The HIGHS and lows of 2019!

As we start a new year, I thought I would look back and assemble a list of some of the manufactured housing installation highs and lows from 2019.

Let’s start with the HIGHS:

  1. Installer record keeping is catching on! I visited with quite a few installers last year and was pleasantly surprised to see how many of them met me at the job site with a job folder in hand! It was no surprise that the installations done by these professional installers were some of the best I have ever seen in over 30 years of inspecting installation!
  2. Improved skirting application. Thankfully, I ran across only a few installations where the vinyl skirting was fastened directly through the bottom course of vinyl siding. Several installers were attaching 2 x 4’s to the bottom of the home to attach the skirting, others used Skirt Back’r (Tiedown Engineering) or something similar. Add that to the homes where the manufacturer provided a double starter strip, or extended the wall sheathing below the siding, and it is pretty clear that we are getting better at skirting attachment.

    Consider flashing to prevent water from seeping behind skirting channel.

I need to add a note of caution when talking about skirting attachment. Be sure you don’t create an area where water can seep behind the skirting channel, especially if the manufacturer extends the wall sheathing below the siding. In that case, you should consider installing some flashing to keep water from getting into the joint.

  1. Improved Site grading. More installers are bringing a couple lifts of fill dirt to the job sites to better groom the site for proper drainage.

    A couple lifts of fill dirt is often needed to grade a site!

  2. New resources are starting to emerge. Such as the construction blog and quarterly newsletter from Clayton  Click here to visit their site. And as we discussed last week, the availability of several installation manuals on-line is also a big step forward!

The LOWS:

  1. The Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee met twice in 2019 (in April and in October). This generally would be a good thing, except the committee membership still does not include installers. This committee is responsible for the development of the vast majority of the current installation program requirements and now they are again looking at additional changes to the installation process. The failure of installer representation is completely illogical. As I like to say, if you are not at the table, you are probably on the menu! And installers are still not at the table!

Should you want to express your thoughts to the Consensus Committee, you can email HUD at: mhcc@hud.gov or the contractor that administers the operation of the committee at: mhcc@homeinnovation.com

If you would like to learn more about the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee, check out their information on the HUD website: Click here for HUD MHCC

 

  1. The loss of states participating in the manufactured housing program should be seen as a huge warning sign for the industry. In the past year, New Jersey completely ended their relationship with the manufactured housing program and Pennsylvania dropped their installation program. In addition, far too many of the remaining states have drifted very far away from the basic program principals. The lack of strong and informed state participation undermines the sustainability of the overall program. The manufactured housing program does not exist because of written laws or regulations, but rather because of a federal-state-local government partnership that understands, respects and defends the manufactured housing program. This partnership makes these laws and regulations come to life.
  2. The continued stubbornness of the industry. There are still too many installers that operate under the “we have always done it that way” mentallity. Far too many industry professionals continue to use negative terminology, such as “mobile homes” and even “trailers”. All too often we are reluctant to have a business-like discussion with our building code officials because they might get mad. Keep in mind, just like swimming, if we don’t keep moving forward, we will eventually sink!
  3. The service side of our industry remains focused on fixing problems, as opposed to preventing them from ever occurring. Before patching cracked drywall, adjusting cabinets or counters, or resetting windows or doors, service technicians should be called on to identify the source of the problem. Rarely do factories provide meaningful feedback regarding improper installation, and as a result, we miss out on opportunities to improve.

 

Moving into this next decade, I believe that there is a lot of potential for the manufactured housing industry. Potential to increase our share of the housing market, potential for installers to improve their bottom line, potential to become the housing solution for a country that is desperate for high quality, yet affordable housing. But…if we don’t expect more from our industry partners and ourselves, this potential will never be realized. So, let start by building on our “Highs” and working to eliminate our “Lows”.

Manufactured Home Installations Are Changing!

The other day I received a call from a manufactured home retailer who was concerned because a code official refused to issue a building permit unless the installation documents were better organized. The code official wanted the installation details to be organized with a “Manufactured Home Building Permit Application Cover Page”. Other installers in the area had begun using this document to organize the pages, tables and charts from the home manufacturer’s installation manual instead of just using a pier print. As a result, this code official was so impressed that she now requires this cover page for all manufactured home permit applications.

If you are not familiar with the “Manufactured Home Building Permit Application Cover Page” click HERE. It is a simple one-page document where the installer can go through the manufacturer’s installation instructions to organize and detail the information needed for a proper installation. Plus, it is a great start to installer record keeping that is required for all new home installations. For more of an explanation on how this document can help you, click on this link to see the original post.  A Tool to Improve the Building Permit Application Process

This made me think, are there other improvements to manufactured housing installation that are starting to catch on? Well, yes there are!  Here are a few that I have recently observed:

Independently Supported Patio Covers and Carports

While monitoring several installations in Michigan, I was impressed to see how posts and columns were properly installed along the front and back of the carports and patio covers to assure they are independently supported. Just lagging the hanging rail to the home will overload the home, and can possibly lead to structural failure in a wind storm event. If you are still using the manufactured home to support these accessory structures, you need to watch this video HERE.

