Let’s Talk About Vinyl Siding, Part 2

In our previous post we looked at some of the common requirements regarding vinyl siding installation. Today we’ll talk about a few of the more obscure details that we need to understand to assure the vinyl siding will perform properly.

Generally, manufactured homes do not have a house wrap or weather barrier (such as Tyvek®) installed under the vinyl siding. This “house wrap” helps prevent water and air infiltration and is required in most other types of residential construction. However, it is not required by the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards. A few manufacturers may offer “house wrap” as an option.

All manufacturers should be providing flashing at the corners of windows and doors to prevent any water that penetrated the siding along the frame of the window from seeping into the walls.

Window flashing intended to channel water away from the wall.

 

Most of the flashings I have seen is felt paper installed at each corner of the windows/doors that runs to the bottom of the floor. Installers should be paying attention to ensure that the flashing on the end walls is in place and intact. If the flashing does not extend to the bottom of the floor, it may be designed to channel water into the weep holes of the siding just below the window. You will have to place the flashing to overlap the nail flange to direct any water away from the wall.

Fit J channel at corners to prevent water infiltration.

Speaking of water infiltration, be sure when installing “J Channel” around windows or doors to avoid “butt joints”. “J Channel” should be trimmed, fitted and over-lapped at joints and corners (see above illustrations) to keep water away from the wall.

As we have discussed in previous posts, make certain that the installation of the skirting material does not damage the vinyl siding or restrict the ability of the siding to expand and contract with changing temperatures. In my opinion, under no circumstances should the bottom course of siding be cut off for skirting installation. Keep in mind, the home must remain transportable and if the siding is no longer attached to the starter strip, it will blow off in transit.

Do NOT cut the bottom course of siding for skirting installation.

Should you come across any damaged vinyl siding, it must be replaced. There are no repair methods to fix broken vinyl. This would also include any siding with a broken nailing flange. If the siding cannot be secured as required, it must be replaced.

Broken nailing flange, siding should be replaced.

 

As you know, vinyl siding is combustible. So, when installing exterior light fixtures on vinyl siding (or a vinyl mounting block), there should be no vinyl exposed inside the fixture that could offer fuel to any electrical fire. Unless the fixture canopy is the same size and shape as the junction box, you will need to install a non-combustible “flash ring” to isolate the vinyl from the wiring. For new homes, that manufacturer should have provided any needed flash rings.

Typical Flash Ring for a carriage light.

For more information on vinyl siding installation, check out the instructions that are provided from the manufacturer, or if not available, visit the website from the Vinyl Siding Institute at: https://www.vinylsiding.org/installation/installation-manual/

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Comments on the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee Meeting, Sept 11-13, 2018

I heard from a few folks that attended the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) meeting held last week in Washington, DC. Since they shared their observations with me, I thought it would provide you with a short summary of the meeting.

Let’s start with what did NOT happen:

HUD did not introduce a new Administrator to oversee the program. As you may recall, the previous administrator and one other high-level manager were removed in December, 2017 (see my post from December 27, 2017 on this topic). But no replacements were announced.

HUD did not include any installers in the discussions. I had hoped that HUD would have invited an installer or two to attend the meeting to try and keep things balanced. But once again, installers were not represented.

Local Code Officials were not invited. I hoped that HUD would invite a few local code officials to participate in this meeting. However, none were invited.

Ok…so let’s talk about what DID occur at this meeting:

The MHCC talked about the HUD Interpretive Bulletin on frost free foundations. Basically, the MHCC wants HUD to withdraw their earlier issued bulletin and allow the states and local governments to have final say in how to protect the manufactured home foundation from frost heave. I personally believe that protecting a foundation from frost heave should be a local or state issue. However, HUD should provide some guidance to help local code enforcers have a better understanding of manufactured home foundations.

The MHCC talked a lot about carports, porches, garages, patio covers and the like. It seems that the discussions suggested that the installer or retailer will need to get much more involved in the design of these after-market structures and as a result, take on additional responsibility. The MHCC wants to add information to the data plate about this. It appears to some folks that this approach is just kicking the can down the road….to the installers and retailers.

