A modular home is a stick-built home built indoors in a factory instead of on site, and then moved to the building site. A modular home is built to the standard of the local building codes that all site-builders must adhere to. A crawl space or basement is required.
A manufactured home is built to HUD code, a lower standard than local bldg. Codes. Basically it’s a trailer because the steel frame that supports it while it goes down the road is left in place, just like a travel trailer. A crawl space or basement is not required. They just sit on a slab of concrete.
A well-built modular home actually has more material in it and in a sense it is built better and stronger because it must withstand transport from the factory to the building site. The modules or “boxes” are set on the foundation using a crane.
I live in the midwest so I don’t know any names of modular manufacturers in your area.
We live in a modular home – a story and a half cape with a walk-out, finished 9′ basement, done with cedar siding. We have 3600 sq. Ft. Of finished living space.
I realize that all of the above does not address your fear of fire and earthquakes and I guess the answer is that any house will burn in a fire or fall in an earthquake. One alternative, should you decide on modular construction, is to eliminate the factory-provided siding (usually they offer vinyl or cedar) and brick it. This would be done on-site after the house was set. Then there’s the roofing material. Tile?
Finally, modular construction, while it still makes up only a small fraction of new construction, is a very good method for building a new house. It is more popular in rural areas than in large cities because frequently developers control most of the land in cities and large suburbs and some have kept modular homes out because they want to build the houses themselves. There are really crappy on-site built homes – such as those that don’t use 2×6 construction. With modular you can tour the factory and see how your house is built from inside out. Also the building materials don’t sit around outside in the rain, snow, etc. Soaking up water that will eventually end up in your house. Also, there is none of the pilferage that occurs at building sites. In addition, there are no “overages” in cost, no unseen, unexpected expenses to crop up after the building is begun. You know, up front, what the house modules will cost and can go to your bank with exact figures. Our builder/dealer also helped us get bids from the electrical, HVAC, plumbing, excavation and concrete, well & septic (we live in a rural area) and garage work before we ever signed off on the project. They helped us choose who would do that work and had a total for the entire project so we knew if it would fit our budget. All this, plus the house is “built” in about a week and is set, rough-finished, water-tight and locked in one day. Most buyers have cabinets and appliances installed and bathroom fixtures installed, and flooring and lighting installed at the factory as well although these may be left out if the customer wants something that the factory doesn’t provide. Most people can find something they like from the products that the factory offers. Following the rough set, the house is then finished inside so that it is livable. This includes such things as trimming the marriage walls, setting doors in the marriage walls, patching cracks in drywall, attaching carpet or other flooring at the marriage walls. Since most people have basements where I live, the HVAC is installed on site in the basement although the factory does offer electric baseboard heat as a standard option.
If “stick-built” is the ideal standard benchmark for good, sound construction, then factory stick-built is really a notch above this standard.
Where I live, we fear winds and tornadoes. I’ll pass along this story that may give some indication of the relative sturdiness of modular constriction. The company that built our home also builds homes in SE U.S. And they love to tell about the house that they shipped to Florida which turned out to be the only one left standing in the neighborhood following hurricane-force winds.