The process for a modular factory to build a new home is a unique one. Once the design plans and finishes are approved by the homeowner, the house is constructed using an assembly line process. Depending on the square footage of the home, the house is built in sections, or modules. Each module begins at one end of the factory and moves down the line, where materials like flooring, walls, ceilings, interiors and finally exterior finishes are installed along the way. Skilled craftsmen are responsible for their part of the construction process.
When I visited the Family Built Homes factory in Gering, Nebraska, it was a thrill to see several homes in a row undergoing different segments of the building process. The owners walked me through the entire process to view modules that were finished and ready to be connected once they reach their destinations.
Their factory also modeled a completed 600-square foot one-bedroom home and a 2,000-square foot ranch, both with beautiful interiors. Many customers are surprised by the quality of finishes that are available to them, from name-brand doors and windows to quartz and granite countertops.
One of the things that impressed me the most about the modular build process is how precise every measurement and placement of material must be, which means the quality control is exceptional. For example, at Family Built Homes, ceilings are constructed first and moved down the line to where the walls are attached. Then the module is flipped over to install the floors. As you can imagine, every piece of lumber or drywall must be installed completely square so the walls will be perfectly straight in order for the floors, lighting, doors, windows, etc., to be exact.
[Related: Offsite, on target—Building more with modular building]
Typically, once owners’ financing is in place, the building permit is acquired and the site work begins, builders can begin coordinating with the factory on next steps. After the foundation work is completed, the transportation and house set can be scheduled. Each module for the home will be secured to a truck and covered with plastic wrap to protect it as it’s driven to the new site. Once the modules arrive at the site, a certified set and crane crew will install the home onto its permanent foundation. This process highlights one of the advantages of offsite construction. The site work can be completed simultaneously with the home build in the factory, resulting in large gains in efficiency and time.
However, with the volume of homes being built in most modular factories these days, it can take four to 16 weeks to get clients’ homes slotted into the production line. It is important for builders to work closely with their trade partners to ensure the build schedule is complete and realistic, from excavation to the house being set on site.
Audree Grubesic is owner of Modular Sure Site, a general contractor on modular homes, and president of Connect Home Builders, a licensed modular home builder. She can be reached at [email protected]