The MHCC talked about installation inspectors getting involved in On-Site Completion (SC) inspections. Too bad there were no installation inspectors at the meeting.

They also talked about things like removal of the steel chassis, multi-family manufactured homes and the energy standard (which hasn’t been updated since 1994).  But, not much promise of changes anytime soon.

Looking on the bright side, this was the first face to face meeting of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee in a long time (October 2016). So, I guess it is good they met.

Maybe the next time, they will invite some installers!

Keep this in mind!

If any of you attended this meeting and/or would like to add your comments, feel free!

How to Train Your Code Official

The one thing that all manufactured home installers and retailers have in common, is that they are all impacted by the state or local building code officials and their approach to manufactured housing. Whether a code official oversteps his authority by requiring unnecessary code provisions, minimizes his role by simply issuing permits and occupancy certificates without any oversight, or if they don’t issue building permits for manufactured homes at all, our work is impacted and far too often, negatively.

Code officials that do not understand the manufactured housing program, ultimately add unnecessary costs to the home and limits our ability to provide high quality, durable, safe and affordable housing.

Today, I want to talk a little about what installers and retailers can do to educate code officials and as a result, better position the manufactured housing industry for the future.

The first thing to remember is that the vast majority of code officials receive no formal training in regards to the manufactured housing program(s). Except for the few states that specifically require code officials to receive training on manufactured homes, very few code officials understand manufactured homes. The industry does a poor job explaining how the manufactured housing program works on behalf of the state/local code enforcers. As a result, we are left with a patchwork of requirements which often result in inferior installations, and also undermine the overall affordability of manufactured housing.

To compound matters, installers, retailers, and manufacturers are reluctant to have business-like discussions with code enforcers and as a result, nothing changes. The industry folks I talk with generally adopt one of two extremes when it comes to this relationship (neither of which is correct). Either they object to the code official simply entering a manufactured home, or they are of the opinion that it is easier, cheaper, or faster to just do everything the building code official asks.  No matter which approach you take, it ultimately supports the notion that either we have something to hide, or that the construction and/or installation of manufactured homes is substandard and needs the code enforcer to improve on the homes design.

Here are a few things that installers and retailers must do to start to get code enforcers to view manufactured housing for what it is: sophisticated, code compliant, safe, high quality, durable and yet affordable housing.

Stop using the term “mobile home”. If it was built before June, 1976, fine, call it a “mobile home”. But today we produce and install “manufactured homes” and the differences are significant. If you want state and local code officials and the home buying public to think that the industry of today is producing and installing the same product that we did over 40+ years ago, then keep using outdated terms. But if we ever have hopes of getting people to understand that the manufactured home of today compares favorably to every other housing product on the market, then we must use proper terminology. 

Accept that you as the installer are the primary source of information for the code official. If you start to improve the building permit application process, you can begin to drive your code official to better understand our program. For example:

  • Provide a copy of your installer license with every installation. The code official is the first line of defense in stopping unlicensed installers. Presenting your license with every permit application, supports the notion that only trained professionals should be installing manufactured homes.      
  • Provide DAPIA approved details (from the installation manuals) to the code official to used to conduct the inspections.  Single page, unapproved pier (or footer) prints do not illustrate that the real installation drawings and details have already been reviewed and approved. Far too many code officials don’t understand that the plan review has already been performed for them!
  • On the other extreme, it seems that too many people just give the code official the entire installation manual and expect them to make sense of it. We should organize the DAPIA approved designs needed for the installation so that they are easily followed. Utilizing a cover sheet is one way to do that. This not only educates the code officials, it is a great tool for installers as well. Click here for a sample that you can use: MH Building Permit Coversheet
  • Be present at the inspections. There is no better time to provide training than this. Bring the DAPIA approved designs (and maybe your copy of the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards) with you and whenever a question is asked, refer to the designs or standards.

 At this point, I know many of you are thinking that you would rather not make waves, and that the code official won’t listen, and a ton of other reasons as to why you prefer the status quo. But, like it or not, the industry is changing and what worked for us in 1976 is not going to work tomorrow.

