Mobile Homes and Water—Things You Should Know

Sometimes the best option for a new homeowner is a pre-fabricated trailer or mobile home. Whether buying new or used, it is almost always more affordable and convenient to customize the trailer to your exact needs and wishes for only a fraction of what it would cost to do the same with a conventionally constructed home. Add to this the freedom of being able to take your home with you if the need arises, and you can see why the mobile home is the preferred choice for many new and lifelong homeowners. However, all these conveniences do come at one very important price, and that would be the fact that manufactured homes are far more vulnerable to the major destructive forces of nature. From heavy wind and rain to snow and ice and even fire, each of these threats poses a particularly serious risk to the mobile home, and the same assembly-line style and streamlined construction that makes this choice so affordable is the same thing that can make the cost of repairing them extremely expensive and (trust me) highly labor intensive. Water damage affects the trailer in a few different ways, none of them good. If the footings beneath your home suddenly become loose or the anchoring system loses its hold on the over- saturated soil, then you, your family and everything inside is now at risk. On the inside, the walls and flooring in trailer homes can buckle or wave from holding too much moisture inside, and sometimes you even get the “sloping” effect, in which you have to go uphill just to get to your kitchen and downhill again to get out the front door. This tends to happen when there are leaks in the flashing around the roof of the trailer, which allows moisture to be sucked up by the porous materials in your walls and eventually all the way down into the thin plywood layer of subflooring beneath the carpet or vinyl. It can also happen if too much of the insulation beneath your home becomes damaged or detached, and when this delicate subfloor has reached its capacity for moisture, it begins to bulge and collapse between the suspension joists of the trailer. By the time you start noticing slopes in your floor, you already have an extensive repair project on your hands, with mold likely hiding only a few inches beneath your feet. Many people tend to put off dealing with it and put up with more than they should in their mobile homes, but the important thing to remember is that it’s never going to get any cheaper to fix than it is right now! But be warned. If you are thinking about dealing with this problem yourself, you are in for some serious hard labor! Unlike regular construction, mobile homes are built in such a way that the floor and wall coverings are tied into each other, and because of the lower grade of building materials, copious amounts of staples are used instead of a few strong nails, which makes pulling up an entire sheet of plywood at one time virtually impossible in a trailer. Instead, you’ll have to use special tools to cut small, manageable pieces and to remove them one by one in order to replace the damaged areas, but only up to about 4 inches away from each wall, since the edges of the subfloor extend beneath them, which means an entire new set of lines will have to be cut before anything is removed. But even before all this cutting and back-breaking prying and twisting and staple-pulling, you still have the task of removing the floor covering, and this is a whole different ballgame than what you might expect from a traditional home. Like the subfloor, the carpet is also installed before any of the walls, which means that there’s no such thing as just pulling up a corner and working your way around the room. Instead, you better have some sharp carpet knives, because every inch against the wall will have to be cut in order to remove any carpet or vinyl you’re dealing with in each room. Most importantly, once you’ve succeeding in opening everything up, you have also succeeded in contaminating the entire air space in your home with the same mold spores that have recently reduced your subfloor to the consistency of wet Chex Mix, and that’s never a good thing. Consult a licensed and insured professional mold remediation contractor before you begin any such project yourself, because you may be making it even more expensive and dangerous than you have to. Fema has stated that it only takes 2 feet of water to compromise up to 80% of a home’s total value. (It should also be stated that FEMA is responsible for handing out some of the most poorly built and problematic mobile homes the world has ever seen). This total value of course includes the insulation, outer and inner sheathings, ductwork, mechanical systems and electrical wiring, all of which should be checked both before and after a serious water event.