Modular or Manufactured? What’s in a Name?

I was happily confident we had purchased a modular home until we applied for a building permit and a construction loan. In both cases, the people involved carefully avoided the use of the term modular and resorted to work-arounds like stick-built in a factory. This puzzled me and I started to look into this further.

The more I looked, the more I saw that the evolution of the home building industry has moved faster than our their ability to develop unambiguous names (nomenclature) for the types of buildings currently being produced. I challenge you to read any of the articles referenced at the end and find agreement between them.

There are distinct differences between modular and manufactured homes, but the terms are often so confused that loan officers use "stick-built-in-a-factory" to ensure that they are insuring the right kind of building!

Something needs to be done soon, because factory-built homes are becoming a major part of the new housing market. The rapid proliferation of construction techniques is testing the industry’s ability to present a clear picture of the differences between modular (stick-built in a factory) and manufactured (built on a permanent chassis with a HUD label). To add to the confusion, factory-built housing now includes SIP modular (housing constructed of foam panels) and log homes.

To add icing on the cake, in the Virginia Building Code, modular homes are addressed under the Virginia Industrialized Building Safety Regulations which provide for the administration and enforcement of uniform, statewide standards for industrialized buildings, wherever built. Boy! That sure cleared things up, didn’t it?

I think I prefer the Starbucks solution:

"One three bedroom, two bath, single story, stick-built to go, please! Add three skylights, but hold the garage and foundation!"

I have included a few references which will educate you on the various
types of homes available. Just don’t expect them to agree on the
nomenclature. Check them out and let me know your thoughts. Chances are very good that your next new house may be a factory-built house.

How Modular Homes and Manufactured Homes Differ
Modular & Manufactured Homes
Panelized Homes
The Difference Between "Factory-Built" and "Manufactured" Homes
SIP Modular Housing
State of Virginia – Industrialized Building Safety Regulations


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0 Responses to Modular or Manufactured? What’s in a Name?

  1. Carl says:

    I’ve typed several ideas for a good name here and each time I kept erasing as each name could be usurped by a moble home manufacturer… Stick Built In A Factory is sounding better all the time. Maybe we should just accept it… and maybe just shorten it to Factory Stick Construction (FSC).

  2. Matt Terry says:


    As a builder in California of Modular/Factory-Built Housing I would have to agree whole-heartedly. I believe you are correct in saying that the marketplace has progressed at such a pace it has not allowed one particular word to grab hold and take root. This of course causes great confusion. We are pushing the term Factory-Built out here because that is what the state calls it and it’s easily separated from the word manufactured. However I myself spend hours a day discussing how people can build their Modular homes. It just rolls off the tongue better. The important thing is once you know the difference between Modular and Manufactured the semantics become obsolete and the quality speaks for itself.

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