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How Come the Warranty Doesn't Last
as Long as the Loan?
By George Porter
It has always been a kind of puzzling thing to me why something
should not be guaranteed to last at least as long as it takes
to pay for it. If you bought a car and drove it 100,000 miles
a year then it would be understandable that the thing would wear
out long before you paid it off with a three-year loan.
But what if you spent a lot of money for something that just
sits there? All it has to do is remain standing in one piece and
not fall apart under its own weight at least until you pay off
the loan. The product might become a little scuffed from normal
wear and tear over the years but wouldn't you think that the place
you got it from could guarantee you that the basic structure would
remain in fairly good shape for as long as the payments lasted?
Do you think that a company in this industry that made such
a guarantee would probably own the entire housing market wherever
he was? Now I know what some of you are thinking right now. You
are saying to yourself that this guy would have to be out of his
mind to make such an offer on one of these homes. Guaranteeing
a double-wide for 20 years would put you in the poorhouse and
probably ought to be a reason to have you committed to the local
mental hospital. The thing would eat you alive in service costs
and who in their right mind would want a customer nagging them
for 20 years. If this is your experience with the homes you are
dealing with now then I suggest that you stay away from this warranty
notion and save all the money you can to support yourself when
the guy down the street does it! Someone will and it is not as
hard as you might expect. In fact as a point of law, you guaranteed
that the home is properly setup forever when you did the job!!
There have been law suits brought against dealers for improper
installation or anchoring years after the original manufacturers
warranty was up.
So why do you think you can't do it? I hope you don't think
this is not a good home and it won't last because it was made
in a factory! Do you think that if it has wheels it is not as
strong as a "sticks and bricks" house? If you feel this
way you are in the wrong industry. Not only that, you must feel
that you are taking money from people and giving them an inferior
product! Now this is a great way to run a business!!
On the other hand, how many of you have seen a home 30, 40,
or even 50 years old that is still in fine shape? It may be way
out of style but it is still standing and folks are still living
in it. These homes exist because they were lucky enough to be
properly sited and setup. Usually these homes were installed on
a full concrete slab long ago and that did a lot of good things
for it, probably by accident. Please don't get excited and think
that I believe all homes should be put on expensive masonry slabs,
absolutely not! The point is, the slab did then what we can do
now a lot more inexpensively.
For instance, most slabs are higher than the surrounding ground.
This assures drainage away from the home and therefore no water
under it. A slab 4 inches thick or more is considered a vapor
barrier. We could use 6-mil plastic and do the same job but almost
no one does.
The home then had many advantages that a modern home does
not. For instance 40 years ago you did not have to block the doors
or windows. The home was so narrow that the frame gave it all
the support it needed. A new 16 ft wide today may have 3 feet
of floor joist extending past the frame and may also have recessed
entries, bay windows, sliding glass doors, and lots of other sidewall
openings that all factory manuals say have to be blocked. When
the old homes were blocked they were much lighter and were only
blocked on the frames under the homes. The slab gave the old home
drainage and it certainly had an adequate footing. These things
together combined to create a greatly reduced frost heave under
the home because it was protected from the moisture at the perimeter
of the home.
The home of 40 years ago was drafty. While this was not a plus
in comfort, it was certainly a big bonus in humidity control.
You can't trap moisture in a home that has a small breeze blowing
through it all the time.
If you will notice most of the problems we have today come
from treating the new homes the way we treated the old houses.
We can handle these new problems but not by doing things the old
ways. Old homes had frames that supported everything, but new
homes need help in certain places because of the extra weight
and size of the structure. Old homes did not trap humidity; new
ones are very tight and do. We have to take steps to control this
with ventilation and a vapor barrier.
Support under an old home was not too critical because it only
weighed a fraction of the weight of a new home, it just didn't
take all that much.
The point is, these homes under the right conditions can last
a very, very long time and those conditions are not all that hard
to meet. You need proper drainage, humidity control, and support
and you should be safe with a 30-year warranty on the foundation.
If any settling ever occurs, it will happen in the first year
anyway and who doesn't have a one-year warranty? After that it
just sits there.
Someone somewhere will have the confidence in his work to
offer a foundation warranty for the life of the loan. It would
not be such a hard thing to do and it would surely impress the
customers. Then this installer can say to all the manufacturers
"I guarantee all my work for 30 years, how far are you willing
to go?" Won't that be a switch?