Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The good and bad of board & batten walls in manufactured homes

Board and batten walls are usually found in less expensive manufactured homes. In some of the nicer homes with them, sometimes you wouldn't know it was a manufactured home from the interior, except because of board and batten walls. At one time, board and batten was used on many stick-built homes also, but not so much anymore.

Also, when used in stick-built homes, the battens are usually evenly spaced, for aesthetics, or they are using boards which don't come in large sheets. Half walls in board and batten are more common. I watched a video of a person doing a board and batten wall on the entryway of a new home, and it seemed like a lot to go through. The wall looked fine before:

In manufactured homes, battens are placed for utilitarian considerations, to make the most efficient use of materials. Board & batten isn’t always aesthetically inferior. Some of the recent ones look great, and have finish which looks like linen or a finely woven fabric.

There are also smeary, blotchy, cloudy patterns which can look fine as long as it is subtle. When they get too strong they become overpowering. Here is one of those:

 And here's a home with both. The darker wall is a little too blotchy, too busy, and the adjacent lighter wall is good:

You can tell vinyl covered gypsum board (VOG) from paper covered board by the texture. Vinyl has a textured surface whereas paper is smooth. Vinyl is easy to clean. If a board is damaged, the best solution might be just to tape over the damage, and then put a poster, decoration or statue in front of it. If your home is relatively new, you might be able to order a replacement board from the manufacturer or through your local dealer.

Board and batten has some good qualities for use in manufactured homes. The boards can flex a little at the seams during transport, and therefore don’t crack. And they are lighter in weight. Those two reasons are why they are used in many RVs, instead of drywall. The board, in board and batten, is usually made of gypsum or contains gypsum, which is fireproof. I guess it can also be some other fibrous material, like fiberglass in some RVs.

Board and batten is quicker, cheaper and easier to install than drywall, and those are the three reasons it is used in manufactured homes. With drywall, joint taping is particularly time consuming. Multiple coats are applied and sanded down, with each of three applications of joint compound ("mud') overlapping the seam more. Then a finishing texture like orange peel finish is sprayed over the whole wall.

Board and batten doesn’t need any finishing or joint taping/sanding. The disadvantage of board and batten is that it doesn’t provide as tight an insulation envelope for a home.

Decades ago, there was a plague of dark, depressing fake wood paneling board and batten in manufactured homes. It can look nice painted white. This one came with a counter with shake roof:

Floral and other patterns in older manufactured homes look particularly goofy because the pattern on the battens usually doesn't line up with the patterns of the board. Floral patterns have mostly died out. In spite of the granny appeal, they looked cheap.

The main problem with the appearance of all board and batten in manufactured homes is the strips/battens between the panels. It disrupts the continuity of the walls, especially when the pattern on the batten doesn’t blend well. I have seen a couple surfaces on board and batten which would look better than drywall, but the strips covering the seams never look good.

Drywall gives a continuous surface which has become standard in stick-built home construction and it’s one of those things that in a manufactured home makes it just like stick-built. Some brands like Karsten and Solitaire do only drywall, and except for the lower end modular homes, all modular  home builders usually use only drywall.

You can paint vinyl-over-gypsum board and batten by first cleaning the wall, and then using an oil primer and then an oil paint. Both of those things are expensive and smelly. The oil primer can stink for weeks.

Finally, I'd like to give my opinion on what would make a good cloudy wall pattern, if you want to attempt this yourself. First is a photo of someone who got into doing this faux wall painting effect, but it's hideous.

Instead, what makes this come out well is using an extremely subtle variegation in color. It's not a solid color, but a variegated color which looks like an outdoor wall which has aged naturally. So, something like this:

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Dark brown moulding gone wild

Some manufacturers just can't get enough brown moulding strips on the walls.

In touring dozens of manufactured homes, and looking at hundreds of manufactured home interiors on the web, one design mistake that bugs me is the overuse of brown moulding between the ceiling and walls. White moulding looks better.

Here’s why having so many brown lines running around the walls looks bad. By drawing attention to the ceiling line with dark moulding, it makes the ceiling look lower than it would if white moulding were used. It draws attention to itself and fences a space in, making it look smaller.

