In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the creative and thrifty things you can do with a mobile home frame.
How to remove a mobile home frame
First, let’s get the most poignant question out of the way: can you remove a mobile home frame from a home and leave it intact? The answer to this question is a resounding no. In most cases, the frame of the home is the one single structure that is keeping the rest of the home together.
Even if you somehow manage to separate the flooring and walls from the frame without causing significant damage to both, you will need to replace the frame with some other constructed support. We won’t even get into the difficulties of lifting the home to perform this extremely sensitive procedure.
Just take our word for it. This is one can of worms better left unopened.
That leaves you with two options:
- Strip the entire home off of the frame and scrap/recycle it.
- Or, reuse suitable the parts of the home still attached to the frame along with it.
We will go into the second option later on when we talk about building a new structure on top of the existing frame.
The frame is not the only valuable part of a manufactured home. There are plenty of other materials that can be sold for scrap once the house is dismantled. As we will be focussing on the frame itself, we will just give you a quick overview of scrapping an entire manufactured home. You basically have three options when it comes to this:
Scrap it yourself
You can scrap a mobile home by yourself. In most cases, you will only get about $500-$1,000 for all the scrap in a manufactured home. However, you will need to minus one or two hundred if you keep the frame.
That’s still a fair bit of money. However, nothing in this life comes for free and dismantling a manufactured home is no walk in the park. It could take you a few days to a week if you want to do it meticulously and get the maximum value for all the parts.
You will need a lot of heavy-duty tools, time, and a little bit of know-how. The basic process goes like this:
- Remove/strip everything that’s not nailed down (furniture, appliances, etc.).
- Strip the rest of the interior fixtures (cabinets, sinks, closets, doors, windows, etc.).
- Dismantle the roof.
- Remove the wall and ceiling panels.
- Strip the exterior walls.
- Remove all the wiring and electricals and keep them together.
- The wooden frame of the walls must be stripped, as carefully as possible to keep the planks in one piece.
- Strip the flooring then underbelly.
- All fastenings and bolts from the frame must be stripped.
- Sort all materials according to type. Discard items that can’t be recycled.
- To get an even better rate, cut all metal materials down into chunks.
- Sell usable appliances and take the rest of the scrap to a recycling dump/scrapyard/etc.
You can find a more in-depth, easy-to-follow guide at the Hunker that covers the steps of How to Recycle a Mobile Home.
Have it demolished/scrapped by a pro
If you want to keep the frame, this might not be an option. In most cases, contractors like these will only work on an all-or-nothing basis. However, you might strike it lucky. It’s unlikely that you will get much out of it after the scrappers have taken their cut. In fact, you might still owe them some money for their labor. However, this is the fastest and most painless way to get it done.
Another popular method to get rid of manufactured homes is through what’s called a 0-sum salvage. Using this way, you try and find someone that will scrap your home for free on the condition that they keep any of the proceeds from the salvage.
However, it might prove a problem to find someone willing if you want to keep the frame as this is one of the biggest money makers. There is also always the risk that you find someone unreliable who can’t finish the job or leaves behind a mess for you to clean up.
Thrifty things you can do with a mobile home frame
Now that you’re left with a clean mobile home frame, we can finally get to some of the amazingly thrifty opportunities to recycle, reuse or repurpose, that are open to you.
Recycle your mobile home frame
As we mentioned before, the mobile home frame is one of the most valuable parts of the home to scrap. Mobile home chassis consists of steel and weigh a considerable amount. Depending on the size of the home it should weight between 3,000 to 10,000 pounds. The largest homes can go over 20,000.
Right now, steel goes for anywhere between 10-40c per pound depending on the scrapyard and the quality. The price you get will also depend largely on the quality of the steel. If it has some rust damage, for example, you can expect considerably lower, if anything.
As such, you should pay extra attention to it during this process. It might look like the best thing you can do is to deliver it to the scrapyard in one piece. However, that isn’t the case. If a scrapyard receives a massive, solid piece of material like a frame, they will pay out less because of the time and labor needed to cut it down to size in order to melt and recast it. The rule of thumb is to cut it down into one cubic foot pieces using an angle grinder, cutting torch or steel saw.
Another thing you should consider, especially if you want to keep the frame for a trailer, is whether or not to keep the wheel axles. If you decide to build in some heavier duty axles, you can remove these for scrap.
Sell your mobile home frame as is
A big problem you might face is how to transport the frame to the dump in the first place. It’s going to be a large, rectangular object with dimensions that are roughly 20 ft. in width by anywhere between 30-60 ft. in length that weighs a few thousand tons. You might find that the effort and cost of hiring adequate transport will effectively wipe out your profit.
