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Used Homes (?) Part I
By George Porter
For the next two months we are going to discuss "used
homes." The problem is that sometimes I don't understand
what I know about them. For instance everyone knows that every
new home comes with some very specific instructions that are the
law in all states that have laws. Because the HUD Code is a performance
code, all homes are not the same. Different manufacturers have
different ways of getting the job done. If you don't follow the
instructions correctly then at the very least the warranty is
probably void and at the most, the home is severely weakened.
They really are all a bit different and some are very different.
I understand this and I hope you do too. What I don't really understand
is why, as soon as someone buys the home, they can all become
the same. Most states allow you to use the original manual (if
you can find it), an engineers sealed directions (used homes get
a lot of this I am sure), or they have a generic code that you
can follow. Lots of states have nothing, I can think of at least
15 right of the top of my head.
So if you can put a home together with a generic code then
why do we need all this manufacturer specific stuff when it is
new? Some say we have to have the generic directions because if
we don't have the new installation instructions any more we have
to have something and this is the best we can do. Well, all the
car companies seem to always have the directions available for
models up to 90 years old! Every spark plug or tire ever used
on any car in the world is catalogued somewhere! Mostly because
you need to know these things to make the cars work like they
are supposed to. I am pretty sure we need to do the same thing
with our homes somehow. Take Fleetwood for example; for years
every Fleetwood home in the country used lag bolts in the roof,
then they decided to use an engineered beam that is much lighter
and just as strong, but you must not put a lag through it. The
lag would weaken the top cord of the beam and cause a real structural
problem. Fleetwood did not introduce this beam in every factory
in the system, only some of them, the manual in the home will
tell you what to do. When some of these homes "become"
used homes, what does your state code say to do when you button
up the home? You can't find the original manual, what do you do?
The correct answer is to THINK! You look at the beams in the
"multi" when it is apart. If it has the engineered beams
then you do the strap thing like Fleetwood wanted, if it has the
two by three or bigger beams then you can lag it. Another clue
is to look for lag holes in the roof, which brings me to something
else I don't quite understand. How many times can you lag a roof
before there is nothing left to lag to? If you have 41 lags in
a 60-foot roof (@18") then can you put the new lags back
in the same holes? If not, how close can you put the new lags
to where the old ones were? If so, do the holes left by the old
lags weaken the beam? I certainly have opinions, but I officially
don't know, and I have never seen the question investigated or
addressed by anyone anywhere.
It gets worse; I know of seven totally different ways manufacturers
have invented to put their homes together. It would be silly to
put lags in a Clayton when you have pre-drilled boltholes put
there by the factory. If you put lags in a Skyline roof when you
should have picked up the roof panel and lagged it down at the
big beam below the roof, you will not have anywhere near as strong
a home connection.
Different wind zones and roof loads will also sometimes change
the way the roof is interconnected. Generic codes will probably
be fine for footings and anchoring. The four-foot opening on the
sidewall rule applies to virtually all homes (except for one out
west). But, the roof is a serious problem. Not only does it enable
the home to meet its roof load requirements, it also makes it
possible to maintain its rigidity in a storm. The roof connection,
along with the floor and end walls in a multi-section is what
makes the two pieces act as one. If they are not properly connected
then the home can literally become unsafe. That proper way was
the way the manufacturer said to do it, period. We need to know
what that was to get it right.
Most of the states that have regulations addressing the interconnection
of multi-section homes use the 1994 or the 1987 ANSI A225.1 Code,
neither of which is being printed anymore. The '94 code says use
# 10 x 4 inch screws 12 inches on-center, staggered intervals.
OK, so we have a 4" screw going in a roof at a 45 degree
angle. Ideally we would have 2 inches of wood around the screw
in one side of the roof and two inches in the other half to connect
the two sections. But you can't do that at 45 degrees and a little
gap in the roof further reduces the screw in the wood. When you
put a soil anchor into the ground at a 45-degree angle you need
to have the anchor 1/3 longer so it will get to same depth as
if it went straight in. I guess the same rule applies to wood
screws, so. if the penetration of the wood screw is reduced by1/3
it becomes a little over 2.6 inches available for penetration
or 1.3 inches per side (with no gap)! This isn't much to hold
a house together with folks! Those using the '87 version are supposed
to use lags and I think we have covered that.
The point is, we need some better guidance I think and here's
why. The better we protect the consumer with used homes, the more
new ones we will sell. When have you ever see damage to a home
after a storm on the TV and the announcer says, "but this
was a used home, not a new one." Did you know that according
to the states I checked with, that up to 70% of ALL of the sales
in this industry nationwide are used homes? If we can create a
better market for used homes we are paving the way for the lenders
to come back, because all of their collateral is "used."
Give this some thought, more next month.