Virtually every mobile homeowner agrees that underpinnings are a necessity whether they are installed to improve the visual look of the property or provide functional protection. It is worth noting that the terms underpinning and skirting are often used interchangeably.
Manufactured home skirting brings many benefits besides covering the unsightly underneath of the home.
Seven Benefits of Mobile Home Skirting
- Protects the underbelly of your home from untimely rusting, installation damage, growth of mold, or encroachment by animals
- Adds an essential protective gear to keep rainwater, snow, and pests at bay
- The underneath of the manufacturer doesn’t look nice most of the time, so installing underpinning is a great way of hiding it
- Insulates the underbelly of the home to reduce the exposure of your floor to heat and cold
- They go along to make your home energy-efficient and reduce some of the common underbelly problems
- Improves the curb appeal of the home
- Creates a storage area for keeping garden tools, lawn care, holiday décor items, and other dry storage items.
What’s The Amount of Underpinning Material Does Your Mobile Home Need?
It only makes sense to talk to the contractor when you already know the exact measurements of the area you need to cover. These measurements will let the contractor provide helpful advice where necessary. You also don’t want to buy insufficient or excess materials. So, consider starting the journey by having the dimensions ready with you.
There are two important measurements you need to take in two simple steps:
Step 1: Taking the number of the interior’s linear feet
Manufactured homes consist of a rectangular main body and, in some cases, additional conjoined rectangular or square parts. Taking linear measurements is easy regardless of whether the home is a single unit or conjoined.
Basically, the total linear feet of the exterior is equivalent to the diameter of the entire base of the home (underpinnings are installed at the base, right?).
So, take your measuring tape and measure the entire diameter of the base by including such structure as decks and porches and note it down.
Let’s assume your home is rectangular and has no deck or porch, and has 18 ft W and 90 ft L, the total linear feet should be 216 (18 ft. + 90 ft. + 18 ft. + 90 ft.) Now that’s the total length of underpinning material you’ll need.
Step 2: Taking the thickness of the underbelly
We already have the total length of the base of your home, we now need the thickness. Take the measuring tape you used earlier and measure the vertical distance between the corners of the home and the ground. This can be a little complicated if the surface of the ground is uneven. You might want to clear the bumps before taking the measurements.
Even so, you’ll still need to add 2” on each measurement just to correct the error. Of course, these measurements will be taken in steps, so you will add them together and divide the sum with the number of steps.
Consider a situation where the home is rectangular and the back corners measure 36” and 17” while the front corners measure 17” and 36” (each with a 2” error addition).
Let’s assume the middle ground of the lot is uneven and measured 20” on two sides of the home, we will add the six measurements, 36 + 17 + 17 + 36 + 20 + 20 = 146.
Then we divide this summation with the total number of measurements, that is, 146/6 = 24.33 This is the average height of the underpinning.
Armed with the average height of the underpinning and the total length of the linear feet, your contractor will have an easier time calculating the total cost of the project. Some websites and stores will use these measurements to prepare a quote and even suggest the kind of tools you need for the project.
7 Underpinning Ideas for Manufactured Home
1. Metal Underpinning
Metallic underpinnings are often made from recycled tin and steel although aluminum underpinnings are not uncommon. They are durable, superbly weatherproof, and affordable. Metallic underpinning may not be the best option for you if lots of activities often take place in your backyard as they are prone to denting.
But they can be one of the best options if you don’t see yourself making changes to the underbelly of the home in the imminent future. The best part is that they are easy to install – you can install them with DIY methods complete with metallic rust-resistant screws, traditional hammer, and a few other basic tools.
LOWE’S offers a selection of galvanized metal underpinning panels:
- 50-Pack 36-in x 5.06-ft Galvanized Metal Skirting Panels
- 50-Pack 28-in x 5-ft Galvanized Metal Skirting Panels
2. Vinyl Underpinning
Vinyl underpinnings are common in mobile homes because of three reasons: affordability, environmental friendliness, and ease of installation. They are also very attractive. When it comes to energy efficiency, vinyl has been found to outperform most other common underpinning options including wood, brick, and stucco.
