DEAR BARRY: We are purchasing a late-model mobile home and are not sure whether to hire a home inspector. Some people say home inspectors are not qualified to inspect a mobile home. Others say that mobile homes don’t need to be inspected. If we do have an inspection, what kind of home inspector should we hire, and would the inspection involve the same types of defects that would be found in a conventional home? –Jeff
DEAR JEFF: Every home needs a home inspection, whether conventionally built or manufactured, whether new or old. Nearly all of the electrical, plumbing, heating and roofing defects likely to be found in a standard home can also occur in a mobile home.
Some home inspectors include mobile-home inspections as a part of their services, but many do not. Although there are common concerns in mobile homes and standard homes, there are also some significant differences. The most obvious of these is the foundation system.
In most cases, mobile homes are supported by unsecured metal piers. In locales that are prone to earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes, home inspectors should point out the need for reinforcement of foundations that have not been upgraded.
Other differences involve the construction standards that apply to mobile homes. Since they are built in factories and delivered by trucks, they are not subject to the same requirements as homes that are constructed on site.
For example, a clothes dryer in a mobile home is permitted to blow steam and lint into the crawlspace. This is a foolish practice because condensation can cause moisture damage, and lint build-up can be a fire hazard.
Another difference involves the discharge pipe from the water heater relief valve. The plumbing code for a standard home requires the discharge pipe to terminate at the exterior of the building. If water from the relief valve is released outside the home, the occupants will observe that there is a problem and can have it fixed immediately. If the discharge pipe releases water under a mobile home, the problem can go unnoticed for weeks or months, until major damage occurs.
Smoke-alarm requirements for mobile homes are also different than specified in the building code. In a conventional home, a smoke alarm should be no lower than 12 inches from the highest part of the ceiling. This is because smoke rises, and high placement of the alarm provides an earlier warning to occupants. In mobile homes, the height requirement is not nearly as strict.
As a final example, the building code allows multiple layers of asphalt shingle roofing on a conventional roof. The code specifies a maximum of three layers, although some building departments allow only two layers.
On mobile homes, the number of layers is determined by the manufacturer of the dwelling, and because mobile home framing is lightweight construction, most manufacturers allow just one layer of shingles. When a home inspector finds more than one roof layer on a mobile home, that condition should be reported.
Mobile homes should definitely be inspected, and the inspections should be done by someone familiar with mobile home construction. Before you hire anyone, be sure to find an inspector with many years of mobile home experience and a solid reputation for thorough inspections.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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