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Mobile Home Repair Guide – What to look for in a used mobile home

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Are you thinking about buying a used mobile home? This mobile home repair guide will help you in the process!

Back at the beginning for 2017, we bought a 40 year old mobile home and moved it out onto our land.

Funny thing: it cost us nearly three time what we paid for it to get it moved and set up.

Now that’s cheap housing! But it comes with an obvious downside: you’ve got to repair a lot of things to make it livable.

Are you thinking about buying a used mobile home? This mobile home repair guide will help you in the process!

So here’s your mobile home repair guide of sorts.

Having experienced three different mobile homes now, ranging from 1970s models to 1990s, these are all things that, in our experience, need to be checked when you’re thinking about buying, or repairing a used mobile home.

Check the roof

Mobile home repair - what to look for in a mobile home

Flat roofed mobile homes need to be resealed regularly, so if you’re buying a used mobile home that’s been a bit neglected, a few minor leaks wouldn’t be surprising. If the roof is leaking, you will likely see brown water damage spots on the ceiling.

Should you buy a mobile home with a leaky roof? That depends. In my experience, minor leaks can be fixed pretty easily, so as long as you know they’re there, water damage to the interior isn’t bad, and get the leaks fixed before you begin interior renovations, it can be worth while.

On the other hand, in my opinion, re-roofing an entire mobile home is most likely not worth while, as a new roof can more than double the cost of your entire home, and defeat the purpose of buying a cheap mobile home.

There are two fixes we’ve used for leaky roofs:

1. Liquid roof sealer. This is like a thin tar that you pain on. It can work for minor leaks, but in my experience, doesn’t hold up long term.

2. Roofing tar. This has worked very well for us on minor to moderate leaks. It’s a little more labor intensive since you can’t just roll it on with a paint roller, but definitely worth getting on your hands and knees to paste on

Another fix is a mobile home roof cover. This one is a little more pricey, but more permanent. I don’t have any personal experience with this, but it’s a good option for more serious leaks that doesn’t require an entire new roof.

Check the windows and doors

guide to repairing a mobile home

The roof isn’t the only thing that can leak! Also check for leaks around windows and doors. These kinds of leaks can be insidious little boogers and can cause a lot of rot and mold in your house.

Leaky windows can call for simply replacing, or re-framing. In a situation where you’re going cheap for a temporary living quarters, using a sealant similar to roof sealant can work as well.

Check for water damage

ceiling repair in a mobile home

This goes hand in hand with checking for leaks.

If the roof has leaked significantly, you need to know how deep the damage goes. Are the rafters rotting out? How badly is the ceiling material damaged?

For bad leaks, the damage can be even worse if the leak has dripped onto the floor and caused sub flooring rot.

You may also find rotted out studs in the walls around leaky windows.

You need to know to what extend the structure of the house has taken water damage as replacing studs and sub flooring is going to increase the cost and labor of repairing your mobile home significantly.

We had a mobile home that we thought was in great shape and just needed some minor repair, but when we pulled up the living room carpet, we found a large portion of sub flooring was rotting out where a window had leaked over the years.

Fortunately we were able to replace the window and 3 pieces of sub flooring pretty easily and it wasn’t the deal breaker we were afraid it might be.

Check for plumbing problems

Other places to check for water damage is around sinks, laundry, toilets, etc. Basically, anywhere there’s plumbing. You never know what might have leaked at some point!

Assess the current plumbing situation and whether any repairs will be needed in that area. Fixing a plumbing issue could be as easy as sealing a pipe, or it could involved removing and replacing cabinetry, or even sub flooring. 

Again, a leak under the sink or something like that isn’t the end of the world, but you need to get an idea of what your total investment in this home will be.

So check for plumbing issues, and any damage those issues have led to including sinks, showers/bathtubs, laundry, dishwasher, etc.

Check for Wiring issues

repairing a mobile home

One thing we’ve found to be entirely too common in mobile homes is electrical problems. In fact, most mobile homes more than a few years old that I’ve seen have some sort of wiring issue somewhere.

Check all the light fixtures and outlets to make sure everything working.

If it’s not, you may need to dig into wiring issues which could include digging into the walls and ceilings to determine the cause of dead outlets, and fix them.

Our current mobile home had some jerry rigged wiring done to fix some outlets that weren’t working, which left live wires randomly placed in the ceiling. That’s a really big fire hazard, and in fact, had started a fire in the kitchen long before we bought it (we discovered the damage when we took some wall paneling down).

