Education of Code Officials!

Whether we like it or not, state or local building code enforcement impacts every home we install. Sometimes it takes a big issue to make us feel the impact. For example, when HUD cracked down on attaching garages on manufactured homes, a lot of folks were upset and there was a lot of finger pointing trying to place the blame. The installers, community owners, retailers, and manufacturers that got caught up in the crack-down were potentially subject to penalties that could have cost them their livelihood. But from the very start, the local building code officials who permitted (and in many cases still do permit) garage attachment without giving a second thought, were in the best position to question or even stop this practice.

I recall a very heated exchange with a code official and trying to get him to understand that even though the manufactured home was exempt from the state building code, unauthorized alterations and additions to a manufactured home (especially ones as significant as attaching a garage) are not exempt. He maintained the position that he had no authority over anything regarding manufactured homes beyond issuing building permits.

Even today I still run across far too many code officials that believe that just entering a manufactured home exceeds their authority.

A local building code official taking the opposite approach can be just as problematic. A code official that imposes his own requirements with no regard for the manufacturers installation instructions can cause huge problems. Folks may think that as long you don’t “make him mad” that is all well and good. That is until a new sheriff comes to town and puts a stop to everything!  How do you convince the local code official that his long-held approach to anchoring, foundations, utility testing (just to name a few) not only violates the building code, but can actually harm the overall performance and durability of the home?

And there are still places areas in the country without any code enforcement. The problem with no code enforcement is that your competition will continue cutting corners and costs through non-compliant installations, additions, and so on. Nobody wants to lose sales to shoddy installation, but concrete costs money!

If you are in one of the 14 states where HUD oversees the installation of new manufactured homes, your relationship with the local code will take on more importance. You’ll likely struggle to explain to the code official the differences between new and relocated manufactured homes. You may be hard pressed to find a local code official that is willing to sign off on HUD forms. And most importantly, you can only hope that your code official accepts the same installation methods as the professional engineer, DAPIA, or whomever else you hire to sign the HUD form. How do satisfy them all! Next will come someone to monitor the installation! Fingers crossed!

So, what should we do? Is this a legitimate problem that we should start discussing, or do we let sleeping dogs lie??

I contend that if we can get all the local building code enforcers on the same page, here is what we can expect in return:

  • A level (ok…a slightly more level) playing field. It is hard to compete when you are digging footings to frost depth and your competition is barely removing the top soil! But if the code official knows the installation standard, and that he has the authority to oversee the foundation construction, it won’t take too long until the “dirt sets” are a thing of the past
  • Better installations and reduced liability. If we can get code officials to expect the proper documents to properly install the home, instead of just the “pier print”, then as installers we will not only be forced to improve our record keeping (which is the most important thing an installer can do to reduce liability), but also improve the overall installation.
  • Predictable costs and expectations. Just think how much more efficient we could be if you could install every home the same, regardless of which township, county, borough, or burg the home was being sited. It is extremely frustrating to hear how this township requires anchors be wet set in the concrete footings and that township requires insulated drain lines. There should be very minimal variations as a result of local code influence. But until such time as the code officials are taught that there is a comprehensive installation design to be followed for each and every installation, we will be at the whim of each and every code official
  • Greater market share. Did you ever ask an auto mechanic for advice before buying a car? Or ask a bartender for recommendations on a good drink. If you don’t think home buyers ask code officials about which housing product to buy, you are mistaken. If a code official knew that there are mechanisms to address problems, there are instructions and checklists that will assure proper installations, and when properly installed a manufactured home will deliver, safe, durable, high quality affordable housing, just think how many new customers we will find

Ok, I think I made my point. It is time to start educating code officials on the proper handling of manufactured housing. Let make it happen!

Introduction to Alternative Anchoring Systems

All Steel Foundation-OTI with longitudinal bracing

Over the past few weeks we have been talking about conventional ground anchors as the tie down system for manufactured homes. But let’s look at some alternative anchoring systems that might be able to simplify the process for you.

As always, make sure that the manufacturer has approved whatever system you choose and that it is also approved by their Design Approval Primary Inspection Agency (DAPIA). If you are in a state that has oversight authority, make sure they approve it as well. To the best of my knowledge, the three systems that we are going to look at today are approved by most manufacturers. But, never take my word, you need to get copies of the approvals for your installation files. 

