Thursday, April 6, 2017

In Canada, house trailers can get big

I wanted to do a post on something many people in the US or other parts of the world probably don't know about, but might be curious about, and that is what manufactured homes are like in Canada.

Because of winters in Canada and the short building season, Canadians take their manufactured home building seriously. They have stricter codes and you won’t find 2 x 4 walls on many of their singlewide manufactured homes, except perhaps the ones used for summer cottages. Even the Canadian park model RVs have a little more insulation.

Not only are their codes higher regarding such things as wall width, insulation, and roof load, but their aesthetic is different also, inside and out. They often use wider boards for window trim on the exterior, and full size moulding as trim on the interior.

The average manufactured home made in Canada is plain, more solid, substantial, and high quality, with prices to match. There are nice eaves on this one from Grandeur Housing, which has dealers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The following two are from Hospitality Homes of New Brunswick, Canada. Instead of singlewides, in Canada they are sometimes called "minis."

The two above have a stately look about them but are slightly off kilter in the balance of window placement and dormer size. Again, I think Canadians are practical, and concerned about performance in a colder environment, rather than trying to strive for exterior perfection appearance-wise. Canada doesn't seem to produce many low-end manufactured homes.

Supreme Homes of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Canada makes higher end modular homes but has some small ones as well. This 864 st. ft. one is called the "Zen" and has a shed roof and triple pane windows: 

Here is a more standard type of singlewide by Supreme Homes, and this one I chose because it has a hip roof, which would be good for areas with high winds and snow. It also uses an R value of 28 in the sidewalls:

This is a drone video of the GreenTerraHomes factory (see website linked at left for some high style singlewide homes) in Canada. Below, the video shows their factory facility, some higher end singlewide homes in their lot, and some shots of the steel framing they use in their homes:

To give you an idea of how different it can be in Canada’s wide open spaces, they also have their own category of manufactured home which is either rare or nonexistent in the US, at least with a home of this size. It is called RTM, which stands for ready-to-move. That means the house, except for the foundation and sometimes flooring, is completed in a factory and then moved in one piece, roof standing at full height.

These homes can be as wide as the widest doublewide, and they are offloaded from a specially designed trailer, a combination of dragged and rolled onto a completed foundation. A crane is not used.

Even though I’ve seen older houses, usually small ones, being moved in one piece, I have never seen anything quite like this, and it is worth watching. Imagine the anticipation for the family, seeing this house rolling in. This ready-to-move home is by J&H Homes, a builder in Saskatchewan, Canada, which builds these in their factory in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan:

This model is called the Rockglen, and it is impressive. You can look over the models on their website (linked above), but I think this one is the best. It has a great fa├žade, so much character, and looks well made. It came in on wheels but no one is going to call it a trailer.

Modular homes in the US come in two or more modules and then are joined together onsite, after being placed on a foundation—the same type of foundation used in a site-built home. The roof is on hinges or is folded down for transport and then lifted up to full height. This is so that the house can be transported under bridges and still can have a more steeply pitched, "residential" looking roof.

Even though modular home builders don’t like it when modular homes are called manufactured homes, which to them is a lower class trailer built on outriggers for poor people like me, that’s mainly sales hype.

Of course, I understand why dealers of modular homes want to separate themselves from the trailer stigma. They want people to consider their homes, tour a model, and to not just automatically dismiss them because they’re manufactured instead of site-built.

There are, however, modular homes which are modestly priced, and have a lower price per square foot than some higher priced manufactured singlewides and doublewides  (non-modular). And although modular homes are usually two or more, a modular home can also be small and have only one module. They are defined as modular by the type of foundation, and not being built on steel outriggers.

This is a video of an example of modestly priced US type of modular home being lifted by crane onto a foundation in the Midwest by Home Nation, a dealer with headquarters in Goshen, Indiana. They specialize in affordable manufactured homes, including a modular like this which starts at under $60,000. I like that you can see the action of the crane in their video. Sometimes I’d like to see some footage of when the home is complete at the end though, and they don’t show that:

Oh, back to Canada…here is a photo followed by a video of a small cottage, a manufactured home I ran across a few weeks ago on the Internet. It's 16' x 50', 800 sq. ft., and with the nice strong looking porch posts and width of the trim wood around the windows and doors, it looks substantial. 

If the above Canadian singlewide, The Fairview, from the Cottager Series, were on a foundation, it would look like a stick-built cottage and that’s partly because it’s made in Canada, where they go for a more solid look, including wide eaves.You can go to the YouTube channel of Prairie Mobile Homes of Canada, and see many examples of Canadian manufactured homes. Here is Prairie's website out of Manitoba. The Fairview probably should look real, since it costs $76,000 US.

