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:



  1. I totally agree with you on this! I'd prefer no moulding at all than narrow brown moulding.
    I've been looking at a small single section from Skyline with standard 3/12 pitch roof and 90” Sidewall Height and vaulted ceiling. They don't offer the option of raising the vaulted ceiling height. The only choice is to have a flat ceiling at 8-1/2' for $1200 more. Which do you think is better?

    1. Good question! Okay, 90" is 7-1/2 feet, which is tolerable. The extra half a foot can make a good difference. It's the 7' sidewalls which are just too low.

      As far as paying $1200 for the 8-1/2'flat ceiling, ask if the insulation is the same, and tour a singlewide -- any singlewide on a lot -- with a flat ceiling that high, and decide if you like it $1200 more than a vaulted ceiling.

      An 8-1/2 flat ceiling can make a singlewide feel more spacious and more like a stick-built home, but, personally, there's a certain charm to some singlewides with the vaulted ceiling. The rooms aren't a box.

  2. Taking a tour will be harder than I thought it would be. I live in LA but have an undeveloped lot in N. Cal where I want to put the mobile home. When I called the Silvercrest dealer in Ventura county, she said they don't have the same models as N. Cal and when I asked which single wide model they had on display, she said athey dont have any because no one wants them. I looked over the standard features of Silvercrest which I had read was supposed to be one of the best and was pretty shocked at how bad it is.
    • 2” x 6” transverse floor joists – 16” on center
    • 2” x 4” exterior wall studding – 16” on center
    • ½” drywall on all interior walls
    • ¾” OSB floor decking
    • 90” sidewall height
    I didn't know it was even possible to have less than 2x8 for the floor joists. So even though the base price for their 672sq ft single wide Sm-014814 is $43,572 or $65/sqft. It will probably cost closer to $80/sqft to get thicker joists, sheetrock,plywood etc..
    I actually did ask her what it would cost to upgrade the OSB to plywood and she said she didn't know then tried to convince me that OSB is better than plywood because it resists moisture better! She said plywood "delaminates" so people ask for OSB instead. I was so disgusted at that point that I didn't even bother to correct her.

    1. Northern California has higher codes/standards for manufactured homes. You're likely to find more 2 x 6 walls there and better insulation.

      I don't think plywood is going to delaminate unless the floor keeps getting flooded. Plywood is a better subfloor especially for ceramic tile, because it's stiffer and the grout and tile will be less susceptible to movement and cracking.

      You're right, 2 x 6 is pretty light for floor joists. I'd want the 2 x 8. I know that Karsten will do an upgrade to 2 x 10 on their doublewide floor joists, maybe the singlewide, also.

      You seem like a discerning buyer. I'll look forward to your impressions in quality and the space of different models once you start touring them.

      Most of the larger manufactured home dealers have a website which will list what they have in inventory. While it is true some dealers hardly bother with singlewides, you might find some that have more.

      On occasion, you can find small doublewides under 1000 sq. ft. which make a good comparison.

    2. Thank you for the compliment :) I agree, what she said about plywood was BS but I'm glad she said it because it let me know she is dishonest and not someone I would buy from.

      I've been reading about every kind of affordable construction under the sun for the past few years. I can tell you about straw bale, earth bags, rammed earth, adobe, cob, concrete etc.
      First of all, almost all of them are not allowed in CA. Secondly, no matter how cheap it seems initially,(ie straw bale) the additional cost of the engineering will make the overall cost higher than stick built.

      I got the Grissims Ratings book and picked out Homebuilders Northwest as my first choice only to find out they have gone under. That's really sad because they offered a well made mobile home that didn't require upgrading almost every part of the structure. 4 others that started out being very good have been bought by Clayton and I am wary of anything owned by them. If you've heard of any names of small MH builders in the NW, please let me know.

    3. I like shed roof designs on the smaller homes from Ideabox of Salem, OR, but they are expensive.

      If a smaller brand was good before it was bought by Clayton, it's still going to be good after it was bought by Clayton. Clayton doesn't change anything in terms of materials used. Of course, the thought of making Buffet richer is off-putting, but check out the homes of the factories closest to you.

      Yeah, I've read about a lot of homes. Domes were my favorite for a while but the roofs are especially problematic and I couldn't build one here anyway. I toured an earthship in Taos. I didn't like the windows all on one side.

      My favorite thing about manufactured homes is the economies of scale. I mean, let's take that little model you pointed me toward. If you built that yourself, it would end up costing more than the finished price, just to buy the parts.

  3. What do you think of Franklin Homes?

    I was looking for a small mobile home manufacturer and came across their name. Unfortunately for me they are based in Alabama so the cost for an 1178 sqft single wide including delivery to CA is $81,671 which is too high. But their standard features are so much better than Silvercrest that I would rank them above all the others I've found so far.

    I found out that it is possible to buy a new mobile home and arrange for your own shipping. You inspect the home and sign off on it before it leaves the factory which I think is a great idea. I definitely want to do that no matter who the shipper is.

    Do you think it would make any sense to buy a Franklin home from Alabama and (assuming the price is reasonable) try to find a cheaper (but experienced, insured etc) shipper to get it to CA?

    1. Except for the R11 in the floor, the standard specs for Franklin look pretty good. I don't know much about their homes but haven't seen photos of an interior of a Franklin I liked.

      No, it wouldn't make sense to have a home shipped thousands of miles. The cost of doing that would be enormous, and the quality of homes on the West Coast is high.

      Also, in one of my posts I go on a bit about one of the disadvantages of manufactured housing, in particular, big doublewide homes, is the stress the sections go through during transport. You want the least transport distance possible, both from the standpoint of saving money and less transport stress the home will endure.

      It's really important to get out there and start touring homes also, just to get an idea of the quality and space in homes, and it can help you decide basic things you want like flat or vaulted ceiling, sidewall height, recessed or non-recessed lighting, and overall quality.

      Find a dealer that has a whole range of singlewide homes and you're libel to stumble on one that is just much nicer than all the other ones you've seen.

  4. I made a spreadsheet of all the homes I've considered so far and the Micro, Loft and Karsten are all very close in cost/sqft.
    $47 Palm Harbor Loft
    $46 Skyline Micro
    $45 Karsten K1676H2