MANUFACTURED HOME SITE PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT
Without proper site planning and site prep, the most perfect manufactured home you can buy will most likely have problems and become less functional over time. There are numerous factors that pertain to site planning and site prep that you should consider. In this article, I’m only going to touch on the different areas one should consider and in no way am I representing myself as an expert or a substitute for a licensed Civil Engineer, but nevertheless this information may be invaluable.
Make your home fit around you: Where will you park your vehicles? Which door will you bring your groceries through? Will you have a lot of visitors? Keep this in mind because you may want to allow room for making wide vehicle turns around the end of your home with space to park and back-up for multiple vehicles. Knowing these facts will help determine exterior door locations, porch/deck locations and sizes, where to locate your septic tank, swimming pool, AC location and so on. The goal is to have a home that fits around your lifestyle.
Your driveway: Will your driveway be one of those that gets washed out every time there is a heavy rain (gully-washer as we say in Alabama)? Will it be designed in a way that every time someone comes up at night lights are shining through your windows exciting your dogs to bark? I mention that fact because it seems these days our children live with us until their late 20’s and they keep different hours than we do and their disturbances can be annoying. Your driveway will be very important to you every single day and deserves a bit of thought.
Which trees to leave or remove? I’m a tree lover and hate taking down any tree that doesn’t have to be removed. However, trees can also be very dangerous for a home owner if it’s the wrong kind of tree or in the wrong place. For example, a Popular tree isn’t one you want to mess with. It will die with little disturbance in the ground near it, whereas other tree species may survive. And then there’s the pine tree, most are afraid of a big ole pine tree falling on their home, and with good reason. How close or far away should you leave a big tree, or allow a tree to grow large near your home, the answer may surprise you. Lastly, parking under trees and branches can be very sappy and damaging to your vehicles, so you might want to investigate the type tree you intend to leave. Note: disturbing the flow of underground water can effect a larger tree’s ability to live and as a “rule of thumb” they can die out over a seven year period.
Where do you place a septic tank? There is much and I mean much to consider! I’ve seen a customer get an $8500 estimate on putting in a tank/field lines, but when we moved the location just 25 feet away the septic system cost went down to $2700. Septic tank cost are based on the soil type, how many bedrooms there are in the home, difficulty to install and on the percolation (perk-test) rate (how long it takes the water to drain through the holes bored by an engineer at the different depths). Know this, there’s no rule that says your septic tank has to be real close to your home. Septic tanks seem to get in the way, but more troubling is the field lines. When I had the septic system installed for my doublewide I had the tank put about 4’ deep and ran a 100’ of 4” pipe to my field lines that were at a lower elevation and out of my way forever. This may cost a hundred or two more dollars, but it may be well worth it. Note: Septic systems must all be approved by the health department and designed by an engineer.
If your property slopes, or has terraces? Do you haul in dirt to level off the ground for your new manufactured home or should you cut the slope or terrace out to level the ground thus cutting down or eliminating the need for dirt to be hauled in? Cutting the slope out with a bull-dozier may cost half as much as hauling dirt in, but then again it may cost more, it depends on several factors. The biggest issue with slopes is erosion control and the second issue is the sloped lots aren’t cut out wide enough resulting in steep drop-offs. It’s always a good idea when working with sloped lots to double or triple the use of a bull-dozier while you have it on the job. It may cost a little bit more but compared to the many years you’ll be living there it’s a small price to pay.
The effects of the sun: The front of my home faces north whereas the front side gets little sun and my back yard gets all day sun. I bought certain plants with much of my landscaping based on that fact, how much sun they will or will not get and when. The sunny or shady sides also determines some of my family activities. For example, if it’s summer and grandchildren want to go play outside, the front is shaded enough for them to play without fear of a sunburn or heat exhaustion. You should also consider energy efficiency when determining the location of your home. Of course, we’ve all heard how the sun hitting windows effects the cooling of our homes. So if you know your home will be hit hard by the sun consider a home with better windows. Also, a covered porch can directly and indirectly shade windows lowering the effects of the sun on your home.
Home-site pad. A state legal home site pad has to be built to allow the water to run off and away from your home 10 feet on all 4 sides (front, back and the two ends). Say your lot is perfectly level and your home size is 32’ x 70’, your pad or runoff capability would need to be 52’ x 90’. All vegetable matter (grass, weeds, etc.) should first be removed below the 32’ x 70’ area your home will sit on before dirt is brought in. A pad doesn’t have to be high-up, 8” of good quality dirt is often enough and it depends on your soil type beneath your dirt-pad material. In my opinion, the type of dirt for your pad should be red-clay-gravel. This is the dirt used to build highways and if that’s good enough for a highway able to support fully loaded log trucks then it’s certainly good enough for a house or manufactured home to sit atop.
