How can I tell how hurricane resistant a Florida mobile home is before I buy it?
Sunday, September 8, 2019
Mobile homes are notorious for disintegrating during a bad hurricane, and the photo above of older waterfront mobile homes after Hurricane Irma in 2017 is an example. Newer homes are constructed and installed to be more hurricane resistant, but a location near the coastline is still brutal for a mobile home. See our blog post What happens when a mobile home foundation fails in a hurricane? for more on this. Here are five hurricane-resistance factors to consider when evaluating a potential manufactured home purchase:
1) How old is the mobile home? Because both HUD and the State of Florida have been ratcheting up construction and tie-down standards steadily over the past 40 years, a newer home will be more hurricane resistant. Homes installed after March 29th, 1999, will have much more wind-resistant tie-downs. Some homes manufactured before that date may have had improved tie-downs retrofitted in order to get insurance or financing.
An evaluation of damage to mobile homes in nine Florida counties after Hurricane Irma in 2017, conducted by the Manufactured Home Section of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, found the following:
- Pre-HUD homes (built before 1976) with lightweight aluminum carports attached directly to the home suffered the most damage.
- Homes built after the 1994 HUD upgrade of structural requirements fared much better than earlier HUD mobile homes.
- Homes installed after Florida’s upgrade of their installation standards in 1999 performed excellently.
To view the complete report, click on the image of the report cover below to download.
- 1973 - Florida begins requiring tie-downs, at four corners only.
- June 15, 1976 - HUD takes control of mobile home standards, and additional tie down requirements added per manufacturer’s installation manuals.
- August 24, 1992 - Hurricane Andrew strikes South Florida.
- July 13, 1994 - HUD upgrades structural requirements, including addition of Wind Zone 3 for high-wind prone hurricane areas of Florida.
- October 1, 1996 - Florida begins requiring mobile home installers to be licensed.
- February 23, 1998 - Tornados hit Orlando area.
- March 29, 1999 - Florida makes major changes to strengthen the tie-down requirements above HUD standards, part of the state Administrative Code Rule 15C-1.
- January 1, 2009 - HUD creates a national standard for mobile home installation.
2) What wind zone was the home manufactured for? All homes manufactured after July 15th, 1976, for Florida installation must be rated for HUD’s Wind Zone 2. After Hurricane Andrew, Wind Zone 3 was added for the southern third of the state in 1994. We very rarely find a home that is not correctly wind-zone rated for where it is installed, but it is a good idea to check anyway. You can also verify the date of manufacture while you are reviewing the HUD Data Plate in the home. To learn more about it, see our blog post How do I find out how old a mobile home is and who manufactured it?
Incidentally, there is also a special category for manufactured homes to be sited within 1500 feet of the coastline in a hurricane zone. It’s called a “D-sticker” home, and means that it has been designed to meet the wind resistance requirement of ASCE 7-88, Exposure D—which is a standard referenced in the HUD Code. Read What is a D-sticker mobile home? for more details.
You might find a Zone 3 mobile home in a county that accepts Zone 2 if the original buyer opted for a sturdier home, or even a D-Sticker further inland. No Zone 1 mobile homes are allowed in Florida.
3) Is the home in a park or neighborhood with older mobile homes that have additions, roof-overs, and carports? Even if your home is newer and more storm-resistant, the flying debris from nearby older homes, poorly constructed carports and additions will likely cause damage to your home.
4) Does the home have anything built onto it? See our blog post Why is it a dangerous mistake to attach a carport, porch, or room addition directly to the roof of a mobile home?
5) When you look under the home, are the piers plumb and tie-down straps tight? Are the tie-downs at the old spacing of approximately 8-feet or the new 5-foot spacing? This requires removing some skirting panels or crawling through an access panel. It may be more than you want to handle, and you can let a home inspector do this for you. But, to do your own analysis of the home’s foundation, we suggest downloading and printing a copy of the Institute for Business and Home Safety’s (IBHS) “Safety Checklist for Mobile Homes” by clicking on the image below. Please read Is it safe to go under a mobile home? before exploring under there.
Also, see our blog post Are older mobile homes unsafe? for strategies to make an older mobile home safer.
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