How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes
How can I make my mobile home look more like a house?
Friday, July 6, 2018
Clever builders can install a manufactured/mobile home so that it looks almost identical to site-built. But the elaborate work that goes into setting the home in a pit so that the floor is closer to the ground to mimic the level of a regular house, along with addition of site-built garage and porch additions makes you wonder: if you are going to spend that much money to make it pass for a site-built house, why not just build one from scratch?
We assume you are reading this because you have an ordinary mobile home, installed in the regular way on stacked blocks with tie-downs, but you want to make it look more substantial. The key to getting your place to appear house-like is to understand that mobile homes have a facade that is pretty much two-dimensional. The doors, windows, and even the edge of the roof of many of them, all appear to be on the same flat surface when viewed from a distance.
A house, however, is more three-dimensional. The roof overhangs the wall by a couple of feet and casts a shadow below it, windows are inset in the wall, and the entry door is recessed in an alcove and/or framed under a protruding front porch with a peaked roof. Things are moving forward and backwards from the front wall surface. That’s the difference, and thinking in 3-D about the improvements to your manufactured home will get you where you want to be. No one will mistake it for site-built, but your home will definitely look less box-like and more house-like. Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:
- Create a layered entry to the front door - An impressive entry requires your visitor to walk up a walkway to the steps, go up the steps, and then proceed across a sheltered landing or porch to the front door. The “code steps” that the installer placed at the front door compresses all of this into a small platform, but you want to stretch it out to make approaching your home more impressive.
Pots, foliage or posts at regular intervals on both sides of the walkway will punctuate and formalize it. Little solar-powered lights don’t count. The steps can be diagonal to the entry door or paired opposite each other, there can be an intermediate landing, and the landing at the door can be wide enough to put tall decorative shutters and a large potted palm on either side, as ways to stretch it out.
A gable roof over the landing that ties back over the roof of your home is great, but expensive. A big porch is even better, but much more expensive. You can create the feeling of a sheltered entrance with posts supporting gable rafters and furring strips over them.
- Use a proven 3-color paint scheme - It’s fun picking colors at the paint store, but the relationship between the colors is more important than the colors themselves. That’s tough to get right and why we recommend that you don’t select your own individual colors, but pick a professionally coordinated 3-color scheme (wall, trim, and accent color) from a paint company brochure instead. We like the Behr paint combos at Home Depot, but Benjamin Moore and other companies have equally good color palettes.
Sometimes the “wrong” color is exactly what you need, and we don’t mean purple or lime green walls. Many of the paint company color schemes have very predictable, calm wall and trim colors, and then a zingy accent color for the front door. These are the combos that often look great. At the other extreme, conservative traditional colors can give your house a more stately aura, especially the ones with black or ultra-dark grey accent colors.
- Work your fenestration - Architects call the door and window openings in a wall “fenestration.” They give the fenestration special attention and you should too. Although you can’t recess you windows, a pair of shutters on either side will create forward depth and a shadow at the sides. Get shutters that are at least one inch thick. If you want to make the shutters match the accent color of your front door, be sure to buy the light grey ones that are marked “paintable.”
A freestanding trellis panel on posts a little forward of the front wall and between two windows will also give more 3-D to the front of your home. Be sure to install a trim strip around the edges for a more finished appearance.
- Don’t try to make everything dazzling - Your entry door area is the star of the show. All the rest is the supporting cast and only there to lead you to the entry and make it more impressive.
- Repeat your themes - A theme can be anything—big terra-cotta pots, black coach lamps, or a signature railing detail. Whatever themes you choose, repeat them, preferably in pairs or clusters, in more than one place.
Many ewer manufactured homes have a deeper overhang, higher pitch roof, and plank siding that gives those homeowners a head-start on creating a classic residential look for their home. The mobile home shown below, by Palm Harbor, was designed with a two-foot roof overhang, traditional details, and both boxed-out and recessed areas along the front, to make it look more like a site-built home.
But adding a little of what realtors call “curb appeal” can work wonders for any mobile home.
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