It looks like you're using an older version of Internet Explorer. Upgrade your browser to view this site—it's easy and free.



Real Estate - Modular Building

Modular Building
This is when the magic happens - when suddenly a modular home is brought to life before your very eyes. But beware - it's likely to attract a crowd ... and maybe a few goosebumps, too.
Photo Credit: New World Home |

Maybe you've sketched your retirement home a dozen times. Perhaps you've even started a file, a sort of hope chest for the kind of home you want next.

Or, it may be that you simply know what you don't want, because you've lived in plenty of those places along the way.

Before you build, and as you're searching for the Carolinas location that looks like home, add this information to that file of yours. It might save you time and effort, and help you know what questions to ask…

From the Editor ~ We recently spoke with Andy Miller, general manager of R-Anell Homes about systems building in the Carolinas. The evolution of home building is such that upscale homes are now being built using factory construction, and on-site assembly.

"Building a product onsite is no different from what we do in the factory," he explained, noting that although manufactured housing is built to a national code, their homes surpass those requirements to appeal to homeowners who want more architectural details and customized looks.

"Our modular homes are built to the same code a stick builder would use for the area," he said, explaining that in North Carolina, they use the International Residential Code for building, plus local requirements, if they exist.

Families planning to relocate into the Carolinas are advised to research capabilities in their desired location, using available web-sites, and checking out builders in the area.

His advice is to consider the positive elements of systems built houses, including the fact that having a home built in a controlled environment virtually eliminates one of the treacherous aspects of home building - the development of mold, which can occur when the materials get wet. Homes can be customized, eliminating the cookie-cutter image of residential areas where houses look alike.

We say, get rid of any pre-conceived notions you may have about systems built housing. It may be an alternative that works for your new Carolinas home.

The following information was provided by Bob Johnson, author of the book, Houses are Designed by Geniuses and Built by Gorillas: An Insider's Guide to Designing and Building a Home.Widely available at national bookstores and through the Internet, the book is great for anyone planning to have a home built or contracting it themselves. Full of helpful hints, flow charts, and step-by-step planning advice, it shows a perspective seldom seen in home building. Written in a lighthearted manner with wit and wisdom, it is highlighted by dozens of "war stories" of building problems and how they were solved.

A building system is any part of a home that is manufactured prior to its arrival on the building site.

While this could range from a pre-built stair kit to a 90% complete home, the word "building system" is most often used when discussing how the majority of a home is built. With this broad definition, homes may be classified as either "stick" built or a "building system" home. Stick built is pretty simple- it's a home built primarily on site from "sticks" or a bundle of two by fours. Alternatively, a building system home is one where a majority of the home was pre-manufactured prior to being delivered to the site. General categories of building systems include modular, panelized, heavy timber "kit" homes (log and timber frame) and a variety of other systems. Other systems are often called pre-engineered or pre-packaged as well as steel homes and geodesic domes.

The key advantages of building systems include speed of construction, more consistent quality, and a reduction in the need for specialized and expensive craftsmen. Often, some homes can only be built using a pre-cut, pre-engineered system. An example of a pre-cut system is a log or timber frame home package that would be prohibitively expensive to build from scratch.

Lower cost can sometimes be an advantage to a building system but that's not always the case. It sometimes appears to be so because the total cost of the home is broken down into parts and often building system homes have lower specifications levels that make them appear to cost less. In addition, many building system manufacturers allow owners to build some of the home themselves, saving labor costs.

Disadvantages of building system homes are somewhat limited choices in design and available options as well as occasional difficulty finding specialized tradesmen to finish the home. In addition, some building sites are just too difficult to get a home to, especially those in the mountains or on islands. Other drawbacks might include neighborhood covenants that don't allow a particular type of home or difficulty with some building inspectors. It is always best to ensure that the type of home you want to build meets the requirement of your neighborhood and/or local government.


The fastest growing trend in systems built homes is the expansion of the modular home. Right off the bat, a modular home is not a trailer or a manufactured home. It is built to the same standards as the building codes for a “stick” built home. Structurally, it is built even better because it not only has to be shipped down the road but also lifted up and swung in the air by a crane. Pound for pound, there is more home in a modular home than a stick-built home.

