Mobile Home Construction
The quality-and longevity-of a mobile has a lot to do with it’s price when originally constructed. A budget model will only meet minimum HUD standards and, generally, a more expensive model will have better quality materials and construction details. In other words, if the original owner bought a premium line of mobile home, it will likely be sturdier and last longer. Budget models can begin to show signs of deterioration within 10 years if poorly maintained.
At an intuitive level, most people can tell a budget model from a premium one. The basic mobile homes look bare-bones and are never confused with a site-built home. The mid-range are still clearly mobile homes, but have a more house-like proportion and detailing, while the premium models can sometimes be mistaken for a site-built home.
Many of the details of superior construction are hidden within the floor, walls, and ceiling of the home, like the R-value of the insulation and size and spacing of the floor joists, for example. But here’s a chart for analyzing some key visible areas where you can determine if you are looking at a budget, mid-range, or premium mobile home:
- 1) Roof Pitch - Budget models have a low roof pitch of 2/12 (2 inches of rise for every 12 inches of length). This is best gauged when looking directly at the side of the home, like in the photo below. As the quality increases, the roof pitch does also.
- 2) Roof Overhang - The most basic homes have zero or minimal roof overhang at the front and back. This means that water runs down those walls every time it rains—not good for longevity. Again, as the overhang increases, so does the quality of the home.
- 3) Ceiling at exterior walls - Budget homes have a 7-foot ceiling height, measured where the ceiling meeting the front and back walls. Because door height remains constant at 6-foot 8-inches, you can get a good idea of the ceiling height from the outside, by checking the distance from the bottom of the fascia (the board that wraps around the edge of the roof) to the top of the door. Just a few inches means a 7-foot ceiling inside. About 2-feet means a 9-foot ceiling, and a premium home.
- 4) Siding - Panels of wood or particleboard were used as siding on the cheaper homes in the 1980s to early 1990s. Older mobile homes have metal siding regardless of price range. Nowadays, budget homes have economy-grade vinyl siding. Better quality homes have heavier vinyl siding or fiber-cement (such as Hardi-Plank). A particleboard sided home, combined with no roof overhang, always seems to develop moisture intrusion problems and wood rot.
- 5) Front Door - Lesser quality mobile homes have a front door like you might expect on a travel trailer: thinner and lightweight compared to a regular entry door, and usually aluminum. Better quality homes have a steel front door that closely resembles what you would find on a site-built home.
- 6) Roofing - Lower-priced homes have lightweight, economy grade shingles, which are a little difficult to tell from regular 3-tab shingles unless you see them both side-by-side. But premium roofing of what is called “dimensional” or “architectural” shingles is easy to spot, based on the extra thickness at the edge, and adjacent shingles that sit slightly forward or back from each other along the front edge. Economy grade shingles have a shorter lifespan and are more prone to wind damage.
- 7) Interior walls - Budget homes have vinyl-covered wallboard that is butted at the sides. Better quality homes have battens covering the seams at the sides of the boards, and the best quality homes have finished drywall.
- 8) Windows - Years ago, all mobile home windows were were a single thickness of glass. More recently, better quality homes have double-pane insulated glass windows.
This is not intended to be a rigid guideline. We recommend that you check these eight construction details, then use them as a jumping-off point for your own assessment of the quality of the home. Some homes will straddle two categories based on their combination of features.