I was encouraged to learn folks from HUD and SEBA are speaking at a national meeting of code officials in September to discuss installation.  I have been conducting code official training for the past several years, and I can tell you, they are receptive to the message when we present it properly.

Bottom line is that either we start driving the state/local code officials to understand and respect our program, or manufactured housing will go the way of typewriters, telephone booths, and record albums.

 

A Tool to Improve the Building Permit Application Process

Having just wrapped up a week of talking to building code officials in three different states, I was reminded of the importance of the building permit application process and how professional installers need to improve the flow of information between themselves and the building code officials. 

Far too many installers continue to pretend that the entire installation process for a manufactured home can be boiled down to a one-page pier print. Then complain if the code official doesn’t uniformly enforce installation requirements on other installers. The problem is that it is very difficult to organize the documents needed into a manageable sized packet of information. The typical installation manual is far too cumbersome and code officials are not going to spend time flipping through these 100+ page manuals for each permit application. Nor should they!

I thought if we could create a tool to help assemble a packet of designs, extracted from the manufacturer’s  installation instructions, it could streamline the process, focus on the important issues of support and stabilization and help eliminate bad actors from the business of manufactured home installation. This post is intended to help installers assemble just such an informational packet through the use of a cover-sheet to pull everything together! 

I know you don’t think you have the time to organize all the documents needed for a complete building permit application, or that the code official doesn’t want anymore then the one page pier print. But if we are ever going to move the manufactured housing industry and careers as professional installers forward, we need to look at the bigger picture when it comes to working with building code officials. 

Here are a few things to consider:

 Manufactured homes have gotten significantly more sophisticated over the years, yet our approach to working with the building code officials remains unchanged! If we want to improve the image of manufactured housing and attract a larger segment of the home buying public, we need to earn the confidence of the code officials.    

Getting familiar with charts like this is step #1 to a more professional installation

 As a trained and licensed professional installer, you should take charge of your installations by being in control of all of the documents needed to properly install the home. The way we have always done things in the past is probably wrong, out dated, and a waste of money and time. Housing designs have changed rapidly over the years, both installers and code officials must be on top of these changes. The only way to keep up with the changes is to make sure we are submitting and following current and pertinent installation documents with every permit application. We just lacked a tool to help installers organize the designs they need for a building permit. 

 Are there unlicensed installers stealing work from you? Once building code officials start seeing exactly what is to be expected for every building permit and subsequent installation, unlicensed installers will not be able to keep the pace.

 Most importantly, a properly applied for building permit eliminates variables and unknowns from the process and goes a long way in increasing profits and reducing liability.

Ok…here is a breakdown on what should be included at permit application as a minimum:

Identify the licensed installer! Show the code official your license so that they come to expect a licensed installer for every new manufactured home installation.

Identify the home by manufacturer as well as home width, side wall height, roof pitch, foundation type and for a few manufacturers, the size of the eaves along the sidewall.

A copy of the manufacturer’s DAPIA approved installation instructions that highlight the appropriate charts and tables needed to construct the foundation. If not submitting the entire installation manual and only the table of contents page shows the DAPIA stamp, provide a copy of that page as well.

Provide DAPIA approved documents from the manufacturer that show approval for any alternate installation methods you might be using (such as alternative anchoring system or shallow frost protected foundation).

Include the Complete Installation Checklist from the installation manual or a Expanded Installation Checklist (from October 16, 2017 post) to better address the installation.

Provide notes on the soil bearing capacity, frost depth and other site-specific considerations that are needed to assure a proper installation.

Typical Pier Print-an installation tool, but must be used with several other design details.

 

And finally, prepare a plan of the home where you can layout the proper location of piers. CAUTION! Pier prints from the manufacturer are not to be trusted. Every pier print refers the installer to the actual installation instructions.  You may want to use the pier print as a tool to help you determine pier locations, but never trust these pier prints without first reviewing it yourself! 

A sample of the permit application cover sheet.

