The Mobile Home Improvements Guide: From Start To Finish

Aug 24, 2018Blog, DIY, Remodeling

Understandably, you may feel completely lost when it comes to making mobile home improvements. The sheer number of possibilities, obstacles, and concerns can make it hard to get started, let alone come up with a plan.

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In this article, we will guide you through all the most important things you need to know to prepare yourself for your mobile home improvement project(s).

What you should have in your toolbox

Almost any mobile home renovation, remodel, upgrade, or addition will require that you work with a whole set of tools. Especially if you want the process to go as smoothly and quickly as possible. These tools are flat out required for some types of projects. But they should ultimately be used for a whole range of potential DIY uses:

  • Screwdrivers: This is really something anyone should have in their home. Screwdrivers will be needed for much more than just your home. Make sure that you have a good range of sizes and lengths for both flathead and Phillip’s screwdrivers. A few packets of screws in your toolbox can also save you unnecessary trips to the hardware store. There are some handy kits with screws, hooks, hangers, thumbtacks, etc.
  • Hammer: Another no-brainer. Whether you delicately and precisely need to hammer in some screws or just go full-on destruction derby, you never know when a hammer will come in handy. Make sure you have at least one hammer with a claw at the back. Some heavier hammers might also come in handy from time to time.
  • Wrenches: The final member of the three must-have tools is the wrench. Go for a crescent wrench for a much more versatile option.
  • Drill: This power tool will be used in almost all projects. Don’t forget a decent set of drill bits!
  • Circular saw: When you hear wood, you should think about a circular saw. It will come in handy for almost any project where you work with wooden panels.
  • Extension cord: While we’re on the subject of power tools, an extension cord will save you a lot of frustration when you need to work in hard to reach places.
  • Utility (carpet knife): These things cut through just about anything from paper to plywood. They are also compact and safe because the blades can be retracted. Beware! Someone might borrow it for arts and crafts too.

Other additional handy tools

  • Pry bar: Mobile homes are made of a lot of wood. That means a lot of nails and other areas where you will need to pry things apart. Make sure you get a versatile pry bar that’s compact as well as having the features to remove nails.
  • Ladder: One of the common problem areas for a mobile home is the roof and ceiling because of water damage and debris. A ladder can be used for roof or ceiling access as well as cleaning gutters.
  • Saws: You will need both a bow saw and a hacksaw.
  • Tape measure: Almost every project will require you do some measuring before heading to the hardware store.
  • Level: You don’t need to be a perfectionist to buy this tool for your future projects. No one likes uneven finished projects!
  • Caulk: This is especially important if you have a gypsum-walled mobile home. Great for fixing cracks or leaks.
  • Duct tape: Duct tape is renowned for fixing just about anything – or at least, holding it in place. Until you can find a permanent solution. It will come in handy in just about any project.
  • Putty (butyl) tape: This extremely versatile tape is great for sealing of leaks in your roof or plumbing.

A man with a tool apron in a tool garage

Lastly, don’t forget to get yourself a great toolbox! Without one, even the most organized person’s garage is bound to become a disorganized mess at some point. It’s also handy for carrying around a bunch of small tools in one container.

Permits and permissions

Unfortunately, we can’t give you a completely straight answer here. That’s because each state, and in some cases cities, have their own local building codes. And these codes have their own thresholds for when a permit is needed. As well as for what kind of work. Most simple mobile home DIY projects that do not affect the overall structure of the home doesn’t require a permit. This includes most interior renovations.

For example, in most cases, you don’t require a permit to:

  • replace interior flooring
  • replace ceiling panels
  • install or replace skirting or painting
  • replace wall panels
  • install or repair gutters, etc.

However, there’s something else …

Once you go to the next level with projects like:

  • a complete roof over
  • constructing whole additions
  • rework a significant portion of the electrical or plumbing system
  • tamper with the ventilation system/air-conditioning

… chances are that you will need a permit.

It’s rare that you will actually get reported for building without a permit. Nonetheless, there may be consequences later on. The biggest one is that you might struggle to sell your home if you did significant work on it without a permit. Generally, buyers will be worried about what might’ve gone wrong.

A permit will usually go hand in hand with an inspection before and after the DIY project. This helps to make sure that you did not violate the HUD or local building codes. Or also prove that you stayed within the scope of the permit for which you applied.

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Mobile home improvements: What’s possible?

Let’s look at some of the popular or commonly undertaken mobile home improvements. Most of these are possible to do by yourself. But we will indicate when you should consider hiring a contractor instead. This will give you a great idea of what’s possible so you can explore your options further, especially for the next time you want to improve your home.

