What’s In Your Tool Box?

If you’re like me, you can never have too many tools. But to properly and safely install a manufactured home, there are some special tools that you need to use. I though it might be helpful to put together a list of the top 11 things that every professional installer should have at every job site.  

 Angle finder with a magnetic base.

                We all know that when installing ground anchors, the angle of the straps cannot exceed 60°.  Be sure you have a tool to measure the strap angle to be certain your strap angle is correct. If you don’t have one, purchase an angle finder and  start checking the straps angle. By the way, it is always smart to snap a picture for your installer file!


A continuity tester.

                You know that ever installation manual requires that you perform a continuity test on all metal parts in the home that could possibility become energized. Metal parts like the chassis, heat ducts, metal light fixtures, gas lines, water heaters and furnaces, metal siding or metal roofs, range hoods, etc… A continuous path to ground must be present and you need to perform this test to verify all of these metal parts are grounded.

A continuity tester is a must!

 Continuity testerTester

A circuit tester with a GFCI trip button.

                This allows you perform the required operation test throughout the home as well as test GFCI  outlets, and assure that any slave receptacles (receptacles downstream of the actual device) are protected as well. This is also an easy way to check the operation of any switched receptacles.

Grainger tester

An apparatus to perform a water supply line pressure test.

                This device is probably going to have to be fabricated from plumbing parts. It must include a gauge that can measure pressure, and inlets with shut off valves to allow you to introduce water and air pressure into the water piping. Remember to remove the source of air when conducting the test. 

 H2O testing

A manometer (or other testing gauges that measure in increments not greater than 1/10 lbs.) to conduct gas line testing.

                By now you should know about the two required gas line tests; the high-pressure test (3 psi) that checks the piping and the low-pressure test (6-8 oz or 3/8 to 1/2 psi or 10” to 14” of water column) that checks the entire system as well as the connections to the appliance.  Again, this may be an apparatus  you assemble yourself, or maybe purchase an electronic, digital version. If someone else (like the fuel provider), performs this test for you, make certain to provide them with a copy of the proper test procedures from the installation manual, and get receipt or other written proof that the test was conducted for your files.  


GFCI protected extension cords.

Working in often damp or wet conditions, with a great possibility of cords being stepped on, frayed or otherwise damaged, you want to reduce the risk of electric shock hazzard. All extension cords must be equipped with Ground Fault protection.gfci-power-extensions-tower-manufacturing

A thermometer to check the water temperature at each of the bath tubs, bath tubs/showers or showers.

                Run the water in each tub or shower fixture for 1 minute at the hottest setting and use a thermometer to assure that the water temperature is not greater than 120°. While the fixtures are generally pre-set, I have seen defects that allowed the water temperature to exceed 120°. Don’t take the risk, test the fixtures.

H2O thermometer

A glue bottle.

                In the event that you ever need to replace a wall panel, section of the ceiling, or a section of the floor decking, it is critical for you to glue the panel or decking to the framing members. A ¼” bead of PVA glue (white glue) is generally sufficient.

wood glue

Go/No Go Gauges for water supply lines.

                If you ever have to install a crimp ring on a water supply line, you need to assure that the crimp is done properly and Go/No Go gauge is the only way to do that!

 go No Go

Safety Glasses

                Everyone working at the job site must wear safety glasses. Having a few extra pairs handy is a great idea.  If your crew likes to wear sunglasses on the job site, make sure that they are equipped with shatter resistant lenses and side shields. 

safety glasses

First Aid Kit.

                Every good set crew has a fully equipped first aid kit available. If you don’t have one, a basic kit runs only about $30.

 first aid kit

I am sure that there are some other important tools that I am forgetting. Feel free to drop me a message if you can add to this list.

Anchoring With “J” Hooks

Typical “J” concrete anchor

Recently I have been asked questions about anchoring manufactured homes using “J” Hooks (or “J” concrete anchors) that are wet set in the concrete footings. While I am not an engineer, let me share with you a few practical things that I learned over the years about anchoring and what you should consider if you want to use “J” type concrete anchors.

Incorrect vertical strap from “J” anchor to beam

A quick look at an installation manual shows that in Wind Zone 1, we need to anchor the home with diagonal straps attached from the chassis beam to  ground anchors placed just inside the skirting line of the home.  In Wind Zone 2 and 3 we need both diagonal and vertical straps. In every case, diagonal straps are needed. Diagonal straps secure the home from sliding and up-lift in the event of windstorm. If the home is anchored only with vertical straps from the footing to the main beam, they might prevent up-lift, but not sliding of the home.


Angle finder showing 75°-Too steep!

Most installation manuals require a maximum strap angle of 60° from horizontal. Installing “J” anchors in the footing generally result in a strap angle of around 90° .  An inexpensive ($5 to $10)  angle finder is a valuable tool to make sure you have the proper strap angle. Snap a picture for your installer file.

 When I look over the actual instructions for proper use of the “J” anchor, it is obvious that these anchors are designed for concrete slab design, not to be placed in individual footings. This is based on the fact that each “J” anchor must withstand 4725 lbs. of tension without lifting. Assuming one cubic yard of concrete weighs about 4,000 lbs., you can see that you would need close to 1 ¼ yards of concrete per footing to properly hold the “J” anchor. A typical 24” diameter x 36” deep footing takes roughly 1/3 of a yard of concrete. Not even close to the amount needed to reach the required holding capacity of 4725.   

Slab design with “J” anchor at side wall

So, where does this leave us? If we are placing a manufactured home on a frost protected concrete slab, the “J” concrete anchor might be the answer. Place them a minimum of 4” to a maximum of 10” from the edge of the slab, and keep an eye on the strap angle! The thickness of slab should be 2” greater than the “J” length where it is embedded in the concrete. So, a 6” “J” anchor should be embedded in 8” of concrete.  But as always, you need to do your homework and make certain you are anchoring every home consistent with the home manufacturers installation manual and using the anchor components as they were designed!

My advice is to look at the newer anchoring systems that are available on the market today. Most of the home manufacturers have reviewed and approved them to properly anchor their homes. While they may be a little more expensive, they are certainly less labor intensive than other anchoring techniques, especially when you factor in end wall anchors. As always, talk to the home manufacturer. The anchor producers all have a lot of good information on their web sites and they all have some great technical folks on staff who are always available to answer any questions. So, give them a call before you start your next job!