A model modular home sits atop a table with blueprints underneath it

If you’re considering a modular home, you probably have many questions. Such as what exactly is a modular or prefab home, what the benefits are, and whether I can build one anywhere. 

This article will answer many of your questions and give you a better understanding of modular homes. So, keep reading to learn more!

What Is a Modular Home?

A modular home is a home built in sections, or modules, in a factory and then shipped to the building site. The modules are then assembled by a contractor and finished with exterior siding, roofing, and other details.

These homes have become increasingly popular in recent years because they offer several advantages over traditional stick-built homes, such as quicker construction time, better quality control, and increased energy efficiency.

The following video describes modular homes in detail, which may be helpful to watch and gain further insights into the benefits:

Screenshot from a video explaining the ins and outs of modular homes.
Courtesy of Kristina Smallhorn

Note: Modular homes are also called prefabricated homes or factory-built homes. So, whenever you see any of those terms, know they mean the same thing.

How Long Does It Take To Set a Modular Home on a Foundation?

It takes four to eight weeks to set a modular home on a foundation. An experienced modular builder can complete the process in as little as four weeks if the weather is favorable and the materials are readily available. However, inclement weather, such as heavy rains or snow, can delay the process.

In most cases, you can prepare the foundation while the home is being built, helping speed up the process. 

Nonetheless, several factors can impact the timeline, such as:

  • The size and complexity of the foundation – a simple concrete slab will take less time to prepare than a more complex foundation, such as one with a basement.
  • The weather – bad weather can delay the construction process.
  • The availability of materials – if the materials needed to build the foundation aren’t readily available, it can take longer to complete the project. For instance, you may struggle to find a specific type of soil locally and need to buy it from a far-off location, which can take time.
  • The builder’s experience – an experienced builder can complete the project in a shorter time than someone inexperienced.

Can You Buy a Modular Home With a Garage?

You can buy a modular home with a garage. However, adding a garage may increase the overall cost of your modular home. Nonetheless, the total price for a modular home with a garage is still cheaper than building a traditional stick-built home with a garage.

According to Next Modular, a prefab home builder, the primary types of garages you can choose for your modular home include:

  • Detached garage – a detached garage isn’t attached to your home. The manufacturer builds the garage as a separate structure from your home and then delivers it to the site.
  • Attached garage – an attached garage shares at least one wall with your home. The builder constructs the garage on-site and secures it to your home.
  • Integrated garage – an integrated garage shares all four walls with your home and is built as part of the main structure. Therefore, it shares a foundation, HVAC system, and roof with your home.

Do Modular Homes Have Thin Walls?

Modular homes don’t have thin walls. Typically, prefabs come with 2 to 4-inch (2.5-5 cm) walls. Although that’s 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) thinner than the average stick-built home, the walls make up for it with extra supports.

As a result, modular homes are just as strong as traditional homes. They can withstand high winds and earthquakes just as well, if not better.

Overhead view looking down at a modular home partially-assembled on site

Additionally, modular homes are designed to meet or exceed all local building codes, meaning they must meet the same standards as any other type of home. As a result, modular homes are just as well-constructed as any other type of home on the market. 

Can a Modular Home Have a Basement?

A modular home can have a basement. Basements are typically constructed by excavating the soil beneath the house and pouring a concrete slab to serve as the floor. After the concrete has cured, builders can construct the basement’s walls and roof, followed by installing utilities.

Many believe modular homes can only be built on a crawlspace or slab foundation. However, constructing a modular home with a basement foundation is possible. 

There are several benefits to choosing a basement foundation for a modular home, including:

  • A basement provides additional living space – especially beneficial if the modular home will be located in an area with a high cost of living.
  • A basement provides extra storage or working space – you can use it to store seasonal items and holiday decor or as a workshop or hobby space.
  • A basement can increase the resale value of a modular home – it makes the home more attractive to potential buyers and leads to a higher sales price.

Key Takeaway: If you’re considering a modular home, ask your builder about the possibility of including a basement foundation. It’s a great way to add extra living and storage space or even increase the resale value of your home.

Do Modular Homes Have HUD Tags?

Modular homes do not have HUD tags. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not a viable option for a home. Prefabs are built per local building codes and are inspected throughout the construction process to ensure they meet high safety standards.

A modular home is assembled in a factory

Once the home is complete, it undergoes a final inspection by the local building department to get its certificate of occupancy. Some states also have their own additional requirements for modular homes. 

The HUD tag is a crucial element of a manufactured home. The tag is a 2×4 inches (5.1-10.16 cm) metal plate affixed outside the home. The HUD tag contains essential information, including the manufacture date, name of the manufacturer, and the address of the site where it built the house. 

