These 10 smart upgrades for your new manufactured home will help you spend your money on features and upgrades that offer the most benefits and have a good return on investment.
Shopping for a new manufactured home can be overwhelming. There are so many options and choices that need to be made throughout the process.
Once you’ve determined the budget for your new manufactured home you will need to decide on the square footage and whether you want a single wide or a double wide. Next, you will need to decide the layout of the home and then the features and upgrades you want. In this article, we offer 10 smart upgrades for your new manufactured home to help you get the best home at the best price.
Understanding the 3 Levels of Manufactured Homes
Manufactured home buyers will first need to understand the three levels of quality available from most builders. In the manufactured housing world, you absolutely get what you pay for.
There are 3 levels of manufactured home models: the most affordable, low-end models, the mid-range models, and the high-end or luxury models.
The low-end models will have staples and glue instead of nails, smaller studs, Chinese steel beams, low roof pitch, economy grade flooring, particle board, plastic fixtures, vinyl wallboards, etc. You won’t be able to upgrade these models too much. If your budget is at all flexible you will want to bypass these entry level homes. You will find these homes on every dealer’s lot with large signs advertising double wides for $39,995 or single wides for $19,999
The mid-range models are the most popular and will have better everything: larger wall studs, better insulation values, higher grade flooring, exterior house wrap, drywall or wallboard nailed to the studs, higher roof pitches, etc.
High-end manufactured homes are top of the line. Construction is equal to or better than a site-built home. Materials are top grade. Simply put, everything is high quality.
In the manufactured housing world, you absolutely get what you pay for but that’s the brilliance of manufactured housing. We can get exactly what we need in a home.
Go with a model that offers the features and specs you want standard and then add smart upgrades for your new manufactured home.
If you start at the lowest model and then add upgrades you likely will end up paying more in the long run. Compare the cheapest model with your desired upgrades to the high-end model with the upgrades you want standard to see which option is the better value.
Spend Money on Construction Upgrades First
Most experts will advise home buyers to spend money on construction upgrades in their new manufactured home.
You can’t go wrong with increased energy efficiency, better protections from the weather, and better construction specs. A better-built home will usually have a better resale value in the future.
Mid and high-range models will likely have the following options standard. If not, these are all smart upgrades for your new manufactured home:
- 30 Year Architectural Shingles
- Higher Roof Pitch (4/12 or more)
- At least 7.5-foot exterior wall height but 8-9 foot is best
- Thicker Exterior Sheathing
- 2″ x 6″ Exterior Wall Studs
- 2″ x 4″ Interior Wall Studs
This Palm Harbor Series information sheet shows the company’s standard features:
More smart upgrades for your new manufactured home
Upgrading exterior doors is a relatively low-cost upgrade that adds lots of value to a home, including new manufactured homes. In fact, Remodeling Magazine has stated that upgrading a home’s exterior door has the highest return on investment of any home improvement upgrade.
Low-end manufactured homes will usually have aluminum doors that are 32″ wide and between 74″ and 78″. Mid-range models will typically have steel doors that are usually 36″ x 80″.
Upgrading your front exterior door to a 36″ x 80″ 6-panel steel door with an insulated core, peep hole, and dead bolt is a smart upgrade for your new manufactured home.
The back door, which is usually the cheap gun slot or nine window style, is still the norm for both mid-range and top end homes. Upgrading to a 36″ x 80″ steel door with dual glazed windows and dead bolts is not a bad idea.
Make sure the door jambs are vinyl wrapped and not particle board for front and rear doors.
Read More about Manufactured Home Renovations That Pay You Back
The cheap 26″ x 74″ hollow core interior doors are standard on most manufactured homes, from low-end to luxury models.
Upgrade to the 30″ x 80″ wood framed or paneled hollow-core interior doors. This will make a huge difference and help make the home look more like it was site-built.
The solid wood 6-panel interior doors are especially beautiful but they can get pricey – remember you are replacing every door in the home. Mortised door hinges are better than surface-mounted.
Better windows are extremely smart upgrades for your new manufactured home.
Most new mid-range manufactured homes have an energy-saving thermal pane window, probably aluminum framed with a single pane for the low-end models.
Windows impact your energy costs and both the interior and the exterior aesthetics of a home so it’s a smart investment to upgrade to the best windows you can afford.
Walls are a hot topic in the manufactured housing world.
For decades, many factory-built homes had faux wood paneling or VOG wallboard. VOG stands for vinyl on gypsum and is a form of cardboard wrapped in vinyl.
Due to the transportation needs of a manufactured home, it was difficult to use sheet rock because it required extensive finishing work after installation. Fortunately, customer demands are changing the industry and nowadays we can have sheet rock in our homes.
Drywall is now usually standard in some rooms on higher end single wide and double wide homes. Steve Lancaster, our mobile home expert states that the sheet rock used in manufactured homes are much thinner than the sheet rock used in stick built homes. This is done to make it lighter but it cracks more when being transported to the lot or when settling later. He often prefers to get the vinyl coated wallboards and paint them, leaving the “strips” on.
If you want to be able to paint your walls with ease you will want sheet rock in your home. It’s definitely an upgrade that really needs to be done at the time of construction in the factory.