An average-sized mobile home can take about $600 worth of vinyl underpinning. The cost can rise slightly for more thick and sturdy vinyl.
Vinyl underpinning typically requires four pieces: the panels, the top J-channel, the trim, and the U-channel ground-based tracks.
The main panels themselves come in 12” lengths. So, if your home is resting on an incline, all you need to do is chop the main panels into the right dimensions and start the installation process.
The Ground Track, or the U Channel is what you will bolt to the ground with special screws or long rods to secure the rest of the panels. The Top Frame, or the J Channel, will go to the bottom of your home before you set the panels into position.
The Trim makes the horizontal strip on the face of the panel.
Here are some few starter vinyl underpinnings:
3. Brick, Concrete and Cinder Underpinning
These three are the best choice if you want absolute durability and permanence, they are near indestructible. The process of installing them, however, can be a real ordeal as they are heavy and labor-intensive. You will find companies like Novik that deal almost exclusively in concrete but it’s possible to buy precast concrete options as well.
Just because you added brick, concrete, or cinder underpinnings, which provide permanence, doesn’t mean your manufactured home is permanent. There is an unclear understanding surrounding brick and block underpinning and ‘permanent foundations’ on mobile homes.
If you went to request the FHA loan, for example, they will require your manufactured to be installed permanently where it is, but we all know that has very little to do with underpinning on the property. It is possible to have a home permanently installed with vinyl underpinning on it.
Permanent homes are determined by the foundation and tie-downs, not the underpinning.
4. Foam underpinning
Foam underpinnings are not as common as vinyl and concrete underpinnings, but they are excellent for insulating the floor of manufactured homes in the winter.
Researchers found something discouraging: foam insulating underpinnings aren’t the best insulating option as many homeowners tend to think.
The NREF did some tests on mobile homes to determine whether underpinning outperforms other energy conservation techniques often employed by homeowners like wall insulation and floor remodeling.
They found that Underpinning increased energy efficiency by just 7%, floor insulation did so by 11%, and wall insulation came out the best with 13%. This means you are better off with wall insulation than trying to achieve insulation with underpinnings.
If you still choose to go the foam route, you will save yourself a lot of money because they are cheaper than most stone-based underpinning. Also, most brands nowadays don’t require their foam underpinnings to go along with a frame. That’s advantageous when you look at it from the installer’s point of view.
For those that require frames, the installation cost can rise to about $10 and 15 per foot from about $8 per foot if you choose to install without frames. The kind of kit used for installation depends heavily on your linear foot measurements.
5. OSB, Plywood, and T-111 Skirting
From the first day man learned to make shelters, wood has been one of the core construction materials for centuries. While wood comes out as relatively cheap compared to some underpinning materials, it would be impractical to use it on a mobile home sitting on moist or wet ground.
And if your wood is not treated, it could prove useless for every other purpose you intended it for, be it standing up against insects or protecting the underbelly of the home.
OSB and Hardboard, however, are some of the sturdiest wood-based options you can find on the market.
OSB is typically made from hardwood grain that has been engineered into a strong and durable product.
Installation can be easy or hard depending on the directions of the specific manufacturer. The cost is dependent on the kind of wood product you choose.
And because wood is notoriously susceptible to moisture-induced destruction, the manufacturer could advise you to caulk the ends of the underpinning or use a sealer to reduce the effects of the moisture.
6. Faux Stone and Brick Underpinning
Faux stone and brick underpinning are made from hardened plastics but look very much like real stone bricks.
They are a bit more rigid than vinyl panels, come with better insulating abilities, and are unaffected by moisture.
The best part is they come in a wide variety of patterns and colors. The not-so-encouraging part, however, is that they are costlier than vinyl underpinning.
7. Lattice Underpinning
These underpinning are either made from wood or vinyl. The distinguishing feature of these underpinnings is their amorphous nature – the structure is filled with a lot of tiny spaces.
