Basics that Every Manufactured Home Professional Should Know. Focus on Modular Homes, Garages & Site Installed Furnaces

In our last post we started taking a closer look at some of the important elements of the manufactured housing law and regulations that you should know. Today, we will look at a few more.

During an installer training class last week, our discussion landed on the difference between a manufactured and modular house. I like to point to 24 CFR 3282.12(c) of the Manufactured Home Procedural & Enforcement Regulations. Simply put, a modular home is ONLY intended to be placed on a permanent foundation, such as a masonry crawlspace or basement. While a manufactured home may be placed on a permanent foundation, it is not required.

Taking it a step further, a modular home is not intended to be moved once it is installed on the basement or crawlspace. A manufactured home must always remain permanently transportable regardless of the foundation used for support.

And finally, a modular home is designed and constructed to the state adopted building code (such as the International Residential Code) while a manufactured home must meet the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards (AKA the HUD Code).

In a nutshell, we should never see a modular home being relocated or moved. They are designed for their specific site to a site-specific code, placed on a basement and often with the transportation components (chassis or carrier) removed. While a manufactured home must always retain the ability to be moved (permanent chassis), it is not restricted to a specific foundation, and is designed and constructed to a federal building code.

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Recently we have been seeing many more manufactured homes with attached garages. To assure that the home can safely and structurally handle a garage, the manufacturer must design and produce that is garage-ready. The process the manufacturer must follow is known as “Alternative Construction”. You may have been introduced to Alternative Construction (AC) in the past whenever a manufactured home had a hinged roof. While we could argue the benefit of the added expense and paperwork required just because the home had a 5/12 roof pitch, there is a huge advantage to going through the Alternative Construction process if you are planning on attaching a garage to a manufactured home.

Garage Ready home being installed.

Alternative Construction is basically an authorization from HUD to the manufacturer to allow them to construct a manufactured home that may not meet a specific provision of the HUD Code, but as a result of the “alternative construction” the home performance of the home is not affected.

So, if the manufacturer produces a “Garage Ready” home that has been evaluated under the Alternative Construction process, you can have confidence that all of the HUD code considerations have been taken into account. Things like the distance from the bedrooms to an exit door (without passing through the garage), that there are no windows looking into the garage, there is fire rated wall and door separating the garage from the home, and the structure of the home can accept any additional loads resulting from the garage attachment.

If you just attach the garage without benefit of the AC process, there is no assurance that the home will remain structural sound and safe as required by the HUD Code, and you assume the liability in the event any issues arise. It is always important to remember that the HUD Code still does not address carbon monoxide alarms. So please make sure you consider this important safety feature when adding a garage to a home.

Consider providing carbon monoxide alarms for homes with attached garages or that contains fuel burning furnaces, water heaters or fireplaces.

 

You should also know that Alternative Construction extends to much more than garages and hinged roofs. Alternative Construction provides a way to customize the manufactured home to fit many of the needs or desires of your customer. Tank-less water heaters and wheel chair accessible showers are common consumer requests that can be provided through the AC process. So, if you or a customer is requesting some non-traditional features in their home, maybe Alternative Construction is the process you should explore. For more information check out 24 CFR 3282.14. Also, an earlier post on this topic.

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On a similar note, did you know that the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards allows for the field installation of the furnace? The HUD Code requires that the manufacturer provide connection points to the air supply and return ducts, but the actual furnace may be provided by the installer.

This is ideal for a manufactured home being placed on a basement or maybe utilizing an alternative fuel source, and no additional approvals is needed. It is provided for right in the code.  For more on this, check out 24 CFR 3280.709(e)(6).

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Ok…that is enough for now, but there is plenty more to talk about in future posts!

The highlighted text will direct you to the referenced requirement. And as always, the views expressed are mine and should not be taken as anything more than my personal opinion.

Let’s talk about: Alternative Construction

Last week during a discussion in an installation training class, it became obvious that too many installers and retailers aren’t being informed about Alternative Construction (AC) and On-Site Completion (SC) and what this means for the manufactured homes that they install and/or sell.

So, lets take a look and see if we can shed some light on these issues, starting with Alternative Construction.

When a manufacturer intends to produce a manufactured home with a construction aspect that does not meet the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards (MHCSS), but will perform at least equal to the MHCSS, they can request HUD allow such construction.

Let me give an example:

Say you want the manufacturer to construct a home for your customer that has tankless water heaters instead of the typical storage type water heater.  Since the MHCSS doesn’t provide for a tankless water heater, the manufacturer needs a special approval from HUD to omit the storage type water heater and replace it with the tankless type. That approval is called a Letter of Alternative Construction (or an AC letter).

Here is another example: your customer needs a shower that is designed for wheelchair access. The MHCSS requires a minimum 2” dam (or threshold) to keep the water from running onto the floor, making it impossible to access the shower with a wheelchair. The manufacturer can request an Alternative Construction authorization from HUD to provide a shower without a 2” dam, designed to facilitate wheelchairs.

Accessible Shower

 In both of these cases, the home will not meet a specific requirement of the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards, however they both will perform equal or better than the actual code requirement.

DAPIA approved floor plan for a home with garage attachment.

 Currently, one of the biggest requests for AC letters is when a manufactured home is designed for the attachment of a site-built garage. There are many issues of code compliance that must be examined when designing a home for garage attachment.  Issues such as the path of egress (exit) from the bedrooms, impact on lighting and ventilation in the area where the garage is attached, additional loads on the structure of the home, and electrical considerations, to name a few. But the omission of the exterior covering (siding) for the application of gypsum to provide the needed fire separation is where you will find the need for the AC letter.  On a side note…the MHCSS still does not address carbon monoxide alarms! If you are selling/installing a home with a garage attachment, talk to the manufacturer about a combination smoke/CO alarm or an added electrical outlet where you can provide this important safety consideration.

Through the years, the most common use for an AC letter has been a home with a hinged roof, usually a 5/12 roof pitch or greater (this never made sense to me, but that is how they handled hinged roofs). Today most manufactured homes with a hinged roof are being constructed under the new On-Site Completion Process, which we will discuss in a our next post.

 Here are a few “take aways” for retailers and installers when it comes to Alternative Construction.

  •  A manufactured home covered by an AC letter is determined to perform equal to or greater than the MHCSS requirements.

Typical notice to consumer of Alternative Construction.

  • Every manufactured home under an AC letter requires a notice to the perspective purchaser. This notice, as well as an appropriate checklist, and other information related to the AC process is provided by the manufacturer.
  • You can identify a manufactured home constructed under a letter of Alternative Construction by the letters “AC” which will be included in the serial number.
  • Often the home will require a special inspection.   
  • Both the retailer and installer should maintain records of compliance with the AC requirements, and a copy of any needed inspection of the completed home.

 Ok…I hope this helps. If you have anything to add, submit a comment.

In our next post we will talk about On-Site Completion.