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 more trailer-like and less homelike. On larger homes a 16” eave adds a look of substance to the home. Below is an assortment, the first with eaves only on the ends, and very little eave on the front. The second, no eaves on any side.

If you enlarge the image below by clicking on it, you can see a substantial eave on the last home in the line, probably a doublewide. By the way, I have done a post on the first home in this lineup, Palm Harbor's "The Santa Fe," because the interior is different and very attractive. I've also done a post on the doublewide version of the same style by Palm Harbor, which they call "The Urban Homestead."

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. Above is a chart showing the angle of various roof pitches.

A 30 degree roof pitch has been shown to be safest in areas prone to hurricanes. Although the best design for hurricanes is a 4 sided hip roof -- pyramid shaped with two trapezoidal sides and 2 triangular sides, rarely an option on manufactured homes. In high wind areas, eaves should be less than 20 inches.

One last word on roof pitch is safety. If you get a metal roof in particular, and it has a pitch of 5/12 or above, that's not going to feel as safe as a lower pitched roof, if you're one of those people who like to climb up on your roof and clear branches or do some minor patching around exhaust pipes, for example.   


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.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cavco 2011 solar park model is special

Before starting the video, click once on the word YouTube near the lower right corner of the video and it will open up a new tab on YouTube, so you can choose to see it full screen by clicking on the full screen button on lower right:

Arizona-based manufactured home builder Cavco, which introduced the first commercially available solar park model in 2008, has a new 2011 solar park model. They introduced it at a KOA campgrounds expo in Las Vegas, in November, 2011.

Aside from a nice size added porch, the new model has 2 x 6" exterior walls (hurray!) and eaves (hurray!) and some special energy efficient design features like phase-change insulation in the ceiling to help stabilize interior temperatures.

The exterior appearance doesn't make me go squishy inside for its charm, but I like the shed roof design, and that it has some eaves. The 2010 model they did for KOA, with more natural wood, makes for a warmer interior. This 2011 also comes with the option of natural wood board (1 x 6”) or drywall on walls and ceiling rather than the white-painted board in the model. Drywall is the least expensive and from a design perspective, would probably look the best. Lines in the blinds. Lines in the flooring. Lines in the walls. It's too much.

It comes with a 2KW PV solar array (off-grid with batteries or grid-tie) and propane tankless hot water heating and a two burner propane gas stove, and costs $79,000. (The grid-tie has to be cheaper.)

I'm enthusiastic about this house, even if it is only 400 square feet, because of use of things like "tech-shield" OSB wrap and cork flooring, they are making a special effort to make this energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.

One thing missing from this house is a washer/dryer and closets, although the bunk room could probably be converted into a room for both. This is where the bump up to a 600 sq. ft. manufactured home, instead of a 400 sq. ft. park model, would make the home liveable. However, tiny house living  is possible for people who have ingenuity, opportunity or resourcefulness to strip most of the stuff out of their lives.

Cavco bought Palm Harbor Homes when they went bankrupt earlier this year, so they must be doing something right in the way they run their business. The "park model" market for a solar home is growing in KOA and other campgrounds, where people can rent them and experience what a solar system is like.

Although Cavco is going to take this solar house on the road, starting in California, I don't see why they haven't made a video of it, or at least a good slide show for YouTube. The local Vegas news station did a nice piece on it (at top), but it is pitiful that this low resolution video is the only video of the home available. I will update my post when a better video becomes available.

In Internet marketing, Clayton got with it, finally, and Palm Harbor's dealers in particular, made good use of YouTube, to show their model lines. Cavco has a dismal presence on YouTube, although their website is pretty good.

Cavco, or any manufactured home company, should also work into the green market to produce a zero-energy manufactured home in the 600 sq. ft. to 1100 range, or at least a very high tech home with regard to insulation and the building envelope, such as a house with R-30 in the walls and R-60 in the ceiling. That is, make a simple, sturdy house, that will have a significant advantage over stick-built to-code houses. Then,  if a person buys a small single-wide, they will have bought something that will hold more value after 15 years.

As I’ve written in my blog on the Clayton ihouse, 2 x 6” exterior walls and good insulation are a no-brainer, and will enhance the value of a home well beyond what they cost. In the past, people didn't pay any attention to good insulation and special energy saving features, the web is gradually changing that, creating more informed buyers.

In places where it is allowed, this park model would make a nice guest house or house for an elderly parent. Due to the downturn in the economy, sales of park models are growing for people using them as their primary residence too.

Park models start at about $20,000. Judging from what people spend building their tiny houses, this solar model (above) could probably be built for $60,000, maybe, but it would take a lot of skill and time to do so.

The towable RV industry is dynamic and highly competitive in increasing the performance and appeal of their products. They are more like the auto industry in that a manufacturer has to keep improving or they will die. Innovation in the manufactured home market is slower, but it is nice to see a gap being bridged in the "park model" home. That is, they are perfecting the design of small spaces, to make them functional and appealing.

Some park models have higher ceilings than conventional homes, and kitchens that would function well for a retired couple or single person.

In the U.S., "park model” is an RV designation for a home under 400 sq. ft, that can be put in an RV park. Because of the colder climate, Canada builds park models to a much higher insulation standard, more like that of a quality manufactured home. Some of the Canadian models are built in Arizona by Cavco, but check to see if it will qualify for where you want to put it.

Below is a 432 ft. to 530 sq. ft. model from Cavco, built to Canadian standards. The exterior looks like a cracker box, but I like the interior and the higher building standard. Canadian park models are bigger and would not be allowed in RV parks here in the U.S.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Skyline 765CT Oozing Charm

Click on any image to enlarge
This is the same picture as one above. I changed the position of the painting on the left. When hanging photos, paintings, or pictures of about the same size, you should align them at the top.

Although Park Model RV homes can be cute, stepping up to a manufactured home a few hundred square feet larger like this one, doesn't cost much more and you can usually get the 2 x 6 inch walls and better insulation, along with wider hallways and a more home-like feel. If it is designed well, it can feel like a small cottage instead of a single wide. Unfortunately, they aren't always that much less expensive than a full size 1000+ sq. ft. single wide. This 765CT is listed for $46,900 and I will try to find the specifications.

This charmer is by Skyline, the 765CT (see more pictures), and has one bathroom,  two bedrooms, room for a stackable washer/dryer, all in 601 square feet. A wrap-around porch is cleverly incorporated in the design.. By putting the door off the porch at an angle, and other wall configuration, this layout is cozy instead of boxy or trailer-like. The knotty pine cupboards, window trim, and half wall in pine boards make it even more special. Outside, the siding is cedar.

I like the paint job, of white ceiling and sand or light beige/yellow color walls. It goes well with the woodwork. The things I don't like about it are lack of roof eaves on the sides, and the ceiling height would look good three inches higher.

Some of their larger double-wide models have pillars flanking room entrances, ugly wall paper etc. but this little home is free of that type of excess.

This would make a great vacation cottage or retirement home. Skyline has factories all over the country and this model is made in Arkansas and may not be available in your state.

An update...this identical model is also made by Clayton and is called "The Cabin" 1R510225Z, 768 sq. ft 48' long 16' wide 2 bedroom 1 bath and one is for sale at the Clayton dealer in Evans, CO on Service Rd.