If you want to buy a manufactured home, but the HUD tag is missing, contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It’ll send a Letter of Label Verification, providing the same information on the HUD tag. 

The Bottom Line: While modular homes don’t have HUD tags, they’re still subject to rigid construction standards and inspections. That means you can be confident in the quality of your modular home.

Do You Have To Pay Sales Tax on a Modular Home?

Yes, you must pay sales tax on a modular home. In most states, the rate for a modular home is  between 50-65% of the home’s total cost. The remaining 35-50% is untaxed since it includes delivery, installation, and other associated costs, which aren’t subject to sales tax.

For example, if you buy a modular home for $100,000, expect a sales tax applied to anywhere from $50,000 to $65,000. If your state charges a sales tax of 6%, you’ll owe $3,000-$3,900 in taxes.

Generally, some states, such as Minnesota, exempt the buyers of used prefabs that have been previously taxed from paying sales tax on the home. So, if you’re buying a used modular home, check with your state to see if you’re eligible for an exemption.

Can a Modular Home Have a Steel Frame?

A modular home can have a steel frame. On-frame modular homes have a steel frame, while off-frame versions don’t have a steel frame. That frame is the main support structure for the entire modular home.

The steel frame of a modular home is made up of several parts, including the floor joists, walls, and roof trusses. The structure is designed to support the weight of the home and its contents. It’s also designed to resist wind, snow, and earthquake loads.

The steel frame of a modular home is typically made from cold-formed steel, which is stronger and more durable than other types of steel. Cold-formed steel is also resistant to fire, rot, and pests.

A steel frame is typically more durable than a wood frame, yet it’s also more expensive. If you’re considering a modular home with a steel frame, factor in the additional cost.

Is a Modular Home a Trailer?

A modular home is not a trailer. A trailer is a temporary or semi-permanent structure not intended to be a permanent dwelling. On the other hand, prefab homes are designed as permanent dwellings and must meet all the exact building code requirements as a site-built home.

Modular homes are also built-in factories, but they’re constructed in sections, then transported to the build site and assembled. Unlike trailers, modulars aren’t designed to be moved once established.

A module of a modular home being lowered by a crane with a worker grasping it as it comes down

Key Takeaway: A modular home is an excellent option if you’re looking for a permanent dwelling. However, a trailer would better suit your needs if you’re looking for something temporary or semi-permanent.

Can You Take Modular Walls Down Once They Are Up?

You can take modular walls down once they are up, but it’s not always easy. 

Modular structures are designed to be assembled quickly and easily. Hence, the walls usually come together with screws or other connectors, allowing them to be taken down just as easily.

You might be surprised to learn you can take modular home walls down once they’re up, but there are a few things you need to know before you begin. Mostly, it’s crucial to understand how the builder constructed your modular home to determine if deconstruction is a viable option. 

Since prefab homes are built in sections transported to the site and assembled, walls that aren’t load-bearing, meaning they don’t support the weight of the roof or floors. The walls do, however, provide stability and help keep the home from shifting.

The lower level of a modular home partially laid on it's foundation at the home site

Therefore, before removing any walls, it’s essential to prop up the roof and floors, so they don’t collapse. Once the roof and floors are supported, you can take the walls down. It’s best to work slowly and carefully to avoid damaging the other modules or injuring yourself.

Caveat: If something goes wrong during the assembly process or there’s a problem with the home later on, it may not be possible to take the walls down without causing damage. It’s always best to consult with a professional before taking down any walls.

Do Modular Homes Have Titles Like Manufactured Homes?

Modular homes do not have titles like manufactured homes. In most states, they are treated the same as traditional stick-built homes for purposes of titling and financing.

However, there is one exception—Louisiana. 

In Louisiana, modular dwellings must have a certificate of title, just like a manufactured home. The Louisiana Manufactured Housing Commission must issue the title before the house can be sold or transferred.

If you’re considering a modular home in Louisiana, be sure to factor in the cost of getting a certificate of title.

Can You Add On To a Modular House?

Yes, you can add on to a prefab home. However, it’s essential to take the necessary precautions to ensure that the addition is safe and structurally sound. For instance, hire a qualified engineer or architect to determine the best way to extend the foundation of your home.

Once the new foundation is in place, the manufacturer can deliver and install the new modules on top. It may be necessary to clad the addition in the same type of siding and roofing material to match the appearance of the rest of the house.

Caution: Getting all the necessary permits before adding to your modular home is essential. Otherwise, you could be forced to remove the addition and pay hefty fines.

Do You Need a Building Permit?

You need a building permit for a modular home, just as you would for any other type of house. A prefab home is essentially the same as any other type of house, and it must meet all local building codes and zoning requirements.

