Cabin construction is often described in a step-by-step method — log cabin design, foundation setting, wall erection, etc. — that can take several months at best to complete. Some revel in the gradual unveiling of their new home, while others suffer through unforeseen weather delays, an unrealized final product and just general impatience. If you’re afraid you may fall into the latter category, you might want to consider modular construction.
Unlike site-built homes, the majority of construction on a modular home is done in a manufacturing facility. (Don’t confuse it with a manufactured — or mobile — home, though; these products are firmly planted in the ground and subject to the same building codes as site-built homes.) Each individual section is put together at the facility, then shipped and put together on-site. Because it is constructed in a controlled environment, issues such as weather delays and missing materials are not factors for a modular home. The benefit: Modular homes can be constructed in a fraction of the time required for a site-built home.
However, factory assembly is frequently misinterpreted to mean poorer quality. “Not everybody realizes that modular construction is built to meet or exceed site-built construction — meaning we have to build to the same code that they build to on-site,” says Greg Landess, vice president of sales and marketing for modular log home producer Blue Ridge Log Cabins (blueridgelogcabins.com). “In order to be a modular product, you have to design your homes to meet those codes. We exceed those codes because of how easy it is do here in our facility versus on-site.”
“There is better quality construction in modular homes frequently,” concurs Jeff Whyte, architect for American Sail Cabin LLC (sailcabin.com) near Chicago, noting the controlled environment, repetition and assembly accuracy as contributing factors. “Because the module needs to be fairly accurate once it shows up, the quality tends to be better,” he explains. Such accuracy also lends a degree of green building to modular construction, as very little material is wasted.
Some, however, may interpret the building-blocks assembly of such homes as limiting in terms of design. “I think that’s the biggest misconception,” Landess states. “There are modular designs that are 200 square feet, and there are modular designs for a home that’s 8,000 square feet.” Modules cannot only be arranged in a variety of ways, but can be stacked on top of one another to create multiple-storied homes, with an exterior aesthetic comparable to any site-built home available.
“Typically, when someone finds the exterior look that they like, then we help them design the interior,” Landess says. “There’s no difference in what we do than sitting down with a designer at any other log-home company. You just don’t have the restrictions people think you have.”
Another misconception many consumers have in looking at modular homes is that, because of the streamlined construction method, they are cutting costs. “Frequently, prefabricated and less traditional homes come up because people go into a home-building project and realize they don’t have enough money and start looking for other alternatives,” Whyte notes.
But, he adds, “in this economy, people think they’re going to build for 50 cents on the dollar.” Although it may be more cost-effective for a developer building several homes, for individuals with a more personal, customized focus, there isn’t always such a significant cost differential between modular and site-built homes. “The two different lines aren’t articulated well in the marketplace so that consumers understand,” he explains.
The upside: People are looking for greater value in what they choose to spend their money on, he observes. And that can easily be found in modular construction.
For more information, as well as a list of modular builders, visit nahb.org/modular.