Advantages and disadvantages of modular homes.

Piotr Goławski
Jan 15, 2018 · 5 min read

Houses don’t have to be built on the construction site. Modular houses are factory built and finished, and construction site is a place for assembly.

Advantages of modular homes:

Strong structure.
Modules that make up a building are more durable than those built traditionally. Prefabricated houses not only have to meet design requirements, but also withstand transport loads.

Shorter construction time.
A small modular house can be build in less than two months at the factory. The reason is automation, greater repeatability, greater teamwork. Assembly on the construction site is usually a few days.

Higher quality of the building.

The reason is much more detailed shop drawings of modular homes than in the case of traditional houses. Modular houses usually have every detail elaborated. Also a definitely higher health and safety level in the factory will increase quality of work.

The speed of implementation.

Shorter investment time means lower costs for any investor. There is no need to rent social rooms for employees at your site. If you you are renting a flat now, you will pay less for rent by moving into our home earlier.

Acoustics.

Acoustics of modular homes is much better than houses traditionally built. In traditional homes, sound propagates through the construction of walls and ceiling. That is why floating floors are often used to suppress noise. In prefabricated houses, each module is a separate construction. The modules connected together in the house are protected from transfering noise from one to the other.

Lower risk of damage.

Significantly lower risk of theft and damage caused by third parties. The theft most often occurs when the house is not yet adequately secured. Theft of building materials and equipment can be made by labourers working on your construction site. If you are building a house traditionally and wondering why you ran out of tiles, theft may be the cause.

Contractor’s benefits.

Modular homes also benefit your contractor and his employees. Employees who build a house in a factory do not have to waste time on long travels to construction area. They do not have to work in cold or in rain conditions. They have more comfortable working conditions in factory. They can also spend more time with family and friends. A satisfied employee is a good employee. If you want your home to be made by good professionals, the biggest chance for it is to choose modular technology.

Price.

Price is probably the most important advantage. Modular homes are not at all more expensive than traditional ones. I can not guarantee 100% that modular homes are always cheaper. It all depends on your design, material requirements, location, etc.

Disadvantages of prefabricated houses:

Lifespan.

The most common modular homes are timber frame constructed. It is a popular technology in Scandinavia and North America, but it is not widely used in central Europe. In Poland many people think, that brick houses are long-lasting and timber made houses not. Everything depends on the performance and manner of maintaining home, but the feelings are right.

Read my post about the lifespan of building materials. I did an analysis base om manufacturers’ recomendations. Most brick manufacturers declare durability of their products for over 100 years. Manufacturers of wooden frame walls declare 50–100 years. Of course, there are wooden buildings that are hundreds years old, but they are properly maintained and protected from fire.

Compare two abandoned houses — one wooden, the other brick. Which one will deteriorate quicker? The external walls of both houses could be protected by plaster and paints, and could be resistant to weather conditions. After a few years the windows in both houses were destroyed, and the roof would began to leak. After the next few years, in a brick house, water would destroy plaster. In a wooden house, water would not only destroy plaster, but also timber slab and walls would began to rot.

Shorten lifespan does not apply to concrete modular homes. In this case we can talk about identical lifespan as in brick houses.

Heat accumulation.

Timber houses are much lighter than masonry houses, so they do not keep warm and cool down quickly. This is a big drawback. Most central heating installations operate during the day and are switched off at night. In a modular timber house, we can’t afford it. In the event of any interruption in the heating operation, the house will get really cold.

Prefabricated houses with timber frame technology will not accumulate heat gains from the day.

If you plan to build a passive house, forget about building it in timber frame technology. Passive houses require high heat accumulation.

From the other hand concrete modular homes have high accumulation value, but concrete itself has very high conductivity. This means requires very thick insulation to avoid high heat losses.

Fire resistance.

The walls and ceilings of timber made modular houses have only 1 hour fire resistance. In brick houses, usually two hours. In addition, wood is a combustible material. Concrete and brick are non-flammable. The more we use non-flammable materials in the construction of our house, the lower the losses in the event of a fire.

Construction limitations of prefabricated houses.

This is not a big drawback, because you can, for example, combine several modules together to form one large room. Sometimes when you plan to have bigger / higher rooms, it may be more cost-effective to make prefabricated walls only.

How is living in modular homes?

Prefabricated modular houses have a lot in common with timber frame houses. Most reviews of prefabricated frame houses that I found on the internet are positive.

People exchange such advantages as delivery time, quality, reasonable price, less risk of theft.

I found a negative opinion of a person who thinks that modular homes lose value faster than brick houses … Considering lifespan of wooden houses compared to masonry, this is a good point.

In my opinion modular houses soon can become very popular, but first manufacturers should deal with all the shortcomings that these houses have.

The solution may be modular houses made of light weight concrete with very low thermal conductivity. This way modular house would have all positive parameters of house of brick, what is people really want.