An attractive element of this Athens park model would be the shapes and angles created between walls and ceiling. It is spoiled by brown moulding:


Here is an inexpensive singlewide, the Starline "Yale," as sold by Home Nation in the Midwest, with 7 ft. sidewalls, and I've blurred out the dark moulding on the second photo, including around doors:

Making the ceiling look a few inches higher by using white moulding may not matter much in a home with a 9 ft. ceiling, where the quality of moulding used is good enough to reflect a craftsman or colonial style. But in most homes—I’d say 9 out of 10 which have it—dark moulding looks busy and cheap.

The same is true for dark brown door frames (see above). White door frames open up the space of a room, and make the woodwork around a door look better, even if the moulding is an inexpensive wood product made out of MDF or a laminate. White woodwork, or light color wood doorframes make the door openings look bigger.

Here is another singlewide before and after in which I removed the dark moulding to make the home look simpler and less busy. I also lightened the cabinet color:

I’ve tried to think of why some manufacturers might use so much brown moulding instead of white. While handling and moving the product in the factory, brown moulding may not show any marks or scrapes which need to be cleaned off or repainted, as white moulding would.

For baseboards, brown could be more practical for the homeowner. It doesn’t show dirt, scuff marks or bumps as easily. Manufacturers stopped using the dark fake wood paneling which used to plague manufactured homes years ago, and it's time to drop the dark wood moulding.

As a buyer, a home with brown moulding wouldn't stop me from buying it, if it were priced attractively, for example, a lot model marked down, and I liked everything else about the home. I would paint the moulding white.

Another reason to go with white — it  matches the ceiling, and you don't have to be bothered with the brown in the trim clashing with brown in the the kitchen cabinetry or any furniture you have which is made of wood. White trim goes with everything. It works with both modern and classic styles.

Manufacturers could make their homes look better by using white moulding, especially on lower end homes with low ceilings. Here's one with white moulding which looks modern and clean, and I did nothing to the photo:  

Here is a small singlewide, the "Cabana" by Palm Harbor, where lighter color wood moulding is used in this stylish kitchen. I like this kitchen better than the one above because they used a mix of materials and colors, and didn't get hung up on matching everything:


Monday, February 20, 2017

Will Palm Harbor have a smash hit with their 2017 doublewide, "The Urban Homestead"?

After taking a second look at the 2017 doublewide version of Palm Harbor’s singlewide “The Santa Fe” (see my post on that HERE), I thought it deserved a post. The doublewide version is called “The Urban Homestead.”

Usually I post only about smaller homes, but this is so beautiful I wanted to do a post about it also. I still like the singlewide a little better though, but everything about this doublewide is a breath of fresh trailer, as I like to say.

Palm Harbor’s “The Urban Homestead” is a 1736 sq. ft. doublewide and also comes in two larger sizes. The base price is around $100,000. It’s supposed to be a blend of urban and country, and like the singlewide version (“The Santa Fe”), it does this well.

I have seen Clayton and a few other manufactures try to capture the farm or country look in a home, and it wasn’t this successful. Such efforts usually look dorky, although can have some nice elements.

By manufactured home standards, the front of the home, above, is balanced and pleasing looking, one of the better looking ones, for sure. It’s not going to be mistaken for a stick-built home, but inside, it’s nicer than any stick-built home I’ve seen of this size and price. It really has charm.

The exterior is nice looking, instead of odd, fake, or funny looking. It’s not urban or country, but it’s a good-looking doublewide manufactured home exterior, and better looking than the singlewide version.

My photographs look a little bit grainy, because I took ones off the Palm Harbor site and they were enveloped in fog. I turned up the contrast. Here's the original foggy exterior from their website, with flag blocking a window. See what I did on the photo above?

 I also photoshopped a different door onto the house, from an architectural drawing.

Here are three videos from YouTube, tours of the house.

You will notice in the video, the kitchen cabinets are not solid white, but have scratches or cracks, a distressed look to mimic those of an old, abandoned farm house. Just joking about the abandoned part, but seriously, they could have skipped the cracked effect I think, but it still wouldn’t stop me from buying the house. I’d have to see it in person to judge whether it’s cool or a little too fake looking.