It clearly shows how attaching a carport, patio cover, or similar structure to a manufactured home (that was not designed for such an attachment), can lead to a structural failure of the home.

Example of a properly supported patio cover

Not only are installers in Michigan improving their installations, but here is a home in Pennsylvania where the porch roof supports itself and does not add additional loads on the home.

Porches Isolated From the Crawl Space

I have finally begun to see installations where the skirting or crawl space enclosure separates the porch area from the rest of the crawl space. We all know that water under the home is a huge problem, and rain water coming through floor decking boards and allowing this water to collect in the crawl space is a big problem.

Rain water coming through deck boards can lead to problems in the crawl space.

Finally, I have been seeing installations where barriers are provided to isolate the porch area from the rest of the crawl space, and the skirting around the porch is held above grade to allow any water that comes through the decking board to flow away from the home.

The lattice only serves to hide the piers and frame. It is installed to allow any water to flow away from the home.

 

Skirting Attachment

Attaching skirting directly on the siding of the home has been the conventional method of skirting application for years, simply because it is easy. However, this application has led to water infiltration, poor performance and appearance of the siding. It is extremely encouraging to see how many installers are now attaching skirting under the home.

Proper skirting attachment, prevents water infiltration and improved appearance.

 

Installation Check Lists

I am seeing quite a few installers have begun to use the installation check list, and have started to customize the enhanced checklist to better fit their particular installations. These checklists, along with the building permit cover page, go a long way to reduce the liability of the installer. Check out this post and download your own copy of the Expanded Installation Checklist.

Manufacturers Getting On Board

As reported in our last post, New Installer Resource & Upcoming Training Available, Clayton Homes started publishing a quarterly newsletter designed to improve installation. Also, I have seen that the Commodore Corp. has been providing their retailers/installers with some home specific foundation details to help streamline the installation process. I am sure that there are some other manufacturers doing similar things, and I hope more follow suit.

Bottom line, the installation process is slowly changing for the better. So, as a professional installer, you should want to be in front of these changes and use them to your advantage.

 

Difficulties With Porches

A few years ago, I was called upon to investigate a complaint filed by a homeowner in a very high end, 55 and older community. The complaint was generated because the homeowner believed that there was mold growing in the crawl space under her home and she was hyper sensitive to air born mold spores.

To paint a better picture, these were all two section homes installed on a masonry (block) crawlspace, on frost protected concrete slabs that were poured 3’ below the surrounding grade.

Once backfilled, the slab will be below the frost line.

The crawl space was properly moisture proofed and the sites were well graded for proper drainage. But the inside of the crawl space was soaking wet even on the nice summer day when I visited.

Notice the wet blocks under the porch area

And sure enough, you could see mold and mildew on the bottom board and in the floor cavity where the access panels were not replaced. The homeowner had a legitimate gripe.

 

As you know, water is needed to support the growth of mold, so we just needed to find the source of the water. The water source was easy to find. The lawn sprinklers!

Every evening, the automatic lawn sprinklers would slightly overspray the grass and water was landing on the recessed porch decking on the end of the home. The porch was decked with composite material that was installed with just enough of a gap for the water to pass through and collect in the crawl space. The ultimate problem was that the crawl space was constructed around the outside of the porch, instead of just around the living area of the home. So, with every lawn sprinkle, rain or snow that landed water on the decking, water was being introduced into the crawl space.

So, I decided to see what the manufacturers installation instructions say about recessed porches. Most installation manuals have two sentences dedicated to this topic, back somewhere around page 95 of most manuals: “Run the skirting along the perimeter of the homes heated, conditioned space. Do not enclose with skirting areas under recessed entries, porches or decks unless the skirting is of the fully vented type and installed as to allow water to freely flow out from under the home”.  And to complicate matters even further, the ground vapor retarder is not to extend under “recessed entries, decks or porches”.

It would be difficult for an installer is to design a crawl space enclosure-skirting that “allows water to freely flow out from under the home”.

Home sits in a “pit” No way for water to escape.

And even if you did, the homeowner would likely do some landscaping that might act as a dam and trap the water in the crawlspace. Easy to see in these two pictures that any water landing on the decking is going straight into the crawl space.

Water gets captured inside skirting.

 

As we are seeing more homes being constructed with these decked porches we need to take a harder look at this issue. Running skirting underneath the home is difficult at best. I have run across one example that is well done. In the picture below you can see the porch area is only enclosed with a vinyl lattice that allows any water to escape. And yes, there is a crawlspace wall (skirting) under that front end wall.

Crawlspace under front end wall, behind lattice work.

 

Maybe some manufacturers have a better idea. But don’t take my word for it, grab an installation manual, turn to the section Complete Exterior Work- Install Skirting. Let me know what you think.