Wind Storm Protection Basics

Watching the news today and seeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, I thought it would be a good time to talk about some of the basic considerations that are critically important to making sure our homes can withstand the wind forces as intended.

1.       Do NOT attach car-ports, awnings, patio covers, and similar items, directly to the manufactured home. All manufacturers clearly state that all accessory structures be free standing and independently supported. Check out this short video from the Today Show:  Click Here        This video not only illustrates what can happen when a carport is attached to a home, but it also shows how you can still offer your customers these type of features without creating a hazardous situation.

2.       Make sure you have properly installed anchor strapping so it can be counted on to hold the home in place.

Purchased Strap Protectors

a.       Every place the anchor strap touches the main chassis beam or attaches to a bracket, the strap must be protected so that the sharp edges of the steel doesn’t shear off the strap. Strap protectors can be made from left over pieces of strap material or purchased. Just make sure you install them!

Angle Finder

b.       Strap angle is critical! Buy yourself an inexpensive angle finder and make sure your strap angle is less than 60°! If it is too steep, the home can slide off the piers!

3.       While we have recently written two posts on ground anchors (July 3 and July 13), there is still a lot more to discuss.

a.       Make sure the anchor is the right length (below frost the line), and installed in the ground by the skirting line! Not in a concrete footing.   

Rock Anchor

b.       Don’t use rock anchors or other types of anchors that aren’t intended to stabilize a manufactured home. Rock anchors are to be used in solid rock!

Stabilizing  Plate

c.       Stabilizing plates are critical to keep the anchor from slicing through the dirt when it is called upon to hold the home in place. Remember that a poorly graded site can undermine a great anchor installation!

4.       Consider using the newer anchoring systems. I am a big fan, primarily because then are considerably easier to successfully to install.  Also, they can satisfy end-wall anchoring requirements. In freezing climates, make sure you attach the system to frost protected concrete footings and take a few minutes to review the installation instructions.  I have found that the big three anchor suppliers (Minute Man, Oliver Technologies and Tie Down Engineering) are super helpful and are eager to provide technical assistance. Here are links to their websites where you can find a ton of helpful information:

http://minutemanproducts.com/minute-man-products/

http://www.olivertechnologies.com/

http://www.tiedown.com/

Now is the time to re-examine your anchoring techniques. You might want to consider calling on some older homes and see if the residents might be agreeable to upgrading their anchoring system! Give it some thought, it might not seem as crazy as you think!

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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!