The link below will take you to my attempt at developing a tool to help professional installers organize the documents needed for the building permit application. Feel free to modify it for your particular use.  Click Here for Manufactured Home Building Permit Application Cover Sheet

You will likely need to add some additional documents for the code official (plot plan, sewer tap permits, etc.), but the cover sheet in the above link, will help you get the home specific details in order. Consider making this a part of your typical building permit procedure. I promise, if you try it one time you will quickly see the benefit! 

    

Let’s talk about: On-Site Completion

In our previous post we talked about Alternative Construction (click here to view it). This is a special authorization from HUD to allow manufacturers to construct specific homes that do not meet a certain aspect of the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards (MHCSS or HUD Code). Tankless water heaters, accessible showers, garage ready, or two-story homes exceeding the allowable path of travel to an exit door are a few examples. These homes may not meet the letter of the code, but will perform just as well or even better than the MHCSS.

On-Site Completion (SC) is different as the manufactured home (after all site work is done) will meet all aspects of the MHCSS. However, there are certain elements of construction that cannot be completed in the factory, so they will need to be completed at the installation site. For example, a home designed for a stucco or brick exterior may be shipped to the installation location where the stucco or brick can then be applied. Maybe a home was designed for roof dormers or roof extensions, again, these would be added at the installation site. Tile and glass shower enclosures, and completion or installation of a fireplace are a few other examples. These homes would all comply with the MHCSS, but the work can’t be completed until after it is transported to the site.

Tiled Shower enclosures are often completed under On-Site Completion.

 

If you are like me, you might be thinking, why isn’t this addressed as a part of installation? Well, one of the big things that occurred when the manufactured housing law was amended in 2000 was that installation work was somehow separated from construction. So, we ended up with two classifications of work: construction (in the factory) and installation or close- up (occurs on site). However, the line that separates construction and installation is often blurry.

Fireplace and hearth extension along marriage line finished at the site, under On-Site Completion.

 

Even though the federal law was amended almost 18 years ago, the On-Site Completion rule only recently took effect (March 7, 2016), so it is still very new. Through time, many things that are addressed under Alternative Construction may be shifting to On-Site Completion. So keep your eyes open.

Here are the things that installers and retailers should know regarding On-Site Completion (with references to the Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulation in the event you want more information than I provide here).

  • The letters “SC” will be included in the serial number of the home. Keep in mind, a manufactured home can have both SC and AC (Alternative Construction) features. 3282.605(a)
  • A Consumer Information Notice must be developed by the manufacturer that explains the process and identifies the work to be completed on site. 3282.603(d)(10)
  • The manufacturer must provide a “Consumer Information Notice” and have it prominently on display in the home (often by the Health Notice in the kitchen). 3282.606(b)

Typical Consumer Notice

  • The retailer (or manufacturer) must provide a copy of the Consumer Information Notice to perspective purchasers before they enter into the sales agreement.  3282.606(c).
  • The manufacturer is required to provide all of the designs to be followed and materials necessary to complete the construction outlined under the On-Site Completion provisions. 3282.608
  • If the manufacturer expects their retailer or installer to perform this work at the job site, the manufacturer is to provide authorization before the work begins. “However, the manufacturer is responsible for the adequacy of all On-Site Completion work regardless of who does the work…” 3282.602(b)
  • Prior to occupancy, the manufacturer must assure that the On-Site Completion work is inspected. This may require inspections by the manufacturer and IPIA (2 separate inspections) or the IPIA can accept the manufacturers inspection (which appears to be the most common approach). 3282.605(c).
  • The homeowner and retailer are to receive a final site inspection report and certification of completion after all inspections have been conducted. 3282.608(m)

I hope that both the professional installer and the retailer understand that this means additional paper work and record keeping.

If you are the professional installer and are expected to perform this work, make certain you have been given the written authority from the manufacturer before you start the work. Maintain this paperwork in your file for the home along with copies of the documentation provided by the manufacturer.

As the retailer, have a record that you provided the Consumer Information Notice to the purchaser before the sale. Have them sign and date the notice, and keep a copy in your home file.

