How Long Do Modular Homes Last

Modular homes built in the UK and Europe today, are expected to last at least 60 years [1]. Most of the manufacturers who offer a building warranty for this long, only cover the structural components of the house [2]. Still, the average lifespan of a modular house depends on numerous factors.

Factors to consider when determining the longevity of modular homes:

  • Quality of the materials
  • Build quality
  • Ability to withstand the elements

Still, the average lifespan of a house can easily be extended with proper care and maintenance. Additionally, the longevity of modular houses is usually extended naturally thanks to the advantages offered by the construction process.

Are prefab homes durable?

Prefab homes are durable, long-lasting structures constructed with the same quality standards as any other house built with traditional construction methods. However, given the history of prefab construction, it is common for a large number of people to doubt their longevity.

Prefabricated houses boomed in Europe and UK after WWII since the shortage of housing called for a housing solution that could be delivered fast and cheap. The prefab homes built then were temporary buildings designed to last only for about 10 years.

However, today’s prefab homes are completely different. They are built as permanent constructions with high quality building standards that always adhere to the same local building codes any other type of permanent house adheres to. Prefab homes built today are designed as safe constructions that with proper maintenance will last a lifetime.

How long can you expect a modular home to last

Modular homes are designed as durable, high-quality constructions often purchased with a risk evaluation such as BOPAS (Build Offsite Property Assurance Scheme) which certifies that prefab buildings will stand for at least 6 decades [1]. However, every modular home will have a different lifespan depending on how and where it is built.

The quality of the materials

The life expectancy of a modular home varies enormously depending on the materials chosen. The most important materials to consider are those conforming to the structure of the house since a building with a long-lasting structure is a building that will stand longer. For example, a modular house built with a steel frame structure is expected to last 83 years, while a modular house built of laminated timber frame will last an average of 65 years [3].

Good quality structural materials are decisive on how long a modular home will stand, though the materials chosen to build non-structural components shouldn’t be disregarded since their deterioration will directly affect the rest of the house. Components such as the roof are responsible for keeping the water outside the house, if the roof degrades faster than the rest of the house, the water seeps in and other materials start getting damaged.

Image courtesy of RMB Modulbau – RMB Modul 120

For example, a pitched roof covered with plastic materials has a life expectancy of only 30 years and if the occupants of the modular home postpone its reparation, it is likely for rainwater to leak and damage the structural materials; shortening the lifespan of the house enormously. Choosing to cover a pitched roof with slates instead, is a guarantee of a 74 years lifespan [3].

Build quality

The quality of the workmanship is directly related to the build quality of the modular house since any construction mistakes can cause damage and even structural failures. Fewer construction mistakes are therefore essential when building a long-lasting modular house.

One way of reducing errors consists in creating a comfortable working environment. Reducing the number of negative external factors such as unpleasant temperatures or extreme weather events improves the ability of the builders to focus.

Additionally, since even experienced builders can commit mistakes, it is important to offer thorough quality control. Extensive monitoring and quality controls at every stage of the construction will help spot any possible errors.

Ability to withstand the elements

The longevity of a modular home can be easily downgraded when the house is regularly exposed to adverse weather conditions. Elements such as sun, humidity, rain or snow can easily accelerate the deterioration of most materials. The exact same modular house, built in two different locations with different weather conditions won’t have the same life expectancy.

For example, a house built in a damp area will show a reduced longevity unless properly treated and designed. In this case, elements such as water-resistive barriers are a must to avoid water leaks and prevent early deterioration of the materials.

Modular houses placed in low-temperature areas may also experience a shorter lifespan. Freezing temperatures are especially damaging to those components that contain water since frozen water expands. In these situations, the plumbing systems are some of the most delicate elements. A modular house with properly insulated pipes will experience a longer lifespan.

How To Increase Your Modular Home’s Longevity

The longevity guaranteed by modular home manufacturers is based on the construction of the house alone. They can estimate how many years will the house be operational and safe based on their selection of materials, design and build quality.

However, the real longevity of a modular house isn’t only determined by its construction but by the maintenance works performed by the owner of the house. The way a modular home is treated impacts its duration. Therefore, the actions of those living in the house can increase its longevity.

Do not postpone maintenance works

Maintenance works are a must in every house. Even if the manufacturer of modular homes guarantees a longevity of 60 years, some materials such as roof tiles or sidings may have a shorter lifespan. Replace any broken components, especially those finishing materials that keep the house protected from the elements.

Keep your modular house clean

Regularly cleaning the house is an effective way to extend the longevity of the modular house by avoiding pest infestations. Pests can be severely damaging to the house and we should pay attention to them especially when a modular home has a wooden structure since pests such as termites or powderpost beetles feet on wood [4].

Avoid moisture damages

Avoid moisture both inside and outside your home since the presence of water in areas that haven’t been designed to accumulate water or remain wet is highly damaging. Do not postpone fixing a water leak or clogged drainage, these will ease the growth of mould and even cause structural damage to the construction if water seeps through.

Advantages of modular homes

When analysing the longevity of different constructions, modular homes show some advantages in comparison to traditional houses:

  • The construction materials are protected: Not all modular homes are constructed with high-quality materials, though being built in a sheltered environment means the materials utilised are protected from any weather granting the preservation of their initial quality. Better quality materials grant a longer lifespan.
  • The construction space offers ideal working conditions: The factory-like environment where most of the modular construction takes place is sheltered from any weather events creating the ideal conditions to work comfortably. Comfortable workmanship is key for a better-built, more durable house.
  • Extensive quality controls: Building the whole house in a centralised environment allows the builders to monitor and observe closely every construction stage, reducing the possibility of delivering a house with construction mistakes. Fewer mistakes reduce possible damage that could reduce the longevity of the house.

All these advantages are a direct result of the modular construction process. This industrialised modular building technique generally grants modular homes with a longer longevity as well as other additional benefits such as affordability, energy efficiency and sustainability.

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[1]About: Durability & Maintenance Assessment BOPAS Build Offsite Property Assurance Scheme
[2]Building Warranties & Durability Statement Modulek
[3](2015) Typical Life Expectancy of Building Components eTool Global
Taylor, G. These 13 Pests Do the Most Damage to the Home Bob Vila

Featured image: Giant Modern model by Mevana

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