That’s exactly what we will explore in this article by looking at the anatomy of a mobile home and how they are put together, common materials used, appearance, and common floor plans or layouts.
Let’s get to it!
Anatomy of a mobile home
Not many people (even mobile home owners) are actually 100% clear on how mobile homes actually work. We want to shine a light for you on this aspect of manufactured housing by providing you with a bottom-to-top breakdown of the typical mobile home.
The fact that a mobile home can fit on a chassis that is equipped with wheels and axles is the thing that makes them mobile in the first place. This chassis looks very similar to an oversized car trailer. It has all the corresponding parts: a tongue, hitch, axles, hitch jack, and trailer bed.
The steel chassis is permanently attached to the mobile home. The wheels and axles, however, can be removed after the home has been planted into place. They should never be considered part of the home’s foundation or support structure and their removal is required to convert your mobile home into real estate.
The underbelly and floor
The floor of any decent mobile home is made up of four layers. First, there is a steel frame which is usually the same as the chassis we just talked about. Next, there is a cavity layer that is made up of floor joists and insulation. Insulation is crucial to your home’s energy efficiency and this is the main reason for this space.
Then there is a layer of subflooring that is usually some kind of wood or wood composite. It completely covers the previous layer and acts as a support base for your actual floor. By far the most mobile home floors are made up of wood or laminate wood that might or might not have a vinyl cover for protection and aesthetics. Carpets are also very common although they are faltering in popularity due to their difficulty to keep clean.
Mobile home walls are constructed much like the floors. They consist of a framework, usually in H-shapes, of wooden joists and supports. The space in between these joists forms cavities that are also used for insulation material.
Both the interior and exterior of the walls are then covered in panels. Once again, there might be one or two layers of panels consisting of a sub-layer that will consist of wood and then another layer of paneling for protection and aesthetics. The most common types of materials used for mobile home wall panels are wood, faux wood, drywall gypsum or vinyl panels. Metal panels are also sometimes used but are more common on the outside of the home.
Wall panels might also be kept together using wall strips.
Traditionally, mobile homes were constructed mostly with flat roofs. However, these are slowly being replaced by the much more attractive, functional, and structurally sound pitched roofs. Both are constructed largely using the same practices.
The ceiling of mobile home roofs are made of the same materials as the walls and then some. Fiberboard, sheetrock, and other panels that are more decorative like popcorn ceiling boards are pretty common. There usually isn’t much between the home and the ceiling cavity to allow easy access later on.
The ceiling cavity is made up of wooden bats and a ridge pole that runs down the length of the home. The exact design depends highly on the shape of the roof and the individual model of the home. Whether the roof is flat or pitched, individual models also vary wildly concerning the amount of attic space available. In most cases, it’s minimal.
Roof and shingles
Above this wooden framework, there can be multiple layers. Some models simply have a surface of wooden planks that completely cover it others have layers of particleboard or something similar below the actual roof material.
Asphalt shingles, insulated metal (aluminum) sheets, and wooden frames with a plastic PTO membrane are popular options. Shingles used to be more common but are becoming less so because of how easily they get damaged or go missing.
Mobile home roofs are usually pretty easy to lift off the frame of the house as a solid piece and a total roof replacement is a common enough remodel. Their lightweight designs also make it common for owners to simply roof over their flat roof by placing a pitched roof on top of it.
This video by Edison Mobile Estates shows you exactly how mobile homes are built.
Construction and materials
As you can see, mobile homes are fundamentally simple in their design and construction. The materials that are used are in general very light as well as easy and inexpensive to replace. This is a key point that differentiates mobile homes from stick-built homes. These materials also lend themselves well to the manufacturing process and contribute to the affordability of these homes.
The only downside of the materials and construction practices used for mobile homes is that they aren’t as resistant to weather and natural disasters as stick-built homes. However, the off chance of these events occurring and their affordability make them more than worthwhile for those who live in areas unaffected by tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.
Mobile home size
Today, you can get mobile homes that are equal in size to typical family homes although the average size is a bit less. The typical family home in the U.S. is around 3600-4000 square feet.
Mobile homes are divided into three size categories. The type of mobile home you choose can impact your chances of getting financing. Additionally, they are transported in different ways based on their number of sections.
- Single-wides: This is the smallest type of mobile home. They are called single-wides because they are constructed in one solid unit. Single-wides are less than 18 feet in width and 90 feet in length and average 600-1300 square feet of living space. They usually have 1/2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and an eat-in kitchen.
- Double-wides: These are by far the most common type of mobile home and fulfill the role of the typical “family home”. Double-wides are more than 19 feet in width and less than 90 feet in length and average 2000-2500 square feet of living space. They are built and transported in two separate sections that are connected to each other on site. They usually have 2/3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living area, kitchen, and washing room.
- Triple/multi-wides: As mobile homes increase in size, the number of sections they are made up of also needs to adapt. These types of homes can be very large and have no width restraint but are under 50 feet in length. Their average size is around 4500 square feet which are even larger than the average stick-built home. As you can expect, this means they come in all layouts and room variations.
You can read more about mobile home sizes and how it should affect your decision to buy one here.
Mobile homes exterior appearance
So, now that you know how mobile homes are structured, what is the actual result? What do mobile homes look like? We shouldn’t have to tell you that mobile homes come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. While they aren’t quite as varied as stick-built homes, improvement in construction techniques has led to more customization and the potential to build larger homes.
Being slightly generic has its perks. Mobile homes are constructed using mass assembly techniques which rely on more generic designs. Although this might come at a slight cost of uniqueness it contributes to the low price, short construction times, and overall safety and standards of manufactured homes.
Today, many manufacturers make use of CAD (Computer Aided Design) and improved techniques to allow buyers some level of customization without sacrificing those qualities.
Differences from a traditional home
The typical mobile home is still distinguishable from a traditional stick-built home. They are generally squatter and have a more boxy shape. They are usually much longer than they are wide as you can see by the length x width requirements we provided for different kinds of mobile homes above. This leads to an almost rectangular shape.
Their window and door frames and sizes are similarly generic. This is actually a very welcome feature. It means that when you want to replace your windows, window frames, doors, or door frames, that you don’t have to worry about sizes that much. Doors and window frames are almost exclusively square or rectangular.
Unlike modular homes, there aren’t any two-story manufactured homes. It just isn’t feasible when you take the construction materials used and their purpose into consideration.
By far the most mobile homes are made white or off-white. However, many manufacturers now allow their buyers to choose the color beforehand. Other light colors are also common like light grey or blue.
Appearance enhancing additions
You can definitely make a case for mobile home manufacturers prioritizing practicality and low costs above attractiveness. Most mobile home owners are always on the lookout for ways to improve the curb appeal of their home. As upgrading the look of your mobile home is usually relatively inexpensive, remodeling projects such as these are common.
Here are some common ways in which the looks of mobile homes are augmented:
Skirting is basically panels that run along the perimeter at the bottom of the mobile home and covers the open space between the home and the earth. Mobile homes are required to be a certain level above the ground so there is almost always a gap.
This gap can be rather unsightly and also endangers the underside of the home as it leaves it vulnerable to the elements. Most states actually require mobile skirting by law for this reason.
It’s also surprising how much skirting can upgrade the look of your home. Aside from covering up the ugly underbelly of your home, it’s also an elegant and refined finishing touch that comes in many styles.
Many manufactured homes (and most older models) come with flat roofs. They are less attractive and also come under more strain from the elements. For this reason, many owners resort to installing pitched roofs on top of their flat roofs or by replacing them.
A roof over can also be used as an opportunity to add decorative eaves to the home which is another refined finishing touch.
A lot of mobile homes come with stock standard steps that lead to the home. This is usually one of the first things new owners upgrade. This opportunity is also usually used to add a small welcoming patio to the front of the home.
New window or door frames
It’s not only the sizes and dimensions of windows and doors on mobile homes that are standards. The frames themselves are usually quite plain and understated. Installing decorative frames or simply painting them a new color usually improves the looks of a mobile home dramatically.
Renovating any of the areas above can result in improving your home’s curb appeal.
Interior layouts of mobile homes
As more and more people are turning to mobile homes as their housing of choice, particularly in the current housing crisis, manufacturers have adapted to their demands. Mobile homes used to be very spartan when it came to their floor plans and layouts. Nowadays, most mobile homes have typical features that most people enjoy in their home.
This includes things like:
- Master bedroom with ensuite bathroom.
- Open plan living rooms and kitchens.
- Pantries or washing rooms, etc.
The increase in average size of mobile homes has also made this increasingly possible.
Single-wides are by necessity still very basic in design. They are typically only “one room wide”, by which we mean they are effectively made up of a row of rooms next to each other. This often means you have to pass a room to reach the next one.
Usually, you would have a combined foyer/living room/TV room. Then a dining room or kitchen combination on the one side that might either have a master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom at the far end or some utility rooms. On the other side of the house, you might then find the rest of the bedrooms with another bathroom and a very small corridor.
Double and triple-wides
Double-wides and triple-wides are much more flexible than that. It would be impossible to describe every single layout variation to you here. You can count on the fact that individual rooms will be bigger than their single-wide counterparts. They will also come with the auxiliary rooms we listed.
There might even be 4 bedrooms (1 master and 3 extras) with a family room or nursery. Extra rooms could act as places of entertainment, etc. Guest bathrooms, as well as smaller ensuite bathrooms for extra bedrooms, are also common.
Serving their purpose inside and out
As you can see, a mobile home inside and out is really purpose-built. Simplicity and practicality are part of the very DNA of a manufactured home. We hope that this article has helped you see that for yourself.