If a retailer or installer is going to accept responsibility for any part of the inspection process, they should assure the authorization to conduct the inspection is received from the manufacturer in writing. Also, keep copies of the construction designs and the “On-Site Inspection Report”.

Finally, always keep in mind that the entire On-Site Completion process is the responsibility of the manufacturer. If you ever are unsure or have questions on the SC process, talk to the manufacturer’s Quality Assurance Manager. He is the one with all the answers!

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.

Safety Pays!

 

My grandfather Giovanni Battista Conte

My family has been in the construction business ever since my grandfather immigrated from Italy in the early 1920’s. Having five sons, my grandfather always had an in-house work crew and back-log of work. Not only was he a skilled carpenter, but he was extremely frugal  and always looked for ways to save time and money. Unfortunately, his focus on saving  time and money  failed to include working safely. Eventually this ended up costing him dearly. You see, when my grandfather was in his mid-twenties, he lost his little finger on his left hand using a circular saw with a broken guard. To compound this injury, about 10 years later, he lost his right arm to the elbow as a result of severe laceration, again the result of overlooking his own personal safety.

These accidents ended up costing him much more than he ever expected and made a big impact on me. Every time I visit a manufactured housing installation site, I see professional installers placing their health at risk, just like my grandfather.  I  hope that this post might prompt you to examine job site safety to reduce the risk of injury for everyone involved in manufactured housing installation. Stay with me as I touch on a few things for you to consider.

First Aid Kit-This is a must at every job site. Make certain that all trucks in your fleet have one, and that they are fully stocked at all times. You can’t predict when an accident might happen!  

Eye protection-Over 500,000 job related eye injuries requiring medical attention occur every year. Don’t allow anyone on the job site without proper eye protection. In fact, you should have a few extra pairs of safety glasses or googles in your truck (with your first aid kit) at all times. In general, prescription eyeglasses add some level of protection, add some side shields and you are in great shape! Watch out for workers wearing cheap sunglasses as a projectile can shatter the plastic lens and lead to more injury.

Also, sunglasses are never to be used to protect your eyes during welding, acetylene burning, or cutting work. Sunglass lens are NOT the same as welding or cutting lenses!

Back injuries-Over 1 Million on the job back injuries occur annually. Make sure you and your crew practice proper lifting techniques. Bundles of shingles, boxes of siding, concrete blocks, sheets of plywood or OSB are heavy. Take a few extra minutes to plan ahead to reduce the probability of back injury. Work smart – Not hard!

Fall Protection-OSHA requires personal fall protection for anyone working 6’ or more above the next lower level. ThatABC-of-fall-protection means a properly fitted harness every time you are working on a roof. Visit OSHA.GOV for more information on this.

Suspended Loads-NEVER allow anyone under a suspended load. Cables and straps can break, loads can shift, spreader bars can fail, and rim joists can split. Make sure if the home were to drop, it would be supported by cribbing, and not be on top of you or your crew!

Footwear-There are 1.2 million job related foot injuries per year! In our industry, footwear should have slip/puncture resistant soles and a steel toe. No sneakers on the job site! Actually, once a worker starts wearing work boots, they won’t go back to sneakers! Especially those with time working on a ladder!

Tools-Never use a nail gun without a properly working safety mechanism. Never use a nail gun like a hammer to finish driving in a nail or staple, or as any type of striking tool. Make sure all saws have the proper guards in place, and the work piece is secured and supported to prevent injury.  Double check the placement of all jacks and winches (come-alongs). Position yourself so that in the event of a slip, you are in the clear. When using an impact wrench, make sure to use impact sockets, not hand ratchet sockets. Don’t use a screwdriver as a chisel or pry-bar. Only use a tool as intended,  I think you get the picture!

Electrical Service-Make certain every tool and cord is powered by a GFCI protected circuit or extension cord!

gfci-power-extensions-tower-manufacturing

Ground fault circuit interrupter cord. 

Immediately replace damaged or frayed cords.  