Xi2-Tie Down Engineering

 

Let’s take a quick look at the:

All Steel Foundation from Oliver Technologies Click Here for Oliver Technologies

L & L Bracing System (LLBS)  from Minute Man Click here for Minute Man

Xi2 from Tie Down Engineering Click Here for Tie Down Engineering

LLBS-Minute Man

I am a big fan of all three systems. They are much easier to install than conventional ground anchors, and they will save you significant time as they install quickly. While the systems are similar in many regards, they do have differences, so make sure you follow the instructions particular to the system you choose. We will limit this discussion to manufactured homes installed in Wind Zone 1.

Here are the some of the similarities of the three systems:

Only 2 devices (opposite corners of the home) are needed to anchor a typical 2 section manufactured home. 5/12 roof pitch and greater would require three or more systems.

For single section homes, typically you will need two devices and a ground anchor installed at each corner of the home.

The systems are limited to a home with a maximum pier height of 48”.

The systems can be bolted or “wet set” into frost protected concrete footings.

All Steel Foundation-OTI-replaces a pier and anchors end walls.

They are easily adapted to address longitudinal anchoring. 

 

Xi2-Minute Man- Beam Clamp

LLBS from Tie Down-Beam Clamp

When using these systems, it is important to make sure you don’t mix parts. If you are using the Xi2, don’t use parts from Minute Man or OTI, if installing the OTI, don’t use Tie Down or Minute Man parts. I also believe that for multi-section homes it is important that your fastening at the marriage line be consistent with the installation instructions for the home being installed. Watch for gaps between the sections that may impede the transfer of wind load across the marriage line (this is true of all manufactured home installations).

If you are not using these systems, I encourage you to reconsider. All three producers provide exceptional customer support. They have comprehensive information on their websites including videos, and are very helpful on the phone and in person! 

From my perspective, it is a rare occasion when a manufactured home installed using conventional ground anchors is anchored properly; site grading, rocky soils, underground utilities, and frost depths make conventional ground anchors a challenge for many installers. However, installers using these alternative systems have had great success with these products.

 

 

HUD/SEBA Manufactured Housing Installation Webinar

On Tuesday, July 25, 2017 HUD & their contractor, SEBA  will be holding a webinar where they will lay out the requirements for installers and retailers in the HUD administered manufactured housing installation states including Michigan.

You will be able to ask questions at the end of the presentations and it is important that you do. Pre-registration is required. See the announcement below.

On May 15, 2017, The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) incorporated the State of Michigan into its HUD-Administered Manufactured Home Installation Program (Installation Program). The HUD-Installation Program, which oversees regulations set forth in 24 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 3285 and 3286, has also been fully implemented in 13 other states that do not operate their own qualifying installation program.

Michigan installers and retailers will be part of the HUD-Administered program that ensures safe and quality installation of new manufactured homes. The program’s primary requirements are the supervision of the installation of all new manufactured homes by a HUD-Licensed Installer, and all new homes must be inspected by a qualified inspector. The HUD program also has standardized reporting requirements for all new home installations 

This webinar will be open to all, not just those in Michigan, who may feel in need of a refresher on program requirements or who are still learning about the program

In order to participate, you must register using the information below to receive the dial-in number and pass-code or webinar access. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. After registering, attendees have the option to only dial into the call using the number you are sent. However, those who do so will be in listen-only mode. All participants are encouraged to use the webinar option (computer) to maximize your participation and be able to ask questions at the end of the presentation

Register

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4512819416180848643

Conventional Anchors- Part 2

Before we get too deep in the how many anchors are needed to properly tie-down (or stabilize) a manufactured home, let’s make sure we know where manufacturers require tie-down anchors. There’s not one simple answer, but be aware that you may need to provide anchors at the following locations:

End Walls (longitudinal anchors) – some manufacturers only require end wall anchors in Wind Zone 2 or 3, some require them in every wind zone, others only require them for short (less than 52’ or so) homes in wind zone 1.  It is critical that an installer know which manufacturers require end wall anchors. A few factories may weld a bracket to the chassis (frame) that might indicate you need longitudinal anchors, but that is hit or miss. The only way you will know for sure is to check the installation instructions.

One type of marriage wall straps, this one needs a pier and anchor.

