular Home to the Site

Modular home sections are typically large “boxes” or modules. These modules come in widths of 12, 14, and 16 feet wide. In some locations, factories can produce modules that can be as large as 18 to 20 feet wide. Most home sections come in lengths that range from 28 feet long up to 76 feet long.  While the sections are large, they are delivered by expert drivers in specialized trucks on unique carriers. This allows these sections to get to places that most would think would be impossible.

There are many obstacles that can get in the way of either delivering the modules of a home or inhibit the setting of the modules on the homes foundation. These can include trees, telephone poles, power lines, narrow streets/roads, curvy streets/roads, nearby buildings, etc. The industry has been very inventive when it comes to creating specialized equipment to get modules to just about any location. Here are some items that can help get a home to the most restrictive locations.

Toter Truck – A home is pulled on the highway and to the home site with a specialized truck known as a toter truck. There are many version of this type of truck. When being pulled on the main highways toter trucks usually have tandem axles and large bodies making it ride smoothly for traveling the longer distances home sites in a region. However, on side streets and rural roads their length can limit maneuvering ability. Smaller, single axle toters with specialized hitches that can move in multiple directions can make getting modules to a home site much easier.

House Cat or Tug – A house cat is basically a mini bulldozer that is remote controlled. An operator controls the miniature unit that is actually very heavy but very nimble. It can make very sharp turns in very tight areas. Because of its weight and tracks, it is also very good at getting modular sections up steep hills and mountains. While it may move slowly, speed isn’t the consideration when it comes to getting a houses modules to the site location.

Jade – A Jade is a piece of equipment that attaches to the rear of the frame of the carrier used to transport a module to a home site. The wheels of the Jade are remote controlled and the piece of equipment can also lift the carrier vertically. This machine allows an operator to have an extreme range of motion when navigating bends, curves and turns with long modules.

Translift – A Translift is a machine that is basically a steel I-beam on tracks. This machine can be maneuvered under a modular carrier to lift it and then move the carriers from side to side. While it doesn’t have the range of motion that a Jade has, it is faster to get into position when all that is needed is a little help to get around a tight turn.

Even with all of this specialized equipment, sometimes a road is too narrow or a bridge isn’t rated for the weight of a module and its carrier. In those unique instances, a modular home can’t be delivered to the home site eliminating the use of modular construction for a new custom home.

Designed for Delivery?

Modular construction has evolved over years. The sophistication and complexity of design that a modular home factory can build has grown substantially over the years. Generally, factories with the most advanced technology that can produce modular homes with assembly line techniques are located in the eastern U.S. While many factories exist that can produce truly unique homes through the rest of the country, they seem to be the most prevalent in the Mid-Atlantic States and in the Northeast.

Styles such as chalet with towering vaulted ceilings and homes with large, open areas on structural walls can be built in a factory. This is accomplished using steel integrated into the construction of a home or with engineered lumber where it can be integrated to meet the needs of the home design. This is built in a factory in a way that it can be installed at a site creating home designed for the needs of today’s home buyer.


The question that must be asked: Is it cost effective? Just because it can be designed to be built using modular construction, should it? Most home designs are readily built in a factory and can be relatively easily delivered to a home site for installation on a foundation. However, there are some designs that can be built using the advantages of factory construction but they are just so complex and require extensive site work to assemble making the actually more expensive to build using modular construction. The additional costs needed to transport the modules to a site or the site completion costs need to be evaluated when determining the best construction method to use when building a new home.

The Modular Advantage

As a proponent of modular construction, the opportunity to provide custom homes built in a factory just makes sense. The protection from the weather, the value that can be achieved, and the quality that can be delivered all add up to make modular construction the premier method for delivery a home. But the reality is that you have to be able to deliver that homes modules to a site and you have to be able to do it cost effectively. The industry has created highly specialized equipment to get modules practically anywhere. In those few instances where a site is just unreachable, modular construction isn’t an option for a home’s construction.

Very few limitations exist when designing a home that will be built using modular construction. A professional builder that really understands construction and the modular method will evaluate a complex home project to determine how best to build it. Most of the time modular is an excellent choice. However, there are a few rare instances where a home’s unique design can be delivered more cost effectively using another building system.

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 3

    1. Ken Semler Post

      I would guess the cost of the home or the location you would want to place it would have to be very unique to make it worth the expense. In all my years of delivering and setting modular homes I have heard a legend about someone doing that once. It was in a remote area and I believe I saw a picture of what someone said was the home being lifted by the helicopter. However, the precision needed to set the home perfectly on a foundation with the bouncing and moving of a helicopter just seems too hard to accomplish easily. I think we will stick to sites that can use a crane or a slide on technique at the home site!

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