Why Continue to Use Traditional Methods of Construction?

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The enemy of change is the adage, “We have always done it this way”. While using a more efficient method of construction sounds good to the home buyer, the home builder now has to learn a new building process. The new process can cause stress and then add to it the fear of the unknown and most site builders become trapped using a construction process that hasn’t changed much in over 150 years. Building codes change all the time. Modular construction, because of its process, ensures that a home built in a rural area with no inspections is built to the same code and quality standards as a home built in an urban area with a dozen code inspections. 

The Fear of Change 

Why don’t all builders convert to using modular construction for their homes? That is actually a very good question. Today many contractors are struggling to hire, keep, and train employees. The best craftsmen are retiring or have already left the construction field. This means that those builders either can’t do as many projects or that the quality of what they do provide suffers. In most cases today, it is both. 

Building technology changes all the time. In most cases, site builders are already using a form of modular construction. Almost every home today makes use of prefabricated roof trusses. Most homes are also built using prefabricated floor trusses. They are engineered to be stronger, better, and cheaper than their site built counterpart. Why, because they are built in a factory using high quality materials and under controlled building conditions. They also have to undergo rigid inspections to ensure they meet quality and code requirements. 

Traditional Construction is Getting Riskier 

While many still subscribe to the thought that the old way is the least risky way, that just isn’t true any longer. The traditional approach just isn’t the best way to manage risk when building a custom home today. Subcontractors are busy and suffering from an extreme lack of skilled labor. When you add the unpredictability of weather to their already precarious position of waiting to see who actually shows up to work each morning at a jobsite, each morning becomes a roll of the dice.  

That same issue trickles down to everyone in the construction chain. Did the truck driver show up on Monday morning to deliver the load of lumber needed for the framing crew to get started? Did the trim get delivered for the trim carpenters get started? Today, why are we still doing home construction the same old way it has been done for almost 200 years? 

Today’s Modular Construction 

Traditional built vs. modular home– How are the homes constructed? – The on-site builder doesn’t have the luxury of buying materials in bulk to be price competitive so they use the lowest cost methods to build the structure of a home. For instance, most tract homes use a cardboard type exterior sheathing for the exterior of a home. There is no wood to protect you. It’s cheap and meets code but someone can walk through a wall with nothing more than a utility knife. Modular construction is built strong using OSB and strapping to maintain its stronger structure for transport and set. 

Are Modular Homes Built Faster? – The answer is yes. However, you have to take into consideration the overall construction timeframe. Modular homes can take more time to plan. You have to make all of your structure and design changes up front. This can take longer. However, your home shows up 75-85% complete and is finished within weeks of placement on your foundation. With site built construction, your builder starts as soon as he can but you get to make changes along the way. Many use the term allowances in their contracts for things such as flooring, cabinets, fixtures, etc. This means that your home will cost more because the allowances are almost always lower than the product you actually want. It’s not uncommon to see a site built home’s finished price exceed the original contract price by 10-30% to get the home you actually want. 

Is a Modular Home the Same Quality as a Site Built Home – Do your own research. Most would argue that a home built indoors without getting rained on, using materials that have been stored indoors, and built by workers that have been trained and working indoors would always result in a better product. While building outdoors in the elements is the way it has “always been done”, the ability to get the same quality outdoors as can be achieved indoors is nearly impossible. A well-worn example is: Could you achieve the same quality building your new car in your driveway as you could in a factory? Probably not. 

RELATED: Why Building Outside Costs More

Can Both Homes be Energy Efficient? – The answer is yes. However, the cost to get a site built home to achieve the same performance level as one built in a factory is more difficult and more expensive. Rain warps boards causing leakage in expanding and contracting areas. Different trades aren’t coordinated to ensure constant attention to the details of maintaining a tight thermal envelope. With modular construction, homes are precision built and materials can be kept dry avoiding high moisture content in walls and floors. 

Are Modular Homes Cheaper? – This answer varies. While modular construction can provide you with a home at a great value, it really depends on the region of the country you live in. In some areas, a modular home will cost the same as a home built onsite. The primary reasons a home buyer chooses to use modular construction is because of the faster build time and the better quality of the home. In other areas with a high cost of living home built using modular construction can save 5-30% over the cost of a similar home built onsite. 

Is There Ever a Time When On-site Construction Should be Used? 

The answer is yes. Because modules are large and cranes are heavy, there are times when it just isn’t feasible to deliver a home to some home sites. In addition, there may be power lines, trees, fences, bridges, and narrow roads that cause a location to be unreachable. In those cases, a home buyer will just have to settle for a site built home. However, there are other building systems that offer alternatives that can still help gain some efficiencies to improve on the home building process. These can include panelized construction and concrete construction. 

We No Longer Settle for On-Site Construction, We Do Better! 

When it comes to choosing a method to building a new home I hope you will do your research and perform your own evaluation. We already have. Many years ago we decided that building on a site just wasn’t the most efficient, healthy, and cost effective way to build. We decided that modular construction offered the best way to deliver quality custom homes to our customers. We believe in modular construction so much that we won’t work for a customer that will accept anything less than the quality and flexibility that modular construction provides. Modular is the only building system we use today to deliver our custom built homes! 

About the Author
Ken Semler

Ken Semler

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Hi, I am Ken Semler the founder of Express Modular. I am passionate about this industry, our company, and the products we provide. Modern modular construction provides the ability to deliver healthy, safe, and energy efficient living spaces. Express Modular is a licensed builder/contractor in almost every state. I believe that modular homes provide the best way to deliver virtually unlimited design flexibility at the greatest value.

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