Mobile/Manufactured Home or Modular - Do You Know The Difference?


  There are both a very common misconception and often disputed belief that Manufactured / Mobile homes are Modular Homes.  They are not.  While it is true that both have components  built in a factory, that is pretty well where the similarities end.  Unfortunately numerous individuals have purchased what they were told and believed to be a Modular home when it fact it was a Mobile Home. This is usually done to obtain easier financing.  That is fraud.

The terminology Mobile Home in the minds of many is a picture of trailers, poor living standards and locations.  For this reason many attempt to inject the more desirable name of "Manufactured" Home instead.  Few really understand what a Manufactured/Mobile is.  However, Manufactured/Mobile housing is titled as a vehicle, while a Modular home is deeded just like a site built structure. 


I have performed mobile home inspections in Lakeport many times and I have done mobile home inspections in Clearlake as well.  The newer models are beautiful, comfortable and have all the amenities someone would want in a home.  I have inspected mobile homes that are thirty years old or more, but have been well maintained and except for the dated cabinetry, no one could even guess the age.  In both cases, these make wonderful affordable housing. 

Mobile/manufactured homes generally have a well laid out floor plan to maximize the square footage. These homes have axles, wheels, electric brakes, heavy steel tow bar/hitches and are towed by trucks designed for this purpose. The mobile home (sigle, double or triple) is transported to its final location with special permits and escorts.  Generally they are designated as single wides, double wides or triple wides.  Each section is built on 2 large steel I-beams for support with other components that differ from a conventional home.  They have the electrical wiring, plumbing, finished walls, installed bathrooms and kitchens, heating systems and appliances already in place.  Most are in 2 sections designed to be fastened together on location with plumbing and wiring and roof tied together after they are set on cement blocks or metal screw jacks.  Some are triple wide and have a 3rd middle section which is also finished inside.  Many of the major items, including appliances are manufactured exclusively for only the Mobile Home industry, e.g furnace, water heater and plumbing materials. 

Contrary to belief and visual aspects mobile homes do not rest on a conventional foundation. They are supposed to be totally supported on the blocks or screw jacks.  In recent years many jurisdictions require a perimeter wall that appears to be a foundation and is referred to as a foundation to enclose the area between the homes floor and the ground beneath it.  It is not a foundation in the true sense as foundations are a support system for a structure. If in fact the Mobile Home was installed with the pressure of its exterior walls sitting on the so called foundation, it would create twisting, sagging and some degree of collapse to the Manufactured/Mobile Home. 
Every Mobile/Manufactured is Numbered and Labeled by HUD.

Manufactured/Mobile Homes are built according to regulations dictated by the Federal Housing and Urban Development and their eventual installation and any additions or remodeling are under these same controls.  In California they are further regulated by the Department of Housing and Community Development.  Federal Regulations mandate that garages, room additions, and decks cannot be directly attached to a Mobile/Manufactured Home.  However, I see these laws ignored over and over again in many counties which do not follow Federal Regulations.


Here are some actual MOBILE HOMES that I personally have been involved with installing.


               Detached Garage Behind                        Detached Garage in Front


The wall assemblies of modular homes are built under engineered guidelines for stability and quality.  They in fact contain more structural support and higher quality materials like lumber for example than the average "stick built home."  These components do not have interior walls, electrical, plumbing and other items installed.  The exterior walls often have the windows installed and covered for protection.  The walls are stacked on flat bed trucks or trailers as freight and upon arrival at the site are unloaded by forklifts.  These exterior and interior walls are then installed according to blue prints the same way conventional building is constructed.  The home may be set on either a raised foundation with a crawl space or on a concrete slab.  These sections are built  to specifications which exceed those for stick built homes, such as bracing and support at corners and around windows and doors.

All products such as plumbing, electrical, roofing, HVAC Systems, appliances and interior walls are conventional in every aspect and are inspected by local code inspectors as the construction progresses.  When properly built they are virtually impossible to identify as a modular vs. a "stick built"  Quality Modulars frequently have less cracking of sheetrock or in corners around doors or windows because of the extra bracing, 2"  x 6" framing and the fact they generally use #1 Kiln dried lumber at the factory.  The exterior walls have more insulation than a conventional 2' x 4" wall and thus are more energy efficient.  It should be noted that some "stick builts" also use 2" x 6" walls.  Modular homes can be and are often 2 stories.

Here are MODULAR HOMES one I built in Clearlake and the other I assisted in planning.

Single Story Modular I Built              2 Story Modular I Worked On