Sunday, March 16, 2014

Super insulated single wide home

Not commercially available except for a limited pilot program in Vermont, nevertheless, this single-wide called the Vermod Nordic Home shows what is possible with a super energy efficient home single-wide home made for colder climates. I hope to see more homes like this in the future from the major manufacturers. Update September 2014 -- Here is a link to download brochures: Manufactured Housing Innovation Project.

On the outside, quite plain, and nothing that much different from what I’ve showcased in one of the higher quality single-wides like the Karsten SF-50. The exterior looks a little better than the Karsten SF-50. The windows follow a rule I learned from an art teacher about hanging paintings in your home or in a gallery. With paintings of about the same size, align them at the top. Therefore, the outside of this looks better to me than the Karsten (link to my review of that single-wide on the right side of this blog).

However, in this house, everything from the triple-pane windows to the tightly enclosed shell and 10-inch thick double 2 x 4 walls with an R43 insulation factor, and R60 in the roof, make this home built to Passive House standards. That means super energy efficiency and quality way beyond any stick home which is not built to those standards.

If you can zoom in on the photos of either the exterior or interior, you can tell it looks like it is very well built.

It is a collaboration among five organizations in Vermont including Pill-Maharam Architects (designer) and Vermod High Performance Homes (builder).

Only ten have been built for the pilot project but it may go into production in Vermont this year, 2014. The homes cost about $80,000 to $100,000.

You can see how the thickness of the walls makes the interior look substantial, much as it would in an adobe, strawbale or rammed-earth home. It also also features a special heating system.

If I had $100,000 to spend on a home, I would definitely consider this over the fairly nice double-wide $100,000 can buy, but then again, I love the idea of a super energy-efficient home that is built to high standards like this one. 

I don’t have a floor plan for the interior but I assume it has three bedrooms and two baths. I’ll try to post more photos here if this home goes into production.

For a more detailed article on this home, go to this one in a Vermont newspaper, the Rutland Herald.

Here's a video from a Vermont news station that did a piece on the home:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

GreenFLEX, a better insulated park model?

My beef about park models is usually the lack of beef in their insulation, usually R11 or lower wall insulation. This manufacturer, GreenFLEX, (click on link for more photos or to download brochure) in Salem, Oregon, makes environmentally friendly park models with concrete SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) that are R16.

The manufacturer also has a note in their downloadable brochure claiming that R21 insulation, which would be very good on some 2x6" conventional framing, performs in the real world at R13. SIPs, with their solid-core foam insulation, probably do function better in the real world than fiberglass with conventional framing. I'll go along with that.

Their floors are R22 and ceilings, R30, which is good, especially for a park model. The ceilings are 8' high, which is good height for a small home. I also like their simple design. It doesn't make you go squishy inside because it's so cute, but just being small makes it cute, and the interior looks nicely planned and simple.

These are also meant to be reasonably priced, including a more stripped down kitchen for worker housing, or if you want, a more upscale kitchen. The website doesn't mention prices. It comes in a flat roof model and peaked roof. I'd go with the peaked roof. Here are some photos. In the first photo I GIMPed in some foundation/steps:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A good looking single-wide

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Some people have a strong aversion to the single-wide shape and nothing that is done with it will change their minds. It could fly and they wouldn't care, they hate it. I don’t hate the single-wide shape but I still like it when a manufacturer tries different types of roof which make it look better. This one has a hip roof with dormer and in the drawing at least, what looks to be nice eaves. Personally, I wouldn’t spend a lot of extra money for a home because of the exterior appearance but it might help the resale value, as long as it is on your own property. I'm not sure the dormer on the end is necessary.

This single-wide is called the Woodland II FFG3 72K3 “Anniversary” elevation/edition by Palm Harbor Homes. It is modular only. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a photo of a real one but even the drawing looks much nicer than the drawings of the other special hip roof models which remind me of ranch houses from 1960. Here's one:

You can find the plainer Woodland II models for about $35,000 to $45,000 and their exterior appearance is ghastly. I’m guessing that this kind of roof and being modular would push it more toward the $55,000 to $65,000 price range. Here's a plain Woodland II on the lower end -- eeeeek!

They are being coy about saying whether it has 2 x 6 exterior walls but I think that must be standard on this “Anniversary” modular model.Below is a floor plan and information on the upgrades. Click on any image to enlarge. By the way, I'm not posting very much am I. Believe it or not, I still surf the web looking at a lot of homes. There just hasn't been anything worth posting.

I like that it has an 8½’ interior flat ceilings and the interior seems okay. Palm Harbor is a manufacturer I didn’t like 10 years ago but they underwent style changes and I like many of their styles and materials as of 5 years ago.

