A prefabricated house is any residential property that has been created from readymade panels, which have been designed and crafted off-site, and then erected on a chosen plot that has foundations already in place.
The need for prefabricated homes came about when an increasing number of generations found it hard to get on the housing ladder, especially within a timely manner and at a reasonable cost. What prefabricated homes lack in traditional construction methods, they make up for in ease of erection, cost-effectiveness and contemporary aesthetics.
Prefab homes have a long history, with some people believing them to date all the way back to the 1600s. They really came into their own in the early 1900s, however, when ‘kit houses’ offered a fast and affordable way for families to own their own house and since then, they have gone from strength to strength. Modern versions of prefab houses are often indistinguishable from standard constructions.
Designing and building a prefabricated building is a fascinating process and many owners of these manufactured homes state that crafting the perfect house is a fun and exciting project that they would be willing to do again. If you are considering this method of home design, and have a plot of land ready to lay a foundation pad on already, you should expect to go through the following steps:
1. Research modular home manufacturers and find one that suits your style and is within a deliverable distance to you.
2. Enter into the design process, specifying all essential criteria, such as number of bedrooms, floors and interior layout preferences.
3. Sign off on a final design. You will normally be sent a 3D rendering of how your finished home will look.
4. Have a contractor lay the perfect foundation pad, while the individual panels that will comprise your home are being made.
5. Agree on a delivery date for your home panels and arrange for a team of expert, experienced erectors. You might be able to take the advice of your home manufacturer as to a team to hire.
6. Have your home built on site. You should expect this process to take as little as two weeks, depending on the complexity of your design and the access on site.
7. Instruct your second-fix and finishing teams to complete interior work.
Any architect will tell you that you need to account for expected weather conditions in your area, not to mention taking natural disasters into account when designing a new home and with these issues in mind, some people will tell you that a prefabricated home is not always the best choice.
While prefabs are sturdy and comfortable, if your region is prone to inclement weather, the construction process itself could be seriously hampered, which might mean that you would be far better selecting a standard construction method, such as bricks and mortar, which can be paused and returned to at a moment’s notice.
While prefab homes are generally far cheaper and quicker to build, there are factors that will impact on how fast and cheaply you can complete a project. While there are no concrete costs to focus on, one thing that is certain is that prefab houses can be completed in a matter of weeks, whereas properties built ‘on-site’ will always take months. Factors that will affect your timescales and costs include:
- Complexity of design
- Number of storeys
- Site access and terrain
- Facade finishes
- Materials used
Manufactured homes are considered to be non-standard constructions, which means that they can be prone to legal issues, stringent building regulations or, in extreme cases, they might not be permitted at all. You should always check where you stand, legally, before even beginning a design process and the best way to do so is to contact your local authority, to discuss planning and building permissions. You will need to explain what you intend to build, why and demonstrate a clear understanding of what necessary standards will have to be reached. Your authority will then be able to tell you if the project is viable and legal.
As with all building styles, for every advantage, there is also a potential disadvantage to prefab houses. Before deciding to definitely press ahead with a manufactured home, you should consider the following:
- Generally cheaper than standard construction properties.
- They offer more creative freedom.
- You can build exactly what you need and want.
- You can choose far more sustainable materials.
- Energy efficiency can be a major consideration.
- They are faster to build than ‘normal’ homes.
- Some people consider prefabs to be less sturdy than bricks and mortar homes.
- Can be difficult to sell due to the personal nature of the designs.
- The design process can take a long time.
- Erection teams can be costly to hire as they are specialists.
- Changes to the design will be costly to implement once building has begun.
- Incorrect measurements could be critical.
The company that designs and manufactures your home will be able to advise you as to the best ways to maintain your home, but in general, you shouldn’t expect to have to do anything differently to a regular home. If your home is made from wood, naturally you’ll need to protect the material, but that goes for ANY wooden house.
Whether you are commissioning a new build or buying an existing manufactured home, there are a number of professionals that it would be beneficial for you to be able to call on. They include:
- For new builds – Architects, specialist builders and glass manufacturers.
- For existing properties – Real estate agents, and general contractors.
The homify professionals directory is a good resource for locating a trusted tradesperson close to you.