Friday, July 17, 2009

Let's talk single-wide vs. double-wide

Is a double-wide home always a better choice? Definitely not.

I was looking at the new Cavco offerings on line. (Click on “check it out” below under where it says NEW WEBSITE LAUNCH.) Unfortunately, they have mostly floor plans and just a few drawings.

They have a double-wide that is 600 sq. ft. Some of the smaller double-wide manufactured homes can be very cute, but from the drawing, I suspect this one isn’t. But it comes with good options, like upgrade to 2” x 6” walls and R-19 insulation, and R-40 in the roof.

Wall thickness

2” x 6” inch walls means the studs are 2" x 6" boards, thicker than the standard 2” x 4” walls. It makes the structure sturdier and allows for more insulation. It is well worth the upgrade, and many manufacturers of single and double-wide manufactured homes offer it as an upgrade.

Get it! It also makes the home feel more substantial inside, because the window sills are two inches thicker.

Here’s a photo a single-wide home in Albuquerque, a manager's special, for $45,000.

Several things I don’t like:

1. Low ceiling. Hardly more than 7.5 ft. at the peak.

2. 2” x 4” exterior walls and R11 insulation. Probably R20 in the roof.

3. Wood colored molding between the ceiling and wall. This molding should be white, ESPECIALLY in homes with lower ceilings. A dark color draws the eye to the molding, and ceiling look lower. It is a distaction having a dark line running around the room. Many manufactured homes companies do this, including Clayton in a few homes.

4. Hideous wall paper pattern that competes with the floor pattern, AND the wood grain in the cabinets. They are all similar color, but with patterns that compete visually. They clash.

5. Cheap lighting fixtures.

But forget those last things...they come with the territory. It is number 1 and 2 that are important.

Why buy a single-wide like that, when for $52,550 less than $8000 more, you can have something like this, the Karsten SF-50:

1. 9’ flat ceilings throughout. That alone makes a huge difference in the interior. It feels like a stately small home instead of a single-wide.

2. R50 insulation in the ceiling. R19 in 2” x 6” walls. Nice drywall throughout. It will all make for a very energy efficient home.

3. The home is 1185 sq. ft. with two bathrooms and three bedrooms.

4. Nice door trim and moldings, acceptable fixtures instead of cheap looking ones. A very solid home, with a good looking upgrade carpet as well.

So, if you need to have a single wide because that is the lot you have in a park, or all that will fit on your property, or you just want a home about this size, I don’t think there is much better on the market than this SF50 by Karsten. (See link for floor plan.) Gee I sound like a salesman.

It also has a laundry room/area, walk in closet in the master. Closets in the other two bedrooms. The sizes of all the rooms are good. On the Karsten lot in Albuquerque where I saw it, the decorating probably helps too.

On the down side, it is plain on the outside, but well constructed. The window placement is perfect on the inside, but from the outside, it looks unbalanced. The simplicity of it I like though. No kooky looking gables.

Besides the plain exterior, the other weak point is there is no window in the second bathroom. This isn't important. Natural light could be brought into the room with a skylight or sun tube. (Sun tubes don’t heat up as much in the summer, but cost more.)

I have five skylights in my little house. I put foil up against them for two months of the summer. The two larger ones are clear. It makes about a four or five degree difference. In the winter, I like the light, and seeing the stars in the two larger clear skylights at night. Skylights can leak, and get condensation. They have their downside.

Back to extolling the virtues of the Karsten SF50. Because of its energy efficiency, solid construction, and nice interior plan, this home will hold its value better than a 2” x 4” doublewide, even one costing ten or twenty thousand more. A well built home like this Karsten can last as long or longer than a stick built home.

I understand why some people buy the inexpensive, cheaply built homes. It is all they can afford! If your budget is $25,000, to $30,000 there are some very inexpensive single wide homes, which in some cases, might be a better buy than a used one with bad problems.

If you are handy, it is possible to find bargains in used single or double-wide homes, for something like $5000, but you have to know what to look for in the way of problems, and know what you are able to handle, and how much it will cost to fix up, in labor (both your own and others) and money.

On a 30 year old single-wide trailer in my neighborhood, that had an addition, they added solid core foam insulation on the outside, and then put stucco on, and a new roof and front porch. Looks pretty good, and energy efficient too.