This feature makes them one of the best choices you can select for insulation purposes. Also, if you want the underbelly of your home to be sufficiently aerated, lattice underpinning is just the right option for you.
Lattice underpinnings are fairly cheap and easy to install compared to, say, stone-based underpinnings, but they are highly susceptible to rot and mildew unless you treat them.
Where to Buy Underpinning for Your Mobile Home
So, you have taken the measurements of the base of your manufactured home, decided the best material for your needs, and now what’s remaining is to head to the store and pick the right underpinning. There are three places you can find them:
Big Box Stores
If you don’t find your desired underpinning in Home Depot, or Lowes, you won’t miss them in Menards. These are the three most popular home improvement stores in America. There is a strong chance one of their stores is in your closest city. Big box stores would normally stock all varieties of underpinnings under one roof.
This means you will be compelled to move to a specialty if you too particular with your specifications. The most advantageous thing about big box stores is that you can buy your items and return easily when you need more. But don’t count on these stores for troubleshooting and installation help.
Local dealers and home parts suppliers
If you live in a neighborhood with plenty of manufactured homes, it’s likely there is a specialty shop that deals in construction and repair parts of mobile homes. While such shops may not offer the most diverse selection of these parts, they tend to have closer relationships with parts manufacturers.
This means they can order the specific part you need straight from the maker and deliver it to your doorstep. Furthermore, these specialty shops tend to avail better support and expertise to homeowners. You may also have the advantage of returning faulty parts and getting a replacement in a short time.
Online shopping is a preference for about 209 million Americans, or a two-thirds of the U.S. population. You will benefit from online shopping by accessing a limitless number of underpinning options, colors, designs, and materials. Most online retailers will help you with planning and installation.
Some of them go an extra length to give you video walkthroughs, printable guides, material calculators, and other resources. They also tend to offer generous return policies. The only thing we dislike most about online shopping is the time it takes for the items to be shipped to you.
Here are some of the best eCommerce sites to buy underpinnings:
Amazon is known for being the only place on the web you will find anything you could imagine. The prices here are also highly competitive.home
Mobile Home Parts Online Store
Orders made via this store takes between 5 to 7 to be delivered. As the link shows, you have access to one of the widest varieties of underpinnings on the internet. Installation instructions for every design are also provided.
This store is part of Everlock Systems and has an A+ ratings from the Better Businesses Bureau. They have a full underpinning line.
Mobile Home Parts Depots
The underpinning options offered by this store are availed as full kits which gives you an easier time when ordering. They have an A- rating from the BBB. Sadly, their refund policy includes such things as restocking fees and some products have no refund policy cover.
So, Which Type of Underpinning is Best for Your Manufactured Home?
It can depend on many several factors. You may choose underpinnings solely based on your budget. Such things as the ease of installation and upgradability (the cost-effectiveness of future improvements) can influence your choices as well.
Many homeowners tend to forget to consider local government stipulations regarding city ordinances and mobile home parks. Don’t be surprised to learn that only a few selections of underpinnings are imposed by authority. Be certain to learn the permissions and limitations before choosing an underpinning.
Cost and Time of Installation
If you are repairing your old underpinnings, the expenses may end up in the region of $200. For full installation or a complete replacement, the cheapest vinyl underpinning you will find will start at about $300. Faux kits can run into thousands of dollars. Of course, a large manufactured home will demand more underpinnings, meaning the overall expenses will be higher than if you had a smaller home. Additional material, installation equipment, and labor will increase the expenses.
It takes between 3 and 4 days to fully fit an average-sized mobile home with underpinnings.
Underpinnings are essential for protecting the underbelly of your manufactured home. You need to take the measurements of the perimeter and height of the base of your manufactured home before going out to shop for underpinnings.
The best places to find quality underpinning are Home Depot, LOWE’s, and Menards. If you live in a manufactured home community, your neighborhood won’t miss a local dealer who will supply you with the right material you need.