Homes... what to look for.
Mobile homes are
usually mounted on grade-level wooden or concrete blocks, with the trailer wheels removed.
They are typically skirted with vinyl or aluminum siding, or painted plywood
sheathing. Mobile homes are sometimes installed on concrete block foundations, and
it can be difficult to determine whether the foundations are mounted below the frost
level, because the crawl spaces are normally back-filled to grade level. We've seen
the odd mobile installed on a full-depth, finished basement. From an occupancy point
point of view, there is essentially little to separate such installations from many other
lenders and insurance companies generally request storm tie-downs for mobiles homes in
most areas, unless they are bolted to foundations at least 5 feet deep.
Experienced home inspectors ask the same fee for mobile home inspections as for
Although mobiles tend to be smaller than the average house, they do take as much, and
sometimes more time to inspect. The same is true for most cottages. We
frequently hear "It's only a small cottage", or "It's only a mobile, why
should it cost as much as a house?"
We do a
number of mobile home inspections every year, however they account for less than 2% of our
total volume. The following are some of the points that we pay particular attention
to, some of which are specific to cold-weather climates. There are certainly more
items than listed here, to check for - but these are some of the more critical items that
come to mind, which are specific to mobile homes.
1. Check crawl space venting, and look for evidence of mildew, rot, rust etc.
under the unit - especially exposed, retrofitted plumbing, electrical and duct work.
2. Are the supply and waste piping adequately insulated, and/or heated for winter
3. Is there adequate combustion air for a standard gas or oil furnace? Most
of the furnaces we observe are standard gas or oil, forced-air, down-flow style. The
make-up (combustion) air source is usually from under the trailer, excepting newer
installations of direct-vent furnaces.
Is there adequate ductwork? In some mobile homes the original configuration provided for supply and
return air only at the furnace closet door. Much of the retrofit ducting is
flex-duct, and may be damaged or deteriorated under the unit. Everything under the
unit is also susceptible to rodents.
* Speaking of rodents, don't be too quick to stick your head into dark spaces - you
could meet any number of cats, rats, coons and other critters - they can be vicious when
4. In cold-weather regions, uninsulated oil tanks (outdoors) are subject to
condensation and rust, especially at their bottoms.
5. Depending on the soils under the trailer, the unit may heave and shift under
heavy frost conditions, unless the pilings are mounted below frost level.
6. Many units are insulated with Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI).
This might, or might not be a consideration - depending upon history and attitudes in your
local area. Polyurethane foam and other insulations are sometimes mistakenly
identified as UFFI.
7. Mobiles are generally quite air-tight and (in cold-weather regions) retained
moisture will cause excessive condensation on windows, especially metal-framed and/or
single-pane units. Many mobile home in colder areas are re-fitted with wooden
or vinyl, double-pane windows.
8. Older mobiles had 50 or 60 amp electric capacity, and newer models most often have
100 amps. However, depending on the mobile home park, they may be connected to a
pole-mounted shut-off, of less than 100 amps.
9. In many mobile home parks, water and sewage are private or communal - not municipal.
It is important to know how your sewage is managed, who is responsible and who pays
for maintenance and repairs to private or communal systems.
10. Beware of owner-installed porches and additions. These demand diligent
inspection. There is frequently wood-earth contact, and poor ventilation underneath
- and frequently unorthodox framing methods. The porch roof-to-wall flashings are
frequently substandard and problematic.
In our search for standards information...
- Building Code Officials inspect only 'built-on-site' structures.
- The mobile home sales and service outlets suggested we contact the manufacturers for
- One manufacturer directed us to CSA (equivalent to UL... they test everything from
bread makers to woodstoves.)
- CSA directed us to the Building Code Officials for post-installation concerns...
it appears that mobile homes, at this time in our local area, are in an administrative
More notes regarding the installation of mobile homes...
- In regions not considered "high-wind" zones,
over-the-top tie-downs have not historically been used for single-wide
- Piers or pilings comprised concrete and/or wooden
blocks, placed on-grade at intervals beneath the trailer frame, have
historically been accepted as the norm in most parts of Canada.
- Tie-downs consisting of spun steel cable, wrapped
around the trailer frame and fastened to driven or screw anchors are
typical in most locales, although not necessarily consistent among all
- The mounting and tie-down methods typically
employed may, or may not comply with the manufacturer's recommendations.
- Although mention is often made of manufacturer's
installation manuals, these documents are rarely, if ever available.
- See also:
CBD-188. Wind Forces on Mobile Homes
by National Research Council Canada, 1977
Notes on Moving Mobile Homes...
Under some circumstances (leased land, for example) a lender or
insurer may want some assurance that a mobile home is
Older mobile homes may or may not be transportable, depending upon
whether moving service personnel are able to mount axle assemblies,
and whether the unit is roadworthy.
The actual process of moving a mobile home as a vehicle is a point
of interest which a home inspector cannot address or confirm, and
involves considerations which only the selected mover could
evaluate. It is however reasonable to believe that if axles could
not be installed for any reason, or if the unit is found to be not
roadworthy as a vehicle in its original configuration, it could
possibly be moved by other means, much the same as any small house.
We recommend that estimates be obtained from reputable mobile home
or house movers regarding any costs, or possible impediments to
moving a mobile home. Evaluation of this type of activity is
outside the scope of a normal home inspection.
The Bottom Line:
installed and maintained, mobile homes can provide very comfortable housing. They
are relatively low-maintenance dwellings, and are considerably less expensive than
traditional homes of similar floor area.
Improperly installed and poorly maintained, mobile homes can be uncomfortable, difficult
to repair and often unsafe to live in.
www.mobilehomerepair.com for more consumer info about manufactured
Electrospec Home Inspection Services, 2005
Back to Directory (See also: heating, ventilation,
insulation, condensation, UFFI, oil tanks...)