Encouraging Feedback From Manufacturers

Have you ever had to tell a friend that their fly was down? Or maybe they had some broccoli stuck between their teeth? While it may be a little awkward to point out someone’s simple mistake, you know that ultimately your friend appreciated your honesty and candor. This leads me to ask installers “does the home manufacturer ever point out any mistakes or issues that you may have gotten wrong during the installation process?”. Since the installations of all new homes must be in accordance with their installation instructions, it seems to me that the manufacturer is in the best position to point out when something is overlooked or simply done incorrectly, even if that discussion may be a little awkward.

However, I continue to see too many cases where installation mistakes are routinely ignored by the home manufacturer. As a result, little problems become big problems which are far more difficult and costly to correct, and in some cases, correction is impossible.

For example: there are countless communities across the country where manufactured homes have had garages attached to the home. While an attached garage is a great feature to offer the consumer, few manufactured homes are designed to accommodate this add-on. Multiple structural and life-safety concerns can result from a garage attachment if not a part of the original design. Problems such as: improper fire separation between the garage and the living area (including windows opening into the garage space), overloading the roof, walls and foundation of the manufactured home due to the weight of the garage and potential snow on the garage roof, failure to provide an electrical branch circuit to provide power to the garage, failure to provide a carbon monoxide alarm as required by most state building codes for homes with attached garages, and possibly having egress doors leading into the garage space, to name a few.

Example of a “garage ready” home. Designed specifically to accept the on-site constructed garage.

When called upon to investigate problems in communities like this, I often wonder why the manufacturer(s) of these homes never mentioned that the homes weren’t designed for attached garages. Wouldn’t you think a good friend or partner would point that out and maybe suggest that they could design and construct homes specifically for garage attachments? But instead, too often not a word is said until the situation gets out of control.

In all fairness, there are now several manufacturers offering garage ready homes, but this is a fairly recent development.

I am sure you all have seen similar issues. Maybe you have seen manufactured homes in communities that have carports or patio covers attached directly to, and being supported by the home. Or maybe the homes have recessed porches or decks which allow rain water to flow between the decking boards and directly into the homes’ crawl space. Or maybe the homes are set in pits which collect water, instead of atop a slightly elevated site that will shed water away. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Rain water falling onto this recessed porch has no where to go except into the crawl space. If enclosed by skirting, it must be fully vented and allow for the free flow of water from under the porch area.

I would hope that any business partner of mine would be just like that friend who lets me know when I am wearing my shirt inside out. But in the manufactured housing industry, that is not always the case.

A “pit set” and recessed porch. How will water ever escape this crawl space?

So, just who is in the best position to tell you when you missed a button, belt loop or maybe a tie-down strap? First off, I think the factory sales representative could be one of the first ones to let you know that there could be a problem. Next would be the factory’s service department. Anyone from the factory that visits your sites should be able to provide some feedback to improve the overall installation.

Too many factory representatives choose to overlook these issues or maybe they don’t know anything is wrong. I have long advocated for the training of service personnel, and with a few exceptions, they operate outside of the building code or regulations or even the manufacturer’s quality control process. While I have met quite a few really sharp sales people, many are a little weak when it comes to understanding code requirements.

So maybe it is time to start expecting more from our friends at the factory. It is not always easy to tell someone they are messing up, but that is what a good friend would do.

Installation Inspection Findings

I recently had the opportunity to inspect 20 new manufactured home installations, and I thought it might be helpful to share my observations.

The individual installers were invited to participate in the inspections and for the most part, they all did. Having the installers present to answer questions and being able to show their processes and procedures proved very beneficial. Several installers brought along their installation files which were very helpful. These documents helped to illustrate how they determined footing size and spacing, anchoring, and their self-inspection of the job through their use of the installation check list.

The most common finding (as usual) were problems with site grading. Many of the homes would have benefitted from a few lifts of fill dirt to elevate the home site. Keep in mind, the area under the home must be higher than the surrounding lot.

One installer had some issues with the installation of the alternative anchoring system, which they will need to correct. The first problem was that the long transverse arm (from the footing to the opposite side frame), was attached to the bottom of the frame (I-beam). These alternative anchoring systems are designed and tested with the transverse arm attached to the top of the frame. The top of the frame is lagged to every floor joist and as a result is stiffer and more able to handle the forces generated in a wind storm.

The transverse (long) arm must be attached to the top of the frame.

Also, when anchoring single section homes, the required ground anchor straps at each corner of the home were installed vertically. The straps were straight up from the footing to the frame as opposed to diagonally from the skirting line to the frame as generally required. Note: Xi2 will allow for vertical anchor straps if the footings are of sufficient size to support the loads, see the specific instructions for the system you are using for more details.

Only 2 wraps around the slotted bolt.

A few of the anchor straps were not wrapped sufficiently around the slotted bolt at the anchor head. In general, you need 4 to 5 wraps around the slotted bolt. None of the anchor straps had protection from the edges of the frame as needed. Check the anchoring and manufacturer’s instructions, and make sure you are properly installing whatever system you are using.

Missing strap protection at the corners of the frame.

Another concern at a few of the homes were undersized footings. The piers were placed on 18” diameter footings spaced 8’ apart. Since no determination of soil bearing capacity was made and/or documented, there was no choice but to default to a 1,500 PSF soil which would require a 24” diameter footing for 8’ pier spacing per the manufacturer’s instructions. Be certain that you can justify your foundation decisions based on soil conditions and the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Since we are talking about foundations, I ran across a few marriage line support piers that were incorrectly positioned as they were parallel with the marriage line. These piers should be perpendicular to the marriage line.

Support pier not perpendicular to the marriage line.

I saw one home with a gas fired water heater that was drawing combustion air from the crawl space under the home. In general, all combustion air intake ducts must be extended to draw air from outside of the skirted crawl space.

The vinyl siding on the end walls of a few two section homes were installed in a manner that could restrict the movement of the siding. The siding seams were overlapped over 3”, when the instructions only allow 1/2” to 1 ½” overlap.

Look closely to see the water heater combustion air intake. Should be drawing air from outside of the crawl space.

 

Finally, one installer was having trouble with the flash rings installed in the exterior light fixtures. It is important to remember that any combustible material exposed to the canopy of the light fixture must be protected with the non-combustible flash ring provided by the manufacturer. This is important for “jelly jar”, “carriage” or other fancy light fixtures installed on vinyl, wood or other combustible siding materials. Generally, unless the light fixture canopy is the same shape and size as the junction box to which it is being installed, a flash ring is required.

Flash ring for carriage light.

Ultimately, I am thankful for opportunity to work with some great professional manufactured home installers. I was impressed with their level of knowledge and pride in their work, and hope to work with them again in the future.

As always, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s approved installation instructions for all of your installations!

HUD Manufactured Home Installer License On-Line Training Available

I am happy to announce that both my 12-hour initial training and the 8-hour continuing education training are available on-line for professional installers in HUD installation states:

Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts,     Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Rhode Island,
South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming
Questions? Email me at: markconte3@yahoo.com