Thankfully, we were able to have an electrician come out and make our house safe. I can’t emphasize enough how important having good electric work is. Don’t try to short cut it!

In some cases, rewiring so that every outlet works again may not be worth the hassle of taking down walls or ceilings, which is fine, as long as you have made sure that the wires leading to those dead outlets aren’t hot, causing a fire hazard.

That’s what we’ve done in our current house. Some of the outlets no longer work, but all the wires leading to those outlets have been cut off from the breaker box.

Check the floors

Look for soft spots or unevenness is sub flooring.

Obviously you can’t necessarily pull up carpet or linoleum to look underneath before you buy, but you can walk all over it looking for buckle, or obvious edges sticking up, which indicate swollen wood which could be a sign of a water leak, or that some pieces have been replaced – and that has many implications.

If someone pulled up carpet to replaces pieces of the sub floor, why? Are the unreplaced pieces on the verge of being unsafe? What damaged that one piece?

We had this situation in the master bedroom of our mobile home, and honestly I don’t know what the thinking was behind it. The new pieces were thicker, so they were obvious underneath the carpet, and the original subfloor that was left was buckling.

Replacing subfloor isn’t that hard, but it is an expense, and takes some grunt work.

Another thing to know about mobile home flooring is that removing the carpet can be a game changer.

After my husband’s aunt passed away, we started cleaning out her mobile home to find the carpet was nasty beyond repair, so I started pulling it out.

Underneath, after it was vacuumed, was bright, solid plywood sub flooring. What a relief!

So don’t be discouraged by gross carpet. One of the best things you can do for an old mobile home is take out the carpet and replace it with something like laminate flooring that isn’t dated, and is easier to take care of.

Check for modifications

Most mobile homes, at least older ones, leave some to be desired in design and features, so a long-time owner may have made some modifications such as:

  • Moving the water heater. I’ve seen this done to make room for a larger water heater, and get it out of the kitchen so there was more room for pantry space.
  • Removing the central heat and A/C. This could be functional, such as moving it to a more out-of-the-way place, or practical, because it quit working.
  • Adding or removing electrical fixtures.
  • Modifying bathrooms and/or bathtubs. 

The main thing you’re looking for is that these modifications have been done properly, not jerry rigged in a way that will come back to bite you through electrical fires, plumbing issues, leaving an open vent in the roof, or not being able to pass an inspection that will keep you from moving into your home.

In the mobile home we currently live in, we’ve made quite a few modifications from simply removing a cabinet peninsula, and built-in entertainment center, to more extensive things like building pantry shelves where the clothes dryer was meant to be, and removing the pantry that had been created from the the former water heater and heat/a/c unit space to create a more open kitchen space.

Check the underpinning.

Make sure the vapor barrier and insulation underneath the home is in good shape, or that you are willing to make the repairs necessary. You should also be able to assess the condition of the joists as well.

Obviously, if the metal beams underneath are rusted out or otherwise compromised, that could be a deal breaker.

When we looked under ours, we quickly discovered that the air duct underneath had been crushed. How? That’s a mystery. But the previous owner had long since taken the central heat and air unit out anyway, so the main concern was whether we could repair the insulation and beams around it.

This could require some rather uncomfortable crawling around in tight, creepy spaces, but believe me, it’s necessary!

Assess how difficult this home will be to move

If you’re planning to move this mobile home to another location, and how difficult it will be to prep the mobile home for moving.

  • Does it already have the tongue attached, or at least nearby (it should be underneath), or will you need to find a new one?
  • Are the axels already in place, ready for the movers to attach wheels, or do you need to find new ones? Mobile home owner often sell these two things to other mobile home owners when they’re done moving.
  • How easily will the porch and skirting detach?
  • What about detaching plumbing and electricity?

Moving a mobile home is work, but by making a proper assessment ahead of time, you can be prepared for it when the time comes.

Every mobile home is going to be different, so no mobile home repair guide will be complete for your particular situation.

But these are the main thing to look out for.

As long as you know what you’re getting into, buying a used mobile home can be a great experience, and serve the purpose of providing you with affordable housing while you work toward your retirement, dream home, or whatever your reason is.

If you’re interested in learning the specifics of the mobile home renovation of the house we currently live in, click here for the list of articles

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