Interior Upgrades

  • Remodeling by changing floor plans: Mobile homes don’t rely heavily on their inner walls for structural support. So these can be altered to change floor plans if you work with care.
  • Windows: Installing storm windows or insulating window frames.
  • Doors: The same as for windows. Doors are also often replaced for decorative reasons.
  • Flooring: It’s relatively easy to either replace the visible flooring or both the flooring and subflooring.
  • Decorative:
    • New light fixtures
    • Bathroom remodel
    • Board and batten walls
    • Corner trim
    • New wall panels
    • Kitchen remodel
    • Cornices

Exterior Upgrades

  • Skirting: Skirting is vital to protect the underside of your home as well as improve curb appeal.
  • Roof-over: A pitched roof can make your home more attractive as well as more structurally sound.
  • Wall panels: New wall panels can protect your home better as well as provide a visual upgrade.
  • Decorative:
    • Awnings
    • Eaves


  • Porch/Deck: A porch or deck can be a great way to increase your living space without going all out. But it will improve your curb appeal.
  • Carport: A very handy addition that can double as a garage or tool shed. Full kits are available for self-installation.
  • Additional Rooms: You can build additional rooms onto a home. However, this will most likely make your home not up to code. A less risky alternative is to create a sunroom or screen room with a DIY kit. Or you can modify your porch/deck.

We’ve created an article 3 Single-Wide Mobile Home Additions That Will Blow Your Mind with more information on these additions.

DIY vs. Contractor

Some people can get so hung up on this question that they delay their project forever. It definitely is a difficult choice between saving yourself a lot of effort and time as well as ensuring you get a professional result and saving a lot of money.

Hammer against a nail on the wall

One problem is that reliable mobile home contractors can be hard to find. There are different contracting licenses for mobile homes and many contractors fail to apply for them because they don’t think it’s as good an opportunity as working on stick-built homes.

However, you should look for the following signs that might point to the fact that you need a contractor:

Signs you should call in a pro

You’re not sure if you know how to do it

This is especially true if the project requires multiple disciplines like plumbing, electrical, as well as woodworking. The time to learn might not be when you are attempting a major home upgrade. It might also just be easier to get a contractor to handle the whole project, since some will refuse to share the work.

It could be dangerous

Maybe it’s quite obvious to you when something is potentially hazardous. Anything involving the use of dangerous power tools, such as circular saws, or working on a ladder can be extremely dangerous. If you still DIY, make sure you have the proper safety equipment.

It requires a tool you aren’t familiar with or don’t have

Some huge mobile home upgrades such as a roof over require big equipment, like cranes, that might be too expensive to hire as well as too dangerous. Moreover, they are difficult to operate.

You can’t find anyone else who has done it DIY

If no one has done it before, there might very well be a good reason. Search for examples of your project online and see if anyone else attempted it and what their end result was. You might even find the reasons for their failure and assess your chances of being successful based on that.

You don’t have enough time

This will depend on your project. What if you are busy or working full time? Chances are you might only have a few hours after work and weekends to tackle the project. Some projects can be a significant obstacle and leave a mess in your home, so it might not be feasible to drag it out.

You want it to look perfect

If the upgrade or improvement will be highly visible to visitors or yourself, how it looks might be extremely important. Sometimes you just won’t be able to match the skill of an experienced contractor, no matter how hard you try. This will be visible in the end result.

It’s not a one-man job

Keep in mind that a contractor probably has a whole team of workers. Unless you have some extra hands to call on, it might make completing the project extremely challenging or drag it out significantly.

How to plan your mobile home improvement project

What is the goal of your project?

Do you want to improve the appearance of the room, interior, or exterior? Would you want to make your home more eco-friendly? How about making it more accessible? Start by answering the question of what you actually want to achieve. This will set you down the path of doing the right research, coming up with ideas, and defining the scope of your project.

For example, if you want to make a room more attractive and decide to start with a board and batten wall design, you can then go and research flooring or ceiling options that relate to that. The same goes for exploring your options when it comes to energy-efficient upgrades or anything else.

How much are you willing to spend?

Despite how nice it would have been otherwise, none of us have an unlimited budget to tackle our home improvement project. In fact, it will probably be the main reason why you opt for a DIY-approach instead of a contractor. Set clear limits for yourself, for what you are willing or able to spend. Then try and tailor your improvement plan to fit in the budget.

A jar of spilled pennies

In general, chances are high that your project will go over budget, as a result of unforeseen circumstances. So it’s a good idea to have an “emergency fund” at the ready.

How much time do you have?

This is another crucial consideration that many people mistakenly overlook. It’s very easy to underestimate how long a project will take. Potentially, it will start interfering with your everyday life. Try to research online how long it took others. Fit it into your schedule, if it’s not crucial, to wait until the next school break when you can set the kids to work. On the other hand, a contractor will almost always be able to complete a project in a much shorter time.

More Tips:

  • Familiarize yourself with the HUD Code: If you ever plan to sell or mortgage your home, you should ensure that you don’t affect your home’s valid HUD Code status.
  • Find cheap/free materials: From recycling centers to trading or swapping services to giveaway sites. There are plenty of ways to find cheap or free materials in your neighborhood.
  • Learn how a mobile home works: Knowing the ins and outs of a mobile home will really help you when it comes to a home improvement project. Understanding the unique limitations and opportunities when working with a mobile home will be invaluable.
  • Research, research, research: We can never underestimate the importance of looking at what other people have done to improve their homes. The internet is an unlimited source of tips, inspiration, and new ideas. Take advantage of it!

Take time to think, plan, and organize

We know that was a lot to take in. Maybe the best way forward is to mull over all the information you’ve just read and take a walk through and around your home. Try and identify areas you think that requires some work or you would like to improve.

If you need some more tips or ideas for your next mobile home improvement, check out our blog for articles like Budget-Friendly Mobile Home Renovations | Tips & Ideas and more.

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