By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
ELLSWORTH — Mainers who purchase modular homes know the drill: Two or more “boxes” (modular sections) arrive by trailer on the construction site, and a crane lifts each box into place on a foundation or slab. Construction workers then spend the next few weeks fine tuning the house.
Now Kent Homes, a New Brunswick-based modular manufacturer, has introduced a modular design that can possibly be set up in one day.
It’s the mini modular, which “was introduced into the United States this year with us,” said Mike Wight, who along with his wife, Daisy, owns Broughman Builders in Ellsworth. The company has sold and set up traditional Kent modulars for some years.
As designed by Kent Homes, a mini modular house resembles a mobile home in length and width, but the resemblance and functionality stop there: A mini modular house is just that — a house.
Built to BOCA standards, a Kent mini modular house “is all wood-construction, built to regular construction standards” and with 2-by-10-inch floor joists, Wight said. “When it arrives, it is 100-percent finished inside.”
Each mini modular house is designed for energy efficiency, with R-21 insulation in the exterior walls, R-30 in the ceiling, and R-22 in the floor. A Fujitsu heat pump provides heat and air conditioning; designed to run quietly, the in-wall-mounted heat pump has a compressor located outside the house.
“This heat pump will heat the whole house until it goes to minus 10 below,” Wight said. “The backup heat is electric baseboard, which you won’t need most of the time, even in Maine.”
The heat pump eliminates the costs associated with installing, fueling, and maintaining a
standard oil- or gas-fired heating system. With its house-type construction, a mini modular can be equipped with a wood stove or a pellet stove.
Kent Homes offers its mini modular homes in lengths ranging from 44 to 72 feet; the standard width is 16 feet. Broughman Builders currently displays the Pine Cone, which measures 16 feet in width by 52 feet in length. The front door opens onto an 8-foot porch, leaving a 44-by-16-foot living space.
The Pine Cone is one of several mini modulars houses designed and built by Kent Homes.
Each house can be customized for its buyers; while the Pine Cone features two bedrooms, a larger house can feature up to three or four bedrooms. Each house offers modern appliances and meets all building codes in terms of electrical, heating, and plumbing systems.
The mini modular “is a one-box modular,” Wight said. The typical modular home involves two or more “boxes,” the actual house sections transported to a construction site. Among the additional costs associated with setting up a modular home is hiring a crane and operator to lift the boxes into place.
A Kent mini modular can be set up on a frost wall, a full slab, or a basement. Placing a mini modular on a slab eliminates the need for a crane; placing that same house on a frost wall or basement requires a crane.
Under the right circumstances, “we can set it up in one day,” Wight said.
The fully finished mini modular also reduces housing costs by eliminating the need for set-up crews, which typically need two to four weeks to finish a traditional modular house.
“If you don’t need to hire a crane or the set-up crews, you’ll save about $20,000 in set-up costs,” Wight said.
The mini modular homes are popular with retirees and young families and as camps and cottages. Lending institutions view a mini modular as a house, so mortgage rates can be lower than for a mobile home. Wight estimated that “a nice trailer could run $40,000 with 7-8 percent financing for 15 years.”
Gazing at the Pine Cone Mini Modular, he said that “with this being a real house, you can get 3½ percent for 30 years.”
According to Wight, a mobile home depreciates in value as time passes, but a mini modular house would not. “As property values rise in a neighborhood, so will the value of a mini modular,” he said.
With housing costs running in the triple digits today, a mini modular house provides an affordable way for many people to buy a house. A potential homeowner who already has a house lot could spend less than $100,000 to buy and set up a mini modular house, Wight estimated.
For more information about mini modular homes, call 667-7870, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to broughmanbuilders.com.