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It pays to upgrade construction materials

Third of four parts.

If you have followed the recommendations in Part 1 (planning and research) and Part 2 (picking a dealer and manufacturer), you are ready to select your home and its options.

This may well be the most important step in buying a new manufactured home. You are selecting a home you will live in for many years. A home that is properly constructed can eliminate costly repairs and save on energy costs. You will be confident it is structurally sound and has the extras and options you want for your lifestyle.

Part 2 of this series discussed how to evaluate manufacturers and select one that offers quality construction and the right floor plan. In this installment, we will cover construction.

A good manufacturer will modify construction to meet your needs _ for a price. You should be willing to pay for the changes you request. It will be money well-spent. Manufacturers will help you with design changes to the floor plan within reason and will build in options you select. The cost of these extras may sound high, but when you consider that you will be living in this home for many years, and you amortize the additional cost over those years, it becomes relatively small.

What constitutes quality construction? Pick a manufacturer that is already using the techniques and materials you want or is willing to use them to build your home.

+ You want 2- by 8-foot floor joists on 16-inch centers. You want a plywood subfloor that is three-quarter inch or thicker. If particle board is used, it should be water-resistant. The outside walls should be 2 feet by 6 feet on 16-inch centers. Interior walls should be 2 feet by 4 feet on 16-inch centers. Doors and windows should have double or triple headers, 2 feet by 6 feet. The exterior walls should have plywood sheathing that is at least three-eighths of an inch thick. Select a quality, long-lasting lap siding.

+ Be sure your home is well-insulated. The energy savings will be significant. The insulation rating for the walls should be R-21, with at least an R-33 rating for the floors, along with R-38 to R-49 in the roof.

+ Most manufactured homes are built with the roof at a 4-12 pitch; have your home built with a 5-12 pitch or higher. Use a high-quality, 30-year-rated shingle for the roof. Light-colored shingles reflect the sun better than a dark color.

+ Request that the eaves be extended to a 12-foot overhang to minimize water damage.

+ Avoid skylights. Putting holes in your roof can only lead to future water problems, and skylights diminish the insulation value.

+ Make sure your home is delivered with double-pane vinyl windows with a low E rating. (The E rating stands for emissivity, the window's ability to repel outdoor heat and keep cool indoors in summer, and the reverse in winter.) Double-hung windows with screen on the lower half are recommended for those days when you want your windows open.

+ Inside, specify wooden interior doors 32 inches or 36 inches wide. The wider door is better if you need a wheelchair. Request three mortise hinges to minimize sagging and wood molding around doors.

+ The plumbing should be either copper or PVC with metal fittings. You will also want shutoff valves at every fixture.

+ You want a 50-gallon water heater with an easy-to-reach shut-off valve.

+ Select quality plumbing fixtures, making sure that tubs and shower stalls are one piece, and bathroom sinks of porcelain, with stainless steel in the kitchen. Your interior walls should be five-sixteenths-inch gypsum board. The ceilings should be at least five-eighths of an inch thick.

+ Avoid kitchen cabinet doors, drawers and facing made of particle board covered with imitation-wood printed paper. It gets wet and deteriorates quickly. Solid-wood doors or Thermofoil doors will last longer and look better. The cabinet "boxes" themselves are often made from medium-density fiberboard rather than solid wood, which wears well. Shelves should be adjustable and drawers should have metal roller guides.

+ Request a dedicated outlet for your microwave.

+ Request that each room have a box and electric outlet in the ceiling for installation of a ceiling fan. The factory can install the fans or you can purchase them more cheaply and install them after you move in. Ceiling fans throughout your home are a plus in Florida.

+ If you are adding a screen room, request one or two ceiling fan outlets in that room.

+ Install your TV, phone and computer outlets after you move in rather than having it done at the factory. Plan on buying independently your washer, dryer, range and refrigerator. You can select the brand and styles you want and most likely save money.

+ Do not overlook the "aluminum package." This consists of your carport, shed and screen room. This package is installed after the home is built and installed.

+ Do you want your driveway wide enough for two vehicles, side by side, or is single-wide okay?

+ What will you use your shed for? Will it be just for yard tools, maybe your golf cart, or will you want to have a small workshop? Consider having the standard-size shed enlarged to fit your needs. It is expensive to enlarge later on.

+ For the screen room/Florida room/lanai, determine how you plan on using the room. If it has only screening, realize that on hot summer days and those cool days in January and February, you may not want to be out there. You may want to consider vinyl windows (they are hard to clean and do little to keep out the heat or cold), or install regular double-paned windows and extending the heating and cooling system to the room.

Send comments or questions to Len Bonifield at elbgate.net, or fax to (863) 853-8023, or phone (863) 858-1557. Please include your e-mail and mailing address. Because of the volume of mail and phone calls, he can't respond personally to every query. Bonifield is a manufactured-home resident and a past HOA president and former officer of the FMO District 1 board of directors.

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