Marriage Line anchors – again, this is manufacturer specific and there can be various types. In Wind Zone 1, only a few manufacturers require these. Generally, the manufacturer will install straps (sometimes called “G” straps) or brackets along the marriage line for you to attach to a ground anchor. Make certain you install the anchors directly below the bracket or strap before both home sections are set in place. 

 

Shear wall strap.

Shear Wall anchors – like the marriage line anchors above, these are rare in Wind Zone 1, but depending on the design of the home they could be required. Again, you should find brackets or straps. Shear wall anchors could be required on marriage walls or side walls. 

Porch Post anchors – again, these are primarily used in Wind Zone 2 and 3, but could be needed in Wind Zone 1. Watch for brackets or coiled up straps.

Typical Wind Zone 1 anchoring.

Side Wall anchors –  if you are using anchors and tie down straps to secure the home against a wind storm, every home requires anchors under the side wall, with diagonal straps to the frame for Wind Zone 1. Wind Zone 2 and 3 require both diagonal and vertical (to brackets along the side wall). 

To determine how to space the rest of the anchors needed, start digging through the maze of charts provided in the installation instructions. You may need to sort through as many as 21 different spacing charts in a single instruction manual! Make sure you pick the right one! Take a few extra seconds to read the title of the charts to be certain you have it right one!

So how do we determine pier spacing for the remaining tie downs needed to properly anchor the home? You can’t just install an anchor at every pier location. There are too many factors to consider. Let’s assume we are installing a typical two-section home (28′ wide) in Wind Zone 1. The home has 7’ side walls, a standard roof pitch (under 4/12), 99 ½” frame (distance between the I-beams) supported by 12” high piers  comprised of one 8” block, a 4” cap block, and a 12” I-beam (8 + 4+ 12=24”).

Looking at this chart, we need anchors spaced every 12’ (don’t forget, the first and last anchors should be within 2’ of the end of the home).

Angle gauge will tell you if you exceeded 60 degrees!

Did you notice the asterisk on the charts if your piers are higher than 25”? That means that the strap angle exceeded 60° and the strap must be attached to the far beam of the chassis. 

Confused yet???? I am!

If we add a 5/12 roof pitch, the spacing goes down to 10’4”. Taller piers, higher side wall and steeper roof pitch all impact anchor spacing! 

I checked another major manufacturers installation manual for comparison….that was a mistake!

They measure the pier height differently. Only to the top of the I beam, not the floor. PLUS…they require end wall frame anchors for every home they produce.

Maybe the take away here is to find a better solution to ground anchors, tie downs, strap angles and all of these confusing charts! So, let’s explore some of the alternative anchoring systems that are available. But that is a topic for our next post!

As always, check the installation instructions for the specific home you are installing and “Call Before you Dig” or “Drill” as the case may be!!

Anchoring-Part 1-Conventional Tie Downs

Ground anchors

The other day, a professional installer wrote to me about anchoring a manufactured home. He asked if he only needed a tie down anchor at each corner of the home or if he should install one at every pier. Since neither answer is completely wrong or completely right, I thought we should start talking about anchoring and try to shed some light on this critical issue. Over the next several weeks, we’ll talk about all the various anchoring systems.

Let’s start the discussion talking about conventional anchoring systems, you know, the ground anchors with steel straps to the frame.  How should they be installed to properly anchor or stabilize a manufactured home to protect from wind storms?

 I wish there were a simple answer. At this point, I would typically tell an installer to check the anchoring charts in the Manufacturers Installation Instructions (MII), but I believe that the instructions are extremely confusing and not easily understood or followed. But if we start thinking about the basic fundamentals of anchoring equipment, it can start making sense.

Even if you use one of the alternative anchoring systems (Xi2, Vector System, LLBS, or All Steel Foundation or some other system) they generally require conventional ground anchors and straps at each corner of single section homes. So, regardless of the anchor method you prefer, you must have a good understanding of how to properly install a conventional ground anchor and strap.  Here are the fundamentals all installers must know:

  • Ground anchors are designed to be installed in the ground. Not concrete!

    This is NOT proper anchoring!