The modular home has been around for more than thirty years and has slowly grown in acceptance. Until about ten years ago, the strongest growth of modular homes has been in the Mid-West and Mid-Atlantic States. Now, the Carolinas are rapidly catching up as modular homes are becoming more widely accepted. Some of the key reasons for this include a much better house design and a reduced number of “stick” built tradesmen. A key design factor is a much steeper roof pitch, which is achieved by a hinged roof truss. Prior to a hinged roof truss, roofs were relatively flat because an attached steeper pitched roof was too wide to travel down the road.

Another aspect of a modern modular home is better floor plans and better components and options. Nine-foot ceilings, extensive moldings, top brand appliances and windows are now common options in today’s modular homes. Cape style and two story homes are also more prevalent and it is virtually impossible to tell if a home is site built or modular. In fact, the only way to really tell is by looking at the interior’s center walls, which are about two to four inches thicker because that is where the two house sections join.

The Carolinas are home to several modular home manufacturers, the largest of which is All-American homes in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. All-American, with multiple plant locations, is the largest modular manufacturer in the country. A number of other nearby manufacturers service the entire region and include Apex, Cardinal, Carolina Building Solutions, Genesis, Handcrafted Homes, Nationwide, North American Housing, and R-Anell Homes.

Another popular building system is heavy timber, usually broken down into two groups--log and timber frame.

Log homes are usually broken further down into two types (although some companies carry both styles.) These are stacked or log-on-log style and chinked style with dovetail corners. Logs for both types come in many different sizes and use several species of wood. Typical log-on-log style homes use 8” x 6” or 8” x 8” logs while chink style typically use 6” x 12” logs with a two to four inch “chinked” gap between the logs. Generally log homes are made of either white or yellow pine but other species such cypress and oak are also used.

There are a number of manufacturers in the Carolinas or nearby Tennessee and include Anthony, Appalachian, Hearthstone, Heritage, Jim Barna, and Southland.

Timber frame homes are typically built using a pre-cut building system and usually are the most expensive but also the most awe-inspiring. Generally, all of the main structure of the home, including the roof rafters, is exposed to the inside. These huge pieces of wood are mortised and tenoned together, and held together with oak pegs. Timber frames have an advantage of extra insulation since the most efficient way to cover the frame is with large sheets of insulating board with very high insulation value. Local and regional manufacturers for timber frames include Amerlink, Blue Ridge Timberwrights, Hearthstone, Mill Creek, and Timberpeg.

In the other category of building systems are Deltec and Lindal Cedar, which are hybrid systems, using pre-built or pre-engineered components, often of rare and unusual quality. Deltec is actually a panelized system where wall systems are built in a factory and shipped to the job site as part of a package. Deltec is different in that the homes are virtually round in shape with a smaller foundation where the home cantilevers out beyond the foundation.

These homes are often seen in areas where foundations are best kept smaller in footprint. Typical locations are in steep mountains or on the coast where views are at a premium. Lindal Cedar is actually a national company based in Seattle, Washington but these homes are plentiful in the Carolinas. As their name implies, they are built with a lot of cedar products, often in a post and beam structure similar to timber framing. Like Deltec homes, they are often placed in areas with great views. Deltec is based in Asheville, North Carolina whereas Lindal has dealers throughout the region.

Building systems are typically sold through a dealer network rather than factory direct.

Some companies sell through both dealers and factory direct. However, customers are usually better served by buying through a dealer because of the local services they provide. Companies generally sell at the same retail price whether factory direct or through a dealer. Often, dealers will have a model home center or actually live in a home manufactured by the company they represent. Many dealers serve as design consultants for customization as well as being the builder or builder coordinator.

A number of magazines service the log and timber frame market and are readily available at most book stores. These magazines show wonderful pictures of homes, offer planning advice and are especially useful in identifying where the local dealers are in a state by state listing. Generally, modular and panelized companies do not market through magazines but most companies in the building systems industry are members of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). They are represented through an arm of NAHB called the Building Systems Council or BSC. This group has source materials for locating all member- manufacturers and may be reached at (INSERT URL)

The future of building is in building systems as trades who build stick” houses are harder to find and more costly. In reality, more and more components of even stick built homes are actually “systems.” These “systems” includes floor and ceiling trusses, stair and railing “kits,” pre-manufactured cabinets and vanities, and pre-hung doors. Residents in the Carolinas are fortunate to have a wide range of choices when it comes to systems built homes and can ride the wave of the future into extraordinary choices in all types of homes. These choices are another reason why people like calling Carolina “home.”