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: