How to Inspect & Troubleshoot Mobile Homes, Double wides, Caravans, Manufactured Homes, & Trailers
MOBILE HOMES, DOUBLEWIDES, TRAILERS - home - CONTENTS: Mobile home, trailer, doublewide, manufactured home inspection & troubleshooting guide. Definition and description of mobile homes, double wides, trailers, caravans and campers. Lists of defects found on mobile homes, trailers, double-wides, caravans, static caravans. Guide to Safety and building codes for mobile homes - what building codes regulate mobile homes & doublewide homes. Wind & tie-down regulations for mobile homes & double-wides
POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about inspection of the condition of manufactured homes, mobile homes, mobile home, caravan, static caravan or trailer or doublewide problem diagnosis procedures, & their care, repair, & maintenance
Ver.16 , updated through 2017 - Steve Vermilye, New Paltz NY and Daniel Friedman, Poughkeepsie NY,
Hudson Valley ASHI Chapter Seminar, Newburgh NY, January 4, 2000, NY Metro ASHI Fall 99 Seminar, Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, White Plains NY, October
With deep sorrow we report that our friend and associate, Steven T. Vermilye of New Paltz NY (photo at the top of this page) passed away on 19 June 2001, so of course you will have difficulty contacting him by normal means.
Steve was a leader in the home inspection profession,
recognized nationally as well as among New York State professional home inspectors for his competence, kindness, honesty, humility, humor, and for his unequivocal commitment to the welfare
of his clients.
Steve led our interest in mobile home inspections by offering us an opportunity to join with him to work pro-bono in behalf of agricultural workers in the Hudson Valley -- a service which we continue in his memory.
Definitions of Mobile Home, Trailer, Doublewide, Modular Home, Factory-Built Home, Panelized-Construction-Built Home?
The following is the opinion of the author and has not had a technical review by other industry experts.
Various trailer, mobile home, and modular housing
manufacturers may disagree with some of these views. Corrections and content suggestions are welcome.
Characteristics of Trailers as Living Space
Trailer traditionally describes a usually small, wheeled, home with a history and image of flimsy construction
such as wooden 1x3 wall framing clad with aluminum siding, virtually no insulation, and low quality leaky windows.
"Trailers" up until the 1970's (my estimate) included both campers which really were intended to be towed
by a car or truck and moved often from site to site (though some were left parked for decades at campgrounds),
and also lightweight factory-made homes which were intended to be towed once to a home site and then
Our photo (left) shows a trailer that was finally abandoned as a living space. The little blue structure used as an addition to the left of the small house in the photo
at the top of this page was undoubtedly a small camper.
No one building "trailers" calls them that any longer because of the "flimsy" image. The closest thing to a "trailer" in
current products on the market are motor homes and campers.
The least-costly campers (such as our pickup truck "slide-on camper") built after 2000 are probably
considerably better constructed than the "trailers" of old.
In current language (2009), a "trailer" is either a "mobile home" that is more than 20 years old (see below),
or it is a camper designed to be moved easily and often from site to site.
(Or in different usage, a "utility trailer" is a utility vehicle intended to haul goods or large
items and designed to be fastened to the back of a car or truck, and a "tractor trailer" is of course
a larger (typically 40 ft long) hauling system for moving goods by highway from city to city.)
Trailers may have had their wheels left on, but normally they'd be set on a masonry pier foundation and a skirt installed
around to hide the under-trailer area.
Characteristics of Mobile Homes as Living Space
In the past few decades (to 2014), "trailer" manufacturers have considerably improved the quality of construction of
such homes. The national manufacturing and building code standards for these structures have also been improved.
Perhaps in part to escape the less than wholesome image of "trailer", manufacturers use the term "mobile home" to
describe what is usually larger and better made home than "trailers" of old, though perhaps with similar materials.
Mobile homes are built in a factory and are designed to be moved (once and uncommonly, perhaps once again)
on its own wheels attached to its own frame to a site where a foundation is prepared and connections to utilities are made.
In the U.S., states have regulations about the siting, foundation, steps and entry, wiring, plumbing,
tie-downs for wind and storm safety that apply to these homes.
Some examples of mobile
home regulations for New York State are this website.
Individual state regulations will vary - you'll want to see what your state requires.
Even within states regulations vary as wind and weather conditions do also.
Examples of mobile home improvements include stronger overall wall and roof construction,
less leaky roof covering, and windows that are less notoriously leaky. In addition
newer mobile homes have, for fire safety, bedroom windows that can be pushed out to a wide opening for
emergency exit in case of fire - an important safety improvement.
Usually building departments grandfather in
older structures, but sometimes they will insist that certain life-safety improvements be made, for example
if an older mobile home is being brought to a new site in a new community. If this is the
case one or two windows may need to be replaced to provide this important safety improvement.
When there is a severe storm or hurricane, mobile home communities are among the worst damaged as a strong
wind can completely turn over or demolish mobile homes. For this reason, mobile homes set up in high wind-risk
zones have extra requirements for tie-downs to secure the building against upset during a storm.
Mobile homes may arrive on wheels but they will be jacked enough to be set on some type of approved
building foundation, such as masonry piers or a masonry foundation.
In case these terms are not confusing enough, some mobile home makers
like to call these "factory built homes". But that use of "factory-built homes"
is confusing too since modular homes are also "factory built" but are quite different from trailers or mobile homes.
Characteristics of a "Doublewide" Mobile Home or Trailer
Some manufacturers provide mobile homes constructed to be joined together, side by side to form a double-width
living unit. While a double-wide mobile home is basically constructed by the same materials and methods
just described above, the tie-down and connection requirements for these living units may be different
in some jurisdictions, since their risk of being blown away in high winds is different.
and support requirements, such as connection of the two units and placement of foundation support will also
have to accommodate this variation.
We found so many unsafe and un-healthy conditions in the trailers and mobile homes occupied by migrant farm workers that there was almost no safe habitable housing at the facility.
The facility owner, responding to suggestions from our report and from the N.Y. Office of the Attorney General and an attorney representing farm workers made extensive improvements in farm worker housing as a result of Steve's initiative.
Many of the photographs used to illustrate defects and needed repairs at these mobile homes, trailers, and double-wides came from Steve or from our own photos when we worked together.
We all miss Steve Vermilye and his passing remains a great loss.
If the information in this report assists anyone in assuring that their home is more safe and secure than it would have been otherwise, that benefit is thanks to Steven Vermilye -- this information is
one of his many gifts to the people for whom he cared deeply -- Daniel Friedman.
Consumer Reports (2/98)
points out common weak spots surveyed and recommends that buyers hire a home
inspector. But many inspectors are not familiar with the special problems found
in mobile homes.
Price: $15-$70K; 15 million in U.S.;
"mobile homes" aka "manufactured housing" per the industry - confused with modulars & panelized.
single mobile home vs. double-wide trailers (specs)
single wide mobile homes
typical 1000 sq ft, $24,000.,
more problems with floors, roofs, windows, doors
multi-wide mobile homes, double wide trailers, popout trailers and manufactured homes
typical 1600 sq ft, $43,000.
more problems with joining of the sections
1x lumber and siding "trailer" construction vs. more recent
land often not-owned; rented 50% of the time
1974 HUD Code (Red seal certification label on newer
units); inspections @ factory; HUD-complying homes do not have to comply with
local Building codes! HUD regulations have loopholes and need work.
7 States: AZ, AR, CA, FL, TX, VA, W. Va. - have funds
for warranty claims; NOT NYS.
82% of respondents reported overall satisfaction with
M. H. (C. R. survey)
But more than 50% report at least one major problem,
even for homes less than 5 years old. (C. r. survey)
Definitions: What is a Mobile Home, Trailer, Camper, Doublewide mobile home, Modular Home, Factory-Built Home, Panelized-Construction-Built Home?
PRIORITIES OF INSPECTION & Reporting of Mobile Home Defects
MOBILE HOME FIRE SAFETY - Fire Safety Defects in Mobile Homes
Electrical - aluminum wiring, owner-modified or otherwise unsafe wiring
Heating, flues, chimneys
Safety Exits - doors and push-out windows; unsafe steps and rails at entry doors;
Smoke detectors critical - short exit time for this
The double-wide home shown at left, as seen from a distance, appears to be in good condition, but only on close and thorough inspection can we become confident about the condition of and potential safety hazards at any home.
Mobile Home & Trailer STRUCTURAL & SAFETY DEFECTS in Mobile Homes
Movement (impacts electrical & flues) - look for evidence of movement that may have disturbed piers, foundation supports, or mechanical system connections - areas of serious safety hazards
Storm Damage such as blown off of foundation, roof damage, missing skirting
Floor Collapse (the extensive use of particle board for subflooring exposes these structures to high risk of hidden damage and floor collapse due to roof, exterior or plumbing leaks
Mobile home & manufactured home tie-downs - to secure the structure against wind damage
Question: How can I track down what's causing high moisture in a doublewide manufactured home?
I have a double wide manufactured home that I'm renovated. It has vinyl siding and perforated soffits common on manufactured homes. We've noticed moisture high in the walls all around the home and can't identify the cause. Any ideas?
Thank you, - T.B. - Colorado
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem with too much moisture in a home.
That said, gee, with absolutely no information whatsoever about the home you mention, I'd be just arm-waving to offer a specific diagnosis.
But I can suggest some directions of investigation for tracking down a moisture problem:
Generally the approach is to find the water sources and water or moisture traps.
That is, high indoor moisture, enough to put condensation on walls, might be tracked down to one or both of:
Leaks or moisture sources that are wetting the building interior or its ceiling, wall or floor cavities or space below. These could be leaks from outside or moisture generation (cooking, showers, plants, even plumbing leaks) inside.
Traps that keep moisture in the building because it is not adequately vented. Indeed from your note I infer that there is a gabled (peaked/sloped) roof over the home, but we can't be sure that it has working venting or just some perforated soffit panels placed over solid plywood soffits. Or you may have soffit intake but no ridge outlet venting.
Check the crawl space for signs of water entry right in the crawl itself; the skirt around the mobile home can keep the area from drying out. See MOBILE HOME CRAWL SPACES for more details.
If I'm right that you're in Colorado, you're not in such a high humidity area as the Southeastern U.S. That in turn makes me wonder if there is not either water below the home or leaks in or into it from roof, windows or doors (notorious leakers on older manufactured homes).
If the moisture is uniform around all of the interior of the home I suspect it could be coming from a source that would equally wet the whole structure - below the entire structure up through floors, or leaks across a wide area of roof. Observing moisture high on walls may just indicate where the cool walls are in contact with warmer, high-moisture-content air inside the home. (Warm moist air rises).
If your renovation permits, you might need to make some test cuts to be sure you know where water is and is not, and to be sure you're not renovating by putting a new skin over a rotting or inset infested structure.
Sorry I can't be smarter but that's about as much arm-waving as I can dare with no more information. If you'd like to send some photos or further description of what's there and what you're seeing, that may permit some further suggestions.
At WATER ENTRY in BUILDINGS we collect a series of building moisture or water entry diagnosis & cure articles that might be helpful.
Follow-Up: wet walls traced to frost or ice in the home eaves and attic
Thanks for the reply. I managed to find a manufactured home installer who immediately knew what I was talking about. It turns out all this is a universal problem with manufactured homes (and some stick built homes) in cold, high wind areas.
The soffits are vented continuously. Snow actually drifts inside the soffit then, when the weather warms, melts and some water runs down the walls. As this can happen many days after the initial precipitation it’s often mistaken for a condensation issue.
The installer didn't have any suggestions for a solution. In fact, he said if I came up with anything to let him know. Any ideas?
We have seen several points of frost or even ice accumulation at house eaves and even deeper into the attic in uninsulated HVAC ductwork.
Clues that point to the attic ice or frost accumulation as the source of indoor leaks and moisture
I think a diagnostic clue that can help track down apparent building leaks or moisture on walls that originates in the attic may be the observation of leaks in a warming weather trend after a long cold spell. Also the moisture shows up only on the exterior walls, not on building interior walls. It doesn't have to be snow blowing into the soffits - which is unusual; anything that allows moisture condense, collect, and freeze in the attic or in attic HVAC ducts can produce such leaks when things thaw out.
