Pre-Fab, Modular Housing: Three Facts for Building Insiders


The McMansion days are over. Average American home sizes continue to shrink since the recession, with the typical home now between 2,400 to 2,800 square feet. This trend is driven by cost and practicality; American consumers are focused on simplicity and efficiency as well as luxury. Natural finishes, clean lines, minimal embellishments, simple architecture: these are the trends of today.

Modular, or prefabricated, housing is a growing industry because it meets these trends head-on. The rise of factory-built, pre-fab homes might scare some in the building industry. But there are some advantages to this emerging market. Here are 3 facts to consider:

1. Pre-fab housing is faster

Home modules are constructed and inspected in a factory. According to the NAHB, it takes an average of three to four months to build a pre-fab home, depending on the complexity. Advanced, permanent machinery and the absence of weather delays are keys to the efficiency. It then takes an average of three days to assemble the components (or modules) at the home site. Watch this video to see how a modular home is assembled.

The average time for a stick-built or custom built home? Nine months to a year.

2. Modular homes can be remodeled

Having a modular home doesn’t mean that you can’t save up for that kitchen remodel in a few years. Nothing about pre-fab house precludes you from reconfiguring the layout and design later.

Remodeling contractors should know that the rise of pre-fab housing could actually impact their business positively. There may be some slight differences in the structure of the beams that support a pre-fab home, however, so contractors should ask homeowners upfront about the origin of the construction before getting started.

3. Modular homes are surprisingly durable

Prefabs can actually hold up better in extreme weather conditions than traditional stick-built structures, according to several hurricane-related studies. The engineered approach offers special safeguards for coastal homes such as additional strapping and bolting and specially formulated adhesives.

BUILDER magazine, which extensively covered modular housing during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, notes: “Modular construction is ideal for high-wind zones. Prefabricated housing has an added benefit for builders: It reduces dependence on on-site skilled labor, a commodity in short supply in New Jersey’s booming rebuilding market. Typically in situations like high-volume rebuilding, prices rise pretty rapidly related to labor costs because it becomes in short supply relative to the market. This doesn’t happen with modular building.”

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Photo caption: Modular homes are available in nearly any size or architectural style. Here are two homes from manufacturer Ritz-Craft.

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