When you take possession of your new home, the first thing to do is check it over thoroughly. It is important to discover problems early and report them to the Dealer and Manufacturer, in writing, within the first year. The most common and most serious manufactured home problems are the result of faulty installation.
This requires a look under your home at the support system by a qualified inspector. You can also learn a lot about the foundation of your home by the conditions inside it. Cracks in plasterboard are not uncommon, but they can also be a sign of more serious problems such as differential settlement, a condition which occurs when the site for your home is not properly prepared or the foundation support system is incorrectly installed.
Other conditions which may suggest an installation problem are sticky doors, hard to open windows, trim separating from around doors or windows, squeaky or "spongy" feeling floors, roof leaks, excessive moisture, mold or condensation in the home.
Even problems which seem minor or merely cosmetic should not be ignored! Foundation problems typically become worse over time. If major problems develop after your warranty has expired, you could face some significant repair costs. I have seen improperly installed homes actually separating or coming apart at the marriage line!
First, check to see that your home was installed properly. Open the crawl space access door and look underneath your home with a flashlight. Listed below are some items you should check to make sure your home was installed properly.
There should be a plastic sheet or "vapor barrier" covering the ground under your home. This is to prevent excessive moisture (condensation, mold, mildew) in your home and its structural components.
Your home should be on a uniform surface, properly graded and sloped to ensure that water drains away from the home. The area should be clear of rocks, wood scraps, or other debris. There should be no evidence of standing water under the home.
Piers and foundation supports should be level and in direct contact or connected to the framing of the home.
Duct work for the heating and ventilating system, dryer vent, etc. should be adequately supported at least four inches (4") above the ground.
The underside of the framing of the home should be sealed with a plastic "belly wrap" which is also designed to resist moisture and to prevent access to the home by insects and rodents. There should be no tears or holes in the "belly wrap."
If the skirting is constructed of wood, Masonite, Hardie-Board or other similar materials, it must be at least six inches (6") from contact with the ground. This is to prevent decay and termite damage. All cut edges of material should be primed and painted (look at the edges of the access door).
The skirting material should not be fastened with staples. Whatever the fastener, check to make sure that the fastener is not overdriven, penetrating the skirting.
The siding of your home should be fastened with nails, not staples, and the nails should not be either overdriven or underdriven. Nails should be flush with the surface of the siding. Check the siding for depressions or for nails popping out of the siding. All gaps should be filled with flexible caulking.
Stairs and decks should not be in direct contact with the ground unless constructed of pressure treated wood or wood resistant to decay such as redwood.
Tread depths must be a minimum of nine inches (9"), all within 1/4" of each other.
Riser heights must be between four and eight inches (4" and 8"), all within 1/4" of each other.
Hand rails must be between thirty and thirty-four inches (30" and 34") in height.
A logical starting point is a leak test. A good rainstorm will tell you a lot about the soundness of your roof, especially if it is accompanied by some strong winds. Gentle rain, or water sprayed from a garden hose may disclose leaks, but are not especially reliable. Even an apparently new roof may have defects which will eventually lead to problems. For that reason any leak test should be accompanied by a close visual inspection.
Assuming you are comfortable using a ladder to get to eye level with your roof, here are some things to look for:
Exposed nails or staples.
Excessive use of sealant around skylights, roof vents or on shingles.
Gutters and downspouts connected to each other and flashing between awnings, gutters and roof directed to the street drainage system – not toward your home or your neighbor’s home.
Gutters or minimum four inch (4") eaves to prevent water from draining directly down the face of the siding and trim.
Look for the condition of the driveway and walkways for cracks, separations, and for any potential tripping hazards.
Check for gutters and overhangs. Water must not drain off the roof and directly down the exterior siding of your home – this will lead to window, door and siding leaks.
Water should drain away from the home, usually from the rear of the space to the front, toward the street, into a drainage system. Water must not flow toward or under the house.
Check toilets, sinks, tubs, showers, faucets, outdoor spigots, etc. for proper operation and drainage.
Check dishwasher, refrigerator, garbage disposal, trash compactor, microwave, oven, range, and stove top for proper operation.
Check your water heater for approved earthquake bracing.
Check walls and ceilings for cracks, seams, joints, and water staining. Excessive cracking or repeat, progressive cracking, are signs of excessive settlement and improper installation.
Presence of mold or fungus can be a sign of improper installation, plumbing leaks, lack of a proper vapor barrier, a torn "belly wrap," or water intrusion.
Open and close all interior and exterior doors and windows. If a door or window does not open and close smoothly, it may be a sign of excessive settlement and improper installation.
Check around the doors and windows for water stains and for separation of the trim or molding. Excessive separation can be a sign of excessive settlement and improper installation.
California law regarding mobile/manufactured homes is similar to the automobile "Lemon Laws" which provide for Civil penalties against Dealers, Manufacturers and Contractors for and willful failure to honor a contract or warranty. In addition, contract or warranty violations may entitle the homeowners to costs and attorneys’ fees.
The Law & Mediation Offices of Paul G. Minoletti are committed to assisting the homeowner and assuring that a new home is properly built and safe. If you should have questions or need them to recommend an independent contractor, or desire further information or assistance, please call Paul Minoletti at (650) 638-9600.