Now, to two small reservations I have about the house...neither of which are that important. They wouldn’t stop me from buying it if I had a family and needed a house this big.

First, you will notice in the second photo of the kitchen, near the top of my post, the seam in the ceiling between the two halves of the doublewide shows conspicuously. I don't particularly like the look of that.

My other reservation is this one. This home has something you don’t often see in any manufactured home, a free-standing tub (see above) in the master bath, in addition to a separate shower. So there is no enclosure around the tub. I had an old clawfoot tub once and I loved it, but this tub sits right on the floor. I assume it’s fiberglass or resin.

One potential problem there would be with no or thin insulation in a free standing tub, the water wouldn’t stay warm for very long compared to a tub set in an enclosure with insulation under and around it. Old fashioned clawfoot tubs hold their warmth somewhat because they are made of cast iron and the cast iron gradually releases the heat it stores from the hot water when the tub is filled.

Here is a photo of the second bathroom. Can you believe they’d put something this wonderful in a manufactured home?

I’m just joking. It’s a photo I came across on the web and sent to friends as a suggestion of how they should remodel their bathroom. This bathroom probably costs over $100,000 and that’s no joke. It’s the kind of thing a rich person would do to make their house memorable to guests.

So, they say The Urban Homestead (click on this link to visit website where house is sold) is already “award-winning,” and it doesn’t surprise me. It seems like it would be a great home for Palm Harbor to send to manufactured home shows. Congratulations to the designer. It’s daring, different, functional and beautiful.

Palm Harbor Homes
The Urban Homestead FT32563C
Palm Harbor Model Center, Bryan, Texas

Sunday, February 19, 2017

“The Loft,” a modern singlewide shed roof design by Palm Harbor

How many singlewides have you seen which look like this? I’ve photoshopped the color down several shades on the fa├žade, because I thought it would look better with a unified color scheme, given all the windows and design elements they have going on. Gray and dark gray aren’t my favorite house colors, but unifying the palette emphasizes the modern look of this shed design. You can see the actual model colors in the video:

Manufactured home factories usually give a choice of colors for the home’s exterior, and sometimes type of siding, e.g., cedar or hardboard. Unless you’re buying the lot model, the interiors of manufactured homes usually come with white walls. The dealer will sometimes throw in some paint, if you ask, but it would be colors used in the model.  

Speaking of gray, you will notice in the video on the home’s website, the interior of the model is all soft gray, including the ceilings. Having worked with drywall on two my own homes, I hate gray walls. It’s the color of naked drywall. Yeah, I know, it’s a trend, like very dark cabinetry. I don’t like that either.

Gray walls and ceilings are depressing and remind me of unpainted concrete basement walls. If you’re afraid of color, paint your walls beige, and ceilings either white or a lighter shade of beige than is on the walls. That will keep the room warm and friendly, rather than cold and depressing.

The wells of skylights, and sometimes perimeter around windows look best in white, not in a color matching the wall color. No skylights here, I was just throwing it out as a tip.

Dark cabinets and dark wood in general look old, like colonial furniture and wood trim from the 1800s. Sometimes dark wood looks good in high-end kitchen cabinetry, I will give it that much.

In a small, modern home like this, light cabinetry would look better, and be in style forever. I’m pretty sure it’s an option. The rage for dark kitchen cabinets has been going on for over 15 years, and some day it will end and those cheap stained dark brown cabinets will look just fugly.

I remember around the year 2000 when a friend who follows trendy home design crap first told me dark cabinets were “in.” It looks good in some kitchens which cost as much as a singlewide trailer.

Scandinavians and the Shakers, they like light woods and design which look clean and simple. I bet some of these dark stained cabinets look awful after 10 years of wear. Then you can paint them white. That’s a big job, painting cabinets.

My other pet peeve about dark wood is when it is used as molding on any small home, but especially a home with a low ceiling, as in a strip of molding between the walls and ceiling. Thus the dark strip running around a room makes the ceiling look even lower, and it looks silly. On the more upscale doublewide manufactured homes, I have seen dark trim which was better quality and looked okay.

