Mobile homes can be a fantastic place to live. But as with any type of property, things can also go spectacularly wrong. Luckily, we can learn from the past and often take steps to reduce the chance of bad things happening.
So we are going to look at common safety issues with real-life examples. We will follow up by looking at the takeaways from each case and what precautions you can take going forward.
Case studies to help you keep your home safe
Let’s look at seven examples of things that have gone wrong in mobile homes and what you can do to prevent something similar happening to you. These are examples of some of the most common safety issues in mobile homes.
Example 1: Fire hazards
On March 10, 2020, a mobile home was destroyed by a fire in Adams County, Illinois. The neighbor smelled smoke and heard popping noises and then called the emergency services.
The Adams County EMS, Adams County Sheriff’s Department, and Tri-Township Fire Department, and Quincy Fire Department all responded. They were unable to stop the quickly spreading flames from engulfing the home.
However, they were able to stop the fire from spreading to the neighboring properties.
Luckily, no one was home, so no one was hurt. But if it wasn’t for the sharp senses of a neighbor, much more harm could have been done.
The cause of the fire was unclear. However, the fire department did note that there weren’t any smoke detectors or fire alarms in the building.
Precautions to take
Fire is one of the most common causes of damage to all kinds of buildings in the United States. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 363,000 home fires in 2018, which resulted in 2,720 deaths and 11,200 injuries.
This isn’t a reason to panic. But just shows that it’s important to take reasonable precautions like the following:
- Install a smoke detector and fire alarm.
- Regularly test your detection system.
- Get a fire extinguisher.
- Keep an eye out for any electrical issues.
- Don’t leave fireplaces, candles, heaters, and similar appliances or features unattended.
- Switch off your stove when not in use.
- Store any flammable chemicals properly.
- Make sure that all your power cables are insulated.
- Keep heat sources, smoking materials, and open flames far away from upholstered furniture and other combustible materials.
- Educate your children about fire safety.
- Check that there are enough fire hydrants for the size of your mobile home park.
Some of these steps can help you stop a fire before it even starts. On the other hand, a fire detector can alert you to an existing problem. It can help you notice a fire earlier and get yourself to safety. In the end, that warning can help to mitigate the damage – even if it can’t totally prevent the fire.
Example 2: Carbon monoxide poisoning
Another potential danger lurking in mobile homes is carbon monoxide as Joanna from Country Acres Mobile Home Park in Colorado found out firsthand.
She had signed a rent-to-own contract on a property but soon began to experience regular drowsiness and severe headaches.
Besides this, she could smell gas and reported it to the park manager. The gas company came to take a look and discovered that there was exhaust leaking into the home.
Joanna struggled to find the source, and she began feeling worse. Eventually, she arranged for the Delta Fire Protection District to visit her home. They found the problem. The source was a gas water heater that was not properly ventilated and was not appropriate for use in a manufactured house.
Unfortunately, the managers of the park weren’t helpful. They claimed a full remodel had been done on the property before she moved in. It’s unclear whether this remodel did indeed occur or whether the correct permits were pulled.
Joanna felt she had no place to turn and moved out of the home and the park.
Precautions to take:
Carbon monoxide (CO) is known as a silent killer because it is an odorless, colorless gas. Besides this, people are often misdiagnosed as having the flu after carbon monoxide exposure. Take a look here for more information on the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
In some cases, mobile home residents are particularly susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. This is due to what building experts call the inappropriate spacing of intake and exhaust pipes.
The current HUD code on vent placement for manufactured houses is a minimum of three feet. In other words, the exhaust vents need to be at least three feet away from the intake vent, which brings fresh air to the home. Yet, many people worry that this isn’t nearly enough space.
The risk increases if you have a furnace to heat the home.
Here are some precautions you can take to prevent carbon monoxide build-up and poisoning:
- Be aware of which appliances can emit carbon dioxide.
- Keep your vents clear from snow and other debris.
- Hire a licensed inspector to look at a mobile home before you move in.
- Check whether correct permits were pulled for any work done on the structure.
- Don’t run or turn on an engine, generator, stove, or grill in a closed and unventilated area or room.
- Install CO detectors and alarms in your home. If the alarm sounds, err on the side of caution and get everyone out before calling 911.
- Change the batteries of your detectors every six months.
- Regularly schedule maintenance for your fuel-burning devices and make sure they have proper vents.
- Clean your fireplace and keep it well ventilated.
- Learn about the symptoms of CO poisoning and keep an eye out for any signs.
- Call emergency services whenever you suspect a CO build-up.
Generally, carbon monoxide poisoning is easily preventable.
Example 3: Roof collapse
Carolyn and Rich Ary were living in a single-wide mobile home while they were remodeling their main house. One Wednesday morning, they were simply getting ready for the day ahead when disaster struck.
Rich knew something was wrong when they heard a strange rumbling sound, so he rushed to the door.
