Confused about all of the names surrounding factory built housing? Don’t worry, because we are here to help! Basically we will look at each term, describe them and enumerate their differences. These terms are modular housing, mobile home, prefabricated home and manufactured home. Seems similar right? Well, some are actually synonyms and some have a bit of history to them. Here is a guide to understand the differences.
Factory Built Housing
When it comes to describing off-site built homes, you’ll probably see a variety of terms used. Simply put, off-site built homes are constructed inside a building facility. Then transported to the home site for final assembly. You may also hear this type of housing referred to as a prefabricated home or prefab home. To summarize, these terms embodies all types of off-site built homes we will discuss further.
Types of prefabricated homes include manufactured, modular and mobile. Visually, manufactured and modular housing don’t appear that different from one another, and both can look very similar to traditional site-built homes. The main difference between manufactured and modular is the codes they are built to, which we’ll talk more about below.
You may also be wondering where mobile homes fit into this. Let’s break down the details about the difference between these types of homes and what it means for you!
What is a Mobile Home?
Many people commonly use mobile home for any type of structure that can be transported in one piece. Analogous to the term trailer home, but that term was abolished in 1976 due to its negative undertones. Both manufactured and mobile houses have several common traits.
- They both are built in a factory and taken to the property where they are set up
- Built on a metal frame instead of a crawlspace or basement
- Sometimes have tie downs in place of a permanent foundation
History of the term mobile and manufactured
However, mobile and manufactured homes were distinguished from each other in the US in 1974 when the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act was passed. This act was followed in 1976 by the HUD Construction and Safety Standards — usually called the HUD code — which set federal standards for manufactured homes. This includes :
- Design and construction
- Body and frame requirements
- Thermal protection
- Plumbing and electrical
- Fire safety
- And energy efficiency
Prior to 1976, mobile homes were mass produced due to the demand for affordable, moveable housing, but there was very little oversight when it came to building specifications. Starting in the early 1900s, people found they needed to be able to move to wherever jobs were available in order to provide for their families, and so the mobile home was born.
The structure of these early mobile houses resembled what you might think of as a modern-day camper or trailer with an exposed trailer coupler and wheels, making the home easily movable. The home itself was generally built on steel I-beams that ran from end-to-end and could be set up on concrete blocks, wooden blocks, metal stands or a concrete foundation at the desired location.
During World War II, some factories bought mobile homes to use as temporary housing for workers traveling long distances to aid in the war effort. When the war ended, affordable housing was in short supply for veterans returning, so the mobile home industry provided a quick and cost-efficient solution. In the 1960s, demand expanded beyond just mobility and affordability to those looking for larger homes with more features.
And after the HUD Code was created in the 1970s, the Housing Act of 1980 later mandated the term “manufactured” be used in place of “mobile” in all federal laws and literature that referenced homes built after 1976. The new codes and standards then quickly gave rise to the whole new era of the beautiful, modern manufactured homes you see today.
What is a Manufactured Home?
Like we mentioned above, the biggest difference between the two types of homes is the date they were built. According to HUD, a factory-built home prior to June 15, 1976 is a mobile home and one built after June 15, 1976 is a manufactured home.
Modern manufactured homes are extremely different from the mobile homes built prior to 1976 in terms of construction and design. They are constructed with quality materials inside climate-controlled building facilities according to the HUD Code. They also typically come in three sizes, single section, double section and triple section.
When it comes to comparing manufactured and modular homes, another factor that can set them apart along with the codes each are built to is the type of foundation typically used for each. If your home has a pier and beam foundation, it can usually be relocated by a contractor who specializes in prefabricated homes. Depending on factors like where the home will be located, manufactured homes can also be placed on a permanent foundation, crawl space or basement.
What is Modular Housing?
Like manufactured homes, modular homes are constructed inside building facilities and then transported to the site. The main difference is they are constructed in sections before being transported to by truck and then assembled on site. Much like MegaBlocks or LEGOs you had as a child. Consequently, they must follow local building codes exactly like their site-built counterparts. Panelized homes also fall under this category. Here are a few characteristics of modular housing :
- Often delivered in 2 or more pieces
- Typically built on crawlspaces or basements
- Usually look like traditional “stick-built” homes in both size and features
Generally, modular housing can follow the same design as site-built homes. Because they are equally set on a traditional, physical foundation. A modular home must be structurally inspected by professionals and certified before anyone can confidently move in. The goal of this structural inspection is to ensure that the building adheres to local building codes.
Building Codes in Canada
In this article, there are mentions of the HUD Code and a National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act. These are both based in the United States and are mentioned essentially to explain the history of the terms. What does that mean for building codes on factory built housing in Canada? Well in Canada, there’s no equivalent to the HUD Code. There’s no separation in standards for factory built homes. Anything produced in a factory has to meet the same requirements as any traditionally built home. It’s all under the National Building Code of Canada.
All factory-built housing must meet standards set by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). That’s not to say local building officials aren’t able to restrict the placement of manufactured housing. Local building officials do have the authority over technical requirements. For example some local jurisdictions don’t approve homes built to the Z240 and Z241 standard. Which is the closest thing Canada has to the HUD Code. If it’s just built to CSA Z240 or Z241, it may not get approved in your municipality or area.
Why Choose a Prefabricated Home?
A prefabricated home from Prairie Lights Country homes is a great choice for you and your family for many reasons. We construct our structures inside our home building facilities, using a streamlined process. Which allows us to reduce waste and delays because of factors like bad weather. This means we can offer you a more affordable home.
We use high quality materials from industry renowned home building brands. That is to say, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your new home will be well equipped with long-lasting quality products. Especially right down to details like the windows, door hardware and appliances. We also build with energy efficiency and sustainably in mind to help you save energy and money.
Our homes are not subject to the elements such as rain, snow or freezing temperatures during the construction process. Every home is constructed with strict on-site quality control. Each home is designed and built under the direction of production engineers, supervisors, quality auditors and quality control inspection. All our factory built homes are dielectrically tested and the plumbing system is pressurized and tested at 100 psi for 2 hours to confirm functionality prior to leaving the factory.
For more information, read our Frequently asked questions.
A Dependable and Affordable Choice
Prairie Lights Country Homes is a retailer for home builder Shelter Home Systems. Founded in 1978, Shelter delivers homes from Western Ontario to British Columbia and from the Northwest Territories to the US Border. With over 17 acres of land, 140 employees and a building of 90,000 sq. ft. Shelter is well positioned to service this expansive market.
We look after everything including placing and verifying your factory order. That includes designing, coordinating the build and determining the final price. You won’t be faced with extras with your mobile home – costs and pricing are known up front.
Prairie Lights Country Homes offers quality factory-built homes with many models to choose from. We have floor plans to suit your needs and a multitude of design options to choose from. Our homes are customizable to meet the needs of you and your family.
Contact us to start customizing your home today!