Ladders-I can’t tell you of all of the risks I see being taken with ladders. Make sure you buy high quality (I prefer fiberglass) ladders that are the right size and capacity for the job . Inspect your ladders every day before use, replace worn out ropes on extension ladder pulleys, and steer clear of power lines!!! A ladder standoff is a very valuable tool.

b8e3a590-33a7-49a6-ac04-bfb74cfa8251_1000

Ladder standoff

Read the warnings on each ladder and believe them!

 

Clothing-I am a big fan of work uniforms for several reasons. But the biggest reason is safety. When properly fitted, they provide added protection from many hazards. Plus, you and your crew will look professional and your customers and potential customers will be impressed. Gloves must fit your hands snugly, and shirt tails should be tucked! I know a lot of you think that in the summer, a work uniform would be too hot to wear, but back in the day, my crew wore them and found they were more comfortable wearing work uniforms. And the cleaning service was well worth the price.

Housekeeping-There have been countless injuries because of messy job sites, such as stepping on hidden nails in piles of debris, and tripping and slipping. Not to mention time lost looking for tools, materials, etc. Keep things tidy as you go. You will realize saving in time, money and safety!

Distractions-Everyone knows that distracted driving is a problem, but do we realize that distracted working is just as dangerous? Have you considered having your work crew leave their cell phones in the trucks? I see too many guys on jobs sites paying more attention to their smart phone than their jobs. For their own safety, make them put their phones away.

 

OK, these are a few things to start the discussion. I would love to hear what you have to say.

We need to practice safety and not learn it by accident.

Working With Code Officials Part 3-Inspections

Today we will look at the last piece of the puzzle on local code officials: The Final Inspection. That last hurdle to get the much-anticipated “Certificate of Occupancy”.

The local code enforcers I work with typically require two inspections for manufactured housing:

  1. A footing/site grading inspection
  2. A final inspection.

Not to say that sometimes additional inspections aren’t needed, but for a typical pier set, two inspections should be sufficient. Here are four things for the professional installer to consider going into the inspection phase of an installation:

  1. Don’t cover your work before the inspection!

If you want a bad relationship with your code official, go ahead and pour your concrete before the footer inspection. Remember to schedule your work with the inspector in mind!

  1. Be present at every inspection.

This is extremely important. It is akin to being on trial without showing up in court! In fact, I suggest that the installer actually direct the inspection! Trust me, I have been audited, inspected, examined, and interrogated more times than I can remember, but in each and every case, I did my very best to set the tone and direction for whatever type of oversight or inspection is occurring.

You can set the tone of the inspection by simply showing off your work.  Explain how you determined the footing sizes. Explain how the home has pier savers and that you don’t need piers at the patio door, but that the triple ganged window needs pier support. Explain how the anchoring system you use takes care of the end wall anchors. Just start with keeping the inspector engaged, and soon he will start having confidence in you, and that will pay dividends on future projects.

BUT…you MUST be present at the inspection!

3.  Have the installation details and instructions at the job site to be used during the inspections.

In my opinion, a good inspector will inspect against the documents that were provided for the permit application. Not just walk around the job site and point out what he doesn’t like.  Having these instructions with you helps eliminate confusion, and as an installer who does the job right, it helps educate the local inspector in the proper way to install manufactured homes.

If the code enforcer points out what he feels is a problem, your first reaction should be to refer to the instructions to verify the issue one way or the other. Don’t just do something because the code official told you to, stick to the designs, charts, instructions, etc. If the code official is wrong, you need to tactfully and calmly show him why you believe you are correct. Keep in mind, this is a business and we need to have a business-like approach.

Remember, if there is a problem with the installation of a manufactured home, the installer bears the responsibility, not the code official!

  1. Utilize the “Complete Installation Checklist”.

If you have been following this blog, or attending my training courses, you know that I am a big advocate of the “Complete Installation Check List” (see “A Very Valuable Tool-Jan. 6, 2017).

Just imagine the reaction of the inspector when he arrives at the job site and you hand him a checklist that is completely filled out with notes and comments to indicate that you have followed the manufacturers installation instructions.  And he can keep a copy of this checklist for his records!

Trust me, that inspector will have gained more confidence and respect for you then you could ever imagine! Presenting the completed checklist as evidence of a properly installed home will help you set the tone for the inspection, and identify you as a true professional manufactured home installer.

