Many times prefab and manufactured homes look alike, but under their outward appearances there are major differences. Some of the things you should know are listed below.
Prefab homes are built and shipped in sections, then assembled on site. There are basically two types: modular built and panel built.
Modular Homes, as the name implies, are built by assembling box-like modules. Modules are factory built according to the purchaser’s specifications then fitted together on site. Because the modules are transported on flatbed trucks, the rooms tend to be limited in size.
Panel built homes are built by first laying the floor, then lowering the walls into place. This type of construction allows larger areas and higher ceilings since construction is not limited to the sizes of modules available. Larger homes are usually less expensive when constructed this way. It is not uncommon for the floors to be delivered with permanently installed items, such as toilets, sinks, or dishwashers already bolted in place.
Modular housing does not allow for additional structures such as garages or porches. But by combining modular and panel built technologies these can be added. Up to 90% of the home’s construction can be completed in this way. Because the components are pre-built at the factory, prefab homes are usually built much faster than ‘stick’ built homes.
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Manufactured homes, sometimes mistakenly referred to as mobile homes, are built at a factory and shipped on their own wheels. They are constructed on a steel frame and no further construction is required other than fitting the sections (doublewide, triplewide) together, if needed. They are mounted on jacks or piers on firm ground or concrete, often with the wheels still attached. Outside skirting is then added to hide the wheels and mounting devices. Manufactured homes have more maintenance issues. And they do not hold up as well over time.
Prefab, modular and panel built homes, are subjected to the same state and federal building codes as conventionally built homes. Manufactured homes need only to meet HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) standards.
Manufactured homes depreciate in value. Prefab homes, like conventional homes, usually increase in value over time.
Because they are manufactured in their entirety in a factory setting, manufactured homes are extremely limited in design options or changes. Any changes in appearance, inside or out, will have to done by the owner after placement. Prefab homes, on the other hand, can be custom made, redesigned, and remodelled much like any other home.
Because of the reinforcement qualities inherent in the box construction, modular homes are usually stronger than conventionally built homes or manufactured homes.
In most cases, prefab homes are less expensive to build than conventional homes. Manufactured homes are even less expensive, with the added bonus that they can be moved, if necessary.
The heavier, more solid construction of prefab homes makes them more energy efficient than the lighter built manufactured homes.
Although in some areas zoning laws are less accepting of prefab homes (a situation which is rapidly changing), it is much easier to find an acceptable location to build. Manufactured homes are frequently limited to parks designed for that purpose.
It all depends on what you’re looking for but, in general, it appears that a prefab would be the preferred choice in most cases.