If they ever sell one and get a real photo of this home, I’ll post it. Here's a link to a video, but just for the interior of the Woodland II only, no hip roof, no dormer.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Full of charm: Palm Harbor's Coastal Breeze

Click on photo to enlarge

This is a dream cottage come true, as long as your dream doesn't involve 2 x 6" walls and super insulation. Well, it's a park model RV. Go here to see the full set of photos on Palm Harbor’s Flickr pages for the Coastal Breeze. Click on Slideshow to see the full photoset full screen, in a new tab, and then press the Esc key when you are finished or close the tab. This is the same home set up for a home show and there are some embedded videos.

This home used to be sold here, at the Millersburg, OR Palm Harbor dealer. At one time this lot model was on sale for $56,858.

I’ve looked at thousands of photos of over 200 different park models over the years and while many can be cute and charming, this one takes the cake. A lot of park models can overdo the granny or precious look, and a few can look downright odd, inside and out. Others take a period of adjustment to like, but this one is in a category of its own. You can probably get this in a cedar exterior too, or at least they make a model that is similar.

The problem with living in this home, especially in an RV park, would be people stopping by and staring at it, wishing it were theirs. It would be a perfect cottage for a warm climate, with the warmer air hanging in that high ceiling the living room and kitchen area. It would also be good for taller people.

The loft area in a park model is good sleeping area for children, or storage space.  The kitchen isn’t the best layout I’ve seen (just looking at photos) and short on cabinetry but what there is of it makes it open and accessible. I’d rate the layout in the upper 20% of park models.
View from kitchen toward porch

With washer/dryer

The short video above is of a Coastal Breeze no longer at this dealer. To view this video full size you have to go to YouTube, by clicking once on the words "YouTube" near the right lower corner, then click on the full screen button in lower right.

Palm Harbor went bankrupt and was bought by Cavco early in 2011, so hopefully Cavco will keep up production of this model.  All sides of this home look good, which is rare to find in a park model cottage.

Park models, with their 2 x 4” walls, aren’t for people looking for the highest energy efficiency. It probably wouldn’t be good for Alaska or below zero winters, unless you put a small wood stove in it. But, for people looking for a 399 sq. ft. park model RV built to park model specs, this may be ideal, as long as it is a park that can accommodate the front porch. The inside might not be my favorite, but that view into the living room is special with that window and  functional porch in front. I like the bedroom too, with the window seat.

I follow the Tiny House Blog, and I’ve only seen a few homes there that evoke the charm of this Coastal Breeze park model. This home is more over-the-top than Marianne Cusato’s cottage designs which I greatly admire for their simplicity. I like that the roof has some eaves, and the porch.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A modern shed roof design, the Avanti, by Palm Harbor Homes

Avanti III, with separate guest suite on left

Avanti without guest room, at home show in Seattle

I wanted to do a post on this home, the “Avanti” by Palm Harbor a while back but the dealer never sent me the better quality photos I requested.  I found a full set of photos on Flickr HERE. Click on the Slide Show button to see all 42. And to see another set of an Avanti set up and decorated for a home show in Seattle, this of an Avanti without the guest room. The breezeway would be open in the back. This has some studs, just for transport. You can see the open breezeway in the home show model and they went all Italian with the furniture.

In the slide show, the floor plan for this home, the Avanti III, is incorrect. All together, it has 787 sq. ft. and is a a 2 bedroom, 1-3/4 bath home, with a breezeway and the 2nd bedroom/bath on the other side of the patio. I have posted the correct floor plan above. (Click on it to make it larger.) All together, it has 787 sq. ft. These photos are from the Flickr photo set, of one for sale for $69,783 at the Palm Harbor dealer in Millersburg, Oregon.

The Avanti is a modern shed-roof design with soaring vaulted ceilings and beautiful cabinets, tile work, counters and windows.  This home has real class. The only thing I don’t like about it, is the lack of eaves. Well, there's one more thing. It wouldn't be good if you ever wanted solar panels, because the roof is slanted in the wrong direction.

Unlike the Avanti III, the  Avanti I has no patio/breezeway or 2nd guest bedroom/bath, but is even cuter, and probably closer to $55,000, much less expensive than the Avanti III. In my photo, I have changed the color of the skirting. This home would look much better on a block foundation or faux rock. It is 2 x 6” wall construction with good insulation although I don’t have specs. Oregon has very high standards for their manufactured homes.

Palm Harbor was bought by Cavco in early 2011. It’s good they didn’t die. In the last five years or so, they’ve come out with a lot of nice designs, especially in smaller homes. I love this home!

Palm Harbor has nearly two thousand photos of their homes on Flickr. I’m sure I’m going to post some more.

All about eaves, roof pitch and roof load


The lack of eaves and a shallow (not steep) roof pitch are often design features that distinguish a manufactured home from a better looking conventional home.