I don’t like dark brown cabinets in small homes, or board and batten in this level of home, but it's great that it looks like a real cottage. For some reason, in the US and Canada, but not at all in Scandinavia, homes built for colder climates go for more dark woods in the interior. I think all small homes look nicer with lighter colors and flooring. The interior of the this one is so monochromatic, they need to put a vase of colorful plastic flowers on the dining table or something.

This home, the “Luxe” by Northlander Industries of Canada, is a park model RV and available through dealers throughout Ontario:

The Luxe debuted at a show in early 2015. The insulation specs are too lightweight for me to pronounce it a total success, but the design of the exterior and interior are beautiful, if not spectacular. It doesn't look like a park model, but instead something designed by a very talented architect. Northlander makes singlewides as well, and in both those and some of their other park model RVs, they have some budget priced homes.

Cavco, Kropf, Quailridge  are among several makers of US park models which also either export Canadian park models to Canada, or have factories in Canada which make them. They are larger than the 400 sq. ft. limitation on US park model RVs. Usually they have better insulation as well, but sometimes not.

Here's a slideshow video of Canadian park models by Kropf:

A Canadian park model, made in the US but built for the Canadian market, might be something to consider, if they are allowed to sell them in the US. It might not work for some RV parks, because it would be too big for parks which specialize in park models.

Last but not least, and back to singlewides, Triple M Housing takes the prize for energy efficiency and sophisticated interiors. Their standard insulation across most of their singlewide and other lines is R40 (floor), R22 (walls) and R60 (ceiling). In the US, even some of the better manufactured homes for colder climates are only R22-19-30, with R50 found in the ceilings of Karsten only. And I've never heard of R40 in a floor, even for manufactured homes especially built for Alaska.

By viewing the gallery of singlewide exteriors at their website, they aren't as great as the interiors. I'll try to find an exterior shot of the Black & White model if I can and add it to this post. I'm also curious as to what a home like this costs.

Triple M sells their homes through several dealers across Canada, and I think these interiors are exceptional looking. The first one is a 20 ft. wide singlewide, a width unique to Canada. In the US, 18 ft. wide is the widest and they are rare. And the second photo is a magazine-like Black & White beautiful interior. You can scroll through their gallery to find them on their Triple M Housing website.

And here is a video of the Black & White singlewide by Triple M model MRD2076-272KS:

Here is a video of another Triple M model MRD 2076-258KS:

And a video of another nice singlewide, MW257, from Triple M:

I like looking at photos of manufactured homes which are built in Canada because of the different dimensions and aesthetic, although I admit I haven’t seen one in the middle price range which I like as much as many of my favorite models built in the US. It is interesting how some of the companies, such as Triple M, do not treat the singlewide as inferior to a doublewide or modular.

Canada does not have the variety of styles in their homes, compared with the US, and they don't make as many, because of their smaller population, but what they have is very good. Find other manufacturers of homes in Canada at this link page at the Canadian Manufactured Home Institute's website.

Fairmont Homes is a dealer which, I gather, coordinates distribution of the Canadian manufactured homes to the US, and has good coverage in the Midwest and states near the Canadian border. You can go to their website to see what dealer is closest to you in the US, and what homes they sell.

Several countries in Europe produce manufactured homes also, many with a unique flavor. Taken as a whole, I don’t like them as much as American manufactured homes, with Canada coming in second.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Do manufactured homes have to be ugly as hell?

Is there an unwritten rule I'm missing? What is it about the architects who work for manufactured home companies that their home exteriors are often so bad? Why can’t they produce more homes that look like this?

It’s the Sunset Cottage, by Palm Harbor Homes. It's 620 sq. ft. of perfection! Sometimes I look back at posts of houses I liked and think, what did I see in that? That's not going to happen with this one. I loved the Sunset Cottage the first time I saw a photo of it. Best thing, it's a not a park model, so it has the size to be livable and maybe can be made with 2 x 6 walls. I'm not sure about that.

This also comes in a 2 bedroom 806 sq. ft version called the Sunset Cottage II. They both come in either modular or manufactured versions.

I understand that doing the cottage look this well adds to the price, and oh well, I like a lot of other Palm Harbor small home interiors better anyway. No home can be perfect, interior and exterior. When you have to choose between interior function and attractiveness over exterior, obviously, inside is where you have to live, and build quality and materials are even more important.