  • Cross drive anchors are designed to be installed in solid rock. Not soil!
  • Ground anchors must be installed to their full depth, and extend below the maximum frost line.
  • Ground anchors should be placed roughly under the side wall of the home (sometimes call it the skirting line) at a slight back angle (10°).
  • If you are using conventional ground anchors and straps, the first anchor should be placed within 2’ of each end of the home. There is some variation depending on the manufacturer, so check the MII for each home.
  • The anchor must be suitable for the soil where the home is being installed. We will talk more about soil holding capacity and soil classification in another post.
  • Ground anchors must be at least 12” above the water table.
  • Unless the ground anchor and the strap are in-line, a stabilizing plate is needed to prevent the ground anchor from slicing through the ground when the load is applied.
  • Poor site grading can undermine a perfect anchoring job.

    Poor site grading led to loose strap

 

And we haven’t even mentioned the straps yet!

  • The tie down strap generally attaches to the top of the frame (or chassis) I-beam, wraps completely around the I-beam, and down to the anchor. As an alternative, you could use a positive connection swivel strap.
  • Where the tie down strap wraps around the I-beam, strap protection must be provided to prevent the strap from shearing off at the sharp edges of the beam.

    Strap protectors

    You can purchase them or make them out of strapping material.

  • Strapping material must be certified to ASTM D 3953-97, and have identifying markings every 5’.
  • The strap must wrap the anchor bolt 4 – 5 times.
  • The strap must resist corrosion and weather deterioration.
  • When installing the strap, you need to pre-tension the anchor, pulling it against the stabilizing plate.
  • The angle of the strap is the most critical consideration.

    Inexpensive angle gauge to show proper strap angle.

    Diagonal straps are required in Wind Zone 1. If the strap is greater than 60°, you have not protected the home from sliding off of the piers.

 

WOW! That is an awful lot of information, so let’s stop here for now. The most important thing that every professional installer must know is to make sure that the anchoring system you’re using is consistent with the manufacturer’s design.

Start thinking about your processes for installing tie downs. Make sure to cross check your work to the illustrations and details in the installation instructions for the homes you are installing.

Next week we will talk about how to figure out proper anchor locations and spacing.

Reminders-HUD Dispute Resolution Webinar-June 27 & Upcoming HUD Installer Trainings

HUD and their contractor, The Savan Group, are holding a webinar on Tuesday, June 27 at 2:00 PM eastern time ( 1:00 PM central) to share information regarding their Dispute Resolution Program.

Installers and retailers of NEW manufactured housing should make a effort to participate in this free webinar, to better understand any possible implications for you and your business.

Pre-registration is required, so CLICK HERE to pre-register. You can also pre-register at: http://www.huddrp.net/events/

I have been informed that this webinar will be recorded for viewing at a later date. Visit http://www.huddrp.net to view the archived webinar.

For installers in need of training for a HUD issued installer license, there are classroom training opportunities on the calendar:

July 17-18, 2017 Elkhart, Indiana

July 19-20, 2017 Jackson, Michigan

August 14-15, 2017 Cilo, Michagan

$120 per person. Pre-registration is required. Contact me for more information: markconte3@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

Manufactured Housing Installation Inspection Findings from NTA

NTA, Inc. is a national engineering firm that has been involved in the manufactured housing industry from the beginning. NTA may be best known for performing in-plant inspections, along with reviewing and approving construction designs for manufactured housing producers. However, NTA has also have been very active in conducting installation inspections in those states where HUD has assumed the oversight of manufactured housing installation.

NTA recently compiled the results from their installation inspections, and posted the top 5 failures on their blog. I think it is worth a look so we can re-examine our own practices in an effort to improve our installations. You can go to their blog by CLICKING HERE.

Thanks to NTA for granting permission to share this with you.

 

HUD Newsletter-JUNE 2017

HUD has just issued their latest edition of  “The Facts-HUD’s ManuFACTured Housing Newsletter”, and I am attaching a copy (mh newsletter – 6-15-17) for your convenience.

Installers may want to skip ahead to page 4 of the newsletter where there is  valuable information regarding the HUD’s oversight of the Manufactured Housing Installation Program and Dispute Resolution Program.

I hope you find this helpful.

 

 

Piers- Part 4-It’s All About Location!

So far, we have talked about pier construction from top to bottom, but as you know, it’s all about location! And not quite as simple as you might think!

Typical Pier Print, missing piers at windows.

