When it comes to the underbelly of our home, many owners take the “out of sight, out of mind” approach. It seems best to leave that mysterious and dark cavern below your home alone, usually because most owners don’t know much about what goes on underneath there. They tend to underestimate its importance.
However, did you know that the state of your basement not only affects the structural integrity of your home but also your chances of getting financing? Now you do.
With you and your family’s safety on the line as well as your finances, you might think it’s worth taking a jump into the unknown. In this guide, we will give you a practical layman’s explanation of the implications of the Permanent Foundations Guide for Manufactured Housing.
Why bother with this guide?
There are two very important (and very good) reasons why you should pay close attention to the Permanent Foundations Guide for Manufactured housing.
Firstly, the safety of your home and by extension, that of your family, is on the line. Mobile homes need impeccable support to live out their years in good condition. This guide lays the (ahem) foundations for that kind of support. Mobile homes can sag or bend slightly with time as they settle into position. This could lead to major structural strain and failure if you don’t provide adequate support through the foundation.
Secondly, following the guidelines for the PFGMH is a prerequisite for your home to meet the requirements of the HUD (HUD Publication HUD-7584) code. Adhering to the HUD code dramatically affects the value of your home and is a requirement if you ever want to apply for financing, particularly FHA backed financing.
In general, the closer to a traditional stick-built home your mobile home is, the better off you are when it comes to financing in the future. It will also improve the value of your home. Installing your home on a certified permanent foundation and permanently attaching the home to it is the biggest leap in that direction you can make.
So, how do I apply the Permanent Foundations Guide for Manufactured Housing?
Great question! Here’s what the guide has to say about each phase of the process when you’re installing your home on a foundation.
When evaluating the land where you’ll place your home:
- The ground (grade) immediately surrounding the home should descend outwards from the home to drain water away.
- A 6-mil polyethylene plastic vapor barrier must be used to cover the dirt floor underneath the mobile home. This is also a minimum requirement. If you really want, you can install a whole concrete floor over the ground. It’s up to you. The point is that you must protect the area beneath the home from moisture in some way.
When creating your foundation:
- Whatever foundational piers your home rests on, they must have reinforced concrete footings that extend below the frost line. This makes your home immune to the changing height of soil at different times of year (as the moisture in the soil freezes and thaws).
- Foundation materials must be “solid materials.” This includes materials such as reinforced concrete, masonry, steel or treated wood. Wooden wedges on their own do not meet this requirement even though they are very common, usually as a result of leveling a home. A coating of fiber-reinforced bonding cement can be a solution.
- The tongue, axles, and wheels of the home must be removed. The contractor should do this when installing the home on its foundation. Yes, it means that you won’t be able to move your mobile home but let’s not forget that they are now technically manufactured housing, not mobile homes.
When securing the home:
- The perimeter walls must extend at least 8 inches above grade (above the ground).
- Another important requirement we see neglected too often is the skirting. Many homes have skirting that is in poor condition or altogether missing. The PFGMH actually states that the space between the home and the ground must always be fully enclosed by skirting to prevent vermin and water/snow, etc. It must have an entryway, and it must support itself on a cement footing. There must also be adequate ventilation.
- The home must have adequate tie downs anchored to the footings to resist horizontal overturning, transverse and longitudinal loads. This is another area where the PFGMH is all too often undermined. Many homes have screw-in tie-down anchors that aren’t permitted at all. There are a few different anchoring systems that are, and you should make sure your contractor is aware of them.
- Another caveat that might seem a bit strange is that the home must be permanently hooked up to utilities. This simply increases the “permanence” of the home in its current location.
What types of foundations are there?
There are a few different kinds of foundations that satisfy all the requirements for a permanent foundation (when implemented correctly). Each has their own strengths and weaknesses that are important to be aware of. We strongly recommend you do your research and consult a professional before choosing one over another.
- Basement foundation: Expensive but arguably the best type of foundation.
- Pit foundation: More susceptible to outside conditions than a basement foundation but can give a stick-built home look.
- Slab foundation: Cheap and simple to install but can crack over time.
- Runner foundation: Cheapest but also least reliable form of permanent foundation.
What about financing?
Lenders are obligated to get a certificate from a licensed and registered engineer or architect that attests the compliance of your foundation with the PFGMH. If there were no alterations done since the last certification that was done for an FHA-backed loan and there is no new observable damage, you can provide them with that certificate as proof.
Get to know your home’s underbelly while supporting your home correctly!
We hope that this overview of the Permanent Foundations Guide for Manufactured Housing served to illuminate that dark and scary place that forms the underbelly of your manufactured home. You shouldn’t let it keep any secrets from you to get the most out of your home!