An eave is the portion of the roof that overhangs the outside walls of a house. The soffit is the underside of the eave and by measuring its width you can tell how much of an overhang you have.

In most styles of house -- except for pueblo-style houses and some modern styles that don’t have eaves -- eaves add substantially to the appearance of a house.  They also protect the siding and window frames from deterioration and penetration from water falling off the roof and drooling down the side of the house. Rain gutters can do the same thing on a house with little eave but they require maintenance and don’t look good.

On a smaller manufactured home (under 1500 square feet) a one foot eave would be desirable, but a 6“ eave at least, is better than no eave at all. Without eaves, most homes look like a cheap box. On larger homes a 16” eave adds a look of substance to the home.

Sometimes the transport width of a manufactured home or a section of a home prohibits adding eaves, but eaves can come as detached units and be added at the site. Eaves may not be an option on some lower end homes like these, and the gray one would probably look nice with them:

Below are two photos of the same home, one with a 1" eave, and one where I photo-shopped (using Gimp) a 12" eave.


The pitch of a roof is how steep it is and the pitch is measured in inches with 3/12 pitch being a 3” vertical rise for every foot (12”) of  roof. In areas with high snow fall, sometimes insurers will require that you have at least a 4/12 pitch on your roof. A steeper roof of 4/12 or more will also make a manufactured home, look much more like a conventional home.

Many manufactured homes come with a 3/12 roof pitch but some can be upgraded to a 4/12, 5/12 or greater. Usually pitches of 5/12 come only on modular homes with hinged roofs, so they can be transported within height limits. The roof is flat and a crane lifts it up and it is unfolded into place on site.

Besides being better looking, a roof with a 4/12 pitch may also be better for shingles than a standard 3/12 pitched roof, if you elect to get a roof with shingles. Below is a chart showing the angle of various roof pitches.


Beefing up the strength of the roof  so it will hold more weight is not done by adding roofing material or sheathing but by adding rafters. It is something you have to pay attention to in areas with snow. Homes in non-snowy areas usually come with 20 lb. or 30 lb. roof load capacity.

In heavy snow areas, where you might get 5 or 6 ft. of snow on the roof, a 90 lb. roof is recommended. In areas where you might get 2 or 3 ft. of snow, you should upgrade to the 50 lb. roof.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A cute, compact doublewide, the Clayton White Pine Edge

I spent an afternoon going blind looking at all of Clayton’s manufactured home offerings. I was looking for something not too ugly on the outside, in a home in the $40,000 to $70,000 range. This is the winner!

The front of this 1036 sq. ft. 3 bedroom, 2 bath double-wide home, the "White Pine Edge," is balanced without looking contrived or peculiar. It is just plain good design. Notice the direction change on the siding. Maybe that's the "edge"?  It is the type of home you could drive up to and enjoy looking at, don’t you think?

That said, no matter how great a home looks on the outside, the inside is more important, since that is the part you will be living in. Still, having a good-looking house makes it easier to sell and own. A lot of manufactured homes are just kind of ugly, but so are stick-built homes. The white doors in the living room look like they may be covered, to prevent scratching. There is sometimes a fluted pillar in this model. If you order one, ask them to leave that out!


Inside, the kitchen is pretty small but the living room gets bigger if you order it with 2 bedrooms instead of three. I’m posting this to make a point of what I think looks good on the outside, and offer an alternative people might consider, in a double-wide that is cheaper than some single-wides.

They make this model in something from 900 to about 1400 sq. ft. Once it gets bigger it starts loosing its symmetry and good looks. Also, the fa├žade is the best looking part. The other sides are nothing. 

Of course, like all homes I review, I recommend going for the 2 x 6” sidewall construction, maximum insulation, and drywall. If you can’t get that, look for another home with that.

The odd part of my home search -- although I found about 20 photos of the front of this model -- I couldn’t find with a photo of the whole front, except for this 1200+ sq. ft. model (below) which is nice looking too, but not as nice as the smaller one. Dealers (who take these photos) probably think it makes the home look BIGGER to not take the entire front. This, again, is the Clayton "White Pine Edge." No dormers and it still looks great.

 I like how the peak in the roof adds character and would also function to keep rain and snow from dropping onto the steps.

Below is a Palm Harbor (now owned by Cavco) home that is similar in size and price, called the Hertiage Home I (also comes in II or III). Almost as cute but the peak placement is bad. Water or snow would run down the side onto the rail or steps.

Below is one of Clayton’s top selling models: The Designer Select Heartlander. It is something like 1200 sq. ft. I think the outside loses something compared to the White Pine Edge, but the inside plan is probably better for a lot of people, particularly the larger kitchen.