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Factory-built homes from the ground up

Published Aug. 27, 2005

Had I read How and Why to Buy a Factory-Built Home by Don O. Carlson (Automated Builder, $34.95) earlier, this review would have been the first segment in my recent four-part series on "How to Buy a New Manufactured Home." Don Carlson is editor and publisher of the national magazine Automated Builder, which covers factory-built housing. He is well-respected in the industry, knows whereof he writes and obviously favors manufactured housing.

This 98-page manual's 11 chapters present reasons why people should buy a factory-built home. The first 25 pages cover the differences between site-built and factory-built homes.

Carlson opens Chapter 1 with, "What major products which you buy today come to you unassembled for you to put together _ or to hire someone to put together _ before you can use them? Do they deliver your telephone in parts for you to assemble? Is your washer/dryer dumped from the back of a pickup in your driveway for you to assemble?" Why, he asks, would you buy a house to be put together piece by piece? Carlson believes site-built homes are not the best answer. What do you see outside every site-built home? Trash bins filled with waste lumber. Your site-built home will become the victim of the weather during construction: rain, wind, wind-blown sand and dirt. What does inclement weather do to your materials or to the construction? Wet drywall can be ruined or damaged, yet often is still installed in your home. Lumber can be soaked in the rain and installed in your home still wet.

Site-built homes usually take four to six months to build (all the while entirely out in the open), with a number of subcontractors putting in their workmanship with little supervision or direction. It is easy to cover up mistakes in site-built homes. I remember when we were having a home built in New Jersey. I usually stopped by every day to check on things. One day I discovered the drywall guy putting panels on the ceiling in the family room and I noticed that the vent in the ceiling for the dryer was not connected to the exhaust in the wall. He was going to cover that up with his drywall. If I had not been there to stop him, think of the problems that could have created. Work stopped until a couple of days later when the vent guy could come back and fix his mistake.

A factory-built home is constructed entirely inside. Every step is plotted and built following computerized plans. The building materials are not subject to harsh weather. HUD-Code homes (factory-built homes we live in) are built according to strict requirements and inspected by government inspectors to ensure that they follow the national code. The time required to build a factory home, even with the changes you request, is short, sometimes in a few days or couple of weeks. Because they can be built quickly, with little or no waste, free from the problems of theft of materials and parts on site-built homes, they are priced 40 to 60 percent lower than a similar site-built home.

In Chapter 5, Carlson analyzes the 10 myths about factory-built homes, such as "Factory-built home quality is poor," "Factory-built units are not strong," or "Factory-built homes are not safe."

Carlson points out in Chapter 7 that "today, HUD-Code industry (manufactured) enjoys the only national pre-emptive performance building code in America." This means that all HUD-Code homes are inspected in the factory by a third-party inspector on behalf of the federal government to make sure that the home meets federal code requirements.

The book is good reading. It covers all the aspects of the seven types of factory-built homes in easy-to-understand language.

To obtain a copy of How and Why to Buy a Factory-Built Home, call toll-free 1-800-344-2537, visit, or write to Automated Builder, 1445 Donlon St., Suite 16, Ventura, CA 93003.