To get a building permit for a modular home, you must submit plans to your local building department. 

The plans should include:

  • Dimensions of the house: length, width, and height.
  • Type of foundation: slab, crawlspace, or basement.
  • Type of framing: wood, steel, or concrete.
  • Location of doors and windows: size, type, and number.
  • Type of siding and roofing: material, color, and style.
  • Type of heating and cooling system: forced air, radiant, or evaporative.

In some cases, you may also need to submit a site plan that shows the house’s location on the property. Once the plans are approved, you’ll be able to obtain a building permit and begin construction. Remember, you’ll need to hire a licensed contractor to do the work.

Do Modulars Usually Come With Appliances?

Some modular homes usually have appliances, but this isn’t always the case. In some instances, they are included in the sticker price. Therefore, it’s best to check with the manufacturer or dealer to find out if appliances are included.

When people think of modular housing, they often imagine a basic shell that needs to be finished on the inside. However, most modular homes have many features and amenities, including appliances. Some common examples include ovens, dryers, and refrigerators.

An appliance package pictured together up against the wall of a home, including a washer, dryer, and fridge

In addition to making the home more livable, these appliances can increase its resale value. Be sure to ask what devices are included if considering buying a modular house. You might be surprised at just how much your new home offers.

Can You Remodel Parts of a Modular Home?

You can remodel parts of a modular home. For smaller projects, you might be able to get away with painting or adding new cabinets or countertops. 

However, if you’re planning something more extensive, like redoing an entire room, hire a contractor who specializes in modular remodeling. 

When people think of prefab homes, they often picture identical houses lined up in a cookie-cutter development. But they can be pretty versatile, and many people are surprised to learn that you can remodel parts of them. 

For instance, let’s say you want to add a second story to your house. In most cases, this is possible. The foundation and first floor will already be in place, so the only task left is adding the framing and concluding touches for the second story.

Or perhaps you want to give your modular house a new look on the outside. While the exterior of most modular dwellings is non-removable, you can usually make changes by adding new siding or changing the trim. 

In other words, you don’t have to write off purchasing a modular home just because you think it might be inflexible. On the contrary, with a bit of imagination, you might be surprised at what you can do with it.

Can Modular Homes Be Installed on Slab Foundations?

Modular homes cannot be installed on slab foundations. Instead, they need a crawl space or basement foundation for support. On their own, slab foundations aren’t strong enough to support the weight of a modular home.

A partially-built basement foundation for a modular home

Here are a few reasons why a slab foundation is not sufficient for a modular home:

  • As mentioned, they are built in sections in a factory and then transported to the site – sections must be lifted by crane and set on the foundation. A slab foundation doesn’t provide the necessary support for this process.
  • They are designed to be placed on permanent foundations – a slab foundation isn’t considered permanent, and the warranty may not cover the house if it’s placed on one.
  • Modular homes must be anchored to the foundation to resist high winds. Without a crawl space or basement, there’s no way to secure the house to the foundation.
  • They also must have access to plumbing and electrical lines for hook-up. These lines are typically located in the crawl space or basement and aren’t accessible with a slab foundation.

How Much Wind Can a Modular Home Withstand?

A modular home can withstand winds up to 110 mph (177 kph). The walls are designed to be exceptionally sturdy, and the roof can withstand a great deal of pressure. Besides, the home is anchored to the foundation with metal straps, so it can withstand high winds without being damaged.

When it comes to wind, modular homes are built to withstand a lot. As mentioned, most modular homes can handle winds over 100 miles per hour, making them some of the most wind-resistant homes on the market.

There are a few reasons for this, including: 

  • They are built in a factory setting, allowing greater quality control – the homes are also designed to meet local building codes, which means they must adhere to strict wind-resistance standards. 
  • Modular homes are typically made with solid materials, such as steel or reinforced concrete – these materials help to create a robust framework that can withstand high winds. 
  • They are often equipped with wind-resistant, impact-resistant windows and doors – these features help reduce the damage caused by flying debris in high winds. 
  • Prefab homes are often anchored to the foundation with large steel bolts – that helps ensure that the homestays are in place during strong winds. 

Still, if you’re looking to increase your modular home’s wind resistance, here are a few things you can do: 

  • Install impact-resistant windows and doors – this helps reduce the damage caused by flying debris in high winds. 
Looking out from inside a home through a PGT Winguard Energy Star Hurricane Window
  • Anchor the home to the foundation – this helps to ensure the house stays in place during strong winds. 
  • Install hurricane shutters – this helps to protect your windows and doors from wind and flying debris. 