 One big problem when it comes to pier location is when installers only follow a “pier print” as opposed to actually digging into the Manufacturer’s Installation Instructions. While pier prints may be helpful, they are often in error and rarely show all of the piers required. Make sure to read all the notes on the pier print, they all refer you to the installation instructions. Remember, simple pier prints generally have not been reviewed and stamped as approved. So, if a pier is missed at either side of the picture windows, or under marriage line columns, or any other location, is the sole responsibility of the professional installer. 

Since the manufacturer’s installation instructions require the installer to prepare a sketch to determine pier locations, the pier print may be helpful when starting your sketch. But we need to crack open the instructions to find all of the piers required that might be missing from the pier print. 

If you have been installing manufactured homes for a long time, you know that piers are needed at openings in the side wall or marriage wall that are 4’ or larger. But some locations that are often missed.

6′ side wall opening, needs support piers

 Multiple windows that are installed in openings in the side wall over 4’, even if the individual windows are under 4′, often need support. When you see two or more windows together, determine if the header above the window is spanning the entire opening, or are there support studs dividing the opening.  If there is siding between multiple windows, the opening is divided. If the windows are joined with a mullion or “H” bar, consider it one big opening and not divided.  Some manufacturers require piers in all cases where windows are ganged together. As always, check the installation instructions! 

6 piers needed along this side wall.

When it comes to doors, there is little variation between manufacturers. Most manufacturers require support at both sides of doors located along the side wall. No supports are needed if the door is located at the end wall of the home.  

One style of pier saver under a patio door.

We are seeing many manufacturers reinforcing the floor to eliminate piers under patio doors. I hope to see this trend continue and expanded to eliminate piers at all doors and windows.  Truth be told, when pier savers were first introduced several years ago, I was a skeptic. But I was proven wrong and now I highly recommend them! If your manufacturer does not offer pier savers, you need to ask for them!

Adjustable outriggers support patio door opening.

 It is also worth mentioning that several manufacturers have approved the use of “adjustable outriggers” as an alternative to piers at certain door and window openings. There are differing design limits depending on the home manufacturer. Some limit the use of an adjustable outrigger to side wall openings not greater than 4′. Still others allow adjustable outriggers to support each side of a 6’ patio door in the south roof load zones. Some manufacturers approve the use of adjustable outriggers in the middle roof load zone as well.  Check the approved manufacturer instructions before you proceed. I suggest giving a call to the plant Quality Control Manager and ask him to send you their approved design on adjustable outriggers.

 Did you know that most manufacturers require “intermediate supports” to support marriage wall openings greater than 10’? Piers spaced 10’ on center maximum are required. See the third bullet on the chart below. 

 Also, supports are required where heat duct crossovers go through the rim joist (unless the home has a perimeter frame system). See bullet #4.

There is the troubling requirement (see the last bullet) that installers are to provide a support “Under heavy (400 Lbs. or more) items such as heavy furniture, waterbeds, fireplaces or fish tanks”.  Troubling for two reasons:

1.       The installer will never know where the homeowner is going to place heavy furniture, a fish tank or waterbed!

2.       The direction is too vague. Where is the support to be located? Under the frame (chassis)? Under the perimeter joist or marriage line? And if the manufacturer installs the fireplace, why don’t they beef up the floor in that area?

I think we have covered this topic pretty thoroughly,  but here are a few final points:

Perimeter Pier Location

The manufacturers are required to identify the point load support areas of the home with tags, paint, or in some other way so that the identification is visible after the pier is installed. I have seen too many tags or markings misplaced. So, make sure you know where supports are needed. If in doubt, call the QC manager.

Over spaced first pier!

 There is some variation when it comes to the first and last support piers at the ends of the home. Some manufacturers indicate that the pier must be located within 12” of the end of the I-beam. Others want the first support pier to be 24” from the end of the floor to the center of the pier, and yet another within 24″ of the end of I-beam! So, double check that you doing this correctly.

 Also, watch for shear wall straps (sometimes called G-2 strap) that may require piers, and other manufacturer specific requirements. We will explore the topic of shear walls at a later date.

