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How Level Is Level?
Wed 04/27/05 09:10:08 pm
by George Porter

How can you tell when a home is out of level? There are some regulators that say that you must be within an inch all over the home and there are others that say that if everything is working, doors, windows, etc., then it's level enough. There should be a way to absolutely tell when the home is too bent on the frame or in the roof. How about when the tail ends of the main beam are hanging above the supports at the rear of the home because of the camber? How much is too much there?

These and many other questions have been coming up over the last 30+ years for me, and I guess I thought no one really knew. I certainly never asked anyone who gave me an answer other than "Well, when I look at a problem like that, this is what I do" and then they proceed to tell me what they believe to be the facts. Guess what, all this is written down and has been available to everyone for over twenty years. It is somewhat embarrassing for me to tell you where I found this wealth of information. It has been right under my nose, and I never thought of looking there. All about this question and thousands of other questions is found in a government document called Part 3280, you might know it better as the HUD Code. This is so typical, where is the last place you always look for help when you can't figure something out and all the stuff you have been dreaming up doesn't seem to work? Well it's the instructions of course! Somehow, I've got to get it into my head that getting caught with instructions in your hand doesn't prove to the world that you are too dumb to figure this out by yourself. There is always room for improvement I guess.

Back to the question of level! According to Part 3280, subsection 3280.305 (d) it clearly states that the formula for allowable deflection (bending) of girders (main beams) is L/180. "L" is defined by the clear span between supports or two times the length of a cantilever. So if you support your homes eight feet apart under the beams then "L" is eight feet in your case. A cantilever is a projection supported only on one end, like a diving board, or in our case, the distance between the beams and the sidewall of the home. What you do is divide that length (eight feet) by 180 and you get the maximum deflection allowed under the HUD Code. It is easier to do this in inches so let's use 96 inches instead of 8 feet. 96 divided by 180 = .53 inches or a little over1/2 inch.

The sidewalls can be measured the same way but they are not beams, they are floor, and the floor has a different standard L/240. If the floor extends out from the beams 48 inches then you must use the rule for cantilever and double the distance. This makes sense because if you cut a span between two supports in half you would have two cantilevers pointing at each other. It is assumed that each cantilever is halfway to the next imaginary support so you double its length to keep the deflection ratio equal. To get the number you take the 48 inches multiply times 2 (this gets you "L") and divide by 240. The answer is .4 inches or about 3/8 of an inch.

That's the way you prove you are right and it is in the federal code, and yes, I have called several different industry engineers about this and they all agree that this is correct, but they also all said there is more to it than that. And then I learned one more thing that I always knew but didn't realize it. The HUD Code is a performance code. What this means is that in addition to the "L over whatever thing" the home must also fit and function correctly.

For instance, if you were within the tolerances of the HUD Code but the doors did not work right then you would have to take corrective measures for the doors to close as they should. Another example would be if the frame camber was holding up the tail of the home a half inch above perfect level and everything inside fit and functioned correctly, then you could just wedge it tight and leave it there.

One last example, if the home is perfectly dead level but the doors don't work and the marriage walls have a two inch gap between them you still are not done. In order to complete the assembly of the home so it complies with the HUD Code these problems have to be addressed. The solution might be to actually take it out of level, but within the HUD tolerances for the floor and frame.

For all these years I have been referring to whether the home was level or not. What I should have been doing was asking if the home fits and functions correctly. Level is important, but there is more to good installation than that. Whether or not the home meets the performance criteria for the HUD Code is the measure of whether or not the home is correctly installed.  

 George Porter is a consultant to the manufactured housing industry. He is president of Manufactured Housing Resources, P.O. Box 9, Nassau, DE 19969, (302) 645-5552, fax: (302) 645-1152. One of the services his company provides is a seminar on the proper installation of HUD-code housing. Mr. Porter has been active in the Delaware Manufactured Housing Association since 1975.

Contact George Porter:
Phone: (302) 645-5552
E-Mail:
[email protected]
Visit George's web site: http://george-porter.com


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The Guide to
Manufactured Housing Repair On-Line

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The Manual for Manufactured Home Repair & Upgrade   If your looking for a book that covers all facets of manufactured home repair, you've found it! This is the only book of its type, available to the public, that we have been able to find. As you would expect from the title, The repair and upgrade techniques described in this manual are specific to manufactured homes. This book will answer almost every question on manufactured home repair that we have ever heard. Not only does this book show you how to repair and maintain your home, but also great methods for upgrading it.

The Manufactured Home Repair & Renovation Forum   An open discussion group where all are welcome to participate. No registration necessary! Discussion threads covering a wide range of questions, answers, and relating of personal experiences involving MH Repairs.Moderated by Mark Bower, owner of Aberdeen Home Repair. Mark has been an expert witness and helped agencies complete projects for HUD and FEMA. Ask our experienced MH repair and renovation contractor about your home repair needs! Basic home fix-it techniques to trade secrets.

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The Mobile Home Expert   The business of installing and servicing manufactured homes is rapidly moving away from the world of the one pick-up, one jack, local set up and repair guys and into the world of certified tradesmen, and licensed contractors. The modern manufactured home is greeted with stiff compliance codes regulating construction, warranty and installation. As more and more local agencies get involved in the inspection of installations it gets more and more difficult to know what the rules of the game are, especially if your operating in more than one jurisdiction. Consult with R.T. Bonney, who has participated in all phases of the industry over the past 30 Years He can provide solutions for the modern problems of operating most types of manufactured housing business.

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