Ultimately, a modular home is still a great option if you’re in an area prone to high winds. Just take some extra precautions to increase your home’s wind resistance further.

Can a Modular Home Have an Attic?

A modular home can have an attic; many include one as part of the design. Attics are great for extra storage or as a bedroom or office.

Discuss any interest in including an attic with your builder during the design process. They’ll help you choose a suitable space for your needs.

In addition, some tips for designing an attic space in your modular home include: 

  • Ensure sufficient headroom – an attic should have at least 7 feet (2.1 meters) of headroom to be usable. 
  • Consider the access – attics can be accessed via a staircase, ladder, or trap door. Choose the option that will work best for your needs. 
  • Think about the insulation – attic spaces can get very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. Be sure to insulate the area well to ensure comfort all year round. 
  • Choose the right windows – attic windows should be energy-efficient and allow plenty of natural light.

Can You Build a Modular Home Anywhere?

You can build a modular home anywhere there’s a foundation to support it. These homes can be customized and delivered to remote locations. However, you must have the land and the necessary permits.

Here are three reasons why you can build a modular home virtually anywhere: 

  • Since they’re built in a controlled factory environment, they’re not as impacted by weather delays as traditional stick-built homes. 
  • Once the modules are delivered to the building site, they’re placed by a crane and then fastened together. That means the construction process is relatively quick and easy, even in remote locations. 
  • Since they’re built in sections, modular homes can be designed to fit any lot size or shape. 

That said, here are a few guidelines that may come in handy when choosing a location for your prefab home, including: 

  • The land should be level – this makes it easier to install the foundation and set the modules in place. 
A bulldozer levels ground for a modular home
  • The land should have good drainage – it helps to prevent flooding and water damage. 
  • The land should have utilities – this makes it easier to connect your home to water, electricity, and other services. 

Key Takeaway: If you’re interested in building a modular home, be sure to do your research and choose a location that meets your needs. With some planning, you can make your dream home virtually anywhere.

How Long Do Modular Homes Last?

Modular homes last up to 50 years, just like any other home. These homes are built to last, and with proper maintenance, they can stay in good condition for decades.

A few critical reasons prefabs last long include:

  • They’re constructed using high-quality materials and construction methods, meaning they can withstand the elements and everyday wear and tear. 
  • These homes are built in a controlled factory environment – therefore, the materials aren’t exposed to the elements during construction.
  • Factory-built homes are also less likely to have defects – all the materials and components are checked before being used in the construction process.
  • Prefabs undergo rigorous inspections during and after construction – any defects are corrected before the home is delivered to the site.

Once your modular home is delivered and assembled, you can expect it to last for decades with proper care.

Here are a few tips to help you maintain your modular home, including: 

  • Inspect the exterior regularly – look for cracks, holes, or other damage. Repair any damage promptly to prevent further deterioration.
  • Clean the exterior – remove dirt, leaves, and debris from the surface of your home. Upkeep helps to prevent mold and mildew from growing.
  • Trim trees and shrubs – keep trees and shrubs trimmed back from your home. This helps prevent damage to the siding and windows.
  • Repair any damage – don’t neglect any damage, no matter how small. Allowing damage to persist will only make it worse and more expensive to repair.
  • Have your home inspected – have a professional inspect your home every few years. That way, you can catch any problems early and have them fixed before they cause significant damage.

What Are the Advantages of Modular Homes?

The advantages of modular homes are that they are built quickly, are cost-effective, and eco-friendly, and you can customize them to your needs. In addition, these homes are solid and durable, lasting up to 50 years with proper care.

In general, modular construction is the way to go if you’re looking for a high-quality, affordable, and eco-friendly home. Prefab homes eliminate the hassles of traditional stick-built construction while still delivering all the features and benefits you desire.

The roof modules of a white modern modular home

What Are the Disadvantages of Modular Homes?

The disadvantages of prefab houses are that it can be challenging to find lenders who finance them, you must own the land where they’ll be placed, and you need an experienced contractor to assemble them.

Even though modular homes have a few disadvantages, they’re still a wise option for many homebuyers. If you’re considering one, do your research and work with an experienced and reputable builder.

For more information on modular homes, read Modular Buildings – Owner’s Guide: Basic Commercial Modular Construction by Stephen W. Menke (available on Amazon.com).

The book provides crucial insights into the modular construction process, how to choose the right company for the job, permitting, and safety considerations, making it a worthwhile read when planning your construction project.

Wrapping Up

Now that you know more about modular homes, you can decide if they’re the right option. If you have further questions, consult a professional builder or architect. They can help you create the perfect custom home for your needs.

Remember to do your research before you commit to anything. With some planning, you can build your dream home virtually anywhere. 

Best of luck!


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