The cause your installer cited, snow drifts in the soffits, is possible but more common are some of these other problems that can produce the same symptoms:
ROOF ICE DAM LEAKS - a combination of inadequate insulation and/or improper attic ventilation causes ice dams along roof edges or eaves; water backs up above the ice dam and leaks through the roof, into attic and walls below.
WIND WASHING INSULATION at EAVES - in high wind areas and homes using blown-in or loose-fill attic insulation, winds can push back insulation from the outer edges of the attic, exposing the wall top and ceiling area close to exterior walls to heat loss, condensation, ice and frost formation, and later, when weather warms, melting ice and frost show up as leaks in the interior
WATER & ICE IN DUCT WORK - occurs when uninsulated or under-insulated HVAC ducts in a cold attic ceiling receive moist indoor air during freezing weather.
How do we fix these problems of ice and frost formation in the attic ... it depends. First let's accurately diagnose the cause by a careful inspection in the attic. Wind-wash will be obvious - insulation will have been disturbed. Ice dam leaks leave characteristic stains that we illustrate in that article.
Fixing ice dam leaks: add insulation, or add ice and water shield under shingles at roof eaves; improve attic venting, including not just soffit intake but adequate ridge outlet
Fixing wind-washed insulation at house eaves: replace insulation, or replace loose fill with batt insulation, held in place or air flow above assured using baffles in the eaves that let soffit intake air pass over not through the insulation
Fixing ice and frost in ductwork: correct indoor moisture sources, close off ceiling registers for A/C systems that are not used in cold weather; insulate the HVAC duct work
Details about these attic frost, ice, or moisture problems that show up as "leaks or moisture on building walls" and how they are fixed are in the articles cited above.
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
 Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, web search 1/5/2012, original source: portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/ih/homeownership/184 - Quoting:
The Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program is a home mortgage specifically designed for American Indian and Alaska Native families, Alaska Villages, Tribes, or Tribally Designated Housing Entities. Section 184 loans can be used, both on and off native lands, for new construction, rehabilitation, purchase of an existing home, or refinance.
Also see Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae
 Native American Housing Loan Guarantee Program HUD Section 184 Loans At A Glance, FannieMae, web search 1/5/12, original source: efanniemae.com/sf/mortgageproducts/pdf/section184aag.pdf
 "Modular Home Construction, special defects and inspection methods" Dan Friedman, NY Metro ASHI Seminar, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, White Plains NY, October 4, 1996
 New York State: "Manufactured Homes: an installation guide for the code enforcement official," undated. [Div. of Code Enforcement & Admin. - 518-474-4073, George E. Clark, Jr., Director] - this is a guide tool, not an enforcement code or standard.
 HUD State Administrative Agency (for 36 states) (NY: 518-474-4073) - for complaints
 Manufactured Housing Institute, 2101 Wilson Blvd. Ste. 610, Arlington VA 22201 703-558-0400 www.mfghome.org
 NYMHA, 35 Commerce Ave., Albany NY 12206-2015 518-435-9859 800-721-HOME (they want the Star Program to provide for separate assessment of manufactured homes)
 Consumer Reports: www.consumerreports.org - special report 2/98
 Thanks to home inspector Peter Bennett for eagle-eye editing assistance regarding spelling at this web article series. Little Silver, NJ 07739 Office 732-758-9887 Fax 732-758-8993 Cell 732-245-9817 email@example.com
 Wikipedia provided background information about some topics discussed at this website provided this citation is also found in the same article along with a " retrieved on" date. NOTE: because Wikipedia entries are fluid and can be amended in real time, we cite the retrieval date of Wikipedia citations and we do not assert that the information found there is necessarily authoritative. - Entry on Mobile Homes, original source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_home#Regulation, retrieved 8/14/2012
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Defects and Deterioration in Buildings: A Practical Guide to the Science and Technology of Material Failure, Barry Richardson, Spon Press; 2d Ed (2001), ISBN-10: 041925210X, ISBN-13: 978-0419252108. Quoting: A professional reference designed to assist surveyors, engineers, architects and contractors in diagnosing existing problems and avoiding them in new buildings. Fully revised and updated, this edition, in new clearer format, covers developments in building defects, and problems such as sick building syndrome. Well liked for its mixture of theory and practice the new edition will complement Hinks and Cook's student textbook on defects at the practitioner level.
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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