Lucky for you, if you just want to get the frame off your hands, you can rest assured that there are others who might want it for some of the projects we tackle later on or to scrap themselves. A great place to advertise something like this is Craigslist where you can find just about anything. You might not get full scrap value for it, but that’s the price you pay for convenience.
Reuse your mobile home frame
Build a trailer
One surprising, popular reuse of mobile home frames come in the form of converting it into a flatbed trailer. You just need to do a quick Google search to find plenty of people who either ask or share how to do it, particularly on mobile home forums.
However, it shouldn’t be as surprising as it is. After all, a mobile home frame actually looks a lot like the underbelly of a flatbed trailer once you get it on its own. It also serves basically the same function as it’s used to tow a few thousand pound large object.
A word of caution: It’s probably best that you don’t do this if you are planning on using the trailer on the open road. Mobile home frames, no matter how closely they resemble it, are not trailers. The steel used is slightly more lightweight, the axles are not road-use standard, and the tongue is a bit shorter.
For these reasons and some others, they can’t be considered legal on public roads. However, it could make a fantastic trailer to use on your own property or private roads.
The basics …
It goes without saying that you will need all the proper welding and metal cutting power tools as well as skills. In most cases, you will need to cut stuff away, weld stuff on, and do a bit of tweaking here and there. Here is a basic list of things you will need to do to make this happen:
- Cut it down to size: Manufactured homes are much longer than they are wide, especially older homes. You might need to shorten it somewhat to be of any use.
- Add more support beams: As we mentioned, the steel is more lightweight than usual. If you want it to support heavy loads or just improve the lifespan, you should add a few more support beams. If there is no center beam running the length of the trailer, add that too.
- Install new axles and wheels: The wheels and tires of a mobile home frame are not the same as other trailers. If you want it to function more like a roadworthy trailer, you might need to remove the old ones and replace it with a real roadworthy axle. This will also strengthen the frame. Depending on whether you resized the trailer, you might even need to reposition the axles.
- Add a floor: You will need to add some kind of surface to the trailer. You could use anything from metal sheets to corrugated iron to crosshatched metal.
- Add sides: This is optional. If you transport hay or something similar, you could also just tie it down using ropes or cables.
Build a New Home/Studio/Workshop
If you want to push your creativity, DIY skills, and ambition even further, you could go all the way and build an entirely new structure on the frame. After all, this is exactly what it was meant to do in the first place. Say a home was treated poorly, it might be the case that the walls, ceiling, and flooring are in such a state that it’s easier to rip it off and start from scratch. Rather than try and recover it.
Assuming that you are lucky, the frame of wooden joists and supports within the walls can be kept. Otherwise, you have your work cut out for you!
In the case that you are working with an older mobile home frame or a single-wide, the size should be perfect for anything from a studio to a workshop to a shed. You could even build a new home if you feel confident enough. However, adding things like plumbing and complex electrical systems can exponentially increase the difficulty of the project.
Having just the frame
Starting with just the frame, you will need to:
- Build the frame for the walls: The best way is to construct H-shaped wooden frames. Use 2/3” or 2/4” wooden joists. They need to be wide enough to add some insulation (if desired).
- Cover the walls: You will need an exterior and interior wall. You could start with a base layer and then add on panels on top.
- Get a floor installed: It’s a good idea to have an underbelly that protects the floor, then a layer of insulation, then a layer of subflooring and then your actual floor.
- Install the roof: You could buy an entire roof kit that you simply fasten to the top or build your own.
- Electrical installations: You should probably start doing this as you build out the walls.
In the event that you plan to open your new structure to the public, for example, in the case of a shop, you will need to get the appropriate licensing from the local authorities. Regardless of which DIY project you tackle, you might also want to get to grips with the ins and outs of a mobile home. Check out our helpful guide on how to build a manufactured home on a chassis.
Here are two fantastic projects where someone has managed to turn a dilapidated old manufactured home frame into a store. Both people have been nice enough to share almost their entire project. These DIY projects will give you an amazingly insightful look at how to remodel a run down manufactured home:
What else can you build?
We have seen plenty of other ideas of what to do with a mobile home frame floated around online. How many of these projects were actually seen through, we’ve no idea. However, we know about at least two: a short span bridge and a play stage.
Manufactured homeowners are known to be an endlessly creative bunch up for almost any DIY challenge. Skulking around on relevant forums should help you come up with a few more ideas or provide hours of entertainment at the very least.
What can you come up with for your mobile home frame?
We hope that you have managed to draw some inspiration from some of these ideas. If nothing else, you might be able to make a few bucks off that hunk of metal lying around and taking up space. If you come up with any of your own ideas or projects, we would love to hear about them as well as have you share it with your fellow readers!