Natural or lightly stained wood cabinetry is beautiful, like knotty alder and other woods Palm Harbor and Karsten used. They will always be in style. Pine is soft and light, and probably not as suitable for cabinetry as harder woods, since it dents easily, but my favorite cabinets were the knotty pine ones I had in my last house.

My blog is opinionated, but I’m not shilling for any particular brand or company, even though I lean toward singlewide homes by Palm Harbor and Karsten. It just so happens I like their singlewides.

No company is paying me, except I’ve earned about $150 in the last 5 years from Google AdSense, which places ads in the right column of this blog. As some of my posts get older, they pick up more views, about 100 a day for the popular posts.

Anyway, the reason so many of my picks for fairly good quality and stylish smaller manufactured homes are either Karsten or Palm Harbor is that they have good home interiors. Besides having nice interiors, they are of better quality than most; simple, solid, and not too fake or cheap looking. For example, Karsten’s one piece tub/shower doesn’t look like the awful, cheap looking units that lower end homes have. Instead, I would prefer theirs to tile, having grout wear away, and having to re-grout around a tub because of the line where the tub meets the tile.  

You can buy a new low-end singlewide for $25,000 and I understand why someone might do that if that is all they can afford. There was a time when I had such a terrible problem with a major roof leak I couldn't locate, a low-end trailer with a good roof would have saved me from misery. 

However, when there are homes like this $51,000 Palm Harbor which in the long run may make you feel happier, save you money on energy costs, and last longer because things on it won’t fall apart as easily, then it is worth it if you can afford it, to buy a better quality home like this. Because of the better style—higher ceilings, drywall, nicer windows—these are the only homes I can really like, and would like to own myself.

With the shed roof singlewide and a home oriented toward the south, the slanted ceiling would pick up a lot of light from the clearstory windows, more than a flat ceiling, and I like this kind of slanted ceiling.

One reservation I have about this shed roof design is that when solar panels become more popular, and your house is oriented with the tall side to the south, which you’d do in climates that have snow in winter, the roof would be slanted the wrong way for solar. If you had room, you could either have a free-standing tracking solar array or in a decade or two, solar shingles or a thin panel which could be put on the front of the house.

This home appears to have 8” or 10" eaves on the sides and eaves of only a few inches on back and front. It’d look better with the same eaves on the front, or even a foot and a half of eave on the front, for best passive solar design.

Inside, unless you need extra storage, the structure with two shelves on each side, between the living room and kitchen, I think it has to go! I’m sure you could tell them to delete it from the build. It ruins the modern look of the house. I don’t know, maybe it would look better with books or something.

This model, "The Loft" is located in Albany, Oregon, which is a Homes Direct dealer which has this Palm Harbor model for $51,000. It's the only one, but you can probably put one on order at another dealer. HERE IS THE LINK to that website, which features a lot of other nice homes, all with prices, which I like. (I don't like when you have to call for a price.)

For example, HERE IS A LINK to a $35,900 singlewide called "The Perris" on the same page. It's also a Palm Harbor home. It's not as exciting as "The Loft," but with only one bathroom and less style, it's less expensive.

Paying $35,900 for "The Perris," rather than getting a bottom-of-the-line singlewide for $25,000, is probably worth it. "The Perris" would look nice inside, if it had one or two walls painted a color other than white. The whole thing is kind of a whiteout inside right now. I wanted to include this because sometimes the pricier brands like Palm Harbor produce some nice, inexpensive homes.

Some dealers offer granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances on their luxury homes, but on the inexpensive homes they're kind of cheap all through. Palm Harbor and Karsten both build quality in their singlewides and small homes. Again though, fail on the dark kitchen cabinet color.

State standards for manufactured homes are high in Oregon, Washington and Northern California. By law, they can't sell any manufactured homes with 2 x 4 walls, except if they are "park model" RVs. In states with lower standards, you can sometimes pay extra and get a home built to higher standards, and that's what you should try to do. For example, locally, for me, the Karsten factory in Albuquerque will build a home with R-21 insulation in the walls, instead of R-19.    

Back to "The Loft"...Perhaps because I’ve spent too much time trying to find roof leaks, like in places where buildings meet, the simplicity of a shed roof, one simple rectangle, it’s beautiful. Tell me what you think of this shed roof design in the comments.