Nearly all homes, manufactured or not, don’t look their best without skirting or a foundation of some sort, and I realize that sometimes when I see photos of new models and laugh, they may not look so bad with skirting (or a foundation) instead of a gaping dark space underneath. The really good looking ones though, like the Sunset Cottage, look good even with a gaping dark space underneath.


Here's a photo of your more typical singlewide. Looks like it could use some freshening up.

 Incidentally, you can click on any image of my blog to see it large size, and then scroll through all the images using the forward and back arrow keys on your keyboard.

I was thinking, what possessed someone at Solitaire Homes to think these snazzy shutters look good? They produced their whole freaking line of homes this way. They look silly!

 Yet with a few brush strokes on Photoshop, or in reality with a quart of paint, and goofy shutters can be transformed to simple and fine:

Solitaire uses a faux shutter incorporated in the trim wood surrounding a window. It's a downright clever idea. In that way decorative shutters don’t need to be attached and they won’t fall off or rattle in the wind.  

Perhaps because of the plainness of their homes, Solitaire wanted to give their homes a signature look so people who see them know—that’s a Solitaire. This is an older model of theirs, which I think was called The Playing Card:

Kind of corny. Things that can be fixed so easily aren’t a problem. However, if they make mistakes like the shutter colors, it makes you wonder about some of their other choices.

Solitaire makes a plain but fairly handsome singlewide home. I like how they align the windows at the top and use vertical siding, and that the homes have some eaves, even if they overhang only 6 inches. Inside, they use drywall on all of their homes and 2 x 6 walls are standard on the doublewides. It's an option the singlewides.Their homes are of good quality, but with interiors a little behind the times, and the prices are good but not the most affordable.

Partly because they have a factory in New Mexico, and therefore delivery would be less, I would put them near the top of my list of brands to check out if I were looking for a new manufactured home.

There are more significant errors manufacturers make, and a lot of those can’t be fixed by an owner using a can of paint. On lower end singlewides, something like changing 7 ft. sidewalls to 7’6” sidewalls could transform the interior of some of these homes, along with changing the roof pitch up to 3/12 rather than 2/12. But when the mandate is making them as affordable as possible at the low end, I guess I understand where they have to cut costs somewhere.

My theory is that designers/architects, even good ones, fall in love with their creations as they are doing them and they can’t see things as someone would who was looking at them for the first time, or even as they would see it if they were looking at it for the first time.

After looking at the Solitaire goofy multi-colored shutters for a minute, I began to like them more, instead of thinking they were just a laughable mistake. I still like the solid color shutters better.

Palm Harbor is the brand with the most consistently good looking homes, interior and exterior, including sometimes the lower end homes, although I don’t like the Velocity line at all, which is their newest brand at the cheap end. I don’t like either the interior or the exterior on the Velocity homes.

Ironically, Palm Harbor, with all those good looking designs, went bankrupt several years ago but continues as a brand under the Cavco mother ship.

And some of their homes are just smashing looking, such as the large La Linda, although that one looks better in drawings than reality. And then there are some so nice which just makes me want them, like this Sunset Cottage which I Photoshopped from a parking lot to a lake. It’s so beautiful it makes me hate myself for being too poor to afford it.

Yet, I’m okay with my house now, because I found the roof leak that drove me crazy for years. Aggravation over water dripping and sometimes pouring in my house rekindled my fantasies of owning a manufactured home at that time, and that’s when I began blogging about Clayton’s i-house years ago. Then again, I’ve been looking at homes, manufactured and otherwise, on the Internet, for as long as they’ve been on the Internet.

Now that the i-house flopped, sold so poorly they no longer make it, I can admit I was never crazy in love with that house. I liked many things about it though, and I was fascinated with how completely different it was. The living room and kitchen area were beautiful. That guest house would have been great, for guests, not me. I’d have old friends and neighbors dropping in from everywhere if I owned something like that. Now I tell them they can bring a tent and pitch it in the goat pen.

If I’m going to dream about homes now, I should dream about a passive house, because they are the simplest and the best. Architect and writer Lloyd Alter writes here about why stupid homes, like passive homes, are smarter than smart homes with roofs full of expensive solar panels. Passive homes are the most comfortable of all to live in.

Maybe one day they’ll get a 3D printer to poop one out for practically nothing. I probably won’t be around then. In the meantime, I’ll work on appreciating where I live and my house as it is, while still dreaming about passive houses, and the Sunset Cottage, of course, along with sailboats and airplanes. I’m never going to own one of those either, and perhaps that’s just as well.