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10 Smart Upgrades to Make When Buying a New Manufactured Home

These smart upgrades to make when buying a new manufactured home will get you the best home for the best price. We’ll help you understand where to spend your money so that you get a quality home at a fair price.

Buying a new home is a complex, stressful, and exciting ordeal. In this article, we offer 10 smart upgrades to make when buying a new manufactured home,

These upgrades offer the most benefits with the best return on investment.

Understanding the 3 Levels of Manufactured Homes

In the manufactured housing world, you absolutely get what you pay for. Manufactured home buyers should understand the different levels of quality available from most builders.

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 Most Affordable Home Models

The most affordable 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 Home Models

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 Luxury Manufactured Homes

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 most as standard options and then add smart upgrades for your new manufactured home build.

Spend Money on Construction Upgrades

Most experts will advise new manufactured home buyers to spend money on construction upgrades before cosmetic updates.

You can’t go wrong with increased energy efficiency, better protection 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:

smart upgrades to make when buying a new manufactured home - (an information sheet with a manufactured home models specs)

Smart Upgrades to Make When Buying a New Manufactured Home

1. Exterior Doors

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 model steel doors are usually 36″ x 80″.

Upgrading your front exterior door to a 36″ x 80″ 6-panel steel door with an insulated core, peephole, and deadbolt 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 deadbolts 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

2. Interior Doors

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.

3. Windows

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.

smart upgrades to make when buying a new manufactured home - (decor panel wall options in 2015 from Fleetwood Manufactured Homes)

Decor panel wall patterns shared in the 2015 Fleetwood Options Catalog,

4. Sheetrocked Walls

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 sheetrock because it required extensive finishing work after installation. Fortunately, customer demands are changing the industry and nowadays we can have sheetrock in our homes.

smart upgrades to make when buying a new manufactured home - (Drywall accent wall colors available on new manufactured homes)

Drywall is now usually standard in some rooms on higher end single wide and double wide homes, now.

Steve Lancaster, our fav mobile home expert, states that the sheetrock used in manufactured homes are much thinner than the sheetrock 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. Learn how to paint vinyl coated mobile home walls here. 

If you prefer sheetrock, it’s definitely an upgrade that needs to be done at the time of construction in the factory.

5. Insulation

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). Learn about Upgrades that Will Reduce Mobile Home Heating Costs here. 

smart upgrades to make when buying a new manufactured home - exterior siding - (8)

These vinyl siding upgrades are from the 2015 Fleetwood Options Catalog.

6. Vinyl Siding

Steve gave us lots of great information about buying a new manufactured home. He listed10 smart upgrades to make when shopping for a 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 1970s through the 1990s.”

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.”

smart upgrades to make when buying a new manufactured home  - (the cabinet upgrades from the 2015 Fleetwood Options Book
The cabinet options were available in the 2015 Fleetwood Catalog.

7. Cabinetry

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.

n 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.

Solid Wood

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.”

smart upgrades to make when buying a new manufactured home - (cabinet color options for 2015 manufactured homes from Fleetwood
The cabinet options available in Fleetwood manufactured homes in 2015.

8. Flooring

Sub-flooring, or decking, is a common complaint among 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.

Is Installing Vinyl Tile in Manufactured Homes Smart? 

smart upgrades to make when buying a new manufactured home - 2017 Norris CEO - top of the Line Model - master bath
This 2017 Norris CEO is a luxury model home with gorgeous features but for some reason, it has a doorless closet in the master bedroom.

9. 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. ”

Read More: See the entire 2015 Fleetwood Homes Options Book here. 

10. Exterior Sheathing and/or Belly Wrap

Giving your home extra durability and stability, by adding another layer to its structure is a smart move. You want sheathe between your insulation and siding. No vinyl siding screwed directly into the home’s studs. Ever.

The belly wrap is pretty important since it protects you from so much. If the option is available, insist on thicker material.

10 smart upgrades to make when shopping for a new manufactured home

This is by no means a complete list of smart upgrades to make when buying a 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 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. 

Kim Alley
Kim Alley has been a part of Mobile Home Living since 2017 and has written over 300 articles for the site.



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