If I had to choose just one upgrade for my new manufactured home it would probably be the insulation (which would require thicker studs so I’d be cheating a bit, I guess).
There are three important areas of insulation in a manufactured home: roof, sidewall, and flooring. Flooring and roofing insulation will have a higher R-value than your sidewalls.
Low-end model homes will have sidewall insulation with an R-value of 11, maybe 13, standard. Upgrade to the highest you can afford (22+).
Better insulation is especially smart upgrades for your new manufactured home if you live in an area with extreme temperatures (really cold or really hot).
Steve Lancaster, our favorite mobile home expert gave us lots of great information about buying a new manufactured home. He listed several smart upgrades for your new manufactured home.
Steve explains, “In most of the country, vinyl siding and shingle roofs are now standard, even on the cheapest homes. In some parts of the country, usually out west, metal siding and metal roofs are still an option. A product called “Smart Siding” is available in the western states but occasionally in the East. It is supposed to be much stronger and more durable than the old Masonite (particle board) siding used from the 1970’s through the 1990’s.”
Steve continues, “One thing I have noticed is that in my area, vinyl sided homes usually have nothing behind the vinyl except white foam insulation, Upgrading to OSB under the vinyl is sometimes an option in low-end homes, and is usually included when the wind zone increases to 2 or 3. Most new homes use this foam under the vinyl even if they are very expensive, so look before you buy. I have often wondered how this foam does in preventing water getting into the home through the vinyl siding. As we all know, vinyl siding can and does come off in high winds. Once it is gone, gaps in the foam insulation will allow any wind-driven rain into the walls.”
Cabinets have a huge impact on a home. You may never realize just how much you use cabinets until one gets broken so they are certainly smart upgrades for your new manufactured home.
Generally, low and mid-range homes have smaller MDF cabinetry with either a ‘real wood’ paper veneer glued to it or it will be wrapped in vinyl. In many cases, these cabinets don’t even have their own bottom shelf, you only see the room’s vinyl flooring when you open the door. Cheap knobs and exposed hinges are also common with cheaper cabinets.
Cabinetry made from solid wood is not cheap or lightweight so it is an expensive upgrade for your new manufactured home but it can be a great investment. Upgrading to real wood cabinets in industry standard sizes (36″ for floor and 31″ for upper) can greatly increase the home’s resell potential.
Steve warns, “One thing to note, even top end homes often use the cheaper cabinet materials inside and out. They may look fancier and may be taller and have the crown molding and raised panels, but inside they still use the cheaper vinyl wrapped or even exposed unwrapped particle board shelving. Schult is an example of that. Upgraded cabinets are offered by many factories. You can ask to find out.”
Sub-flooring, or decking, is a common complaint with manufactured homeowners. The low and mid-range homes will usually use 5/8″ particle board for the home’s sub-floor. Particle board does not hold up to water at all. Even a small leak can swell the floor up and require a full replacement.
More smart upgrades for your new manufactured home is upgrading the decking to at least 5/8″ plywood or to the newer materials called Novadeck or Cresdeck.
In addition to particle board decking, low-quality carpet is used in all three quality levels of manufactured home models.
Carpet quality is measured by weight per square foot. Low-quality carpet will be around 15 ounces or less. Ideally, you will want at least 19 ounces. If you want durable and comfortable you will need to upgrade to a higher quality carpet than what most builders offer standard.
Sinks, Showers, and Tubs
Another area you need to consider upgrading is the quality of the sinks, showers, and tubs in your new manufactured home.
Steve gave us a few tips, “Plastic vanity sinks have good durability but they do stain and discolor easily. Upgrade to ceramic if you can. Standard tubs are often made of thin plastic so upgrading to fiberglass is a good idea. Showers can now be one piece fiberglass, two piece plastic, or have a plastic or fiberglass floor with a tile surround. ”
Mosiac tile is becoming a popular upgrade option. Steve went on to mention that many new homes use the same tub in the master bathroom as they use in the second bathroom. He said, “I do not know whose dumb idea this was…but asking people to pay over 50k and give them a cheap kids tub in the master bath is ridiculous,” and we agree completely.
Steve also noted a trend that he isn’t a fan of, “Low end single wide homes often have a tiny closet in the bathroom with no door. It must be a way they save money but who wants their clothes and other items exposed to moisture from baths or showers, or to the prying eyes of family and visitors?”
Summary of 10 Smart Upgrades for Your New Manufactured Home
This is by no means a complete list of smart upgrades for your new manufactured home or exactly what to look for when purchasing a new home but it should help a bit.
Focus your upgrades on construction more than aesthetics.
Did you order a manufactured home with upgrades? Tell us about your experience below!
Thank you for reading Mobile and Manufactured Home Living!
We couldn’t have created this article without help from Steve Lancaster, our favorite mobile home expert. He founded the popular Facebook group, Manufactured Housing and Mobile Homes, and posts helpful ideas and examples of great homes on a near daily basis. His passion and knowledge of mobile and manufactured homes are impressive and we are very thankful to have him help us list these 10 smart upgrades for new manufactured homes.