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.

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Manufactured Homes & Attached Structures, Part 2

In our last post we talked about how added structures, such as carports, patio covers and the like, add unintended vertical loads to a manufactured home. Today, let’s talk about how added structures subject the manufactured home to increased horizontal (wind) loads, and the possible damage that can occur as a result.

Another example of a patio cover improperly attached to a manufactured home.

The biggest problem that I have seen is when an awning, carport or patio cover is attached directly to the fascia board of the manufactured home. Typically, the fascia board on a manufactured home is attached to the roof trusses without anticipation of a large attachment. Studies has shown that the manufactured home can easily withstand the required wind loads when the home is anchored according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. But when a carport or patio cover is attached to the fascia board, it can subject the home to significantly higher loads than the home is designed for.

This warning is found in every typical manufactured home installation manual

A quick review of the installation instructions for a few different awnings, carports or patio covers (common in the manufactured housing industry), shows that they agree that the awning should not be attached to the fascia board. However, there remains a concern as they suggest their products can be attached to the actual roof rafter or wall stud of the home (no mention of type of home, manufactured home or otherwise). I found no mention of fastening the mounting rail to a roof truss as opposed to a roof rafter. Nonetheless,  I feel very safe in stating that the home manufacturer did not design the roof truss to support an awning, carport, porch canopy, or similar accessory.

Most critical is when the wind gets under these structures an they start to tear away from the home. As they break free, they create openings that allows the wind to get into the roof cavity, which can lead to catastrophic failure. Take a few minutes and watch these two videos. I think they make a pretty convincing case.

Click Here for American Modern Manufactured Home Wind Test

Click Here for The Today Show, Homes vs Hurricane Winds

There are a few more things to discuss in regards adding structures to manufactured homes, but lets save those topics for yet one final post on this topic.