Water running off your dirt pad is the primary requirement when building a dirt pad, but there’s another criteria, perhaps more important than that which is not state law, “wind weight”. A pad built for your home to sit atop is state law and it will be inspected by the state, but the only thing the state is concerned about in their inspection is water standing under and draining away from your home not your pads strength to hold up your home in high winds. In Alabama we often get high wind-gust with afternoon storms coupled with a sudden down-pour. Let’s say your home weighs 70,000 pounds with your personal effects in it when there is no wind present; now add a 40 mph wind occurring during a storm that presses down on every square inch of your roof. Suddenly your home went from weighing 70,000 pounds to possibly weighing 240,000 pounds (speculation). A 32’ x 70’ has a roof surface of 2240 square feet. Just imagine a 40, 60, 80 or even higher mph wind striking the entire surface of your roof and a minute later the wind lets up and then 5 minutes later it’s back again and this goes on say 8 to 80 times a year and it’s your 3rd year with this new manufactured home. That wind speed pressing down on your roof equates to weight and your dirt pad and soil beneath it needs to be able to transfer that weight into the ground. I bring this up because although you can use a variety of dirt’s (base material) to put under your home to keep water from running under it, only a few types of base dirt materials will keep your home steady during high wind weights. Handle this properly and you will prevent settling of the home, cracking of the walls and ceiling, squeaking floors, leaning kitchen countertops, tub and shower not draining completely and doors that won’t shut or open properly. So you see, your dirt pad is critical.
Concrete footers: Concrete footers reinforced with steel rebar are poured cement usually done as runners within your pads dirt & home footprint after your pad is built from one side of the home to the other (typically not end to end, but can be) anywhere from 5’ to 8’ apart (depending on the cement block/pier spacing), 2’ wide and 2’ deep at a cost of around $3,000 to $4,000 for a 32’ x 70’ home. Footers are solely for wind weight and are not built in lieu of a dirt pad. The important factor here is the ground you build your footers in. If your ground is a poor soil type, say “prairie mud” you’ll need to dig down deep enough to get through the prairie mud for the footers to do the job you’re expecting them to do, or you could make you footers wider & deeper to add more ground area for weight to be distributed. Such calculations would need to be determined by soils and/or structural engineers.
Home Views of your property from inside the home or on the porches along with the family’s flow & go should not be overlooked: Where in the yard will the children or grandchildren play? Or, how about your outside activities such as; birds and squirrel feeders, swimming pools, trampolines, future carports, awnings, landscaping, garden, horseshoe or badminton games, pets & pet doors and so on should get some serious consideration when selecting your new home site location. Deciding these things in advance can be very beneficial. One of the major differences between Cliff Davis Home Center and any other dealership, is we are the only one that will get that heavily involved in your life and buying decision so we can advise and assist you with these considerations along with the others in this article. There are literally hundreds of options available to you that you normally don’t see displayed in or on a home, most of which aren’t expensive at all that you may find very beneficial.
Consider these rarely thought-of points: Do you have good sunrises and/or sunsets and if so would you like your home positioned to take advantage of this? Is there a shift worker in the family you might want a home plan with that persons bedroom on the end of the home where there is the least amount of outside activity occurring. Is there a neighbor that’s a bit annoying or a close property line that can be built on in the future by another person? Your home angled just a few degrees one way or the other may be warranted to provide you a bit more privacy. While equipment is on your property consider which way you want run-off water to go? If on a dirt road how to minimize dust from the dirt road blowing onto your home & vehicles. Stubbing up water faucets for future landscaping or gardening while a water line is being run to your home. Protecting your newly purchased and set-up home with sod or hay spread or laid around it from weeks or months of mud being dragged in your home which is common whenever there is construction work done. This list could probably go on for another full page with the point being, there is much to consider when developing a home-site. Note: Many people rarely use their front doors, consider this if you won’t be using a front door much.
In conclusion, you can see that there is so much to consider when planning your home site. A huge advantage of doing business with Cliff Davis Home Center is I, Cliff Davis and author of all these articles, have developed land of all shapes & sizes for several decades now and helped thousands of manufactured home buyers with their site development and home selection over the years (see completed jobs on this website). Taking advantage of my experience will save you money and will help provide you a greater opportunity to experience the best manufactured homes have to offer. I’m not an engineer, and if you want perfection I recommend you hire one, but, if you don’t or can’t afford one, I’m the next best thing, and I’m free to the customers that buy their home from Cliff Davis Home Center.