In closing, I understand that many professional installers don’t have a warm and fuzzy relationship with local code enforcers. But if we ever hope to improve the image of manufactured housing, I think this relationship is the most logical place to start. It is up to us to start changing mindsets, attitudes and relationships. While a few code officials might be impossible to work with, most code officials are only looking to do their job. They would much rather avoid confrontation just like you!  They don’t need extra work, and honestly don’t take pleasure in failing an inspection.

Change starts with us! Let’s improve our understanding of this entire Manufactured Housing Program and be able to explain preemption and why it is deserved. The permitting process can make or break an installation. Let’s re-examine our approach and use the tools at our disposal. And finally, get involved in the inspection process and start taking charge of our projects! And there is no better time than right now! Spring is Here!

Working With Code Officials-Part 1

Every time I thought about posting on the topic of working with code officials, I would get bogged down in the sheer number of issues that need to be discussed. Is the code official allowed inside the home? What can they inspect? Why is code enforcement so inconsistent? Why are we afraid of upsetting the code official? Shouldn’t the code officials know installation better than me?

There is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding, misinformation, failed communication, and worst of all, mistrust between the code enforcers and our industry.  With all of that in mind, I felt the best approach was to start with a series of short posts that hopefully will all come together and make sense.

So, to quote the Wizard of Oz, it is best to start at the beginning. For manufactured housing the beginning starts at PREEMPTION. If you are not familiar with this term, this is your lucky day!

The word “preemption” simply means that one thing takes the place of another. Think about how a breaking news story “preempts” your favorite TV show! So, the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code) takes the place of (preempts) the state and local building code.

 

So, what do you think this means to the code official?  Basically, he is being asked to issue a building permit for a manufactured home without doing the things he would normally do for any other house. But the typical code official has a lot of questions. Has anyone properly reviewed the building plans? Has anyone conducted any inspections during the construction process? Is this HUD code any good? Has anyone done the things he would have done if the home was being built on site?

The code official needs education! However, we do a very poor job explaining the manufactured housing program and how manufactured homes are likely more highly scrutinized and inspected than any conventional constructed home. Because of the strength of manufactured housing program, the code officials can have confidence in homes we install.

A Manufactured home has earned the right of preemption from local building code!

Not taking full advantage of the preemptive nature of the HUD Code adds unnecessary costs to the installation of the home and does nothing to improve the image of manufactured housing industry.  If we earn the confidence of the local code enforcers, we will earn the confidence of the home buying public. And it all starts with knowing how to answer all of the code official’s questions. Explain how the plans were reviewed and stamped as proof of compliance. Explain the in-plant inspection processes, and the accountability that is in place to assure that the manufactured house is not just affordable, but safe, durable and high quality. Explain to the code officials that the manufactured housing program works on behalf of the building code official.

We need all code officials to understand that they don’t need to worry about the rough framing, plumbing, electrical and other construction inspections. All of these inspections were already conducted on their behalf.  While they can’t review all of the building plans, the plans were reviewed on their behalf. If something were to go wrong, there are mechanisms in place to get things corrected.  As a result, the code official can have confidence in every new manufactured home that comes into their town. The problem is that a lot of code officials don’t know how the program works! They need training, and the installers are in the best position to start training them!

Here are just a few of the things to consider:

·         Installers must know the installation manual! Stop saying “we always did it that way” and start following the manual, making positive changes to our installation procedures.

·         Get involved with the building permit application process. Submit details, designs or instructions that have been plan reviewed and stamped. That means a stamp from one of the agencies that does plan review for the manufactured housing program; RADCO, PFS, HWC, TRA, NTA, NEB (whoever is listed on the data plate).

·         Know the HUD code. Be able to explain why the drain lines under the home do not need insulated. Be able to explain why ARC Fault protection is not required. Be able to explain flash rings, bonding wires, closed combustion appliances, limited combustible materials at the cooking range area …just to name a few.

Ok, that is enough for now. But stayed tuned, Part 2 on this topic will post next week!