But before he could find his way out, there was a loud crash as the wooden carport that sheltered their mobile home and vehicles collapsed. There had been a severe snowstorm, and the snow was too heavy for the structure.
The increased weight of the debris was too much for the roof of the mobile home. And it caved in too. In a matter of seconds, the house was wrecked.
They were lucky to escape unharmed, but much of their property, including their brand new truck, was damaged.
Precautions to take:
Despite the HUD code, the quality of mobile homes can vary widely.
This can be particularly problematic when it comes to mobile homes that were built before 1976 or which have been extensively altered. And it can be incredibly dangerous when it affects the structural integrity of the house.
Any additional weight can cause damage to the roof or decrease its stability. That includes installations in or on the home. As the case study above shows, snow is a common cause of roof collapse. It can be surprisingly heavy.
In general, snow weighs approximately 20 pounds per cubic foot. Here is a handy calculator for the weight of the snow.
Even if the roof doesn’t collapse, too much strain can lead to damaged tiles, leaks, sagging ceilings, and so on.
The following are some precautions you can take in winter and all year round to keep your roof in good condition:
- Figure out what the capacity for your roof is. Most roofs can hold about 20 pounds per square foot.
- Use a snow rake to remove snow from the roof regularly.
- Properly secure any additions or overhanging structures around your mobile home. As this example shows, there can be dire consequences if these structures collapse.
- Install heating cables to prevent ice dams.
- Call for professional help to clear away the snow.
- Inspect the roof each year for problem areas.
- Fix any weakened roofing materials or sections.
- Clear your drains as needed for proper drainage.
- Keep an eye out for signs of structural damage.
- Study your mobile home’s plans or hire a licensed contractor before altering the structure of the house.
Example 4: Mobile home mold
Carbon monoxide isn’t the only unseen danger that might be lurking in your mobile home. Mold is another threat that might be difficult to spot and deal with.
In one case, a mobile homeowner started to smell mold. Eventually, he tracked the smell through the underbelly to the area under the bathroom. After several failed attempts he and his brother-in-law found a patch of moldy insulation under the shower.
The mold had even spread to the ground underneath it.
There was a clogged pipe in the area, a leak, and a nearby vent that was not working correctly.
And in this case, the smell was not the only issue. Since the man was allergic and particularly sensitive to mold, it could be even more hazardous than to his health than one might initially assume.
In desperation, they tried everything – spraying mold blaster, disinfecting the area, cleaning the area with bleach, removing debris, and installing new insulation. However, the mold did not go away.
Precautions to take:
Mold is one of those problems that can be incredibly difficult to get rid of. Prevention is far better and easier than a cure.
One reason why mold is so insidious is that it can start and spread almost anywhere. For example, you might find mold on paint or on the following surfaces and materials:
- Ceiling tiles
- Wood products
Generally, it grows in places that are moist and are not well ventilated.
Mold can affect different people in different ways. The following are all common signs and symptoms:
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy or red eyes
- Shortness of breath
But it is especially dangerous for people who have conditions like asthma or allergies to molds (such as the homeowner in the case study). And although the evidence isn’t conclusive, mold has been linked to upper respiratory tract infections, the development of asthma in children, and more.
The best things you can do to prevent mold growth in your mobile home are:
- Keep the humidity levels as low as you can throughout the day.
- Make sure your home is well ventilated, specifically areas like the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room.
- Repair any leaks.
- Fix clogged pipes before they cause further problems.
- Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner when the weather is very humid.
- Regularly check vents to make sure they are not blocked and are working.
Additional precautions to take:
It can be difficult, and perhaps even impossible, to prepare for every eventuality. However, there are some general precautions all homeowners can take to keep themselves and their homes safe. Not keeping up to date with these precautions is one of the biggest safety mistakes a homeowner can make.
Besides all the measures we’ve discussed so far, you should do the following:
- Prepare your plumbing for winter by insulating the pipes and turning off the water supply for outdoor pipes.
- Check all the key areas of your mobile home several times a year.
- Clean and remove debris from your house, especially your gutters, chimneys, and underbelly.
- Keep walkways clear and make sure they aren’t slippery.
- Call an inspector to inspect the mobile home before moving in.
- Fix any issues as soon as they arise.
- Build rails for any stairs or raised decks.
- Perform the required maintenance on any appliances or equipment in your home, like your HVAC system.
- Close any gaps in your home’s structure (for example, the seams of the roof).
- Repair damage to the skirting and siding.
- Regularly inspect the underbelly for any issues.
- Make sure that the mobile home is up to code.
- Check that the home is level and that the foundation is sound. This isn’t only something you do once. (Remember, the home can settle and sink further into the ground).
- Keep trash cans closed to avoid attracting pests.
Happy, healthy home
You know what Murphy’s law says. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
But taking precautions like doing regular maintenance can help you reduce the risk of harm to your property and, more importantly, to your family. And that brings you one step closer to creating a mobile home where you can thrive and be happy.