 Ok, that is a lot to consider. Make sure you aren’t overlooking some odd window configurations that may need support and work with your manufacturer to have them add floor reinforcement at every possible location.  Watch out for marriage line spans that may require intermediate supports. If you haven’t been preparing sketches of the pier layout, make sure you start, and keep a copy in your home file! 

 

Piers-Part 3-Pier Components

The previous two blog postings have concentrated on pier footings and caps. Now we should look at the pier itself to make sure we understand the backbone of the support pier.

Two Core Block

Most piers are constructed with dry stacked concrete blocks. As we mentioned in the previous posts, a single stack concrete block pier can typically carry a pier load up to 8,000 lbs. (with an exception made for at least one major manufacturer). I have had installers ask me about the difference between 2 core and 3 core blocks. For our purposes, there is no difference. There is a defined top and bottom to the block, but that is for the laying of block and the application of mortar (the webs of the block are slightly wider at the top to give a bigger surface for the mortar). This doesn’t impact their ability to carry loads should you stack them up-side down.

Look over the typical “Load on Frame Supports for Homes Not Requiring Perimeter Blocking” chart below. There are very few configurations that exceed the 8,000 lbs. where you would need double block piers.

NOTE: this chart is for a typical manufactured home. If you are installing a manufactured home that has features like a steep pitched or hinged roof, high side walls, tray ceilings, terra cotta roof tiles, stone veneer finishes, etc., the pier loads can be significantly higher. Always consult the installation instructions for the home you are installing!

The bigger issue that should concern professional installers is the pier height. In general, if you are using single stack block piers, there are two height limits to keep in mind:

  1. The piers at the corners can be no more than 3 blocks high (approximately 24″ plus the cap block)
  2. Typical piers along the main beam are limited to 36″ high.

Should you exceed either of these limits, you need to use double stack (16″ x 16″) block piers. Unless your pier is 67″ or higher, dry stacking of the blocks is acceptable (mortar is not required between or filling the blocks). If you need to construct a pier higher than 67″ most installation manuals require you consult a professional engineer. I did notice that Clayton Homes provides a design in their installation manual for double stack block reinforced piers up to 108″ high, however the footing and pier require reinforcement and there are some big concerns with anchoring a home that high above grade.

Given that rarely are piers overloaded with our conventional installation methods, I am still surprised at the number of installers that continue install manufactured homes with double block piers. Bigger is not always better, and often it is more difficult to construct.

bad-footing-2

Double block pier not properly positioned on the footing. Note the  crack in the block.

A double block pier that is not properly capped, or not properly centered on the footing, is more prone to failure than a single block pier that is well-constructed.

There are some other pier options available that I think we should take a quick look:

  1. The Steel Support Pier. I haven’t seen a lot of installations that use steel support piers, but maybe it is time to reconsider this option. First of all, these steel piers must be listed and labeled to show they are properly designed, manufactured and can carry the loads. If you are buying from one of the major suppliers, you will likely be fine.

In general, these steel support piers are limited to 6,000 lbs. This is sufficient for pier spacing of 8′ apart supporting a typical 14′ or 28′ wide manufactured home. Also be aware that the adjustable riser (screw) should not extend more than 2″ when finally positioned.

Steel support piers must be painted or otherwise protected from corrosion, and must be stamped with their capacity.

I understand that the material cost compared to concrete block may be slightly more, but I think you will easily save that much in labor.

  1. Pre-cast Concrete. As above, pre-cast concrete piers must be labeled and listed, and here is where I find the problems. Very few of the pre-cast concrete piers I have seen were fabricated in a facility where a quality control program is overseen by an independent inspection agency, with testing or calculations to determine the capacity. To be blunt, if some guy is making pre-cast concrete piers in his barn or garage, it is a good bet that these piers are not labeled or listed. Stay clear!

If you are using any pre-cast concrete piers, ask your supplier to provide evidence that their products are labeled and listed.

  1. Helical Pile Foundations. This could become a more common foundation in the future, especially in areas of deep frost penetration.

    Installation of a helical pile foundation

    This foundation installs quickly, with no concrete, no excavation, and it is removable! BUT, you need to get approval from your manufacturer before you proceed.

Ok, I think we should talk just a little more about supporting manufactured homes with piers, so in a few weeks we will look at pier locations to properly support the manufactured home.

As always, refer to the installation manual before you proceed. If you have any thoughts or images, feel free to send them my way!