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Why Do We Need Two Foundations?
By George Porter
Do you realize that we usually have two foundations under our
homes most of the time these days? And, the reason is because
it is the only way to get the money for the home!
Way back when "Trailers" were invented they were
pulled all over the country by cars and parked in trailer parks
where they would sit on their wheels until the owners of the "coach"
would decide to go someplace else. If they liked the trailer park
they might stay longer and slip a couple of "props"
of some kind under the corners so it wouldn't bounce when you
walked around in it. If it got cold then sometimes people would
surround the underside at the edges of the home with some kind
of barrier to sort of cut the wind under the home and the floors
were a bit warmer. They called it "skirting" because
it looked like a sort of a "skirt" on the home. It not
only made the floors warmer but it also improved the appearance
of the home as well. 'Kind of finished it off and hid the wheels
and frame. It made it look more like a conventional home instead
of some kind of a wagon or car.
As time went on and more and more folks started living in "mobile
home parks", one of the most prevalent "lot restrictions"
was that your home had to have skirting, because it made the community
look better. No doubt about it, our homes do look a whole lot
better with skirting, or ground enclosure if you prefer. Nobody
objected much and it became the standard all around the country.
With this new standard we got better looking but it created a
new kind of environment under the home and some new problems we
hadn't had before. We made it very necessary to control the moisture
under the home, both with grading and with venting. In an effort
to improve the appearance of the homes and make them look more
like what folks thought "real houses" should look like,
we trapped an environment under the homes that we now had to properly
control. When there was no such thing as skirting there was always
plenty of air under there and if a footing was sitting in a puddle
and sinking you could easily see it happening and took the steps
to make it stop. Now the area was out of sight and, as the saying
goes, out of mind. Many homes over the last 50 years have had
floor problems because they made their HUD Code home look better
with skirting but didn't take the trouble to do all the rest that
having skirting requires.
Our homes and everyone else's homes as well, are always affected
by structural changes. You don't just "tack" something
to the home and think you haven't changed the structure somehow.
Several times in the last few years I have heard people say that
they are going to shift to the modular side of the business. A
very large dealer said to me that the HUD stuff is not selling
so he is going to switch over to mostly modular homes on his sales
lots. He really did not want to do it because the "trailers"
were much faster to set up and did not require the inspections
and grading or footings like "mods" but, be couldn't
find financing for his customers and most of them preferred a
modular home anyway. Plus, there was not the zoning troubles he
always with the HUD product.
HMMMM, let me see if I have the picture? Customers and banks
want a well inspected, properly installed homes on frost free
footings and that are durable and safe. All these qualities combined
make it a good risk for banks and a good investment for the consumer.
The interest rates on mods are inline with typical residential
lending and people can afford them, so they sell. I wonder if
this dealer had treated his HUD product as well as he is going
to have to treat the modular product, would he have ever had to
consider switching. Where did people ever get the idea that our
homes don't need the same site prep and footings etc. as any other
structure to achieve the same durability? Guess what, we do, and
we have always had to! By applying the "opinions" we
may have in our minds about our housing, we have made some big
mistakes concerning what is really needed.
Lately one of our problems is someone's opinion of what a proper
foundation is. Our foundations do not need to be the same as modular
homes, in fact they can't be. We are supported mostly under and
away from the perimeter of the home and the normal frost line
requirements simply don't apply, but most local authorities' make
you do them anyway, adding to the cost.
Banks seem to always want a solid block wall around the home
at the perimeter because that is what a "real home"
is supposed to look like. 98% of the time this wall of "concrete
skirting" does not touch the home because you can't lay blocks
in wet mortar and have them hold a home at the same time. Plus,
you have to place them under there and you can't when it is too
tight. Unfortunately the required supports on a HUD code home
under the doors and four foot openings at the sidewalls of the
home usually have to be removed so you can replace them with this
non-supporting wall so you can get the financing! Then the doors
sag and bind, ceilings crack, floors creak, etc, etc.
And, we add $1500+/- to the cost of the home to mess it up
this way. So, what we have done is put a HUD Code foundation under
it to make the home secure and stable and then taken part of it
out to install a modular foundation around the edge to get qualified
for a loan. We have two foundations when we only need one. The
mod foundation would be a plus if it touched the home, but almost
Engineers don't lend money, so it seems fair that lenders should
not make structural decisions.